APEX News - October/November 2018

Member Connections

APEX is honored to help investor-members celebrate new construction and expansion projects as they arise. This fall we were fortunate to co-host Insider events with two investor-members – RSM and J.R. Jensen.

RSM September Insider

Jim Denney, Partner at RSM
Brian Hanson, President and CEO of APEX, and Jim Denney, Partner at RSM, address the APEX investor-members at the event
On September 26, 2018, RSM celebrated 100 years of serving the region with tax, audit and consulting services at the APEX Insider Event at their newly-renovated office in downtown Duluth.

“RSM’s long history of service has been critical to the success of many regional businesses. The RSM team helps drive investment every day by sharing their deep understanding of the accounting nuances facing mid-market businesses in the region,” explained Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “The APEX Insider Event celebrated RSM’s investment in the Duluth office, and highlights 100 years of serving the region.”


J.R. Jensen October Insider

Photo Credit: Steve Isola
On Thursday, October 25, J.R. Jensen Construction (J.R. Jensen) hosted an Insider event for APEX investor-members. Nearly 50 business and community leaders attended the event to showcase J.R. Jensen’s new office and warehouse in Superior, Wisconsin.
“J.R. Jensen has grown rapidly in the past decade and continues to be a pillar of the construction industry in the region,” said Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “We are delighted to celebrate J.R. Jensen’s nearly 100-year history and look forward to the next generation of leadership for the company.” 

At the event, APEX investor-members were welcomed by Hanson and Todd Rothe, J.R. Jensen President, and toured the expansive and impressive office and warehouse.


Fall Member Meeting Recap

For the past 11 years, each fall, APEX has hosted a series of investor-member meetings. This year more than 53 investor-members attended six meetings in Duluth and Superior. The APEX team facilitated conversation among each group to understand three key areas - what investor-members value most in APEX membership, how people prefer to stay informed about APEX events and projects, and what are the two most critical issues facing the regional business community and how APEX can help resolve these issues.

Consistent themes were present in all meetings. Investor-members:
  • Appreciate and value the high-level networking opportunities with senior executives and how APEX “sets the table” for our regional business community
  • Consider business and attraction activities cornerstone to success 
  • Support APEX's advocacy role for major project and construction permitting
  • Desire more moderacy in the business and political climate
  • Continue to experience workforce shortages and understand no population growth signals larger issues for our community on the horizon
Outreach and communication feedback:
  • Volume of communication is just right
  • Value the APEX Pinnacle - be sure to let the APEX team know if your email address has changed or your fellow APEX representative has changed
As always, thank you for your feedback during these fall meetings. The information gleaned helps position APEX for success in 2019. If you were not able to attend a session and would like to meet with the APEX team, consider reaching out to Janet to schedule a meeting.  

Investor-Members Support Manufacturing Month

Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed October 1-7 as Minnesota Manufacturing Week. To highlight the significance of manufacturing in Duluth and help with workforce recruitment efforts, Sandy Johnson, APEX Manager of Member Relations and Administration, joined Mayor Larson and officials on October 5 in visiting participants in a machine operations course taught at Lake Superior College’s (LSC) Integrated Manufacturing Campus in downtown Duluth. The course focuses on recruiting and training women who are underrepresented in this industry then connecting them to employment. Sandy said, "It was an honor to hear these women’s stories, encourage them to complete the course and inform them that good paying jobs are in demand in this field."

Following the visit to LSC, the group toured APEX investor-member GPM, Inc. located in the Duluth airpark. GPM manufactures and distributes submersible and horizontal slurry pumps. Attendees were informed about the business, their growth and potential career pathways within their company.

Later in October, local manufacturers joined others across Minnesota in opening their doors to provide high school students a chance to see and learn about modern manufacturing. Tour participants had the chance to see how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills are applied every day in modern manufacturing. It is hopeful that the tours also inspired students to explore and consider future careers in the manufacturing industry. APEX investor-members who provided tours were Bendtec, GPM, AAR, Cirrus, Pro Print and Altec.

PolyMet Receives Permits to Mine

November marked a major milestone for industrial job creation in northern Minnesota. On November 1, 2018, the Minnesota DNR issued PolyMet a permit to mine, six water appropriation permits, two dam safety permits, a public waters work permits and an endangered species takings permit. While the issuance of these permits completes the DNR’s considerations for the NorthMet project, PolyMet must still receive air and water quality permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and various other permits or approvals at the local level.

The permitting process required over a decade of hard work from the PolyMet team and many stakeholders. To show our support of PolyMet and the NorthMet project throughout the permitting process, APEX staff, investor-members and several key partners supplied letters of support and often spoke in favor of the project and the jobs it will create for our region. APEX investor-members fueled much of the activities through participation in the public comment process, providing a valuable pro-mining and pro-business voice that demonstrated that mining and the environment can and will coexist in northern Minnesota.


