Meet Our Northeast SBDC Team

Elaine Hansen

(218) 726-6793

Director, Center for Economic Development

Elaine has served as the Director for the UMD Center for Economic Development and the Regional Director for the NE Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC) since 2003.   She plays an active role on committees and boards for economic development in the Northeast and Northwest Regions of Minnesota, the state of Minnesota and also serves on the Education Committee and as Chair of the BEDC Course Director’s Committee for the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).  She is a certified public accountant (CPA) licensed in the State of Minnesota, has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth, is an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council, a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), and a Certified Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

Prior to her work at UMD, Elaine served as the Commissioner of Administration for the State of Minnesota, and as the Finance Director for the City of Duluth.  She has extensive experience in the public and private sectors working with businesses of various sizes, has continually worked to help entrepreneurs and businesses grow and succeed, and has been recognized for her work with women entrepreneurs and business owners.  Along with her work in the public sector she volunteers in areas relating to financial literacy, particularly with youth; public broadcasting serving on the WDSE and Beck Foundation Boards; local Rotary and District Rotary positions including youth leadership programs, president-elect and District Treasurer; the Voyageurs Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Federal Reserve Great Lakes Advisory Council, and the Spirit Mountain Board of Directors.

Shannon Benolken

(218) 326-9411, ext. 25

SBDC Business Consultant, Grand Rapids

Shannon is originally from Cohasset, Minnesota. She has lived in Itasca County the majority of her life; however she has lived in Minneapolis, Bemidji and Knoxville, TN. She has a BA in Business Management from the College of St. Scholastica and an MBA with concentrations in finance and public administration from Ashford University. She is a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) through NASBITE International, she’s an Economic Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council, she is certified in Technology Commercialization through the Institute of Technology Commercialization and she’s a certified Profit Mastery facilitator. Shannon has been active in the community for over 20 years, currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Grand Rapids Area Library, and the Treasurer of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program. She is also an active Rotarian and serves on Itasca Chapter of the Minnesota Youth Ski League Board of Directors. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, horses, hiking and winter camping.

Pat Campanaro

(651) 336-2964

SBDC Business Consultant, Cook County

Pat grew up in the Twin Cities and migrated to Grand Marais four years ago to join her husband who lives in Grand Marais and believes the sun rises and sets in Cook County! Pat is a sales and marketing professional who spent her career in the telecommunications industry managing sales teams who sold to Fortune 500 clients. She has her masters in leadership from Augsburg College and her undergraduate degree in English and Journalism. She is active in a variety of volunteer activities at ISD 166 and is on the Cook County Broadband Commission as well as the board of directors for Boreal Access and The Cook County Education Foundation. Pat was also recently selected to participate in the Cook County Community Leadership Program sponsored by the Blandin Foundation.

Jim Croyle

(218) 726-6172

SBDC Business Consultant, Duluth

Jim is originally from the Pittsburgh, PA area. He met his wife Kathryn while attending Alleghany College in Meadville, PA where he earned his BS degree in Economics. Jim received his MBA from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Kathryn grew up in Excelesior, MN, and when their children were very young they relocated to Minnesota.They moved to the Two Harbors area in 2010 after becoming empty nesters and built their home which overlooks the north shore.Jim is a corporate finance, risk and process management professional who spent much of his career working for Fortune 100 companies. He has worked with businesses of all sizes in a variety of sectors helping to develop strategies and processes for start-ups, turn-arounds, growth, buy/sell, and exit/liquidation initiatives. he also has extensive experience in credit and financial statement analysis, capital markets international commodities trading, business lending, and strategic planning. Jim has expertise in documentation involving commercial credit, letters of credit and commodities trading. He has some international experience having managed teams of professionals located in a number of global locations during his career. Jim is a member of the CFA Institute.

Jim is an active member of his church and frequently volunteers for the annual Grandma’s Marathon. Jim and his wife enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, camping, and cross country skiing, as well as weight lifting.

Mary Lundeen

(218) 726-7868

SBDC Business Consultant, Duluth

Born and raised right here in Duluth, MN, Mary attended both UMD and the College of St. Scholastica. She has worked exclusively in the financial services industry for both a bank and credit union prior to joining UMD CED. Positions held include: Business Banker and Business Banking Manager, Private Banker and Private Banking Manager, and Retirement Plan Administrator.

