Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce - a look back at 2023 - a look ahead to 2024

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ALEXANDRIA LAKES AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE A look back at 2023 – A look ahead to 2024!

FEATURING The Top 5 Under 40 Young Professionals

in the Alexandria Lakes Area Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 1


CHAMBER BOARD AND STAFF.....................3


Brad Lenertz, President..........................................................................4 Tara Bitzan, Executive Director.........................................................5

Who we are:

The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1907. For 115 years it has served as a network of business, organization and individual members working together to improve the economic wellbeing of the entire community.

What we do:

Our core purpose is to lead, connect and collaborate for a thriving community. We do this by providing members with:

Tyler Notch, Outgoing President......................................................6


Chamber Pillars of Operation.............................................................5 2023 President’s Award..........................................................................6 2023 Friend of the Chamber............................................................... 7 Business recognized for community impact............................8 Duffer’s Delight raises $25,000..........................................................9 This community supports local.......................................................10 Membership Team.................................................................................... 11 The Visitor & Resource Center......................................................... 11

• Opportunities to network and build relationships.

Ambassador Committee...................................................................... 12

• Assistance with marketing and gaining visibility.

Alexandria Area Young Professionals.........................................13

• Educational and event opportunities.

Local professionals lend their services......................................13

• Connections with local residents, visitors and resources.

Wake Up Alexandria, Off the Clock and Pot of Gold........ 14 2024 legislative priorties...................................................................... 14 Leadership Alexandria & Leadership Alexandria 2.0....... 15


Mike Hawes & Dustin Schlichting................................................ 17 A Publication of the Echo Press and the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce | (320) 763-3133

Matt DeBoer.................................................................................................18 Saundra Lauer............................................................................................ 19 Chelsea Lee................................................................................................. 20 Kasey Morris................................................................................................ 21


key benefits

Join our BUILDING nnetwork!



Lead, connect, and collaborate for a thriving community.

visibility • connections education • advocacy • credibility | 206 Broadway St. A Alexandria, MN | (320) 763-31 161 |

2 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

Board of

Directors Brad Lenertz President

Alexandria Clinic, A Service of Alomere Health

Greg Bowen Bowen Contracting

Shari Prause

Lake Darling Resort


Tyler Notch Past President/ Treasurer

Alexandria Shooting Park

Lynn Arnquist President Elect

Alexandria Technical & Community College

Amy Christopherson Matt Hagstrom State Farm Insurance

Hagstrom Engineering

Andrew Rickers

Michelle Wencl

Bremer Bank


Introducing the 2024 Chamber Board of Directors! The board is comprised of business owners and employees representing all major business sectors in the community. They are elected to three-year terms and may serve two consecutive terms. The Board meets the third Thursday of every month from 7:30 to 9 am.

Patrick Kalina Secretary

Molly Comer Executive Board

LGC, Biosearch Technologies

Kelly Jenzen

Kreg Anderson

Alexandria Aviation

First Lutheran Church

Jeff Meland

Johnston Law Office, PA

Databae Systems

Nick Paulsen CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen)

Karrow Jewelers

Let us serve you!

320-763-3161  

Tara Bitzan Executive Director tbitzan@

Jess Ptacek Program and Events Coordinator jess@

Lauren Johnson Marketing Coordinator marketing@

Macy Johnson Member Relations Specialist membership@

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 3

Message from the President

We are ‘Building Tomorrow’ for our community It is my pleasure to serve as the President of the Chamber in 2024. I would like to introduce myself and provide some insight into my passion for this community. I grew up in Crookston, a rural community in Northwest Minnesota. Throughout my professional career as Brad Lenertz an adminis2024 President trator in the healthcare industry, I have lived in several cities of various geographic sizes and populations. What attracted me to the Alexandria area is the vibrancy that I felt every time I visited. For me, those visits started as a vacation/recreation destination. When an employ-

ment opportunity presented itself in 2014, I researched what the community offers its residents, and the resources it provides to support its economy. It was easy to see there is something special about Alexandria. And now, I am proud to call Alexandria my hometown for nearly all of nine years. It has always been my personal goal – my passion – to make a difference in the community where I live. That is why it is important to me to help our community to grow, improve, prosper - or put simply, to THRIVE! So many examples of a thriving community can be seen all around us: we are currently building new businesses, building recreational facilities, building places to learn, building houses to live

So many examples of a thriving community can be seen all around us. and worship in, building places to shop, building programs to serve our youngest and oldest generations, building collaborations among artists and entertainers, and building future leaders in our businesses. All this activity is making a difference in our community. In the year ahead of us at the Chamber, we will not only focus our effort to build on these activities, but to build

bridges that lead to unity and understanding, build partnerships that connect where we are disconnected, and build relationships that collaborate to overcome adversity. I welcome you to engage your passion in making a difference for a thriving community. Not only will we be better than yesterday, we will be building tomorrow!

State-of-the-art rehab! In January, Alomere Health opened the doors of the region’s most comprehensive rehabilitation services clinic to the public. With 16,000 square feet of space specially designed for therapy,

patients can get all of their physical, occupational, and speech therapy right here at home—without traveling hours to a larger city. One more reason why it’s better here.

