Business Assistance

Kevin Zickert
Energy Efficiency Specialist
Bill Blazar

Bill Blazar is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development. Blazar directs Grow Minnesota!, the Chambers statewide business retention and expansion program. This year, Grow Minnesota! completed retention visits with over 900 Minnesota businesses and provided direct assistance to 200 of them.

Blazar represents the Minnesota business community on several task forces and study groups, for example, the United State Chamber of Commerces Labor Relations Policy Committee. He is a past member and chair of the board of the Minnesota Government Relations Council. Blazar has also served in a leadership capacity for Minnesotas P16 Education Partnership, the Minnesota Health Data Institute, the Citizens League and the Lake Calhoun Sailing School. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and the Loppet Foundation. Prior to joining the Chamber, he was Manager of Government Affairs for Target Corporation from 1987-1992. Before working for Target, Blazar was a freelance public policy analyst, specializing in state and local fiscal policy, economic development and telecommunications.

Blazar has a B.A. (Political Science) from Northwestern University and a M.A. (Public Affairs) from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

Bill and his wife, Mary Hunstiger, are 30+ year residents of southwest Minneapolis. They have 3 adult sons, one daughter-in-law, and most recently, one granddaughter!

Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development
Bill Blazar
Vicki Stute

Vicki Stute is the vice president, programs and business services of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. She is responsible for strategic development of Grow Minnesota!, Energy Smart, Waste Wise, EverythingHR, and Minnesota Chamber Business Services.

She brings more than 25 years of combined executive leadership experience through her work in the Chamber of Commerce industry, having served Dakota County Regional, Saint Paul Area, TwinWest, River Heights, and Red Wing Area Chambers of Commerce. Vicki is actively engaged in several Twin Cities-based community organizations and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Executives and as treasurer of the Metro Advocacy Coalition of Chambers.

Prior to returning to the Chamber industry in 2013, she served as president of Angel Foundation, a Twin-cities based non-profit organization serving adults with cancer and their families. Vicki holds a Bachelor of Science degree and is a life-long resident of Dakota County. She is an avid hockey fan and enjoys reading, fitness, golf, and spending time with her husband Nick, and their two daughters.

Vice President, Programs & Business Services
Deb Broberg

Deb serves as the President of the leadership board for the Human Resources Executive Council and has had a longstanding interest in education and the critical need to plan for future market needs when considering options for post-secondary education and training.  Deb is active on the Alumni Board for Macalester College as co-chair of the career development committee.  She served on the Carlson School of Management Undergraduate Advisory Board for nine years, where she gained insight on the early Itasca Project research which fueled her interest in workforce readiness for the state of Minnesota.   Deb is also an active member of the Board of Trustees at her church, serving on the Personnel and budget committees.

Deb has had a successful 25+ year career with Northwest Airlines and Wells Fargo.   At Wells Fargo, Deb held positions over the last 16 years with responsibility for Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, and Talent Management.   During her tenure with Wells Fargo she gained a keen appreciation for the importance of talent pipeline management from sourcing to placement to development.   Deb has her MA from the University of Minnesota’s HRIR program and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Macalester College.

In her free time, Deb enjoys skiing – snow and water; music – vocal & all types, biking and traveling.

Executive Director
Deb Broberg, executive director, Real Time Talent
Nicole Hanger

Nicole is part of the Grow MN! Partnership with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Along with local chamber partners and the Grow MN! team, Nicole conducts business visits throughout the state to learn more about the needs and concerns of Minnesota businesses and identify specific opportunities to help individual businesses stay and grow in the state. Nicole also oversees the MN Supplier Match program to highlight and expand Minnesota’s robust supply chain; increasing business-to-business activity in the state.

Nicole holds a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and has more than 10 years of marketing experience in both non-profit and corporate industries. Most recently, Nicole was the Education & Associate Member Coordinator for the Minnesota Bankers Association – developing educational programs for Minnesota bankers and connecting businesses to the financial services industry through the Associate Member program.

