For more than 15 years, APEX has been the business-development engine for the private sector in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. APEX investor-members represent many industries and comprise some of the largest and most influential organizations in the region. They work together to strengthen our economy through a shared, vested interest in the attraction, expansion, and retention of business.

Brian Hanson
Brian Hanson
We have such great potential here, and if we all work together we can realize that potential. Our success relies heavily on building a next-generation workforce, ensuring that housing exists to meet market needs, and supporting job growth in a thriving private sector. When we collaborate to solve issues like these, we win.

First, we need to renew our focus on education, training, and a strong workforce. APEX and several partners, including the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), regional workforce centers, foundations, and Minnesota Power have joined together to assess the region's workforce skills, better understand the needs of business, and formulate solutions to help develop skill sets and encourage a fully engaged regional labor force. Initiatives like these are prime examples of the public and private sectors working together to solve problems common to all of us.

Second, we need a variety of housing. Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, drove this point home during his keynote address at the Regional Economic Indicators Forum in Duluth in April. The availability of housing for the next-generation workforce is a key asset in attracting talent to a community. Projects like CityView Flats are a great start. We applaud MBJ Development, the city of Duluth, and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency for their efforts to develop workforce housing. Variety is essential, including affordable, market-rate, and multi-family options. If the workforce can't find affordable options to live here, they'll have to find work outside the region.

Third, we need private-sector job growth to thrive. Jobs and income lead to taxable revenue for our state, which in turn strengthens our economy. APEX actively pursues growth in the aviation, technology, manufacturing and fabrication, mining, and forest-products industries, as their jobs provide some of the highest wages, best benefits, and greatest overall impact to the regional economy. We work closely with partners such as the Development Association in Superior, Itasca Economic Development Corporation, Great River Energy, Minnesota Power, growth-oriented cities, and state leaders to develop the compelling business case for investment and growth.

Make no mistake; challenges exist. But new opportunities also arise frequently. We're seeing an influx of businesses looking to start or expand here. They're attracted to the area by our educated workforce, vast natural resources, and quality of place.

At APEX, our mission is to leverage private-sector resources to drive investment throughout this great region. We find success by bringing these resources together in a research-driven, strategic manner, positioning the business and the regional communities for long-term success.

When job creators and public-sector leaders collaborate, we all succeed. Regardless of industry, we all share similar goals for sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

Let's set aside issues that may divide us and instead focus on providing family-supporting jobs that sustain our communities, our economy, our environment, and our way of life.


Brian W. Hanson is president and CEO of APEX (, a private force in Duluth for economic development.