4 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024


Message from the Executive Director

Building a community that is better than yesterday! 2023 Chamber Board President Tyler Notch’s theme “Better Than Yesterday” was a great challenge for us individually, as businesses/ organizations, and in a much broader sense, as a community. It’s easy to get comfortable, lazy, or complacent in our daily lives. Things are “fine” as they are. There are no problems Tara Bitzan Executive Director so why make changes? We are meeting expectations… Attitudes like this allow others to pass us by, and most of us don’t want that for ourselves or our businesses/organizations, and we certainly don’t want that for our community. If every person

who lives/works in our community strives to be “Better Than Yesterday,” it will build Alexandria/ Douglas County into a place people choose to live, work, and play, and that benefits all of us. Incoming Chamber President Brad Lenertz had this in mind when he selected the 2024 theme: “Building Tomorrow.” He hopes to draw attention to how today’s actions and decisions create our community’s future. It’s important to be intentional in those actions and decisions, always thinking of the impact they will have on tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now. The Alexandria Chamber team is excited to continue working with all of you to keep growing, improving and building our great community.

Chamber Pillars of Operation The Alexandria Chamber operates under four pillars that are key in not only building and maintaining a strong Chamber, but also a strong community. The Chamber Board participates in regular strategic planning sessions and creates action plans to accomplish identified tasks under the umbrella of each of these pillars.

» Effective Collaborations

Establish rapport, reduce duplication and join resources to best serve the community.

» Operational Excellence

Establish and maintain logistics to allow for operational excellence.

» Satisfied, Engaged Members

Members understand the value the Chamber brings to their business.

» Strategic Events and Programs

Offer quality events and programming that benefit members and strengthen the community.

Thank you, Widseth team, for again making us one of the

50 Best Places to Work

320-219-6505 | 24/7 Emergency Restoration Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 5

Message from the Outgoing President

A community built to be ‘Better Than Yesterday’

Wow, what an incredible journey 2023 was for all of us! Reflecting on the opportunities our community has embraced and witnessing their transformation into successes truly encapsulates “Better Than Yesterday.” Serving as the Chamber President, I take immense pride in the way our community wholeheartedly embraced this theme throughout the year. Tyler Notch 2023 President Recently, I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts on KXRA’s Open Line, where I reflected on my presidency. One question that stood out to me was about the lessons learned during this year. The answer was clear and straightforward: networking. The most significant growth opportunity in 2023 was the chance to connect with each of you, making me realize how fortunate we are to have a thriving and vibrant community.

From the impactful Wake Up Alexandria events drawing record crowds of more than 100 people, to the ribbon cuttings celebrating the arrival of new and exciting businesses, the pulse of our community beats with growth. I’ve also been fortunate to participate in various events and speaking engagements that have given me a glimpse into the promising future of Alexandria. Our community is one that rejects complacency, and I’m filled with pride, excitement, and anticipation as I contemplate where we’ll be in the next 10 years—none of which would be possible without your collective support. Our Chamber staff plays a pivotal role in fostering the opportunities that unfold in Alexandria. A glance around our state makes it evident that the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce is consistently at the forefront of innovation, tirelessly seeking new prospects and contributing to the thriving innovation that defines our community today.

In building this extraordinary community in Alexandria, there are no signs of us slowing down. Let’s work together in constructing upon the foundation of ‘Better Than Yesterday,’ refusing to accept the status quo. Together, let’s set an example for thriving communities and continue our journey of inspiration. The future looks bright, and I’m eager to witness the continued success and growth of our remarkable community.

2023 President’s Award recognizes growth mindset The President’s Award is given by the Outgoing Chamber Board President to someone who best exemplified the Chamber theme for the year. 2023 President Tyler Notch selected Chris Kragenbring, director and co-founder of Kalon Prep Academy, Chris Kragenbring as the person who best President’s Award exemplified the “Better recipient Than Yesterday” theme. Kragenbring has more than 30 years of teaching experience, holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, was named Teacher of the Year in both North Dakota and Minnesota, and has received several accolades for her work on

education equity and diversity, college for every student, and life trajectories. She personally lives out the school’s mission to “meet students where they are and guide them to where they want to go” and throughout her teaching career has focused on all aspects of a student, including their health, safety, engagement, challenges, and support in addition to their classroom education. Notch noted that Kragenbring makes the community ‘Better Than Yesterday’ in several ways. By realizing that public school isn’t the answer for everyone, she developed and implemented an innovative education system for youth in our community. She is engaged and involved in the community to make connections that can assist her mission,

6 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

such as the Chamber’s Wake Up Alexandria. “I was a guest speaker at Kalon Prep this past year and saw first-hand how unique and innovative their education system and processes are,” Notch stated. “It opened my eyes to how truly necessary it is for our community to have this opportunity for our youth.” “People who strive to be ‘better than yesterday’ look at problems our community faces and put forth solutions to those problems.,” he added. “If we always do what we’ve always done, we won’t have what is needed to push our community forward. Fortunately, we have community members like Chris who see these opportunities and take action.”

Ron Branch is 2023 Friend of the Chamber The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the 2023 Friend of the Chamber – Ron Branch! The Friend of the Chamber Award was established in 1980 to recognize an individual who has gone beyond expectations in giving time, resources, and/or influence to benefit the Chamber and its members. Ron and his wife Ron Branch Ann own and operate 2023 Friend of an 11-acre farm just the Chamber west of Alexandria. Ron is a founding member of the Minnesota Farmers Market Association and helped start the Alexandria Farmers Market 36 years ago. He has passionately served the organization ever since. While Ron was raised on a farm in rural Minnesota and served as the state high school FFA vice president,

he didn’t originally plan to spend his life farming. He attended the University of Minnesota where he met Ann, and in 1984 they purchased property on which to build a solar energy-efficient home and have space for a large garden. The garden turned into a much larger operation than expected, and the couple has been growing their own strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, beets, cut flowers and more ever since. They sell their produce at their farm and at the Alexandria Farmers Market and work tirelessly to promote and provide education on “farm to fork” benefits. The Branch Family was named the Douglas County Farm Family of the Year in 2018 by the University of Minnesota Extension. Ron was instrumental in the Farmers Market joining the Chamber to increase visibility. Seeing the benefits

of Chamber membership, he also encouraged membership with other organizations he was involved in, including the Vikingland Curling Club and the Alexandria Lions Club. He has also been active for many years on the board of the Douglas County Farm Bureau, which is also a Chamber member. Ron is a strong advocate of Chamber membership, is a regular attendee at Chamber functions, and always serves as a welcoming ambassador to newcomers. He is also supportive of the Chamber staff and has been known to drop into the office with bouquets of fresh cut, home grown flowers. Ron and Ann have three grown sons. Life on the farm and all the lessons learned there provided opportunities for two of the boys to find careers in agriculture.