Members In The News

Please click the button below to read about recent announcements and acknowledgments amongst APEX Investor-Members.
Members In The News

American Peat Technology Announces Expansion in Aitkin County

Peggy Wallgran Jones, APT; Brigid Tuck, University of Minnesota Extension; Dave Schaeffer, APT; Tamara Lowney, APEX; Roger Sorben, CFO, APT; Taylor Erickson, Executive Director of the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce
American Peat Technology (APT), a leading manufacturer of high-value, American-made granular peat products, is expanding operations in northeast Minnesota. APEX has been working closely with the company over the past several years as the prospect of expansion went from concept to reality. 

APEX has connected APT to several potential financing partners, including Great River Energy, the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. APT is evaluating which options may be best suited to consider for financing operations to add capacity at the company’s current and future locations in Aitkin County. APEX is also exploring ways to leverage APT’s client base for business attraction efforts – many of the company’s customers could benefit from closer proximity to the APT’s products. APEX and APT have discussed plans to mutually approach these key target companies that could also benefit from low-cost infrastructure and location options.

To keep the community and key stakeholders informed of the expansion, the company hosted two events – an Aitkin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon and an open house at the McGrath Fire Hall on Thursday, October 25, 2018. Several partners presented information and hosted tables at the events, including APEX Senior Business Developer, Tamara Lowney. The purpose of the meetings was to engage with the local community and share more details regarding APT’s investment in pioneering the environmental and agricultural applications of peat technology – the P.E.A.T. Project – in McGrath.


Enabling Technology on the Railroad

At the September APEX Board of Directors meeting, investor-members had the opportunity to learn more about how the BNSF Railroad is leveraging technology innovation to enhance safety and security for their clients and employees. Lydia Bjorge, who oversees State Government Affairs for BNSF, presented compelling information about the Railroad’s economic impact and the breadth and importance of the network in today’s on-demand economy.


Take Precaution - Protect Yourself and Your Business from Cyber Criminals

Whether we know it or not, we are all victims of identity theft. Mike Olson, Senior Director, Cyber Protection Operations & Investigations at Computer Forensic Services (CFS), presented harrowing information at the APEX Board of Directors and investor-member meeting in early November.

Olson, who is also a retired Secret Service member, shared case studies and examples of how easy it is for cyber-criminals to access our individual and business information to create financial havoc. He provided an overview and definition of cyber crime techniques - some common, such as phishing, and others not as well-known, including spoofing, doxxing and the chicken. Olson also demonstrated how cyber criminals purchase information on the dark web.


Marketing the APEX Region

Each year, the APEX team attends several conferences and events to further business expansion, recruitment and workforce efforts. Since July, APEX team members attended the following events, conference or key meetings: 
  • Logistics Development Forum – Vail, CO
  • Site Selection Consultants, including AAR Corporate Headquarters visit – Chicago, IL
  • North Star Expo/Future Forest Stewards – Grand Rapids, MN
  • Site Selectors Guild Meeting and Site Visits – Greenville, SC
  • International Asset Management Council – Philadelphia, PA
  • Aitkin Growth Alliance (speaker) – Aitkin, MN
  • Hermantown Chamber of Commerce (speaker) – Hermantown, MN
  • Fabtech 2018 - Atlanta, GA

Talent Forecast in Motion

The Talent Forecast project kicked off with an astounding first round of regional stakeholder interviews. In the first visit, the Talent Forecast research team, made up of six members of the consulting staff from the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the University of Iowa’s Institute for Decision Making, dedicated themselves to understanding our region’s current and forecasted talent DEMAND, in addition to our community strengths and weaknesses.
Between September 16th and 21st, the Talent Forecast research team engaged:




Wood & Paper products
Transportation & Logistics
Higher Education
Public Education
Grand Rapids

International Falls

During the last week of October, the Talent Forecast Research team will be back on the ground getting the pulse of our region’s talent SUPPLY. Between October 30 and November 1, our researchers engaged cohorts of students, both K-12 and higher ed, incumbent workers, job seekers, candidates with barriers to employment, and others. In addition to members of the public, the researchers engaged our region’s true “Boots on the Ground” professional workforce service providers.

Future Forest Stewards Host North Star Expo

Wood and timber products are one of Minnesota’s valuable natural resources. The forestry industry provides a wide variety of good-paying jobs in the region with benefits, flexibility and room to grow. As much of the industry’s workforce approaches retirement, it is essential to attract the next generation with opportunities to build careers close to home. Additionally, jobs in the forestry industry fall on a wide spectrum of qualification – ranging from entry-level positions with on-the-job training up to jobs that require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.  

Future Forest Stewards (FFS) was created through a partnership with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s Forestry Affairs Committee with a goal of shepherding the next generation into careers in the forestry industry. Through organizing a job fair in conjunction with the North Star Expo, FFS aimed to provide high school students opportunities to explore the wide range of good-paying jobs in the forestry industry.

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