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Our History

The Northspan Group has been a behind-the-scenes force for regional economic development for more than 30 years. Northspan was born in 1985 as a private, nonprofit organization to offer professional business and community development services, primarily in a seven-county region in Northeast Minnesota. At the time, the region was reeling from a recession, record high unemployment, and a shrinking tax base. Northspan has stood with the region through a full range of economic tides, and remains committed to its region. Over the years, it has also expanded its reach to perform services in all of Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and beyond.

Addressing Pressing Issues

Throughout its history, Northspan has remained on the cutting edge of community and economic development. Its experienced staff possesses a deep knowledge of development incentives and methods to access funding for businesses and communities. Northspan takes the lead on regional initiatives to bridge gaps and develop a brighter economic future for the communities it serves. When crises hit communities in the Upper Midwest, such as the closure of LTV Steel in Hoyt Lakes or significant job cuts at the Boise Paper plant in International Falls or Blandin Paper Company in Grand Rapids, Northspan has taken the lead in facilitating response strategies.

Supporting Local Businesses

Northspan has supported countless local businesses in their efforts to obtain financing, grow, and manage transitions. It has provided support and administration of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commissionís Revolving Loan Fund since its inception, and prepares applications for Small Business Administration loans and providing access to capital via other venues. More recently, Northspan has added services such as business valuation and succession planning and loan guarantee sales, building strong relationships with businesses and lenders to create smooth transitions and generate more wealth. Organizational development services also allow area businesses and nonprofits to develop strategies and plan for sustainable futures.

Early Leader of Regional Cooperation

As a nonprofit consultant working across the region, Northspan is well-positioned to bridge divides between communities and organizations and build regional coalitions. One of Northspanís longest-running programs is Northland Connection, which formed as the Arrowhead Business Connection (ABC) in 1987. ABC brought regional stakeholders together to create a space for cross-sector collaboration for regional marketing and business attraction, retention, and expansion. ABC established a regional real estate database in the early 1990s, and these listings of available commercial, industrial, and office properties grew to be a central component of The website serves as a regional economic development portal for eight counties in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. also offers economic and demographic data from across the region, and Northspan staff is always on hand to assist with searches for properties, data, or other information on doing business in the Northland.

In the Service of a Broader Vision

Northland Connection is just one example of how Northspan takes holistic vision of economic development, and always looks to build regional partnerships that help advance common interests. It seeks to weave economic development threads together into coherent strategies for regional growth. In addition to business attraction and property promotion through Northland Connection, Northspan has led the way in talent attraction and retention through NORTHFORCE, which connects job-seekers and employers. It has long supported the regional film industry through its Upper Minnesota Film Office (UMFO), has helped to secure infrastructure funding for a wide array of projects, and assisted in the creation of workforce housing in places such as Cook County. Facilitation services for the Arrowhead Growth Alliance bring together regional leaders united behind a common vision for northeast Minnesota. Northspan always seeks to cross boundaries between communities and fields to facilitate broader strategies.

Deep Ties to Communities

Northspan is deeply rooted in the Upper Midwest and builds lasting relationships with clients and communities. It knows its clients intimately, all while maintaining an ability to step back and view its region with fresh perspective and an honest appraisal of the situations in the communities, organizations, and businesses it serves. Northspan looks to carry forward that commitment to help build strong communities and businesses for future generations.