Case Study: Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Public Engagement Facilitation


Challenge: The Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) sought to update the CEDS, which provides a 5-year set of strategic directions for economic development in its seven-county region of northeast Minnesota. ARDC sought much greater community engagement than in previous CEDS processes. 

Role: Northspan conducted extensive outreach for 24 community engagement sessions across the region. Sessions targeted residents of each of the seven counties, plus several business groups, and Northspan proactively worked to solicit participation from a sample that reflected the region’s demographics. The process began with a survey completed by over 275 respondents. Northspan then facilitated the 24 sessions regarding the vision & direction and strategic actions for the CEDS. Staff compiled and coded participants’ comments for a final regional priorities report presented to the CEDS Strategy Committee, the Arrowhead Growth Alliance. 

Results: The ARDC CEDS had its most extensive public participation process in its history, reaching over 275 respondents through the survey and over 220 participants in the virtual engagement sessions. The process will provide valuable guidance for a regional strategy and regional economic development coordination in a more unified, collaborative manner than in the past. 

References: Andy Hubley, ARDC Director,, 218-529-7512; Josh Bergstad, ARDC Principal Planner,, 218-529-7516