IEDC Coordinates New Innovate 218 Program

The Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has stepped up to take the lead in coordinating a new program for the northeast Minnesota region: Innovate 218 is a newly established regional branch of Launch Minnesota, a state program operated by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) already active in several regions across the state. Innovate 218 has engaged ILT Academy, helping to empower communities to keep entrepreneurs local by partnering with community and economic leaders to:

  • Teach and train local innovators and entrepreneurs skillsets to develop successful ventures
  • Build and expand the startup ecosystem for entrepreneurs through education, training, and networking
  • Provide access to nationally ranked accelerators, as well as risk capital and technical support services

IEDC hired new staff to work on the project with a regional network of partners; their taskforce is working diligently to get the program up and running. Northspan joins a large group of stakeholders involved to help guide and support the effort. Specifically, our staff are helping with outreach for the program in the east central part of the state, including the counties of Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine. 

“Finding, engaging and providing support for local entrepreneurs and innovators has been a challenge, not only in our region, but our entire state,” shared Tamara Lowney, President & CEO of IEDC. “The Innovate 218 group has targeted outreach and education as a key to providing real time options for entrepreneurs who are ready to engage, but haven’t found the right opportunity.”

As part of the effort, ILT Academy will offer a two-hour workshop where participants of any age can define and refine a business idea. The startup innovation workshop will take place August 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Duluth, Minnesota. Learn more here.

In June 2021, Innovate 218 received a grant from the Blandin Foundation’s Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) partnership to advance an innovation-fueled economy in northeast Minnesota. The AIR initiative brings together northeast Minnesota economic and community developers to identify and fund projects across the seven-county Arrowhead region to improve broadband infrastructure, build a knowledge workforce, and support more efforts to ensure digital equality and promote community engagement.

“Innovate 218 contains the building blocks for a successful program; however, real success is a community effort to find ways to attract, retain, and assist the entrepreneurial community,” added Lowney. “Education is just one component of the strategy. Expect to see more opportunities to engage through pitch competitions, mentorship programs, local networking events, and much more.”

For more information on Innovate 218, reach out to President & CEO of IEDC Tamara Lowney at