APEX News - February 2018


Welcome New APEX Investor-Members

American Engineering Testing
American Engineering Testing has a unique knowledge base and extensive project experience supplemented with our specialized laboratory services for their cement/concrete, aggregate, asphalt and chemistry consulting needs.
In addition to being known experts in geotechnical and environmental engineering, American Engineering Testing also has an internationally recognized petrography department to unlock the reasons for deficiencies in aggregates, cement, concrete and construction material performance.

Gardner Builders
Gardner Builders is a hospitality company in the commercial construction business.  A space is designed to meet several factors – business need, efficiency, and aesthetics - while also reflecting personality.
Gardner Builders works closely with their clients, the designers, and their trade partners to deliver quality spaces.  The end purpose is to provide each one of their clients with an outstanding experience during the construction process.

Hunt Electric Corp.
Hunt Electric began as an electrical services company in 1965.  Since then, they have become a full service electrical design, build and maintenance company with a robust national presence.
In more than four decades of business, Hunt Electric clientele has expanded to include regional organizations like Mayo Health Systems and the University of Minnesota to major multinational corporations including Delta Airlines and Thomson Reuters.

DSGW Architects
It starts with the spark of an idea and ends only after a successful grand opening. While our list of capabilities is lengthy, we really excel in three main areas: collaborating, communicating and designing the places that make communities home. We do these things with creativity, enthusiasm and steadfast dedication.

Our promise of enriching communities through architecture also means giving back outside of our projects and work hours. DSGW is proud to support various community organizations through sponsorships and volunteering.

In Case You Missed It: Annual Meeting Recap

Brian Thun, LaMarr Barnes, Brian Hanson
The 2018 APEX Annual Meeting boasted a record attendance.  The January meeting, in keeping with tradition, was held at the Kitchi Gammi Club in the Great Hall and featured remarks from:
  • APEX Chair, Brian Thun with maurices and dressbarn
  • APEX President and CEO, Brian Hanson
  • APEX Treasurer, John Strange with St. Luke’s
  • Keynote speaker, LaMarr Barnes, with U.S. Water
After opening remarks from Chair Brian Thun, investor-members approved the 2017 Annual Meeting Minutes and December 2017 Financials along with the 2018 Consolidated Budget presented by John Strange, Treasurer.  The annual APEX elections also took place during the investor-member meeting. The following APEX Executive Committee Officers and Members-At-Large were elected:
Additionally, Tom Werner, Duluth Airport Authority, and David Ross, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, were elected as Directors-At-Large to the APEX Board of Directors.
APEX President and CEO, Brian Hanson, presented investor-members with an overview of key 2017 activities and accomplishments, including:
  • Addition of eight new investor-members – BNSF Railway, Cirrus Aircraft, Greg Follmer Real Estate, J.R. Jensen Construction, Lakeview Hospital, North Shore Bank, O.N.E. and Parsons Electric  
  • Addition of 14 new projects to the deal sheet
  • Assistance in helping four major projects move through various expansion or attraction stages, including Altec Industries, Earthrider Brewery, BuiltriteTM, and Lake Superior Brewing Company
  • Completion of 54 business retention visits, 30 of those with investor-members
  • Continued success through efforts in our contracted areas of Bayfield, Itasca and Aikin Counties
  • Completion of a business and sustainability plan for NORTHFORCE
  • Addressed several workforce-related challenges to help alleviate talent recruitment and retention issues (see Special Workforce Pinnacle)
  • Grew Mentor Connection participation from 40 matches in 2016 to 58 in 2017
  • Assistance in advocacy around major pipeline and mining projects in the APEX Region
  • Commencement of the water research study
  • Commencement of the workforce skills assessment
Throughout 2017, APEX assisted in or led 34 new business development projects – including 14 new projects (six expansion and eight attraction) in the next generation wood products, heavy manufacturing, light manufacturing, technology, and retail sectors.
In addition to crediting key partners, Hanson attributed much of the organization’s 2017 success to the APEX staff – Sandy Johnson, Tamara Lowney, and Ian Vincent, for the work they do to help further the mission.  He also thanked the APEX Membership Committee for being instrumental in recruiting new investor-members:

U.S. Water CEO Details Water/Energy Nexus

At the 2018 APEX Annual Meeting, APEX investor-members heard from LaMarr Barnes, CEO of U.S. Water Services, Inc. (U.S. Water). Barnes spoke about the interconnection of water and industry in our region and the importance of understanding and managing water in a sustainable way.