PREVIOUS HONOREES 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001

Kayla Fearing (Hilltop Lumber) Del Mari Runck (Retired/Neighborhood National Bank) Carl Vaagenes (Alomere Health) Brett Paradis (Paradis Broadcasting) Shari Lavin (Viking Bank) Carol Wenner (Local Level Marketing) Todd Emmons (Innovative Builders, Inc.) Kathy Pesta and Carla Spaeth (Pro Staff) Kevin Kopischke (Alexandria Technical and Community College) Mark Proudfoot (MJ Communications) Marie Rutten (Bremer Bank) Tom Jacobson (Swenson Lervick Trosvig Jacobson PA) Tim Aarsvold (Geneva Beach Resort & Viking Motel) Jill Blashack-Strahan & Joani Nielson (Tastefully Simple) Bruce Wiitanen (Juettner Motors) Lynette Kluver (Alexandria Extrusion) Susan Skoglund Boerhave (Viking Savings Bank) Carol Meyer (Garden Center) Rose Virnig Shorma (American Business Solutions) Kyle Diekman (Diekman Jewelry) Vicki Jodsaas (Alexandria Technical and Community College)

2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1990 1989 1988 1987 1985 1984 1983 1981 1980

Jody Hanson (Echo Press) Blake Evert (Target Alexandria) Chamber Ambassadors Group Sue Davidson Al Quam Janet Thorkelson Leroy Meyer Jim Karn, John Carlberg, Chuck Pugh & Ken Martinson Governor’s Fishing Opener Committee Jerry Jensen Duwayne Paul (Vikingland Ice) Alexandria Technical Institute Paul Nelson (Mayor) John Anderson (Jefferson High School, Alexandria Public Schools) Cortland “Corky” Krogstad (Voyager Elementary School, Alexandria Public Schools) Alexandria Area Vocational Technical Institute AND Erv Amundson (Amundson Realties) Douglas Tatge (Alexandria Area Vocational Technical Institute) Mark Baker (Echo Press Newspaper)

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 7

Business recognized for community impact More than 400 people attended the annual Business and Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD) luncheon in October to honor the 2023 honoree – Pike & Pint. The BIAD award, which originated in 1984, is co-sponsored by the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission and Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of saying “thank you for being a vital part of our community.” Recipients are selected based on the following factors: Growth in number of employees and impact of the business on the job market. Increase in sales and/or unit volume – an indication of continued growth. Capital investment – an indication of commitment by the business to increase community capacity. Community contributions – evidence of the investment of time, skills and resources to assist in community-oriented projects. Pike & Pint was founded in 2015 by restaurant professional Kent Kopp, and his wife Rita. During the first 5 years, they experienced their share of ups and downs, but slowly built their reputation as a great place to gather. In 2021, the restaurant received a complete interior remodel and they added a large outdoor patio. These two updates combined, doubled their sales and staff size.

Did you know?

Members of the Pike & Pint team accepted the 2023 Business & Industrial Appreciation Day award during a celebration on October 9 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center. Kent’s commitment to the community and his experience in both chain and independent restaurants are the so called “secret sauce” to their success. Kent started his career at his family’s restaurant at the age of 12, working 35 years in the industry before starting Pike & Pint. His extensive experience in the kitchen helped to craft the Pike & Pint’s cutting-edge scratch menu and his experience and vision helped shape the

dynamic craft beer program and service standards. The business and its employees support numerous community initiatives, including the Alexandria Area High School and District 206, the DECA program, Alexandria Technical and Community College marketing department, and the Runestone Community Center Capital Campaign Committee, to name just a few.

The Chamber offers Relocation Packets to anyone moving or considering a move to the area. The packets include information about local education, health care, law enforcement, transportation, dining, shopping, entertainment, activities, services and a variety of other opportunities in the area. The packet also includes the community economic development profile and a copy of the Alexandria Visitor Guide. These packets are sent out upon request and made available free of charge for all Chamber members to use when recruiting or hiring people from outside of the area.. To obtain copies of this packet, call the Chamber at 320-763-3161 or email

INVESTED IN YOUR JOURNEY 715 Victor St, Alexandria 320-759-2132 •

8 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

2 Convenient Locations

Duffer’s Delight raises $25,000+

The Duffer’s Delight, held the first Monday each June, is the Chamber’s largest fundraiser. The 2023 event was a perfect summer day for golfing and being outdoors. The sold-out tournament featured 36 teams/144 golfers and 44 sponsoring businesses and generated more than $25,000 for Chamber operating expenses. 2023 winners included: Champion: Team Bell Bank Skins Winners: Team Bethany on the Lake 2nd Place: Marcus Construction 3rd Place: The ‘Hole in Fun’ Gang Putting Contest Winners: Dalon Bitzan, Innovative Builders, Inc.; Sam Pederson, Juettner Motors; TJ Hinrichs, Northstar Bottled Water Solutions Orange Ball Game Winner: First Western Bank – Team 1

Team Bell Bank was the 2023 Champion of the Duffers Delight Golf Tournament. Team members from left to right include Jeff Patience, Bell Bank; Eddie Reif, Alomere Health; Derek Swedberg, Swedberg Wood Products; Robb Buttweiler, Buttweilers Do All.

