2021 Itasca Summit

2021 Itasca Summit: Inspiring Change


Summit General - Short 

Innovate 218

Thrive Up North


This October 19th and 20th, Itasca Economic Development Corporation hosted a summit here in Itasca County. Our 2021 Summit brought 120+ members of our community together. Throughout both days, we learned, brainstormed, and developed a strategy to ensure forward thinking in regard to the stability of Itasca County. Attendees heard from diverse speakers inspiring them to actively engage in our future.

By participating, attendees volunteered their time and provided insight to a future they can not only buy into but be proud of. While this event was invite-only for in-person attendance, we did have a virtual option where all sessions were recorded live on zoom.

Since the event was so inspiring, we wanted to ensure that all members of our community have access to these panels and presentations. Please see full agenda, here. Below, you will see all sessions laid out in the order in which they occur in the full agenda. Watch, listen, and take it all in! Thanks to our sponsors, speakers, attendees, and community members for making this event so successful.



2021 Itasca Summit Reflection & Future Engagement Sessions:

Your participation at the Itasca Summit showed us the passion you have for our community.  Each of you brought different perspectives to the table, and it is through those differing voices we challenge ourselves to actively engage in the future of our community.  Thank you.  Miigwech. 

In December, IEDC hosted three 2021 Itasca Summit Reflection & Future Engagement 90-minute Sessios to deliver the results of the facilitated work sessions as well as a high-level overview of the survey results.

In these sessions, President, Tamara Lowney, highlighted areas that our community would like to work on and how we can start to develop work groups around those topics.  Each session covered the same materials. Please check below for materials that are provided for your review.


 Apply to the Advisory Group Today!




Dream Big, Start Now - One Decision at a Time

Isn’t it time to turn the corner? To start chasing tomorrow’s dreams by stepping out of yesterday’s shadows? Isn’t right now the right time? All it takes is one decision at a time.

Decisions are the most basic building blocks of growth and innovation. In these times of disruptive change, the more strategically and decisively you stack your blocks, the faster and more effectively you'll seize opportunities, implement creative solutions, and find new ways to accelerate the growth of your career, the transformation of your team, and the prosperity of your organization—one decision at a time.

Presented by: Nick Tasler


Itasca SWOT: Where do we go from here?

In 2021, IEDC hired Hickey Global to conduct an industry cluster analysis of the Itasca Area. Join us to hear the highlights of this analysis along with recommendations to improve Itasca County in years to come.

Presented by: Jason Hickey and Barry Matherly


Dynamics of the Rural Housing Crisis

State and local leaders ground us in today's critical housing crunch and challenges faced throughout the nation, state and locally in Itasca County. Learn more about the complexities we face to find solutions that address the shortages felt in every type of housing, from low-income and workforce housing to market rate and single family homes. Forget easy answers. Solutions are expensive, laborious, and exist on a national scale.

Presented by: Elizabeth Glidden & Diane Larson

For additional documentation provided by the speakers, Click Here. 


Workforce the Next 10 Years & How to Thrive

The workforce crisis that we face will be more challenging in the future, our eyes need to be open for what is ahead! Hear what we can do to best utilize our current workforce, how to be proactive to analyze your organization, and how we can adapt to attract and develop quality talent in the future!

Presented by: Mike Henke


The Irresponsible Pursuit of Paradise

"The Irresponsible Pursuit of Paradise begins with a quest to discover the secrets of Paraiso, an imaginary kingdom that is a paradise in both name and appearance." This is stated in the preface of Jim Bowyer's book, and we're honored to learn about this and more. Listen in as Jim Bowyer dives into the topics of "life cycle assessment, carbon tracking and reporting, bioenergy, green building standards, and environmental policy."

Presented by: Jim Bowyer



Gearing Up! "Granny" to "Gnarly:" Rural Minnesota Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking continues to thrive and grow in rural MN. Get a grip on the "downside" as our growing momentum propels us forward into new opportunities. Hear from area leaders about the risks and rewards of continuing to grow this adventurous arm of tourism.

Panelists include: David Gabrys, Max Peters, and Dr.Phil Imholte

Facilitated by: Megan Christianson


Workforce Development: Navigating the Resource Roadmap

We don't know what we don't know. It's time to reset your knowledge of local workforce development programs. Check in with experts in the workforce realm and learn about programs that support both the business and the individual as we all work together to tackle workforce challenges, including attraction and development.

Panelists include: Dave Cook, Carson Corecki, Randy Back, and Shawn Herhusky

Facilitated by: Ian Vincent 


Boswell Energy Center: Planning for Tomorrow

Hear more from local Minnesota Power leadership about the status of their Integrated Resource Plan and how our community can continue to support them. In addition, gain insights on plans for the future including ardent work in economic development and influencing and supporting projects such as Huber Engineered Woods in Cohasset.

Presented by: Jennifer Cady


Huber Engineered Woods: Why Northeast MN?

** Skip to 48:30 in video**

Join us in welcoming Huber Engineered Woods to Northeast Minnesota. Hear from company leaders on where they are in their process as well as an overview of the project. Also, gain greater insight into the mission and priorities of Huber Engineered Woods.

