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Local View: Lake Superior College president's impacts will be long-lasting

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Economic development is all about people, and it truly begins with education. In Northeastern Minnesota, we are fortunate to be home to several of the state’s finest higher-education institutions. The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) has been proud to partner with Pat Johns, the recently retired president of Lake Superior College, on many levels over the years, creating opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in the types of jobs that lend strength to our economy.

Johns led an impressive career in academia and always recognized the important role higher education plays in the overall wellness of a regional economy. Under his leadership, Lake Superior College graduated more than 20,000 students in 20 years. Over 80 percent of those graduates found careers in Minnesota, earning $6,000-plus more per year than those with high school diplomas alone. They generated an astounding $3.2 billion impact.

Access to high-quality education and training — like the programs offered at Lake Superior College — is key to attracting and retaining a strong workforce. With degrees in health care, aviation, and manufacturing, Lake Superior College graduates have become the hard-working backbone of our regional and state economy.

The college’s health care programs prepare graduates for jobs in our fastest-growing industry sector. On average, the college’s health care graduates earn a healthy $48,000 annually. Across the state and region, investments in health care create higher-paying job and growth opportunities for those driven to achieve.

Aviation quickly has become one of our region’s cornerstone industries, and Lake Superior College has helped attract aviation companies like AAR, Cirrus, and Monaco Air to the region by preparing students to continue their education on-the-job. The college’s Center for Advanced Aviation at Duluth International Airport puts students in the heart of the action, learning valuable maintenance and piloting skills hands-on.


Lake Superior College understands the critical role of the manufacturing industry on our regional economy. When it moved its manufacturing degree programs to its downtown Duluth location, it not only expanded the school’s footprint; the programs attracted more students into integrated manufacturing.

All this incredible work has had a huge impact on our regional economy, and it would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of President Pat Johns. Lake Superior College does so much to prepare students for success, and, together, we can strengthen the region’s workforce. We at APEX will surely miss partnering with Johns, but we look forward to working with new President Patricia Rogers on many bright and exciting partnerships.

Brian W. Hanson is president and CEO of APEX (apexgetsbusiness.com), a private economic-development firm in Duluth.

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