The 2023 event committee included Brad Anderson (ITW Heartland), Craig Buysee (Anderson Funeral Home), Todd Emmons (Innovative Builders), Kayla Fearing (Hilltop Lumber), Matt Hagstrom (Hagstrom Engineering), Janelle Petermeier (Pro Staff), Donna Ryan (Glenwood State Bank), John Tate (Innovative Office Solutions), and Jeremy Holmstrom and Kyle and Ashley Lee (Alexandria Golf Club).

2024 event

The 2024 event will be held on Monday, June 3. For information, visit or call (320) 763-3161.

Title sponsor: Innovative Builders, Inc. Associate sponsors: C&L Distributing, Vaultas, Juettner Motors, Diamond Buick GMC, Alexandria Motors, Glenwood State Bank, Alomere Health, Winning Edge, Marcus Construction, and Tri County Foam Insulation.

or No Job too BIG

In-Room Wired & Wireless Internet In-Room Refrigerator & Microwave Within walking distance of restaurants Meeting Room for up to 40 People Pool, Whirlpool & Fitness Center Hot Breakfast / Business Center / Suite Shop


Serving the Alexandria Area for Over 17 Years


320-763-3954 ALEXANDRIA

“Controlling the Elements” in the Alexandria Area For Over 35 Years

2705 S. Broadway • Alexandria, MN 56308 320-763-3360 • 1-800-HAMPTON Fiber-Optic Internet | Voice Services | Hosted & Premise-Based Phone Systems | Co-Location Data Services

We’ll Be Your Geeky Best Buddy. Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 9



In 2023,


supports local

The plea to “Do Business Local” was stronger than ever over the past few years, and the community has risen to the challenge. The amount of Chamber Bucks sold rose from an impressive $173,157 in 2021 to an incredible $177,059 in 2022! It rose again this past year, with a record high of $190,090 in Chamber Bucks sold in 2023. Those are dollars that get reinvested back into this community where we live, work and play. In 2018, the Pride of the Lakes campaign was created to educate area residents about the importance of taking pride in their community and supporting it. Knowing young people play a major role in the future success of a com-

in Chamber Bucks were distributed locally!

munity, the campaign was placed in the hands of marketing students at Alexandria Area High School. The campaign places community pride at its foundation and builds upon that with education and awareness of the impact of keeping dollars local. There is a place on the campaign’s website where businesses and individuals can take a pledge to do business local. Visit to learn more and to take the pledge to do business local! Your support matters all year long!

The Chamber Bucks program is designed to keep dollars local. Anybody can purchase them, and they can be spent at 279 participating Chamber member businesses.

Top 2023 Chamber Buck Purchasers Alomere Health $112,387 Public Sales $14,230 Douglas Machine $12,595 Diamond Buick GMC $9,500 Brenton $8,000


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10 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

Membership Team The Membership Team provides a solid foundation for the growth of the Chamber by recruiting, welcoming, and supporting new members and supporting the local business community by attending Team ribbon cutting and groundMember breaking ceremonies. of the Year: The team serves as a resource to new members by providing support through conversations and introductions that will cultivate and promote positive ongoing relationships between Chamber memKayla Fearing bers. Hilltop Lumber The team is made up of community leaders from a variety of sectors of Chamber-member businesses, as well as all Chamber staff members.

Each year, a member of the team is recognized for their dedication to their role. This year’s Membership Team Member of the Year is Kayla Fearing of Hilltop Lumber. Kayla has served on this team for two years and had perfect attendance making it to all 44 visits in 2023! She is dedicated to the team, engages with new members during team visits providing advice and resources, and is a strong advocate for Chamber membership.


visits in 2023!

In June 2023, the Chamber Membership Team visited with new members Rebecca and Ron Joyce of 68 & Vine Veterans Winery (center). Team members include (back): Todd Emmons (Innovative Builders), Donna Ryan (Glenwood State Bank), Jeff Meland (Databae Systems), Amy Christopherson (State Farm Insurance), Dave Kent (3M Abrasive Systems Division Plant), Ashley Rambow (Coldwell Banker Crown Realtors), Greg Steele (Viking Bank), Heidi Bruns (First Western Bank & Trust), Kreg Anderson (Alexandria Aviation), Chris Harris (Alexandria Technical & Community College Foundation); (front): Sara Stadtherr (Bee Authentic Marketing), Kayla Fearing (Hilltop Lumber). Not pictured: Bruce Strandskov (Rose City Sign), Bonnie Bina (Profile Health & Wellness), Sue Hawkinson (The Depot Smokehouse & Tavern).

Career Solutions for Companies and Job Seekers

The Visitor

& Resource Center The Alexandria Visitor & Resource Center is located at 206 Broadway in the Chamber of Commerce/ Runestone Museum building. The center offers an abundance of information for people visiting the area as well as for area residents, including local, regional and state maps; trail maps, lodging and dining information, arts and entertainment activities, business and personal services, housing and real estate information, medical and senior services, education services, economic development information and more. The Visitor & Resource Center handles thousands of calls, emails and walk-in inquiries each year.


Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 11

Ambassador Committee

The Ambassadors serve as an active communication link to cultivate and promote positive relationships between the Chamber and the business community. The Ambassadors welcome new businesses to the community; recognize new owners, locations, and remodels for existing businesses; and attend ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings. The group includes 20 community leaders from a variety

of business sectors who have demonstrated outstanding interest and ability in promoting the business interests of the Alexandria Lakes Area. Each year, a member of the team is recognized for their dedication to this role. This year’s Ambassador of the Year is Lynn Jenc. In addition to having served the past six years on the Board of Directors for the Chamber, Lynn has also been a Chamber

The Chamber Ambassadors visited Taco John’s in September to meet the new owner and view the remodel. Back: Bob Wolfe (Indigo Signs), Joe Korkowski (Explore Alexandria Tourism); Mark Grandgenett (Viking Bank); Greg Bowen (Bowen Contracting); Lynn Jenc (Alexandria Public Schools); Chris Uhde (Leighton Broadcasting); Mike Doyle (Heartland Orthopedic Specialists); Nicole Fernholz (Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission); Ryan Hjelle (Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical); Janelle Wunderlich (Alexandria Industries); Mickey Larson (Larson Insurance); Tim

Ambassador since 2015. Her attentiveness at visits and great attention to making sure the conversation stays on track and about the businesses we are visiting don’t go unnoticed. Lynn has served as the Ambassador of the Day several times over her years and attended an impressive 33 out of 39 visits this year.

Lynn Jenc Alexandria Public Schools

Urness (Thrivent Financial). (front): Jon Steinbring (Steinbring Motorcoach); Lynelle Lanoue (Past & Present Home Gallery); Tasha West (RE/MAX Results); Chelci Gira (Productive Alternatives); Brian Fuder, Owner (Taco John’s); Jesse Craft, Store Manager (Taco John’s); Lynn Arnquist (Alexandria College); Todd Emmons (Innovative Builders). Not Pictured: Charley Good (Pemberton Law); Crystal Christianson (Studio C Salon).

Chamber members have Did you All Alexandria access to free notary services. know? Call (320) 763-3161 for details! 12 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

Ambassador of the Year:

Alexandria Area Young Professionals

The Alexandria Area Young Professionals (AAYP) was established to “enrich the lives of area young professionals in their 20s and 30s through networking, education and community involvement.” The group hosts luncheons the first Thursday of every month as well as “Connect Group” gatherings the third Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. and the fourth Thursday from 7 to 8 a.m. at local businesses. The Connect Groups offer more opportunities for members to connect

with other young professionals in a social atmosphere and offer an alternative for those whose schedule doesn’t allow for attendance at noon luncheons. Other social, networking, and community service opportunities are also held throughout the year. While AAYP falls under the umbrella of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, a person does not have to be an employee of a Chamber member business to join this organization. The 2023 AAYP Leadership Team included: Breanna Goracke, President

(Douglas County); Lauren Johnson, Past President/Chamber Liason (Alexandria Chamber of Commerce); Rebecca Lillemon, Vice President (Alomere Health); Courtney Childers, Treasurer (McCarten Design and Pincasa Rentals); Kayla Fearing, Marketing Coordinator (Hilltop Lumber); Taylor Conn, Events Coordinator (eXp Realty); Brandon Plotz, Secretary (Edward Jones); Kreg Anderson, Member at Large (Alexandria Aviation).

At the December luncheon, members of the Alexandria Area Young Professionals brought in food donations for the Outreach Food Shelf.

Local professionals lend their services

Local professionals volunteer to assist Chamber operations by serving on the Personnel and Finance committees. The Personnel Committee provides guidance and support to the Executive Director and Chamber Board by serving as a resource and providing parameters/guidelines in the areas of human resources, benefits and compensation, policies, and procedures. The committee assists with and/or offers guidance in the areas of hiring/terminating, employ-

ee handbook, human resource forms, evaluations, benefits and serves as a liaison to Chamber staff. 2023 Personnel Committee members: Deb Moorman, chair (Alexandria Industries), Wendy Steidl (Tastefully Simple), Rachel Jahner (Central Specialties), Craig Buysse (Anderson Funeral Home). The Chamber’s Finance Committee establishes financial parameters and guidelines for the Chamber to ensure its

financial sustainability. The committee reviews financial statements, develops and evaluates the annual budget, develops new financial policies as needed, and reviews existing financial and internal controls, policies and procedures. 2023 Finance Committee members: Nicole Klimek, chair (Hilltop Lumber), Del Mari Runck (retired/Neighborhood National Bank); Matt Gilbertson (Viking Bank), Tyler Notch (Grand Arbor).

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 13

Wake Up Alexandria, Off the Clock and Pot of Gold!

Wake Up Alexandria is a popular Chamber event held the first and third Friday of each month that offers networking and business promotion opportunities. The event is hosted at different member locations, allowing the hosts to showcase their facility, products, services, and staff. Wake Up Alexandria is open to everyone in the community. A dollar gets you in the door; all dollars raised go to the Nonprofit of the Day selected by the event host. Chamber members can give 45-second announcements at the event to share promotions or information.

A highlight of the event is the Pot of Gold drawing. This is sponsored by Chamber members who donate items, coupons, discounted services, and gift certificates to add to its value. Every Chamber member is included in the drawing. If the member drawn is present, that organization wins the Pot. Those employees utilize the prizes, with the hope that a business connection is made and a new customer/client is “won.” If a representative is not present, the Pot continues to grow until the next event. Off the Clock is an event that follows the same format but is held from 4 to 5 pm. It


was given to nonprofit members through these events in 2023!

Andria Theatre hosted Wake Up Alexandria on Friday, March 3, 2023. Pictured (left to right): Donna Magnuson, Box Office Manager; David Christman, Artistic Director; Christine Reilly, Executive Director. is not a regularly scheduled event but is instead offered upon request on a date chosen by the member.