Prior to her work at the MN Bankers Association, Nicole led the B2C marketing efforts for national accounts at a legal insurance company; managed public relations campaigns for a non-profit blood donation center in Des Moines; and worked at the Midway Chamber of Commerce in St. Paul and Uptown Business Association in Minneapolis. 

Nicole and her husband live in Woodbury with their young son. They enjoy cheering on the Minnesota Vikings, trying out new restaurants and exploring our beautiful state!

Business Development Coordinator
Nicole Hanger
Kathi Schaff

Kathi is responsible for the development, management, and training needs of the over 70 local chambers and economic development entities that comprise the Grow Minnesota! partnership. In addition, she is involved in statewide business assistance on concerns resulting from partnership business retention visits.

Hired in 2006, Kathi is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a master’s degree in Community and Economic Development from Penn State University. Prior to joining the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Kathi served over 9 years as the president of the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce. She has experience in community development, serving 8 years as a city planning commissioner.

Kathi is an avid sports fan. 

Director, Grow Minnesota!® Partnership
Kathi Schaff
Erin Olson

Erin’s research career spans economic development, housing, transportation, and workforce analysis, bringing new and intersectional approaches to addressing labor recruitment and retention challenges in Minnesota. She designed and directed research investigations at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and the Center for Transit Studies (CTS) with partners including Project for Pride in Living, local neighborhood associations, and the City of North Saint Paul covering topics from urban food deserts and downtown revitalization to healthy housing and transit accessibility. She also has an extensive record working internationally as a consultant, providing survey development and program evaluation support to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of Rwanda, Habitat for Humanity of Mozambique, and Vedor LDA - a Mozambican planning and architecture consulting firm.

Erin holds two Masters Degrees in Urban and Regional Planning and Public Health from the University of Minnesota, where she focused on community economic development, housing, and population studies. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology.

Erin enjoys traveling and exploring local culture as much as she can—from trying and cooking the local cuisine to learning new languages and taking up traditional instruments.  She plays the Rwandan Inanga (harp) and Mozambican Nyunga Nyunga and Dzava Dziro Mbira (thumb piano), in addition to singing and playing the piano.  Her husband, Ernesto, is from Mozambique and shares her passion for music, travel, and food.  They are involved in several African music and dance groups around the Twin Cities and enjoy the sense of community found there.  Erin speaks Portuguese and some Changana, Swahili, and Spanish.

Research Strategist
Erin Olson, Research Strategist, Real Time Talent
Sean O'Neil

Sean is responsible for coordinating business assistance, research and analysis, and data management efforts through the Grow Minnesota! program. Additionally, he provides staff support to the Small Business Policy Committee, which enables small businesses to play a role in shaping the Minnesota Chamber’s policy priorities.

Sean joined the Grow Minnesota! team in November 2015. Prior to joining the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, he worked for the St Anthony East and Holland Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Northeast Minneapolis where he coordinated neighborhood revitalization and community development initiatives. Sean holds a Masters of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from Bethel University.

Sean and his wife have two young children and live in Northeast Minneapolis where they enjoy the multitude of nearby parks, arts, and wonderful restaurants. In his free time, he serves on the Board of Directors for UpWorks, is an active member of Church of the Cross in Hopkins, and loves reading and learning about American history and politics.

Business Development Coordinator
Sean O'Neil
Patrick Deal

Patrick works alongside Minnesota businesses to identify and implement energy saving opportunities through on-site consultations.

Before joining Energy Smart, Patrick was a residential energy auditor with the Neighborhood Energy Connection. By performing diagnostic testing, Patrick identified opportunities for Minnesota home owners to save energy, improve comfort, and lower their energy bills.

Patrick graduated from Saint John’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Art. He spends his free time in Southern Minnesota on his family’s hop farm, and taking photographs for clients around the twin cities.

Energy Efficiency Specialist
Rob Friend

Rob Friend is a Senior Sustainability Specialist with Minnesota Waste Wise working with Ramsey and Washington County businesses to help increase recycling. He has more than 19 years of experience in the commercial composting and recycling industry working in sales and safety before focusing on organics recycling development. Rob has worked with waste haulers, generators and public entities to increase organics recycling collection and processing through presentations, tours and creating of educational material.

