October 25, 2016 | 5 p.m.
By Jenny Hudalla '15, content specialist
Since joining the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce in 2010, Matt Kramer GS’10 and Jonathan Weinhagen GS’12 have helped lead the organization out of financial hardship and into economic prosperity as one of the top-performing chambers in the country. Now, the pair of Bethel graduates will put their partnership to the test with an even bigger challenge—uniting Twin Cities business communities.
Weinhagen, who has served two years as vice president of the St. Paul chamber, recently accepted the president and CEO position at the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and started October 10. According to Kramer, who is in his sixth year as St. Paul chamber president, the shift will provide the two chambers with a unique opportunity for fluid collaboration and service, especially when it comes to solving problems that both cities face—like a looming talent crisis and pay and racial equity.
“It is a powerful thing that two people who know each other and have worked together for years are now able to partner across the river,” Kramer says. “It will be easy to pick up the phone and strategize about how the business community is going to work together to address these issues.”
During his time as president of the St. Paul chamber, Kramer has lobbied for the construction of CHS Field, helped bring the 2018 Super Bowl to the Twin Cities, and encouraged the construction of the Green Line light rail route. He was also recently named one of the 10 most admired CEOs in Minnesota by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, which chose him from a pool of almost 100 nominees.
“It was a huge honor,” Kramer says. “I was humbled, embarrassed, and happy that folks recognize how great this organization is. But, as any leader knows, it’s a reflection of the team. I rank my mentorship and service as some of my biggest accomplishments.”
Weinhagen, who was also honored by the Business Journal on its 40 Under 40 list in 2015, counts himself lucky to have learned from Kramer. “Matt has been an incredible mentor and friend, and he has provided me with the guidance and autonomy to lead both here and in my next role,” he says. “I offer no small amount of credit to his leadership and mentorship in developing me.”
He and Kramer worked together to help secure the Pine Tree property for Bethel, now called the Anderson Center and home to many of Bethel’s graduate school programs. Besides helping the university navigate zoning requirements, they also assured city officials in Arden Hills of the value adult learners would bring to the community.
“That’s a real success story for us at the Chamber,” Weinhagen says of the Pine Tree project. “The space is fantastic, the institution is growing, and it really gets at the heart of who we are and what we do. Our members are an extension of us and our success.”
For both Weinhagen and Kramer, a desire to better serve and advocate for businesses in their communities was a driving force in their individual decisions to go back to school. Kramer graduated with an M.A. in Organizational Leadership in 2010, and Weinhagen graduated with an MBA two years later.
“Bethel is a purpose-driven institution, and I wanted that to be a hallmark of my leadership moving forward,” Weinhagen explains. “As I look back on the MBA program, ethics were front and center every step of the way, in programming and on every syllabus. Every time I’ve had to make a decision or deal with an issue, having that lens as part of my leadership profile has served me incredibly well.”
“You don’t go back to school for yourself—you go to school for what you’re able to contribute,” Kramer adds. “We’re all so busy, and it’s tempting to jump to an easy answer. Bethel taught me the hard answers are out there, and they’re more fulfilling. They just require more work.”