In 2023, the Pot of Gold was won 4 times. Winners included Minnesota Canoes, Alomere Health, Vikingland Band Festival, Alex Rubbish & Recycling. The total value of prizes given out was

Visit eventsandprograms for a schedule of 2024 events, or call (320) 763-3161 for more information.


Chamber’s 2024 legislative priorities

Chambers represent economic vitality in their communities. The MN Chamber Federation unites and amplifies the voice of local chambers by advocating for policies to advance business across the state. The Federation promotes progrowth policies to the Legislature, helping ensure lawmakers understand the needs and interests of MN’s diverse business community. Here are the current legislative priorities supported by the Chamber: Costs matter: While states across the US are permanently cutting taxes, reducing regulatory burdens, and addressing business affordability, MN is an outlier with the enactment of anti-employer policies that drive

up costs. The 2023 Legislative Session brought complicated mandates, tax increases, and more regulations. Unsustainable spending increases of more than 35% put MN at risk for a budget deficit adding strain on the private sector and state economy. We must hold the line on additional tax/ fee increases on businesses and prevent new, onerous proposals such as antitrust regulations undermining free market competition and innovation. Policymakers should focus on reducing regulations creating barriers to private sector growth including reforms in permitting, housing, and childcare.

ting process; those that do invest here are faced with greater uncertainty and lengthier timelines than in other states. Site selectors peg MN as unfriendly on the criteria of environmental permitting, taking it off the list for potential investment. The MN Chamber Foundation, the nonpartisan research arm of the MN Chamber, is conducting an in-depth analysis of the environmental permitting system and will release reform recommendations. The Federation will proactively advocate for reforms to the process that can protect natural resources and produce timely, reliable outcomes for businesses.

Environmental permitting reform: Businesses seek expansions outside of MN due to the state’s arduous permit-

Priorities continues on Page 15

14 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

Leadership Alexandria & Leadership Alexandria 2.0

The Chamber offers two programs to build and support community leaders – Leadership Alexandria (LA) and Leadership Alexandria 2.0. LA is currently in its 31st year of building a stronger community one leader at a time. The program is for individuals of any age serving in a leadership role or hoping to transition into a leadership role. Key takeaways of the nine-month program include

insight into local history, business, education and government; personal growth and wellness; connections with other business professionals and more. In LA 2.0, participants learn to apply leadership tools, clarify communication, overcome challenges, achieve work/ life balance and more while gaining insight into how their leadership impacts the future of the community.


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More than 700 leaders have graduated from Leadership Alexandria

Pictured is the 2023-2024 Leadership Alexandria class during the December Community Service Day. (Back): Angie Hasbrouck, Horizon Public Health; Luke VanOverbeke, The Church of St. Mary; Bryan Kellerman, Bell Bank; Scott McLaughlin, 3M Abrasive Systems Division Plant; Josh Kling, Alexandria Industries; Karl Wimmer, Hilltop Lumber; James Ross, Alexandria Police Department; Patrick Beattie, Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union; Cody Blevins, Marcus Construction (Middle): Brenda Thomson, Boy Scouts of America – Northern Lights Council; Kristy Fyhrie, Edgewood; Liz Drevlow, The Dashery; Cassandra McKernan, Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical; Jordyn Cantalope, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission; Macy Johnson, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce (Front): Lacey Grinager, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office; Kelsi Timm, Timm Agency Insurance; Katelyn Kack, Widseth; Stacey Doege, ProfitMax; Chris Kragenbring, Kalon Prep Academy; Carl Kvale, Kvale Real Estate (Not Pictured): Matt Hagstrom, Hagstrom Engineering; Sherri Maanum, American Cancer Society; Heather Molesworth, West Central Minnesota Communities Action.

Workplace mandates: Several onerous workplace mandates passed last session. The sick and safe time requirement was effective Jan. 2024. The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect Jan. 2026. Many businesses are unprepared for these mandates. The Federation plays an important role in educating members on mandates and compliance and looks to partners to help mitigate the impacts of workplace mandates through the rulemaking process. We will defend against further mandates that harm the employer/employee relationship and make it more difficult and expensive to operate a business in MN. Provide local and regional leadership for MN Matters: MN Matters will work to inform voters about changes in MN election laws that allow for early and absentee voting; make voters aware of key election dates; encourage employers/employees to attend local precinct caucuses; and engage in what promises to be an important election in our state. This is a non-partisan, non-political effort.

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 15

16 Alexandria Area Chamber of Commerce 16 Alexandria Lakes Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 20242024

The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and the Echo Press are pleased to bring you the Top 5 Under 40, recognizing outstanding professionals younger than age 40 in the Alexandria Lakes Area. Nominees were judged on their professional achievements, community involvement and overall depth of qualities. They were honored at the Chamber’s Annual Celebration on February 5.


Mike Hawes & Dustin Schlichting Age: 39

Career path summaries.