Barnes shared valuable insight into the changing hydrological cycle, explaining the intricacies of the water/energy nexus throughout industries.  Generating electrical power, agriculture, public water and industry are the largest water-using sectors in our economy today.  Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin face unique concerns in terms of water treatment and management.  We need to consider the impacts of using fresh water for industry, commercial and residential applications.  For example, even salt from snow removal can have very real impacts on our water supply.
“We have the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world, right here on our doorsteps,” said Barnes. “And we have some opportunities to lead the nation, and maybe even the world, in changing the way we think about industrial water in particular.”
In order to use, manage, and treat water sustainably for years to come, Barnes suggested understanding the true cost of industrial water usage and making infrastructure improvements to make better use of clean water, impaired/gray water and wastewater.  A deeper understanding will lead to better long-term decisions regarding public and industrial water use.
“We have access to an excellent water supply in Minnesota,” continued Barnes. “We also have sensitive environments that need to be protected.  The key to long-term sustainability will be forging stronger partnerships between municipalities and industry, so water may be used most efficiently.”
“The smart use of water impacts the lives of all of us and APEX investor-members are very aware of that fact,” said Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.  “The industries in which we all work depend heavily on the use of, and care for, our water resources.  Understanding the connections between water and industry will lead us to sustainable choices for economic development and water use.”
Barnes’ presentation provided valuable insight into the future of our region, leaving his audience with much to consider regarding the importance of water in their respective industries.

APEX 2018 Priorities

Looking ahead to 2018, APEX has an ambitious dashboard.  Completing both the water research study and the workforce skills assessment are a key focus for APEX.  Business attraction, recruitment, retention efforts will be honed to serve six key industries – mining, energy, aviation, timber, manufacturing and back office. Getting several of the major projects across the finish line, including PolyMet’s NorthMet project and the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project are a priority – they not only increase employment opportunities in the APEX Region, but also provide spin-off and revenue generating opportunities for the private sector.

APEX will continue to serve the Itasca, Aitkin and Bayfield County communities through specific engagements to drive employment opportunities in partnership with the public, philanthropic and private sector.  Increasing visibility of investor-members, connecting resources and aligning missions are all strengths APEX has demonstrated over the past decade.  With each project, APEX will continue seeking opportunities to leverage the services and products offered within the APEX membership to ensure the organization is not only helping enhance the region’s economy, but is also growing investor-member revenue when possible.

Regional Workforce Development Series Kick Off

On February 13, 2018, the City of Duluth hosted the kick off to a series aimed at addressing the region’s persistent workforce issues.  The event, attended by over 150 employers and service providers, was hosted in partnership with APEX, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, University of Minnesota Duluth-Center for Economic Development, The Northspan Group and other several other workforce-related agencies.  
The full-afternoon program was tailored to provide valuable insight to businesses of all sizes.  Speakers included Gerry Hoeffner, President of Personal Dynamics Consulting Group, and Susan Brower, Demographer of the State of Minnesota. Hoeffner touched on change management, corporate culture enhancement and employee development as key elements in recruitment and retention of talent in today’s marketplace.
Over 150 regional employers and service providers attended the first in a series dedicated to addressing the region’s persistent workforce issues.
This event was the first in a short series designed to help businesses remain competitive in the tight labor market.  APEX Senior Business Developer, Ian Vincent, continues to play a significant role on the planning committee, helping to ensure APEX investor-members participated and had a voice at the table.
On April 16, 2018, the second session will focus on retention of employees, and host a breakfast session in Duluth and a duplicate lunch event in Chisholm.  The final session on May 16, 2018 will feature talent recruitment strategies and have a similar two event format.  For more information contact APEX Senior Business Developer, Ian Vincent at 218-740-3667.

Upcoming APEX Staff Events

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl. (FMA) Annual Summit

March 7-9, 2018
Talking Stick Resort
Scottsdale, AZ


Site Selectors Guild

March 19-21, 2018
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

Cincinnati, OH

Mass Timber Conference

March 20-22, 2018
Oregon Convention Center
Portland, OR

Regional Economic Indicators Forum (REIF)

April 3, 2018
7:00-9:00 AM
DECC – Harbor Side Ballroom
Duluth, MN
Topic:  Exploring the Influences on Our Region's Economy
Register @


SelectUSA Canada

April 12, 2018
Calgary, Canada


Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC) Spring Forum

May 5-9, 2018
Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa
Savannah, GA
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