June’s Board Member Spotlight is on Erin Sparks, Economic Development Lead, Great River Energy

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Greetings Mid America EDC Members!

Summer has arrived! And with that so has construction season. We hope that you are experiencing some great economic development projects breaking ground in your respective communities.

Stay tuned for upcoming free Webinars – there are some good ones in the works! And mark your calendars for December 1 – 3, 2021 yes the Mid-America EDC Competitive Conference is happening! In-person, in Chicago! Stay tuned for more information as we confirm up the agenda.

This month we get to know Erin Sparks, Economic Development Lead at Great River Energy in Minnesota. Reach out to her to learn more about her and Great River Energy.



Q.1 Tell us about yourself! How long have you been on the Mid-America EDC board?

I’m an economic development lead at Great River Energy where I am part of a small but mighty team, of three. Together we provide economic development services to our 28 member-owner cooperatives throughout the state of Minnesota. I have been with Great River since 2014 and have been a member of Mid-America EDC since then as well. I joined the Mid-America EDC board of directors in 2019 and have thoroughly enjoyed the increased involvement with the organization as well as getting to know my fellow board members better.


Q.2 What are your economic development specialties?

In my previous job I would have said small business and entrepreneurial development however I don’t do much of that these days. In my current role I would say that I tend to focus more on business attraction efforts and have really come to enjoy this aspect of my job. Site identification, preparation, and evaluation – I enjoy all things site-related (sexy, I know ).


Q.3 Tell us about the region that you serve and are there targeted industries that you are looking to either expand or attract?

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative which provides electricity to 28 member-owner distribution cooperatives. Together, our systems serve about ¾ of the state, geographically and about 700,000 members. Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the country. Minnesota’s geographic regions possess unique attributes and resources that position them well for specific industries and we work to grow these industry clusters which include data centers, agricultural/forest products, advanced manufacturing and mining.


Q.4 Are there any specific economic development training courses/programs that you’ve taken during your career that you would recommend to others?

The International Economic Development Council’s Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) program is one that I would definitely recommend. The courses are very good and provide participants a strong baseline knowledge on the fundamentals of economic development. I have also had the opportunity to participate in a couple of leadership development programs over the years and would recommend those, as well. There are many different leadership programs to choose from, most incorporate personality or leadership style profiling, which can be very insightful and valuable in your work AND personal life.

Q.5 You are a new mom – what is harder… being an Economic Developer or a mom?

Being a mom! You’re never off the clock.


Feel free to reach out to Erin at ESparks@GREnergy.com

Category: Board of Directors