Both Mike and Dustin grew up interested in and involved in athletics. Both attended the University of Minnesota, Moorhead to pursue double majors in Athletic Training and Exercise Science. They met their first day on campus and connected through their shared interest and degree path, not realizing their path would be shared beyond college. An athletic performance internship was a required part of the program. The experience ensured both they were on the right path. Following the internship, Dustin was offered a job working with athletes in the program and said he “fell in love with the process of coaching people.” The two began discussing the idea of starting their own gym after graduation. As Mike stated, “A discussion became a vision, a vision became a business plan and in April 2007 we opened Noonan Sport Specialists (NSS) in Alexandria.” They still operate in their original space, but the business plan and facility footprint have undergone many changes. NSS is now a 7,000-sq.ft. training facility catering to individuals and athletes of all ages and abilities. Seven more professionals were hired, allowing NSS to thus far coach thousands of clients in more than 200,000 personal training sessions. The duo also started Renovant Fitness in Duluth with a former NSS intern/coach in 2021, catering to women 40-plus looking to restore and renew their health and fitness. Mike became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, Certified Athletic Trainer through the NATA BOC, USA Weightlifting Certified Sports Performance Coach and was honored as a Patriotic Employer by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dustin was named 2016 Minnesota NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year. The NSS mission is to use fitness as a catalyst to positively impact lives.

Leadership philosophy.

Mike Hawes

Dustin Schlichting

Community and volunteer efforts.

 Host Relay for Life team for 10 years, raising more than $78,000 to fight cancer.  Support Dollars for Scholars with annual fundraiser for scholarships for students pursuing careers in health/ fitness. In 8 years, almost $37,000 was given to 33 local students.  Host a “round up” donation for clients to give to a charity of the month, collecting nearly $10,000 in a few years for local charities.  Support various causes for students, over the years raising $9,200 and numerous boxes of supplies.  Donate gift certificates to local charity auctions.  Partner with Alexandria College’s Exercise Science program, speaking at events, inviting students to NSS to observe coaches and gain real-life exposure to a personal training career.  Named Small Employer of the Year by Lakes Area Professional Women and Best Small Company to Work For by Echo Press Best of the Lakes Area.  Dustin has served as a Freshman Academy Network (FAN) coach for 9 years, mentoring a group of students on professional skill development.

Mike: I rely on values like consistency, analytical thinking, and harmony to shape how I manage our team. I emphasize inclusivity and collaboration, tapping into everyone’s experience and diverse perspectives for problem-solving and growth. I encourage creativity from our coaches, leading to successful new programs. I believe in the power of collaboration to drive positive change. Leading by example is crucial to me. This builds trust, camaraderie, and a culture of respect and accountability, and creates an environment where every team member feels valued and understands that together, we can navigate our industry professionally, and guide each other to continued success. Dustin: When we started our business, I didn’t understand what I was getting into as a business owner and leader of a team. A combination of arrogance and ignorance got the ball rolling but soon the realization came that you don’t get to “practice” being the boss. I made a lot of mistakes, but I try to learn from them. A big part of my learning and improvement comes from surrounding myself with people who are better than I am in areas that matter, supporting them, listening to them, and making adjustments when the time comes.

Family and interests.

Mike: My wife Jennah and I live in Alexandria with our sons Sawyer, Lincoln, and Everett. Away from the gym, I enjoy hunting and the outdoors, watching my children participate in sports and spending time with family and friends on the lake. Dustin: My wife Becky and I have two incredible daughters that make me smile and laugh every day. Most of my time outside of work is spent with my family or bowhunting.

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 17

Matt DeBoer Age: 39 Summarize your career path.

I admired Knute Nelson’s mission and culture, yet without a background in healthcare was unsure of how to become involved. When an account executive position on the sales team was posted in 2019, I took a leap of faith and was hired! Shortly after, I was promoted to customer service manager leading the sales process with home and community-based services. In 2021, I was promoted to Director of Referral Management, leading our back office and account executive team in the field for home and community based services and providing sales training to teams. In 2021, I graduated from Knute Nelson’s

Director of Business Development & Strategy: Knute Nelson

Leadership Academy. In 2022, I became Director of Business Development & Strategy. I work with our executive team to develop our organization’s strategic plan and identify opportunities for growth.

Community and volunteer efforts.

 Middle school Youth Ministry and Men’s Ministry Team volunteer at Alexandria Covenant Church.  Co-founder of True North Pursuit, an organization to encourage individuals/ families to grow together in their faith and involvement in the outdoors.  Young Eagles Pilot, volunteering flight hours and time to encourage youth involvement in aviation.  Past Visionary Board member and past Corporate Campaign Volunteer for United Way.

Leadership philosophy.

I believe in striving to make the world a better place by leading others to grow into their true potential while remaining firmly rooted in my faith in Christ, duty to my family and service to others. I lead with the heart of a servant leader, always curious, learning, and asking questions. I love leading others to discover and develop their passions, whether in life or professionally.

Family and interests.

My wife Jamie and I like to adventure with our son Sawyer (8) and daughter Sunny (7) camping, hiking, hunting, fishing or a day at the beach. We love to travel and always look for a journey off the beaten path. I have a passion for aviation and hold my commercial pilot license and am a certified flight instructor at the Alexandria airport.

Congratulations to the

Top 5 Professionals Under 40

Enriching Lives Together As a 100% employee owned company, we strive to fulfill our mission of enriching lives - not only through serving customers with secondary packaging solutions, but also by supporting our community.


Thank y Thank you ou Matt DeBoer

Director of Business Development & Strategy

18 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

ffor or s supporting upporting your y o u r ccommunity ommunity ttheatre heatre

Saundra Lauer Age: 34 Summarize your career path.

I started my career as a family nurse practitioner in a rural healthcare setting caring for patients as a full spectrum family practice, emergency room, and inpatient hospitalization provider. It was in my beginning years of practice that I saw healthcare disengagement by patients and really wanted to focus my career on improving access, healthcare confidence, and engagement for patients. I founded WELL & Company in May 2020 and have been striving to provide care in this capacity since. The Alexandria Clinic opened in 2020 and a second clinic opened in Sartell in 2022.

DNP, Family Nurse Practitioner and Owner: WELL & Company

Community and volunteer efforts.

