Hansen taking Northspan reins as Lasky retires; Palmquist promoted

Elissa Hansen, left, and Bob Palmquist.

The The Northspan Group’s Board of Directors selected Elissa Hansen to succeed Randy Lasky as president and CEO on June 4 when he retires.

“We’re excited to welcome Elissa to the Northspan team,” said Jeff Borling, Economic Development Lead at Great River Energy and chair of the Northspan Board of Directors. “It was a tough decision given the number of highly qualified candidates who applied for the job, but we are confident Elissa possesses the right combination of skills and experience needed to ensure Northspan continues to serve as an innovative leader in regional economic development and business consulting.”

For more than a decade, Hansen has worked in business, community, economic, and organizational development across central and northeast Minnesota. She has previous experience with the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), and most recently, Steam Creative Consulting. She is currently a member of the Duluth City Council, chair of the Northern Lights Express Passenger Rail Alliance and a commissioner on the Duluth Economic Development Authority. She participates in the Aim High Network, which connects inspiring women entrepreneurs and community leaders in the region to build influence, leadership, wealth and opportunity.

Hansen grew up in central Minnesota, and achieved her undergraduate and Master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University. After living and working across the country, she chose to make Duluth her home. She is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional with the National Development Council and a graduate of both the Leadership Duluth and Blandin Community Leadership programs. Hansen has also been honored as one of the Duluth News Tribune’s “20 under 40,” which celebrates professionals who are making a positive impact and working for change in the region.

Lasky has served as president and CEO since 1989. He is retiring after a career spanning over 40 years in regional community and economic development. Northspan said its current and former staff, board members, client and community partners thank Lasky for his decades of tireless work to advance the region’s economy. His final day at Northspan will be June 8.

“As a close colleague for over 25 years and former board chair of Northspan, I have seen firsthand how Randy has been quietly leading this region’s economic development efforts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars for public infrastructure and community preparedness,” said Nancy Norr, director of regional development at Minnesota Power. Norr served two six-year terms on the Northspan Board of Directors during Lasky’s tenure, including two years as its chair in 1999 and 2000. 

“He has consistently shepherded programs to build our development capacity, patiently pressing forward to achieve results,” she added. “He is the truest of servant leaders and a loyal friend whose legacy exists across all corners of the Arrowhead region and beyond.”

Also beginning in June, Bob Palmquist will become vice president of finance and business development. Palmquist has been a member of the Northspan staff as a senior business developer since 1991. In this new role, Palmquist will oversee Northspan’s financial management while continuing to expand the services he has long offered to regional businesses, development organizations, and local units of government. Over the years, this work has included loan fund administration, technical loan reviews, grant and loan application packaging, business valuation and succession planning, and feasibility assessments.

“Anyone who has worked with Bob knows he is a true asset to the Northspan team,” said Borling. “He is well-known across the region as the go-to person for business development and financial assistance, and has long been a leader in his field. The Board of Directors is excited to see Bob continue to expand his impact on Northspan and the region in this new role.”