Q&A with Elissa Hansen, Northspan President & CEO

Elissa Hansen leads Northspan with more than 20 years of experience in business, community,Elissa Hansen Northspan organizational, and economic development across Minnesota and Wisconsin. She invests her time creatively advancing others’ capabilities, engaging with and elevating every client by facilitating tough conversations and moving organizations forward with action-oriented strategic methods. She works to create a setting for meaningful communications that respect diverse perspectives, create joint resolve, and inspire individual and group action.

Elissa was inducted into the Brainerd Public Schools’ Legendary Women Hall of Fame in 2024. In 2022, Lake & Company magazine highlighted Elissa in their “Trailblazers” issue.

What’s your number one tip for business leaders? 

Invest in a company culture that provides professional development opportunities for every level of employee! Also, the future is uncertain, so have a plan in place. One out of three business owners have no transition plan whatsoever. We’ve seen successful businesses flounder in the event of an unexpected transition, so we developed our preferred value acceleration method as a recipe for maximizing the value of your business and ensuring you are personally and financially prepared. If you want to get a head start, you can take our BizEquity BIZQUIZ and begin your valuation with this free self-assessment

What can business owners do to help ensure a successful strategic planning process? 

One of the main goals of strategic planning is to get everyone on the same page and excited about possibilities for the future and a shared vision. It’s critical to make sure that everyone who should be at the table is there. And have a plan for following up! We’ve all heard about strategic plans that took a lot of time and resources to develop, only to sit on a shelf collecting dust for the next three years. So we have follow-up workshops and quarterly planning meetings built into our preferred strategic planning method to ensure accountability and success in the long-term.

Northspan powers a number of regional programs, can you speak to those? 

Northland Connection is an online home for economic development data and analysis, including a database of commercial real estate. It’s on the frontlines of the regional housing shortage. Similarly, NORTHFORCE tackles the workforce shortage, providing community-based talent retainment and attraction, while DAWN, which stands for Driving Access to Wealth & Networks, supports entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners with viable pathways to success. The Welcoming Community program seeks to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds to help build mutual intercultural understanding. These four programs mutually inform each other as we work across sectors to lift up the region as a whole. 

What keeps you busy outside of Northspan?

My son, Hansen Barcino Loss, born August 2022. The joy and light of my life! I grew up in Nisswa, Minnesota, and live in Duluth with my husband, Jon, and our pup, Einstein. I also serve on the boards of various organizations in the area and am a recovering city councillor!

You can connect with Elissa at ehansen@northspan.org or (218) 481-7377.