She has worked in the community for over 30 years. She is a member of both the Duluth and Hermantown Chambers; she is also a Hermantown Chamber Ambassador, a Grandma’s Marathon Volunteer, a past SMDC Endowment Fund Board Member, a United Way volunteer, and a Duluth Public Schools Endowment Fund Board Member. In addition, she volunteers to help cancer patients get to their appointments.

Her hobbies include walking, playing golf and boccie ball—especially when she can do them with her spouse, daughters, and friends. She also enjoys reading and traveling.

Betsy Olivanti

SBDC Business Consultant

Betsy Olivanti

Betsy Olivanti joined the UMD CED team on May 1, 2015 and offices out of Mesabi Range College’s Virginia campus, serving the Quad Cities of Eveleth, Gilbert, Mt. Iron, and Virginia; Ely; Hibbing, Chisholm and the surrounding areas. She brings with her a background in manufacturing, engineering, leadership, and small business management. Betsy graduated from Mesabi Community College with an Associates of Science and Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. Following, she worked in manufacturing as a design engineer, production manager, and Engineering Team Lead where she developed and led several Lean projects in the manufacturing and test process areas. When the facility closed, she went on to complete her Master’s in Business Administration at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Following the completion of this degree, she was employed as the Executive Director for the Mesabi Range College Foundation until accepting the position of Business Consultant with the CED.

With her background in engineering, manufacturing, and lean methodologies, Betsy has been working, since day one, with our clients to ensure they grow and succeed. In order to do so, Betsy has pursued and received certification in Technology Commercialization and completed the following coursework: Profit Mastery, IEDC’s Basic Economic Development Course and the Technology Led Development Course, SBA’s Lender Training, and various other seminars at the ASBDC annual conference in Quickbooks, Digital Marketing/Social Media, Lean Methodologies, Business Transitions Planning, and the like.

When she isn’t attending or volunteering at one of her sons’ activities, Betsy volunteers with the Virginia Fire Fighters Auxiliary, Mesabi Musical Theatre’s annual summer production, sings in the Range of Voices community choir, and Leads the Spirit Lake 4H Club. She is the Treasurer of the Mesabi Range College Foundation, the Vice Chair of the Mt. Iron – Buhl School Board, sits on the Laurentian Chamber’s Business Development Committee, and is working with the Heart of Virginia to revitalize its downtown corridor.


JoAnn Smith

(218) 283-8585

SBDC Business Consultant, International Falls

JoAnn joined the NE SBDC in February of 2017 and serves the Koochiching County area with an office in International Falls.  JoAnn was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She attended Michigan Technological University and received a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering. She moved to International Falls in 2008 to work in Boise Inc. as an Engineer. When Boise reduced their plant size in 2014, she went back to school at Bemidji State University and earned her BS in Business Administration. She then went to work at the Littlefork Care Center as the dietary and purchasing manager. She is an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt in quality and statistics and is currently earning her QuickBooks ProAdvisor certification. JoAnn is leader of the International Women’s Business Network Group that was established in 2008 and meets monthly from September to May for professional women in Fort Frances, Ontario Canada and Koochiching County.

JoAnn likes to spend time with her family and enjoys being on the lake in the summer and at the shack in the fall months.

Curt Walczak

(218) 726-8063

SBDC Business Consultant

Curt grew up and has lived in Duluth his entire life. He has been married for 34 years, has two daughters, and four grandchildren. He enjoys camping, fishing, sci-fi, and 70’s music.

Curt worked in private industry for a wholesale beverage company for 19 years. He was responsible for inventory management, all aspects of accounting including preparing monthly internal financial statements, and managed the office staff. He had an interest in technology and moved over to managing the IT infrastructure including all servers, software and support.

Curt started working for UMD in 2001 as a business consultant focused on technology issues. For the past five years he has worked on all aspects of business including business plans, financial projections, and marketing.

Curt has an accounting degree, a management degree, is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), a QuickBooks Pro Advisor, and an (EDFP) Economic Development Finance Professional certification.

Anthony T. Ward

SBDC Business Consultant, Grand Rapids

Tony attended St. Cloud State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Corporate Finance, graduating with high scholastic honors. Following graduation he was employed as Senior Accountant / Finance Director for the Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission.

