June 5, 2023 3:41 pm

ST. PAUL — Matt Varilek, president of the Small Falls-primarily based Initiative Foundation, will lead the Minnesota Division of Employment and Financial Improvement.

“Getting grown up in a reduced-earnings household, I am passionate about assisting far more folks delight in higher financial prosperity,” Varilek stated in a news release. “I’m deeply grateful to Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan for the chance to join the talented group at DEED at this pivotal moment. The division has just been entrusted with an unprecedented set of tools and sources, and I am eager to support place them to function for the advantage of organizations, workers, and households across Minnesota.” 

Gov. Tim Walz announced Varilek’s appointment Thursday, Might 25. Varilek will replace Kevin McKinnon, who has been serving as short-term commissioner given that March. The Division of Employment and Financial Improvement is the state’s principal financial improvement agency, advertising company recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce improvement, international trade, and neighborhood improvement.

“From strengthening the economy and communities of Higher Minnesota to advocating for modest organizations on the federal level, Matt Varilek brings a wealth of know-how and encounter to his new part driving our state’s economy forward,” Walz stated in a news release. “I appear forward to operating with him to develop Minnesota’s powerful, vibrant, and diverse economy and help our workers and organizations.”

Varilek was named Initiative Foundation president in 2016. Prior to joining the Initiative Foundation, he served as chief operating officer for the U.S. Tiny Small business Administration in Washington, D.C. His transition to the DEED commissioner part will take place on June 20.

“Matt Varilek is a steady, thoughtful leader who brings tremendous encounter driving financial improvement and prosperity in diverse communities across the state,” stated Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “Having partnered with him to advance family members financial safety and youngster care in the previous, I am confident in Matt’s capability to function inside and across communities — from Higher Minnesota and the Twin Cities to our tribal nations – to develop a far more equitable and inclusive economy that performs for all Minnesotans.”

Previously, Varilek was the chief operating officer for the U.S. Tiny Small business Administration, a regional administrator for U.S. SBA Area VIII, and a candidate for Congress for the at-huge district of South Dakota. Varilek was also an financial improvement director and speechwriter for the offices of U.S. Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson and served as the director of policy and analysis for Natsource LLC.

Varilek earned his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College, his Master of Philosophy in financial improvement from the University of Glasgow, and his Master of Philosophy in atmosphere and improvement from the University of Cambridge.

“Matt has been a tremendous buddy, leader and organizational culture-builder for the Initiative Foundation,” stated Kim Ellingson, chair of the Initiative Foundation Board of Trustees, in a news release. “While his transition will be bittersweet, we’re in complete help of his appointment as DEED commissioner. His steady and inclusive leadership style, and his encounter and focused function on modest company, workforce improvement, childcare and far more will translate completely to an agency that influences financial improvement in just about every corner of Minnesota.”

As aspect of its succession organizing, the Initiative Foundation Board of Trustees anticipates naming an interim president and will undertake a professionally supported search for Varilek’s successor. Particulars about the search will stick to in the weeks ahead.

“The Initiative Foundation has under no circumstances been stronger,” Ellingson stated. “Our board and employees are completely committed to serving the area with out interruption in the course of this time of transition.”

Reactions to the appointment, incorporated:

“Matt brings an extraordinary background for this part, which includes encounter with state and federal policy, deep relationships in company, nonprofits and foundations, and an essential point of view from rural Minnesota,” stated Minnesota Council on Foundations President Susie Brown, in a news release. “I’m so pleased that Minnesota’s philanthropic neighborhood has a powerful and optimistic connection with Commissioner Varilek. We appear forward to operating with him and the DEED group to help Minnesota’s financial improvement possibilities.”

“Matt Varilek is a correct leader and a constant champion for organizations in Higher Minnesota,” stated Joe Nayquonabe, Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, in a news release. “He was a driving force behind the Enterprise Academy system inside the Mille Lacs Tribal Economy and as CEO of the Initiative Foundation, he led a convening of other foundations across the state, advertising a ‘better together’ mentality. I’m confident he’ll bring that very same leadership to the workplace of DEED and produce an atmosphere of innovation and development.”

“When I served as board chair of the Initiative Foundation, I got to see Matt’s steady and inclusive leadership style in action – welcoming diverse voices and assisting to obtain a path everybody could really feel excellent about,” stated Wyoming Machine, Inc. Co-President Traci Tapani. “As a company owner, I’m excited that he brings substantial know-how of workforce improvement, modest company lending, and other difficulties that are essential to organizations, huge and modest.  Matt is exceptionally properly equipped to function productively with the company neighborhood as DEED’s subsequent leader, and I congratulate Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanaganon a excellent decision.”

For far more specifics about the agency and its solutions, pay a visit to the DEED web site at


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