Case Study: East Range Joint Powers Board (Update 2023)

Challenge: In 2019, a longtime staff person for the East Range Joint Powers Board—an economic development partnership between Aurora, Biwabik, Hoyt Lakes, and Town of White—retired. The group sought a contractual relationship and a new staffing model that would allow it to broaden its services and amplify the visibility and success of a broad vision of economic development. 

Role: Provide staffing services using its five-person team to broaden ERJPB’s capacity and address a series of community challenges. Priorities include: 

• Regular strategic visioning sessions to identify and update priorities 

• Blandin Broadband Community process facilitation and regional broadband leadership 

• Tackling a child care shortage

• Periodic business retention and expansion campaigns and recommendations based on findings 

• Administration of a Covid-19 relief fund and business loan fund 

• Work with businesses seeking resources 

• Additional projects as directed  

Results: ERJPB board members have expressed satisfaction with Northspan’s work to re-engage stakeholders and develop a cohesive plan for the organization. Northspan-facilitated strategic planning work has allowed ERJPB to leverage additional funding from stakeholders such as IRRR and the Blandin Broadband Communities program to further support economic development on the East Range and guarantee funding to complete the full scope of work, including the promotion of regional trail networks, regional broadband leadership, and the re-capitalization of a loan fund. These efforts led to a 16.6% expansion of the organization’s budget from FY 2019 to FY 2021. As the relationship has deepened, Northspan’s work has shifted to new priorities, including facilitation of solutions for a local housing shortage and work to develop a unified branding and marketing campaign. Monthly reports allow the ERJPB board to assess progress to date and engage in conversations about the priorities and potential solutions to pressing issues.  

Reference: Jim Weikum, Mayor of Biwabik and ERJPB Member,