July 2018    
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F.Y.I. is an electronic publication of The Northspan Group, Inc.



7 Questions with Northspan President & CEO Elissa Hansen
Elissa Hansen - (218) 590-5133 -  ehansen@northspan.org

Elissa Hansen has joined Northspan as its President and CEO on June 4, succeeding Randy Lasky after his 29-year tenure in the position. Over the past few weeks, Elissa has hit the ground running and been touring northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin in recent weeks to connect and re-connect with community leaders and businesses. In order to introduce her, we posed her a series of questions:

What drew you to Northspan?
The historical base of work and the true ability to find creative solutions in any business environment.  

2. You're just wrapping up your tenure on the Duluth City Council and are returning to economic development, where you've spent most of your career. What did your time in public office teach you about the field?
It taught me that now, more than ever, we need to create stronger community conversations that connect our urban and rural areas. People, residents, and potential residents want to see their governments and organizations supporting and challenging each other in positive ways. People can choose where they live, so deciding where to invest in accessibility will make communities stand out to people who are looking for jobs and opportunity. Our communities need to have access to housing, child care, and they must feel welcoming to newcomers.

3.  What experience led you into the economic development field?
Over 25 years ago I began working in business management and development in Nisswa, MN at a small candy and ice cream shop. It was in that small town where I grew up that I witnessed how important each job is to any community. It became so clear to me that connecting businesses with opportunity in both the greatest of times and the hardest of times is what keeps a community growing. Not until about 10 years later did I realize that is called economic development and I have been hooked ever since!

4. What trends do you see in regional economic development that will affect Northspan's future plans?
I believe the biggest challenge for us over the next decade will be creating a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. Finding ways to connect with each other and grow our social capital as many new people choose to move here is essential. Those who create vibrant communities will attract talent from around the world.

5. What's your favorite part about the job so far?
My favorite part of this job-and every job I have had-has always been the people I get to work with. Northspan has an amazingly talented team and I feel privileged to work alongside them. Across our region we have so many dedicated, hard-working people. I can't wait to get more of us connected and keep moving us toward a stronger, brighter future.

6. How do you spend your time when you're not in the office?
With friends and family on the water or in the woods!

7. As many Duluthians know, your family was involved in the founding of Blacklist Artisan Ales. What's your favorite Blacklist beer?
The Strong Belgian Golden, more affectionately named the Or de Belgique.  

Northspan Lands $100,000 Grant to Assist Business with Valuation and Succession Planning
Bob Palmquist - (218) 529-7562 - bpalmquist@northspan.org

The Northspan Group, Inc. has landed a $100,000 grant to provide business succession planning and business valuation technical assistance for small, rural businesses  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business Development Grant Program.

The gr ant will address one of the m ost p ressing needs in the Upper Midwest and across the U.S. Over 50% of small business owners are over the age of 50, and 60% of small businesses do not have succession plans in place. A looming retirement wave of business owners without succession plans poses a serious economic challenge, as busines ses run the  risk of liquidating and closing up instead  of continuing to provide products an d services   and create jobs in their communities. In the past, the high cost of succession planning services has been a barrier to  many businesses,  and the grant funding will allow Northspan to offer its services at  a reduced cost.
The grant will assist with both business valuation and succession planning facilitation. Valuations, which will be completed by Northspan's Vice Presiden t of Finance & Business Development, Bo b Palmquist, give business owners an understanding  of the value of t heir op eration. In the  succession planning  process, Palmquist c onv enes a team  of advi sors in clud ing th e business's  attorney and accountant, to provide a comprehen sive u nderstanding of  the steps  business es must tak e in o rder to transition smoothly to new leadership.

The grant runs through October 2019, and all  businesses in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin outside of Duluth are eligible. While the services are not free-businesses are still required to provide some funds-the rate for services will be dramatically lower. Palmquist has been an Accredited Business Appraiser through the Institute of Business Appraisers since 2010. Contact Bob today to learn more about Northspan's business valuation and succession planning services.
Krissy Johnson - (630) 621-8900 - krissy@northforce.org

NORTHFORCE, the North's career connection portal, continues to evolve as it enters its fifth year of operation. Ongoing updates to the website make it more efficient and accessible, more candidates are uploading résumés to improve their odds of successful matches to jobs, and the website is now fully mobile-friendly. Job posting numbers and usage rates continue to improve across the entire 10-county NORTHFORCE service area.

NORTHFORCE now boasts 4,622 total members, including 981 employers and 3,641 job-seekers. It serves both local residents and potential new arrivals, and usage statistics show significant numbers of sessions in Chicago and the Twin Cities. Thanks to a concerted marketing campaign since the program's inception, NORTHFORCE's Facebook page now reaches over 70,000 people per month. The website, which was redesigned in 2016-2017 with help from Duluth-based AimClear, is now designed in a manner that attracts revenue to help sustain the program, and lays a foundation for future growth.

NORTHFORCE also continues its administration of the Mentor Connection program, which connects local college students with professional mentors from the community. In the 2017-2018 cycle of the program, 57 UMD and St. Scholastica students went through Mentor Connection. This comprehensive program walks students through a series of formal events for mentor-mentee interaction around topics such as personal branding, networking, and reflection. Mentor Connection aims to create networking opportunities, open doors to internships, apprenticeships, and careers, and retain students in the region after their graduation.

Regional partners were on the cutting edge of talent community development when NORTHFORCE launched in 2014, and now that such websites have come into economic development vogue, its track record and its staff's experience demonstrate its ability to stay ahead of the curve. Generous financial support from the City of Duluth Economic Development Authority, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, the Development Association of Superior and Douglas County, and the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation makes NORTHFORCE possible. Northspan partners with APEX in administering NORTHFORCE.

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