Bros Outdoors, created by Big Lake High School 11th graders Trevero Maruska and Eric  Peredo-Reyes, won the Student Division.

Talknician, developed by St. Cloud’s Andrew and John Dahlberg, won the Adult Division.

Judges in the second annual FastLane94 Trailblazer Challenge finals held April 20 selected Talknician as the top Adult innovator and Bros Outdoors as tops in the Student Division, in a competition that attracted 20 creators from 17 West Central Minnesota counties.

St. Cloud’s Andrew and John Dahlberg developed Talknician to create pathways for more efficient knowledge transfer within the industrial workforce via augmented reality. Bros Outdoors, created by Big Lake High School 11th graders Trevero Maruska and Eric Peredo-Reyes, helps address the issue of individuals and businesses keeping up with their lawn care, landscaping and snow removal needs.

Organized by the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC), in cooperation with Greater Fergus Falls, the Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and St. Cloud’s ILT Studios, which hosted the April 20 presentation, the goal of the FastLane94 Trailblazer Challenge is to build a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

“The creativity and enthusiasm of participants in this challenge remind us of all the innovation we have in West Central, Minn.,” said GSDC Business Development Director Leslie Dingmann. “These innovators are helping set up our region for modern advances and great, new jobs for the next generation.”

The four other Adult Division finalists who pitched their concepts on April 20 were:

Ice Drones – Moorhead’s Ifrah Sohail created Ice Drones, equipped with an attachment to carry and dispense deicing solids, efficiently melting ice without the need for people to access roofs.

Key Commander – Elk River’s Ryan Seibert developed the Key Commander Project, dedicated to providing equal opportunities for students facing physical challenges by breaking down barriers in educational technology.

Mezclada – Emily Reno, from Vergas, created the Mezclada online learning platform for beginning farmers who are underserved. Mezclada provides a solution to accessing land and capital while developing opportunities for personal growth.

Purpose Advertising – St. Cloud’s Brigid Brew seeks to create a non-profit advertising agency to provide Minnesota small businesses with no-cost marketing services that include designing logos and other materials, website creation and social media.

The other Student Division finalist was 2700 Podcasts, created by Said Abdi, a senior at St. Cloud’s McKinley Area Learning Center. 2700 Podcasts showcases local voices in the community that have faced challenges, such as struggles with addiction, been victims of racial injustice, experienced domestic violence, overcome these challenges, and compel listeners to look for assistance and make connections with others who might be experiencing similar difficulties.

“The FastLane94 Trailblazer Challenge was created to equip innovators to disrupt the status quo and create meaningful change, and all of this year’s entrants are accomplishing that,” said Nick Tietz, Founder and CEO of ILT Studios. “They all have excellent ideas for blazing a new trail.”

The competition was open to entrants living in these counties: Becker, Benton, Clay, Crow Wing, Douglas, Grant, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Todd, Traverse, Wadena, Wilkin or Wright.

The Trailblazer Challenge’s judges, with broad backgrounds in entrepreneurship, venture capital funding and business consulting, were: Brigid Brew, Small Business Development Center; Emmit Byron, Groove Capital; Donniel Robinson, Initiative Foundation; Sandy Hanson-Wolff, of Sandy Hanson-Wolf, LLC; and Jeff Wig, Heritage Road Consulting.

Talknician and 2700 Podcasts have now been included in the Carlson School of Management’s annual MN Cup competition, a public-private partnership that brings together corporations, VCs, foundations, government and skilled volunteers to support Minnesota’s entrepreneurs. (While Bros Outdoors won the Trailblazer Challenge’s Student Division, 2700 Podcasts better fits MN Cup criteria.) MN Cup winners will be announced in September.

Additional information about the FastLane94 Trailblazer Challenge is at



The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota just launched its Emerging Leaders Program to prepare the next generation of nonprofit leaders by building on current skills and talents so that people may become effective, transformational nonprofit leaders.

Five full-time Boys & Girls Clubs staff from our area were selected for this introductory, year-long program that has two sessions scheduled each month. Those emerging leaders are Brock Korbel, Kristin Johnson, Serita Donovan, Samantha Heschke and Faisa Omar.

Read more here



Patti Gartland and Rollie Anderson near their Hall of Fame plaques.

The GSDC was well represented at events April 13-14 to induct leaders into the Tech High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

Rollie Anderson (Class of 1964), CEO/Chairman of ATS and a GSDC corporate investor, GSDC President Patti Gartland (Class of 1976) and Bruce Mohs (Class of 1962), a former board member of ISD 742 (a GSDC public investor), were three of the 10 honorees. Click here to learn about them all.

Activities included an induction ceremony and banquet on Thursday evening and All-School Assembly on Friday morning, with St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis presenting proclamations and unveiling plaques with photos and bios of each for the Hall of Fame Wall.  Each inductee then met with students in classes.



Mike Wimmer, a St. Cloud State grad and one-time intern with the GSDC, was recently named by the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development as a Broadband Grants Administrator. Mike had previously served as the Economic Development Manager for Mille Lacs County, President of the Minnesota Association of Professional County Economic Developers and, most recently, as a Community Development Specialist with the Southern Colorado Economic Development District. Yes, he’s done alright for himself!



Minnesota Compass, a project of Wilder Research, was developed when leaders from across Minnesota voiced a desire to have credible, easy-to-access data about their communities. The newly released Compass Points 2023 information includes these interesting bits about the West Central Minnesota region:

  • 55.5% of us are 44 years of age or younger
  • 38.0% have annual household incomes under $50,000
  • 20.8% of us travel more than 30 minutes to work each day

There are many other statistics, laid out in an easy-to-follow manner. Find them here.



  • Central Minnesota Difference Maker Grant Round applications are due April 30.  Apply here.
  • Greater St. Cloud Community Workplace Well-being Information Sessions.  Virtual sessions on April 26 and April 28.  In-person events at Mahowald, 916 St. Germain St. W., St. Cloud on June 7 and June 28.  Click here to register for virtual sessions or in-person events.
  • Applications for up to $400,000 in grants from the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership are due May 1.  Apply here.

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Contact Our Staff Team

Patti Gartland, President | 320.260.2442

Leslie Dingmann, Business Development Director | 320.493.9003

Gail Cruikshank, Talent Director | 320.260.6775

Tammy Campion, Communications & Program Specialist | 320.252.5185

Michelo Muleya, EPIC Coordinator  I  320.252.5203