Presented by: Tim Romans & Mark Lindquist


Business Development: Navigating the Resource Roadmap

We don't know what we don't know. Thinking of starting a new business? How about taking your current business to the next level? Local experts will take you through their unique programs and help you understand available resources. Challenge yourself to think bigger and find new opportunities to grow in our community.

Panelists include: Brad Brzezinski, Matt Sjoberg, and Rob Sjostrand

Facilitated by: Jeff Borling


Bring a Hotdish: The New Recipe for a Welcoming Community

It's time to redefine rural community development. Beyond ribbon cuttings and potlucks, what can your community do to lay out the red carpet for influencers? Join us for a dialog around new best practices to create a community where people want to not just get by...but thrive.

Presented by: Benya Kraus & Elissa Hansen



Innovation Acceleration

Innovation empowers entrepreneurs to accelerate their ideas and create economic prosperity for themselves as well as their community. Hear as our panel of serial entrepreneurs tell how they achieved their success by taking risks and learning from failure. How can our community become a haven for this rapidly evolving passionate cluster?

Panelists include: Beth Fynbo, Nick Tietz, and Ryan Weber

Facilitated by: Kirstie McPherson


Anishaninabe World View: Native American Story Telling

"Anishinabe World View: A look back from a Traditional, Bi-Cultural and Acculturated perspective. Discussing the impact of the past and how the future is shaped by those events."

Presented by: George Goggleye 


Bridging the Gap: Economic Prosperity in Rural Minnesota

**Skip to 1:21:00 in video**

Economic Prosperity meets climate change in Itasca County as we are rapidly approaching a decision around the retirement and reuse of Boswell Energy Center. State leaders share how their organizations can help us aggressively pursue options that will allow us to weather this blow and even grow our local economy rather than face decline. Listen in on perspectives on rural economic development and the path forward.

Panelists include: Ida Rukavina, State Representative; Ron Kresha (R), and Deputy Commissioner, Kevin McKinnon.

Facilitated by: Brian Hanson 


Transformative Innovation: Shifting from Problem to Potential

Community and economic development is a complex practice that works to engage community, government and private sector partners to build collaborations that support strong communities, industries and markets while improving social conditions that lead to sustainable solutions that foster economic, social, ecological and cultural well-being. How do we do this in a way that supports the common good for both our people and planet? This interactive presentation will engage participants to begin to dig deeper into the work required to foster authentic relationships and multi-sector collaboration that enables transformative innovations that shift our thinking from problem and solution focused practices to leveraging our collective evolutionary potential to work with the challenges and opportunities we face.

Presented by: Katie Boone



Itasca's Carrot: Assets to Rural Attraction

Itasca County has been fortunate to land several great new opportunities recently. Expansions with existing businesses as well as new arrivals, show abundant promise for economic development. Join us to hear about some of our greatest assets for attraction as well as areas upon which we need to improve.

Presented by: Chad Chancellor



Community Development: Navigating the Resources Roadmap

We don't know what we don't know. Many rural communities have big ideas and passionate individuals, but don't know how to take an idea to the finish line.

Presented by: Hannah Holman, Sarah Carling, and Whitney Ridlon

Facilitated by: Benya Kraus


Flipping the Script

As mothers who understand the devastating effects of poverty, we decided that wealth could no longer be something that was out of our reach. It could no longer be what we had seen on television, meant only for the rich and famous, or only our hopes and dreams. Wealth became a requirement, commitment, and a reality that has led to transformational growth. We redefined what wealth was in our lives and the lives of our children. In this presentation we will discuss how hopes and dreams became a reality where entrepreneurs were born. We share our truth and journey with everything in between.

Presented by: ChaQuana McEntyre & Bobbi Jo Potter


Itasca Tourism: Beyond Walleyes & Ruby Slippers

"One's DESTINATION is never a place, but a new way of EXPERIENCING LIFE." - Albatross Travel. Hospitality Minnesota and Visit Grand Rapids share insights on tourism recovery at a statewide level and then dive into opportunities for growth in this vital Itasca County industry. Wanderlust to wonderment, how can we create a culture of adventure for today's eclectic traveler?

Presented by: Megan Christianson & Liz Rammer



Engaged Leadership: Create an Environment that Leads to Success

Set the stage, create the environment, and watch your people excel. After this presentation, people will be excited to work for your organization and they will stay and produce.

Presented by: Chris Nielson



Innovate 218: Itasca, Sweat, Equity 

Innovate 218, May Mobility, Launch MN…insights from real time entrepreneur programs and activity here in Itasca County. Blood, sweat, tears... (and caffeine) pave the way as local leaders establish platforms for entrepreneurs and innovators to turn ideas into ventures. Plus, an early glimpse at our innovative plans for Itasca County.

Panelists include: Sam Robinson, Tamara Lowney, and Tammy Meehan-Russel


Strong Towns: Bottom Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity

In this presentation, Charles Marohn highlights some of the most powerful stories in his book, Strong Towns: A Bottom Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, and uses those insights to highlight a path to community prosperity that’s as unique as your place. Using an innovative, hands-on approach, this presentation showcases why so many towns in North America are struggling financially despite decades of robust growth. This presentation is part community conversation, part lecture from an expert, and the catalyst you need for your place to become financially stronger.

Presented by: Chuck Marohn


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