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Our History
The Northspan Group has been a pivotal behind-the-scenes force in regional economic development for more than 30 years. The Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) created Northspan in 1985 as a private, nonprofit organization to offer professional business and community development services, primarily in the seven counties of Northeast Minnesota. At the time, the region was reeling from a recession, record high unemployment, and a shrinking tax base.

Northspan quickly proved itself to be a flexible, entrepreneurial entity that works effectively with both public and private sector community and economic development partners. Its expertise in financial packaging, loan fund administration, fund development, and strategic planning immediately made it a valuable partner for growth-oriented organizations, communities, and businesses. Over the years, Northspan built upon these core competencies, expanding its services and broadening its service area to encompass all of Minnesota, Northwest Wisconsin, and other parts of the Upper Midwest.

Early focus on business attraction pays off
One of Northspanís earliest achievements was the Arrowhead Business Connection (ABC), Minnesotaís first regional public/private marketing and business recruitment program. ABC helped the region attract many businesses that continue to employ area residents, including United Healthcare Corporation, Hallmark Business Connections, Premier Plastics, HealthPartners, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel Solutions.

In the early 1990s, ABC staff created an online real estate database, listing available buildings and land throughout the Arrowhead Region. That database grew to become a central component of the national and state award-winning NorthlandConnection.com, a technology-driven regional economic development portal for eight counties in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. In 2006, ABC changed its name to Northland Connection, and it remains the premier source for current, relevant economic development data and analysis to recruit, expand, and retain businesses in the Northland.

Region responds to booms and busts
Northspan historically has demonstrated the capacity to mobilize regional partners and facilitate coordinated responses to both crises and opportunities. When LTV Steel shuttered its Hoyt Lakes taconite plant in 2000, Northspan facilitated the East Range Economic Response Team. This group of local, state, and federal leaders helped displaced workers and impacted communities address the crisis and engaged potential developers to bring new jobs to the area. Just seven years later, as the economy rebounded and multiple large-scale industrial projects emerged in Northeast Minnesota, Northspan facilitated the Range Readiness Initiative, addressing the issues of rapid growth and expansion. In both of these cases, Northspan used its funding development expertise to secure significant grants through the United States Economic Development Administration and other available sources.

Northspan expands services to the Upper Midwest
Helping communities and businesses find resources to grow has long been a cornerstone of Northspan's mission. It has administered the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission's Revolving Loan Fund since its inception and now performs similar services statewide for the Minnesota Community Capital Fund and Twin Cities Community Capital Fund. The latter two funds leverage underutilized economic development funds to assist businesses in Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Recently, Northspan has expanded into business succession services, as well, responding to emerging needs with creative solutions.

Northspan firmly believes that successful economic and community development reaches across organizational and geographic boundaries. In 2009, it facilitated a strategic planning process that redefined the Northland and brought stakeholders from 17 counties in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin to the table for the first time. Aligning resources and connecting partners across a broad multijurisdictional region sets the stage for a prosperous futureóboth for Northspan and the communities, organizations, and businesses it serves.