In 2021, I launched a healthcare initiative for WELL & Company to provide complementary healthcare for areas of need in our community, including:  Kalon Prep Academy for primary and acute needs and education to students throughout the school year on topics such as mental health, self-care, sleep hygiene, and more.  Complementary care to first responders involved in critical incidences.  WELL Giving Campaign, offering complementary care to families in need in the Alexandria area.

Leadership philosophy.

I think the best way to describe my leadership philosophy is to quote WELL & Company’s vision for employees: An environment that fosters continued education, professional and personal growth, and personal development. Does not just speak of but provides ability for work-life balance. An environment

where employees ELEVATE each other through RESPECTFUL interactions and COLLABORATION. We do not compete to eliminate we compete to elevate.

Family and interests.

My husband, Sam Lauer, and I have been married for 11 years and have two wonderful boys ages 4 and 6. We love living in Alexandria and enjoy most of our free time outside. “Sandy got into the healthcare field to provide optimal care to patients during vulnerable times in their lives. What she likely didn’t anticipate was that she was also being prepared to provide generosity to a team of employees, as well as community members. Sandy is known for ‘giving freely’ to those around her.” – Sabrina Benning, co-worker

Todd Whiting Realtor - Auctioneer

320-766-2200 • Experience • Results

Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 19

Chelsea Lee Age: 36 Summarize your career path.

I always had a passion for broadcasting. I’d give news reports to family at the dinner table at age 7. I graduated from St. Coud State with a Mass Communications Degree, emphasis in TV Journalism and Political Science. I was the first freshman to get a co-anchor spot and was hired as an intern at KARE 11 my senior year. I was a freelance journalist in Washington, DC and Seattle. I returned to my hometown Alexandria and partnered with Gardonville and Excellent Mulitmedia and Lakes Area News was born. I went from reporting crime to serving as a Crime Victim Advocate with Douglas and Pope County seeking justice, healing, and peace for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment.

On Air Talent: Leighton Media

I left because something was missing… faith. That led me to Love INC for eight years. I was the first Volunteer Coordinator and first Ministry Coordinator. The pandemic was a heartbreaking but beautiful transition into my current role as Morning Show Host of 100.7 KIK FM. Hubbard Broadcasting has mirrored my values of community, connection, and passion for broadcasting.

Community and volunteer efforts.

 Emceed Relay for Life of Douglas County for 10 years, including the year I was diagnosed and defeated cancer.  Broadcasted for Fishing for A Cure (Alexandria Industries) and Annual Beave Ice Fishing Classic.  Broadcasted four 11-hour Radiothons to End Child Abuse.  Led the Senior Send Off in Pope County, teaching about healthy relationships, dreaming big and working hard.  Cohosted Jingle Bells for 10 years.

Leadership philosophy.

Servant leadership. Serve others by empowering them. Include others in the process, be empathetic, listen, and commit to growth.

Family and interests.

I’m so grateful for my parents, and my siblings mean the world to me. Singing with the church Praise Band, playing violin and guitar, and performing is my greatest joy. My dogs Daisy and Delilah are my favorite souls. And despite a horrific accident, one of my best friends is my horse, Dusty. He’s been a friend for 23 years and taught me patience, perseverance, determination and what it feels like to fly.


We produce original stories that make a difference and impact lives.


We support local nonprofit and volunteer organizations. We are committed to our community.


We are part of the community and we support local organizations, businesses and causes.

20 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

Kasey Morris Age: 31

Summarize your career path.

My journey into event planning was a winding path paved with curiosity, opportunity, and a desire to connect people. After college, I stumbled upon my calling as an Event Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Morris. This was a chance to orchestrate not just meetings, but meaningful experiences that fostered a vibrant campus community. From coordinating massive student-led festivals to intimate cultural gatherings, I reveled in the challenge of turning abstract ideas into tangible realities. I witnessed how events sparked new connections and ignited passions. This fueled my passion, and I found myself drawn to roles where I could orchestrate meaningful interactions. This led me to Bold North Cellars, where I

Director of Events: Bold North Cellars

took the helm as Director of Events. This was a masterclass in juggling sales, client relations, and execution of events ranging from intimate weddings to bustling festivals.

Community and volunteer efforts.

 Spearheading a Leadership Alexandria community sculpture project.  Lead a day course on event planning for high-potential students in the Challenge Academy.  Provide career presentations at Alexandria College and local schools.  Collaborated with nonprofits like Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Alexandria Figure Skating Club, Kiwanis, Car Care Program, Theatre L’homme Dieu, Lakes Area Theatre, 4H, and West Central Initiative, using my event planning expertise to assist with marketing, fundraising and timeline logistics.

Leadership philosophy.

Uncover strengths, empower ownership, and watch them bloom. I’m a gardener, nurturing a diverse ecosystem of talents. I celebrate small wins, encourage vulnerability, and mold individuals into leaders. When people flourish and their strengths intertwine, that’s the true beauty of leadership.

Family and interests.

I’m the oldest daughter of four from southeastern MN and have two children, Oliver and Olivia. They’re a whirlwind of chaos and joy, my daily dose of inspiration to be more, do more, be the best version of myself. I’m a woman who wakes up and sees nothing on her calendar and decides she’s pedaling her leisure bike 68 miles from Glenwood to St. Joesph. I’m also a wrecking ball of creativity, transforming spaces into havens with my partner. My latest masterpiece is an AirBnb cabin on Barrett Lake.


...and so much more!

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(320) 763-9663 | WWW.HILLTOPLBR.COM Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 21

22 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

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Learn more about our company and career opportunities online. Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024 23

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24 Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce 2024

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