Case Study: GPS 45:93

Adding More Points of Opportunity

Challenge: A longtime East Central MN economic development partnership sought to expand its staffing capacity and more effectively promote regional cooperation in Pine, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, and Mille Lacs Counties.

Northspan’s Role: Provide staffing services to streamline internal operations, coordinate member activity, help market the region, and offer strategic direction. Major projects included a website overhaul, coordination of business attraction-focused events and familiarization tours, an economic gardening initiative, and management of student research projects.

Results: GPS has streamlined its operations and enhanced its profile as a regional actor in Minnesota economic development.

Northspan’s niche in community development often involves filling gaps and creating new capacity for the full range of an organization’s activity. In early 2017, GPS 45:93, a regional economic development partnership in East Central Minnesota, contracted with Northspan to provide consulting services. GPS, which was founded as the Northern Technology Initiative in 2001, has long sought to grow business in Pine, Kanabec, Chisago, and Isanti Counties. Since the start of the new relationship, Northspan gives the organization a new level of staff capacity.

“Since Northspan came on board, we’ve really expanded our ability to act as a regional economic development leader,” said Heidi Steinmetz, the Economic Development Director for the Kanabec County EDA and GPS President for 2019. “Karl has been a great addition to GPS. He’s helped us to expand our offerings in a number of areas and makes all of our lives easier by responding quickly when we need things done.”

Since Northspan signed on to work with GPS, Karl Schuettler has helped to retool the GPS website, served on its marketing committee, and helped to develop an internal communications plan. With grant support from the Initiative Foundation, he helped guide several regional businesses through a round of Economic Gardening conducted by the Edward Lowe foundation. He has also used Northspan’s network to bring in guest speakers to GPS’s monthly meetings and served as an outward face for GPS at numerous events, as when he joined the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s August 2018 Familiarization Tour to meet with site selection consultants in Chicago on behalf of GPS.

As GPS’s staff consultant, Northspan looks to foster conditions in which GPS can thrive. Previously, this organization of economic and community development professionals, nonprofits, and businesses had relied on the volunteer work of members who also had day jobs. With staff capacity to take care of many of the organization’s internal details, members have been able to focus on committee work and broader initiatives. GPS’s Innovative Approaches to Career Readiness initiative, which won the Economic Development Association of Minnesota’s Program of the Year award in 2019, is a prime example of how the organization has taken flight over the past two years.

“Northspan has been very effective in bringing GPS to the next level,” added Nancy Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Chisago County HRA-EDA and GPS’s President in 2018. “We are now more productive and seeing more results. It is great to rely on someone who is capable to get the work done.”

Reference: Nancy Hoffman, Chisago County HRA-EDA and Past GPS President,, 651-674-5664

Contact Karl Schuettler at for more information.