Northspan Celebrates Team Expansion

Duluth, MN — June 14, 2022: Duluth-based nonprofit consulting firm Northspan Group, Inc., is celebrating team expansion with the addition of three new full-time consultants, one intern, and an internal promotion:   

NEW HIRE Zack FilipovichConsultant, 

Zack will provide community, organizational, and business development services such as facilitating conversations, conducting business valuations, packaging Small Business Administration (SBA) loan applications, and designing loan fund services. Zack brings over nine years of in-depth accounting and financial experience and eight years of public service experience including reviewing and approving budgets. Zack grew up in Duluth with Iron Range roots and in 2016 was selected as one of the Duluth News Tribune’s “20 Under 40” which recognizes professionals who are making a positive impact in their communities. 


NEW HIRE Miriam KeroConsultant & Northland Connection Program Manager, 

Miriam will provide community and organizational development services and manage the Northland Connection program in addition to providing support to Northspan’s partners through demographic data, economic analysis, and information on commercial real estate. Miriam brings over 25 years of experience in industry, government, nonprofit, and education. With a specialty in communication, Miriam is practiced in engaging people, communities, and organizations in strategic development work. 


NEW HIRE Ali Bilden CampsConsultant & NORTHFORCE Program Manager, 

Ali will provide community and organizational development services and manage the NORTHFORCE program. Ali joined the NORTHFORCE technical team in January 2022 as a strategy and development consultant and will continue to connect career-minded individuals with professional advancement opportunities and support the current and future workforce needs of area employers. Ali brings over 15 years of nonprofit management and community development experience including working with organizations and individuals across sectors. She has roots in northern Wisconsin and has called northeast Minnesota home for almost 20 years. 


NEW HIRE Olivia NiskaJustice Equity Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Policy & Sustainability Intern, 

Olivia is a student at The College of St. Scholastica living in Cook, MN. During this 3-month internship beginning in June, Olivia will conduct research related to understanding best policies and practices in improving justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, with an emphasis on understanding efforts by organizations in rural Minnesota and the northeast Minnesota region, including seven counties and six tribal nations. 


PROMOTION Amanda VuicichConsultant & Operations Manager, 

Now promoted from associate consultant and operations manager, Amanda Vuicich will continue to oversee Northspan operations, support community banks by providing SBA 7a loan packaging services, and assist with business, organizational, and community development clients. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a major in international studies. She joined Northspan in 2018 and has previous operations experience in the accounting and hospitality sectors. 


Elissa HansenPresident & CEO, 

Elissa leads Northspan with more than 20 years of experience in business, community, organizational, and economic development across Minnesota and Wisconsin. She invests her time creatively advancing others’ capabilities. In Elissa’s role at Northspan, she engages with and elevates every client by facilitating tough conversations and moving organizations forward with action-oriented strategic methods. She works to create a setting for meaningful communication that respects diverse perspectives, creates joint resolve, and inspires individual and group action. 


Bob PalmquistVice President, 

Bob provides technical and financial assistance to large and small businesses, financial institutions, local units of government, and development organizations. His work includes local and regional revolving loan fund administration, technical loan reviews, grant and loan application packaging, business valuation and succession planning, and feasibility assessments. Bob spent 17 years in commercial lending prior to joining Northspan in 1991. 


Karl SchuettlerResearch Director & Senior Consultant, 

Karl manages regional economic development partnerships, provides support services to local communities, and researches and analyzes economic trends for Northspan’s clients. He joined Northspan in 2016 and has previous experience in local economic development, organizational planning and analysis, public relations, and freelance journalism. A Duluth native, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Minnesota. 


Ash LunaOperations Specialist, 

Ash assists in administrative operations for the Northspan team and provides logistical support for regional partnerships. She also works on the three Northspan programs: Northland Connection, NORTHFORCE, and the Welcoming Community program. Ash previously worked for a nonprofit organization providing advocacy and case management services to at-risk youth in the Duluth area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth. 


Through July 2023, Northspan is also hosting a two-year fellowship through Lead for Minnesota, a state affiliate of the national nonprofit Lead for America:  

Amber LewisLead for Minnesota Fellow & Welcoming Community Program Coordinator, 

In July 2021 Amber began to gather resident surveys and regional data to shape Northspan’s Welcoming Community program, which Amber now oversees as program coordinator. The program seeks to position northeast Minnesota for success by providing programming and resources to elevate digital access, equity, and inclusion. Originally from the Iron Range, Amber graduated from George Mason University in December 2020 with a degree in conflict analysis and resolution from the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Find more info about Amber’s fellowship here.    


“The nearly doubling in size of our staff in under six months accurately reflects the rapid expansion of Northspan efforts at this time,” said Northspan President & CEO Elissa Hansen. “Each new role helps us take a huge step in exciting directions. Some of these paths are taking new turns, but all are in line with the same vision that has guided Northspan work since 1985. We’re looking forward to seeing how much we can accomplish together with the work ahead.” 

Northspan is guided by a 13-member board of directors which is currently chaired by Janelle Greschner of the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Northspan programs are also guided by individual advisory committees, including the Welcoming Community program, which is guided by a 31-person advisory committee with over 50% representation from underrepresented communities. 

Learn more about each Northspan staff member here: Northspan Team

You can view past media releases on the Northspan blog. Learn more at   

For more information, please contact Elissa Hansen, President & CEO of Northspan, at 


Northspan’s mission is to be expert navigators, transforming ideas into accomplishments. The organization specializes in creative thinking, enterprising strategies, and systematic approaches to help businesses, communities, regions, and organizations prosper in a global economy, working cooperatively with economic and community development partners to leverage resources for measurable, sustainable results. Learn more at