Business Assistance

Bill Blazar

Bill Blazar is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development. Blazar directs Grow Minnesota!, the Chambers statewide business retention and expansion program. This year, Grow Minnesota! completed retention visits with over 900 Minnesota businesses and provided direct assistance to 200 of them.

Blazar represents the Minnesota business community on several task forces and study groups, for example, the United State Chamber of Commerces Labor Relations Policy Committee. He is a past member and chair of the board of the Minnesota Government Relations Council. Blazar has also served in a leadership capacity for Minnesotas P16 Education Partnership, the Minnesota Health Data Institute, the Citizens League and the Lake Calhoun Sailing School. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and the Loppet Foundation. Prior to joining the Chamber, he was Manager of Government Affairs for Target Corporation from 1987-1992. Before working for Target, Blazar was a freelance public policy analyst, specializing in state and local fiscal policy, economic development and telecommunications.

Blazar has a B.A. (Political Science) from Northwestern University and a M.A. (Public Affairs) from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

Bill and his wife, Mary Hunstiger, are 30+ year residents of southwest Minneapolis. They have 3 adult sons, one daughter-in-law, and most recently, one granddaughter!


Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development
Bill Blazar
Kathi Schaff

Kathi is responsible for the development, management, and training needs of the over 70 local chambers and economic development entities that comprise the Grow Minnesota! partnership. In addition, she is involved in statewide business assistance on concerns resulting from partnership business retention visits.

Hired in 2006, Kathi is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a master’s degree in Community and Economic Development from Penn State University. Prior to joining the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Kathi served over 9 years as the president of the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce. She has experience in community development, serving 8 years as a city planning commissioner. Schaff also serves on the Hill Capital Corporation’s Community Impact Board.

Kathi is an avid sports fan. 


Director, Grow Minnesota! Partnerships & Business Development
Kathi Schaff
Sean O'Neil

Sean is responsible for coordinating business assistance, research and analysis, and data management efforts through the Grow Minnesota! program. Additionally, he provides staff support to the Small Business Policy Committee, which enables small businesses to play a role in shaping the Minnesota Chamber’s policy priorities.

Sean joined the Grow Minnesota! team in November 2015. Prior to joining the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, he worked for the St Anthony East and Holland Neighborhood Improvement Associations in Northeast Minneapolis where he coordinated neighborhood revitalization and community development initiatives. Sean holds a Masters of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from Bethel University.

Sean and his wife have two young children and live in Northeast Minneapolis where they enjoy the multitude of nearby parks, arts, and wonderful restaurants. In his free time, he serves on the Board of Directors for UpWorks, is an active member of Church of the Cross in Hopkins, and loves reading and learning about American history and politics.


Business Development Coordinator
Sean O'Neil
Jill Curran, B.E.P.

Jill is responsible for directing the activities of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Waste Wise, Energy Smart program. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation. She joined the Foundation in 2008 as the manager of the Energy Smart program.

Jill has more than 20 years of experience working for small and large businesses specifically in the areas of environmental program management, business community organizing, and new enterprise development. Prior to joining the Energy Smart program, Jill managed environmental and community programs for a large company in St. Paul and has been a leader in the socially responsible business community in the Twin Cities. Jill is a Certified Business Energy Professional (BEP) and is an individual member of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and. She is a graduate of Metropolitan State University.

In her time away from work, Jill enjoys skiing, biking, travelling, crafting, and spending time with her husband and two kids.


Executive Director, Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation
Jill Curran
Patrick Deal

Patrick works alongside Minnesota businesses to identify and implement energy saving opportunities through on-site consultations.

Before joining Energy Smart, Patrick was a residential energy auditor with the Neighborhood Energy Connection. By performing diagnostic testing, Patrick identified opportunities for Minnesota home owners to save energy, improve comfort, and lower their energy bills.

Patrick graduated from Saint John’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Art. He spends his free time in Southern Minnesota on his family’s hop farm, and taking photographs for clients around the twin cities.


Energy Efficiency Specialist
Erin Hertog

Erin joined Waste Wise in July 2017. As a Sustainability Specialist, Erin works with businesses in Scott and Washington Counties to help implement recycling and organics programs. 
Prior to joining Waste Wise, Erin worked as a Sustainability Coordinator at the Wedge Co-op where she helped improve waste diversion and energy efficiency. She also spent a couple of years working on and managing organic farms. Erin graduated from Hamline University with a BA in Political Science and Economics.
Erin is passionate about waste reduction and loves geeking out about recycling. But when she’s not doing that, she enjoys gardening in the backyard, cooking, camping, and traveling.

Sustainability Specialist
Erin Hertog
Jon Klapperich

Jon is a Sustainability Specialist who started working with the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation in November of 2014. Jon has his master’s degree in Forest Biology and Conservation Management. He is passionate about the sustainable use of renewable materials. Jon has sales and marketing experience in the lumber industry, and spent over two years teaching English in South Korea. Jon grew up enjoying the outdoors in Northern Wisconsin and he hopes that his work with Waste Wise and metro area businesses will help to preserve our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.