Rob graduated with a B.S. in Business Management from Mankato State University in Mankato, MN and completed the Midwest Extension Composting School in 2013. Rob also serves on the Recycling Association of Minnesota Board of Directors.

Senior Sustainability Specialist
Rob Friend
Erin Hertog

Erin joined Waste Wise in July 2017. As a Sustainability Specialist, Erin works with businesses in Scott and Washington Counties to help implement recycling and organics programs. 
Prior to joining Waste Wise, Erin worked as a Sustainability Coordinator at the Wedge Co-op where she helped improve waste diversion and energy efficiency. She also spent a couple of years working on and managing organic farms. Erin graduated from Hamline University with a BA in Political Science and Economics.
Erin is passionate about waste reduction and loves geeking out about recycling. But when she’s not doing that, she enjoys gardening in the backyard, cooking, camping, and traveling.

Sustainability Specialist
Erin Hertog
Jon Klapperich

Jon started working with the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation in November of 2014. Jon has his master’s degree in Forest Biology and Conservation Management. He is passionate about the sustainable use of renewable materials. Jon has sales and marketing experience in the lumber industry, and spent over two years teaching English in South Korea. Jon grew up enjoying the outdoors in Northern Wisconsin and he hopes that his work with Waste Wise and metro area businesses will help to preserve our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.

Waste Wise Program Manager
Jon Klapperich
Michelle Palm

Michelle works with businesses in Washington and Ramsey Counties to encourage them to reduce waste, conserve resources, and implement recycling and organics programs through waste assessments, grant assistance, and other resources.

Michelle joined Waste Wise in January 2016. Prior to joining Waste Wise, she worked with the Clean Energy Resource Teams for three years as their Southeast Coordinator. There she helped provide resources to communities of all types in the southeast region of the state to help them with energy efficiency and clean and renewable energy projects. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a BA in Environmental Studies, focusing on International Issues and Peace Studies.

When not at work, Michelle enjoys running, brewing beer and Kombucha, and exploring the state while hiking and camping. She also loves to grow and make new things while gardening, sewing, and wood working.

Sustainability Specialist
Kendrick Paulson

Kendrick works with businesses in Washington and Ramsey Counties to reduce waste and implement recycling and organics programs through waste assessments, grant assistance, and other resources. He enjoys helping businesses find outlets for particularly difficult materials.

Kendrick received his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and biology from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, MN. While in college, Kendrick worked as a Resource Assistant for the Rainforest Alliance where he verified legality of logging companies. Before joining MN Waste Wise, Kendrick worked in the Sustainability Department at HealthPartners to assist hospitals and clinics in reducing waste and conserving natural resources.

In his spare time, Kendrick leads events around the Twin Cities to educate homeowners about energy efficiency – you may spot him at the Como Zoo, Minnesota History Center or Uptown Art Fair. Kendrick is also passionate about volleyball and has been a coach for 4 years and a line judge for the University of Minnesota.

Energy Efficiency Specialist
Kendrick Paulson
Chris Rustad

Chris works alongside Minnesota businesses to help them identify and implement energy-saving measures. In particular, Chris often works with Minnesota businesses that are part of the Spanish-speaking community.

Chris has over five years of energy-efficiency related experience working with residential customers of both Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy. Chris graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 with a Bachelor’s of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Soon after, he became an AmeriCorps volunteer through the Conservation Corps of Minnesota. During that time Chris took part in an Xcel Energy pilot program called the Home Energy Squads. Chris’ bilingual skills allowed the program to expand its reach to much of the Spanish-speaking community. Upon completion of his AmeriCorps service term Chris was hired on at the Neighborhood Energy Connection as a Home Energy Squad crew leader and ultimately home energy auditor.

In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth. Together, they love to cook and entertain for friends and family at their home in the East Side of St. Paul. They also enjoy going out for walks, gardening and bargain shopping at Arc’s Value Village.

Senior Energy Efficiency Specialist, C.E.M.
Chris Rustad

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