The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) and The Northspan Group announced the organizations won first place in their division for the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC) 2016 Annual Economic Development Awards for their workforce attraction strategies and activities through NORTHFORCE. The NORTHFORCE regional talent initiative is designed to connect prospective employees with regional businesses. As part of the recognition, the organizations will be featured in the January issue of Site Selection Magazine.

APEX accepted the award on behalf of the NORTHFORCE staff. The workforce development strategy was recognized in the small division marketing program category for annual marketing budgets under $100,000.

“Receiving national recognition for NORTHFORCE is an honor,” said Randy Lasky, the Northspan Group President and CEO. “Attracting and retaining talent is essential to the success of our economy, and NORTHFORCE has become an integral part in developing our region’s competitive workforce.”

The award-winning NORTHFORCE partnership was developed in 2014 between APEX, The Northspan Group, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Minnesota Power, and the cities of Duluth and Superior. The NORTHFORCE region coincides with the APEX region and includes Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, St. Louis, Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties.

“We are pleased to be recognized with this award for NORTHFORCE’s workforce development strategy,” said Brian Hanson, APEX president and CEO. “Since the launch of NORTHFORCE in 2014, we have focused considerable time and energy into recruiting talent to our region, and matching candidates with employment opportunities. NORTHFORCE, and our partners vested in this strategy, have strengthened northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin’s ability to grow and retain talent.”

This is the third year that APEX has been recognized at the national level for its marketing efforts. In 2013, APEX was awarded first place for its newsletter, Pinnacle and in 2014, APEX was awarded first place for its data center attraction strategy with Lake County. In addition, NORTHFORCE was recognized as Economic Development Initiative of the Year in Minnesota by the Economic Development Association of Minnesota earlier this year.