Senior Sustainability Specialist
Jon Klapperich
Karen Malkowski

Karen works with Minnesota businesses to identify and implement energy saving opportunities through on-site consultations and by providing technical support.

Before joining Energy Smart in 2016, Karen was a Senior Crew Leader with the Neighborhood Energy Connection’s Home Energy Squad. In this role Karen was able to help residential customers instantly save energy and provide next steps for future energy conservation.

Karen graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Public Health. Karen also has an A.A.S in Architectural Technology and is LEED Green Associate accredited.

In her free time, Karen enjoys gardening, kayaking, playing with her dogs and cheering for the Green Bay Packers.


Energy Efficiency Specialist
Karen Malkowski
Michelle Palm

Michelle works with businesses in Washington and Ramsey Counties to encourage them to reduce waste, conserve resources, and implement recycling and organics programs through waste assessments, grant assistance, and other resources.

Michelle joined Waste Wise in January 2016. Prior to joining Waste Wise, she worked with the Clean Energy Resource Teams for three years as their Southeast Coordinator. There she helped provide resources to communities of all types in the southeast region of the state to help them with energy efficiency and clean and renewable energy projects. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a BA in Environmental Studies, focusing on International Issues and Peace Studies.

When not at work, Michelle enjoys running, brewing beer and Kombucha, and exploring the state while hiking and camping. She also loves to grow and make new things while gardening, sewing, and wood working.


Sustainability Specialist
Kendrick Paulson

Kendrick works with businesses in Washington and Ramsey Counties to reduce waste and implement recycling and organics programs through waste assessments, grant assistance, and other resources. He enjoys helping businesses find outlets for particularly difficult materials.

Kendrick received his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and biology from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, MN. While in college, Kendrick worked as a Resource Assistant for the Rainforest Alliance where he verified legality of logging companies. Before joining MN Waste Wise, Kendrick worked in the Sustainability Department at HealthPartners to assist hospitals and clinics in reducing waste and conserving natural resources.

In his spare time, Kendrick leads events around the Twin Cities to educate homeowners about energy efficiency – you may spot him at the Como Zoo, Minnesota History Center or Uptown Art Fair. Kendrick is also passionate about volleyball and has been a coach for 4 years and a line judge for the University of Minnesota.


Sustainability Specialist
Kendrick Paulson
Greta Rittenhouse

Greta works closely with businesses in Ramsey and Washington Counties to encourage and help implement waste reduction and resource conservation measures. This involves a combination of on-site assistance, recruitment, reporting, and waste sorts (her favorite part!). She is proud to help businesses reach their waste reduction goals while increasing recycling and composting in the metro area.

Greta most recently worked in the residential energy field, initially through AmeriCorps and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota & Iowa and eventually as staff for the Neighborhood Energy Connection. She conducted home visits to consult and install energy-saving measures, and grew to manage the scheduling and reporting logistics of the program. Greta also served an AmeriCorps term for the National Civilian Community Corps, in which she and nine teammates completed service projects in California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Hawaii. She is a Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter and holds a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Gustavus Adolphus College.

Greta loves to learn, especially in the forms of community education and free online classes. She is an avid thrifter and enjoys trying new restaurants and playing volleyball. Her current travel goal is to visit all 50 states before her 30th birthday, and as of February 2014 she has 2 ½ years to explore her final five states! She also loves volunteering at Hennepin County Fix-It Clinics and would like to learn to play the ukulele and live a completely zero-waste lifestyle (or something close to it).


Senior Sustainability Specialist
Chris Rustad

Chris works alongside Minnesota businesses to help them identify and implement energy-saving measures. In particular, Chris often works with Minnesota businesses that are part of the Spanish-speaking community.

Chris has over five years of energy-efficiency related experience working with residential customers of both Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy. Chris graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 with a Bachelor’s of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Soon after, he became an AmeriCorps volunteer through the Conservation Corps of Minnesota. During that time Chris took part in an Xcel Energy pilot program called the Home Energy Squads. Chris’ bilingual skills allowed the program to expand its reach to much of the Spanish-speaking community. Upon completion of his AmeriCorps service term Chris was hired on at the Neighborhood Energy Connection as a Home Energy Squad crew leader and ultimately home energy auditor.

In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth. Together, they love to cook and entertain for friends and family at their home in the East Side of St. Paul. They also enjoy going out for walks, gardening and bargain shopping at Arc’s Value Village.


Senior Energy Efficiency Specialist
Chris Rustad
Allison Sawyer

Allison works with businesses in Washington and Ramsey County to reduce waste and implement recycling programs through waste assessments, grant assistance, and other resources that help businesses keep things out of the trash. She has been with the Chamber of Commerce since September 2015. 

Allison spent a year as a planner with St. Louis County Environmental Services doing waste-related outreach and education with schools, businesses, and community members. Prior to that, she spent a year as a Minnesota GreenCorps member helping schools in northern St. Louis County set up recycling programs. She graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Geography & Environmental Management.

In her free time Allison enjoys camping, biking, and making things with her hands, whether its sewing, cooking, or painting.   


Sustainability Specialist
Allison Sawyer

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