He was promoted to the position of General Manager of the GRPUC and recently retired after serving in that position for 30 years. Through his work Tony has gained considerable experience, knowledge and skills in all aspects of business administration, finance, accounting and human resources. He is skilled in contract negotiations, personnel policies, operating policies and cost analysis. He has considerable experience with labor contract negotiations, employee benefit package development and costing analysis, grievance and arbitration procedures and other personnel related issues. He has a good working knowledge of government regulations and has worked with government regulators at the State and Federal level. He is trained and experienced in dealing with customers and customer service related issues.

Tony has served on the Grand Rapids; Economic Development Authority, Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Library Board. His civic involvement included; Cub Scout Cub Master and Pack Leader, Star of the North Skating Club Board Member, President and Treasurer and Camp Fire Treasurer.

Tony was born and grew up in Grand Rapids where he and his wife currently reside. They have two grown children. In his free time Tony enjoys time on the boat, arguing politics, reading nonfiction and fixing anything mechanical.

Blaze Zenner

(218) 729-6986

SBDC Business Consultant

Blaze is from Cold Spring, MN a small community in central MN. He first came to Duluth to attend UMD on an Air Force ROTC scholarship.  Upon graduation he moved to the Twin Cities where he began his career at a finance company and later joined a regional bank. In 1990 Blaze was promoted by this bank and relocated to Duluth. Blaze has over 32 years of banking experience.

His positions in the finance industry included Loan Officer, Collateral Auditor, Business Banker, Credit Management Group (CMG) Banker dealing with troubled business and agricultural customers in multiple states, and as the CMG Manger of a team of bankers in a 5 state area.

Blaze has been heavily involved in the community since his return to Duluth.  He served on volunteer boards for Goodwill Industries, Duluth Builder’s Exchange, and the Holy Rosary School. Blaze has been active in Chamber of Commerce programs including: Graduating from the Leadership of Duluth Program, co-chair of the Business By Degree Program, serving on the Military Affairs Committee, and more recently participating in a mentoring program offered to local college students. He has volunteered as a character at Bentleyville Tour of Lights, and Blaze and his family have been volunteering at Grandma’s Marathon for years.

Blaze is active in his church and serves as Financial Secretary for the Monsignor O’Shea Knights of Columbus Council.  His hobbies include golf, hunting, fishing, hiking, reading, and spending time with his family.

Karen Haedtke


Executive Accounts Specialist

Karen Haedtke is the Executive Accounts Specialist for the University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development (CED). She has been with the CED since December 2006. Her  main responsibilities include budgeting, grant and accounts management.

Karen was born and raised in Duluth. She is married with two very active children.  Her interests are family, friends, camping, reading and enjoying life.

Sandi Larson


Business Development Professional

Sandi Larson is a Business Development Professional at the University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development (CED). Her responsibilities include strategic implementation and program management of several CED programs including the Student to Business Initiative, UMD Teen Enterprise, and the Upper Midwest Basic Economic Development Course. Sandi also manages public engagement initiatives for CED as a liaison to the economic development community state-wide and business communities in Northeast Minnesota. She also teaches workshops on topics such as Starting a Business, Writing a Business Plan and Generational Diversity in the Workplace.

Sandi received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree with studies focusing on Leadership in Community Engagement. Her background includes working in a variety of organizations including non-profit, publishing, manufacturing, higher education and for the she has worked in Economic Development since 2005.

Outside of work Sandi enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors. Growing up in Babbitt, MN gave her an appreciation for actively engaging the outdoors all year round. Sandi enjoys many outdoor activities. She likes to hike, bike, downhill ski, snow shoe, kayak, and more. She is a volunteer member of the Giant’s Ridge Ski Patrol, volunteers as a medic each year for Grandma’s Marathon, and manages a Facebook Page dedicated to sharing her experiences of hiking in Duluth.

Zoey Hassett


Program Coordinator

Zoey grew up in Barnum, MN where she currently lives with her husband Alex. She enjoys camping with her family, going to museums, sewing, listening to music, reading and all things history. Her favorite book is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett and her favorite historical figure is Abraham Lincoln.

Zoey is new to the workforce having recently received her Bachelor’s Degree in History with a minor in Art History from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015. She is a Program Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development (CED). Her primary responsibilities include coordinating the various events the CED hosts, the scheduling and organization of the workshops the CED offers, and managing the monthly LegalCorps clinics.