APEX News - April/May 2018


Welcome New APEX Investor-Member

Bay West

APEX is pleased to announce Bay West has joined the organization as an investor-member. The company is headquartered in St. Paul with 12 offices nationwide, including Duluth. The privately held 44-year-old environmental and industrial services company is comprised of scientists, engineers, geologists, and environmental technicians who believe in making the world a better place today and tomorrow. Please welcome the representatives of Bay West at the upcoming APEX meeting.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term that continues to show up more in the media and business’ narratives each day. It’s easy to get distracted by the jargon and mystique associated with even the notion of AI. AI is broadly defined by many audiences and can conjure up images of robots, virtual reality, and more. Manny Rivas, Chief Marketing Officer with Aimclear Marketing Agency, provided investor-members with some tangible insight on how to understand the nuances and practical applications of AI for their business today and into the future.
Brian Thun, APEX Chair, Manny Rivas, and Brian Hanson, APEX CEO, at the March APEX meeting.
Rivas set the foundation of his presentation with reference to AI examples many are familiar with - Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri - both are part of pop culture surrounding AI. There are many perceptions that lead to AI receiving a bad reputation - whether it’s the fear of robots taking over jobs, or the data privacy considerations. The reality, according to Rivas, is AI has a role in serving businesses, whether blue or white collar, when routine tasks are involved. Computers can perform at a speed humans cannot, and humans understand complexity computers cannot.
There are many levels of AI, according to Rivas. Assisted, augmented, and autonomous actions are all considered AI. “The real power in AI is the ability to unlock insight from data to influence smarter decision-making for your business,” stated Rivas. He went on to explain how Aimclear leveraged AI to automate reporting applications to reduce cost. “It’s important for businesses to automate first to improve processes and the organization of data. From there, you can build in machine and deep learning,” continued Rivas.
If you missed the meeting and would like a copy of Rivas’ slides, please contact Sandy Johnson, APEX Manager of Member Relations and Administration, at 218-740-3667.

Federal Reserve Chairman Speaks at REIF

On April 3, 2018, nearly 300 attendees at the Regional Economic Indicators Forum (REIF) heard from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President, Neel Kashkari. Kashkari has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank since 2016 and has become known as a candid monetary policy maker, weighing in on a variety of issues including cryptocurrencies, housing, employment data, and the Federal Reserve's ongoing rate increases.
Kashkari acknowledged one of the hardest tasks for a community is transitioning to a new economic identity. He encouraged attendees continue to expand and diversify in complementary industry sectors, while supporting traditional industries including mining, shipping, and manufacturing.
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President, Neel Kashkari
Kashkari’s keynote focused on labor market availability, wages, and workforce housing. With a decline in the unemployment rate from 10% to 4.1% since 2009, employers are faced with increased challenges in recruiting and retaining talent – resulting in increased pressure on wages and benefit packages. In addition, employers are also having to hire less-experienced people to fill skilled employment openings, which increases the burden of training on employers.
Kashkari fielded questions on the economy, monetary policy, tariffs, and other topics from the audience. He was generally optimistic about the region’s economy and highlighted the importance of workforce housing as a key asset in attracting talent to a community. Ensuring the community has an abundance of housing options is essential – including adequate affordable, market rate, and multi-family housing options.
Nearly 300 people attended the Regional Economic Indicators Forum in April
Results from the continuous semi-annual economic research study were also presented at the forum. The study is gathered by economists and student researchers at the College of St. Scholastica, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior. The findings indicate the labor force for the Duluth-Superior MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) has grown over the past two years, as has the overall economy. However, the region lags behind the overall growth rate of both Minnesota and Wisconsin. The MSA includes St. Louis, Carlton, and Douglas Counties.

APEX has served as a member of the REIF Steering Committee since its inception, and we were proud to help sponsor this Forum. Mark your calendars for the next REIF event on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at the DECC.

MN Opportunity Zones Submitted to US Treasury

Opportunity Zones are a new economic and community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term economic development and housing investments in low-income communities. In April, Governor Mark Dayton recommended 128 low-income census tracts in Minnesota to the U.S. Department of Treasury for inclusion in the program. Sixteen of these tracts are located within the APEX Region.
“Opportunity Zones have the potential to bring much needed investment to some of Minnesota’s lowest-income areas to spur economic development,” said Shawntera Hardy, Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner. “This program could lead to new strategies to bridge public-private partnerships.”

Opportunity Zones may be attractive for investments in workforce housing, which is in short supply in many communities within the APEX Region. As Neel Kashkari, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, indicated at the Regional Economic Indicators Forum in April, one of the most critical elements of economic growth in the future will depend on the availability of adequate housing – including affordable, market rate, multi-family, and single-family options.
DEED, together with Minnesota Housing, asked Minnesota’s 87 counties, eleven tribal nations, and first-class cities, to prioritize and rank eligible census tracts for recommendation. Tamara Lowney and Ian Vincent, APEX Senior Business Developers, played a part in providing recommendations to DEED by providing letters of support to various communities as requested. APEX is confident that this could be a great new program for economic and business development in our region.

Once approved by the U.S. Department of Treasury, projects in Opportunity Zones will be eligible for funding through Opportunity Funds. Opportunity Funds are an investment vehicle set up as either a partnership or corporation for investing in eligible property located in an Opportunity Zone. The investor’s gains from a prior investment are used for funding the Opportunity Fund.

APEX will keep investor-members apprised of the status and outcome of the Opportunity Zone application process. In the meantime, please contact Tamara at 218-740-3667 if you have any questions.

APEX Welcomes New Operations Specialist

In April, APEX welcomed Janet Windus to the team as Operations Specialist. Windus comes to APEX with a wealth of experience in accounting and payroll services, customer service, and administrative functions.

“We’re so pleased to have Janet as part of our team,” said Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “Her 18+ years of professional office experience and organizational skills will help streamline our operations. She is already a great addition to APEX.”
As Operations Specialist, Windus is responsible for general office administration, assisting with the hiring and training of interns, and the coordination of APEX events and promotional activities to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, Windus will assist with accounting, including accounts receivable and invoicing.
Windus comes to APEX after most recently working as a Human Resources Assistant. She has held a long and fruitful career as a Bookkeeper, Contract Coordinator, Legal and Administrative Assistant for various local businesses, schools, and churches. Windus holds an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Lake Superior College and Certificates in Legal Risk Management and Contract Management through the University of California.

Upcoming Investor-Member Events

APEX Board & Investor-Member Meeting

July 12, 2018
Holiday Inn & Suites
Duluth, MN
7:00-7:30 AM - Networking (optional)
7:30-9:00 AM - Business Meeting

Upcoming APEX Staff Events

State of Manufacturing

May 24, 2018
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Radisson Hotel Duluth - Harborview - Great Hall
Duluth, MN



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