January 2023
Update 2023: what we're seeing in the region
After the crushing blow of 2020 shutdowns and general uncertainty, many business owners found 2021 into 2022 to be positive for cash flow.

As 2023 gets underway, increased costs and logistics are providing some challenges. The spirit of growth, however, is alive and well. People all across the northeast Minnesota are still wanting to start, purchase, or expand businesses. Deal flow has been steady.

"The entrepreneurial ecosystem remains strong. The pandemic was hard on most small businesses, but it also nudged a lot of folks to make the leap into business ownership," said Northland Foundation President, Tony Sertich.

Working capital and construction-related financing are a heavy focus at the moment, from mature businesses investing into their operations, to small start-ups just getting going, to ownership transitions.
"It's encouraging to see that, despite rate increases by the Fed, a growth mindset continues in the region."
Tony Sertich
Michael Colclough, who's led Northland's lending program for over seven years, touts northeast Minnesota's concentration of financing and economic development organizations as a major asset for entrepreneurs trying to sustain their businesses in lean times or manage growth in boom times.

"We have a solid network – banks and credit unions, the ARDC, Entrepreneur Fund, Northspan, SBDC, and others – with a common goal to help businesses get the support they need be successful," stated Colclough.

As a non-traditional lender and certified CDFI, Northland adds to the mix with:
  • Responsive lending staff able to turn approvals around relatively quickly without a lot of red tape.
  • Less restrictive loan policy around collateral or other typical lending requirements.
  • Flexibility and cost-consciousness in a time of rising interest rates.
  • Willingness to fill gaps, for example, with construction or equipment cost over-runs Northland might step in to extend additional credit and keep projects ticking.

"Being a small and nimble shop, with the ability to take a second position, for example, or be looser about collateral, makes us a good option anytime," adds Colclough. "Our role is arguably most valuable when economic conditions are more challenging."
Get to know our business lending team
Our lending staff are your neighbors who, like you, love to live and work in the beautiful area we call home. Get to know a little more about them, here.

Michael Colclough joined the Foundation in 2015 and oversees the loan program as well as the Northland Small Business Development Center. He grew up in the UK and has lived in Duluth since the mid-90s.

Suzanne Rauvola has been with Northland for 25 years and has touched all program areas in that time. In 2021, she began working more closely on loan closings, invoicing, and more. She's a lifelong Duluthian and UMD graduate.

The newest team member, Amanda Vuicich, came on board in late 2022. She has experience with non-profit lending, administering grant programs, and packaging SBA 7a loans. Amanda grew up in Cloquet and graduated from UMD.

What do you most enjoy about this work, and what are some qualities you bring to the job?

Michael: I get to learn about many different industries and what makes entrepreneurs successful. I appreciate the ‘can do’ attitude of other lenders we work with. As for qualities, I've been in lending for a very long time. One good thing about that is I can pretty quickly come up with a credit structure that all parties are happy with, helping ensure our clients' success.

Suzanne: I appreciate playing a small role in helping to create and retain employment opportunities in this region. My primary responsibilities are loan payment entry and tracking and reporting to funders, so my attention to detail and process thinking comes in handy to keep things on track.

Amanda: It's satisfying to help someone with their dream of owning or expanding a business. Entrepreneurs’ heart and passion for their business is invigorating! I'm curious by nature and want to understand how things work, which helps in figuring out how to best utilize the resources we have regionally in order to assemble a financing package. It's like a puzzle.

What keeps you busy in your free time?

Michael: I love traveling with my family including over the pond in England, reading, running, and being outside as much as the weather allows.

Suzanne: I enjoy the outdoors all year long. My spouse and I love to play tourist all over the region and discover new places to eat, drink, and recreate.

Amanda: I appreciate the rhythm of the seasons. Long winters make summers extra special. I enjoy hiking and swimming, reading, and doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles.
Reach out to Amanda, Suzanne, or Michael with a question or a need, or just to touch base, using the email links below. We look forward to hearing from and working with you.
Business Lending Staff
Business Services Director
Economic Development Specialist/Small Business Lender
Systems Manager
Our Reach
Working with northeast MN counties of Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis and the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

202 West Superior St., Suite 800
Duluth, MN 55802