Our network is made up of committed professionals, each with distinctive credentials that qualify them to assist with both general and specialized business needs. Drawing on formal education and years of practical business experience, each consultant is attuned to the challenges business owners face. They provide relevant, realistic and sound advice you can trust in such areas as:
Barry Kirchoff serves as Director, Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center. Barry joined St. Cloud State University in November of 2006. Barry brings over thirty years of business management experience to the university. His business background includes retail, route and warehouse distribution, human resources and training.
Barry is a retired Command Sergeant Major from the United States Army Reserve, and holds two degrees from St. Cloud State University a Bachelor of Elective Studies degree focusing on Business and Psychology and a Master of Science degree in Human Resources Training and Development.
Barry is also a National Development Council certified economic development professional.
LaRae Ross is the Associate Director of the Central Region Small Business Development Center. LaRae’s skills lie primarily in the area of operations, with the bulk of her experience primarily coming from administrative roles. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from Concordia University and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Mass Communication.
Since joining the SBDC nearly ten years ago, she has attained certification as an Economic Development Finance Specialist through the National Development Council and become a certified facilitator for the financial literacy program Profit Mastery.
Thomas Gerds brings 30 years of business development experience to the SBDC team.
Tom is a self-described “Marketing Geek” with a work history spanning Fortune 500 companies to micro start-ups. In 2009 he partnered with the SBDC to successfully start-up a veterinary practice with his wife in Sartell.
As a business analyst, he served on a software project team developing a global sales lead tracking application for a Fortune 500 company. His background includes significant database, data management, CRM reporting, and end-user training. He has managed a national dealer direct mail program; provided in-house ad agency services for several firms providing graphic design, copy writing, media planning and on-ine marketing; and has designed and developed numerous websites.
Tom has a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an emphasis in Advertising and Marketing. Tom is a 30 year resident of Minnesota and has volunteered his time to MAP for Non-Profits and the Cold Spring Area Historical Society.
In his spare time, he designs, builds wood canoes and sea kayaks, restores old vehicles, enjoys photography and painting, plays with radio controlled airplanes and cars.
Duane Northagen has served as the Wright County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director since February of 2014. The WCEDP is a private – nonprofit organization supporting the economic development needs of the businesses and communities in Wright County. Duane has been involved in Community and Economic Development for the past 3 decades. The majority of Duane’s career was spent working for public entities including the City of Hibbing, the City of Duluth and the City of Silver Bay. During that time he wrote and administered over 100 successful grants to support the needs of his community, many of which were directly related to securing financing incentives for specific businesses. He is also a 2-time Chair of the Iron Range Economic Alliance and past President of the Hibbing Rotary.
Duane has also volunteered his time with the Boy Scouts and the Range Center in Chisholm. He also has coached hockey and tennis at the high school and youth levels. He has been a certified high school official in hockey, softball and baseball for over 30 years. During his free time he enjoys traveling on his motorcycle.
Bruce Thielman is a life-long resident of St. Cloud and brings over 30 years of business leadership skills, in both the private and public sectors, to the Small Business Development Center. He has worked in the banking and lending industry for 20 years as a vice-president, branch manager, and loan officer. He originated and closed personal and commercial loans, and specialized in residential real estate lending.
Bruce also worked for the St. Cloud Housing & Redevelopment Authority for over 13 years. He led the agency in the role of the Executive Director in community, housing and economic development efforts, resulting in many award-winning development projects that encompassed many areas of the community and created hundreds of jobs for the St. Cloud community.
Bruce’s business background includes private and public forms of finance and lending, organizational development and strategic planning, marketing, and human resources. He has personal experience in small business formation and has interacted with, and assisted, hundreds of individuals and businesses throughout his career.
Bruce has a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Cloud State University with majors in Business Management and Psychology, and a Masters of Arts degree in Organizational Development, with an emphasis in Human Resources from Concordia University in St. Paul. Bruce has also held numerous volunteer leadership positions in a variety of community organizations.
Briana Wright is a Central Minnesota native and SCSU Husky alumni. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a Management minor in December, 2013, followed by a Master’s Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology in May, 2016. Bri has over six years of experience in Healthcare, Employee Benefits and Insurance Industries.
More recent opportunities have led her to research and consult in the areas of Human Resources Management, Recruitment, Leadership, Training and Organizational Development specific to Healthcare, Retail and Manufacturing. To stay connected with industry professionals, Bri also serves on the Board for Minnesota Professionals for Psychology Applied to Work (MPPAW) and visits numerous professional networking events on behalf of the SBDC.
Professional development and experiential learning are key themes among Bri’s education and career goals. She searches for innovative ways to better assist with business and financial planning and enjoys learning along-side clients as they grow and develop. Helping guide clients throughout all stages from start-up through succession planning, has proven to be a rewarding experience and she has the highest level of admiration for entrepreneurs.