Veteran executive Bill Blazar has been named interim president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, succeeding David Olson, who died of cancer earlier this month.
“The Minnesota Chamber is strong in spite of the devastating loss of its longtime president,” chamber chairman Jeff DeYoung, managing partner at Baker Tilly, said in a statement. “Its visions and strategies are clear, thanks to an engaged board of directors and dedicated staff.”
Blazar, who joined the chamber in 1992 and had been its senior vice president and director of new business development, was unavailable for an interview. It is unclear whether he is a candidate for the permanent job, which the chamber aims to fill by the end of the year.
Olson, who ran the state’s largest business association and lobbying group for 23 years, was paid $472,931, according to the organization’s most recent filing with the state attorney general’s office.
Blazar, 64, directs Grow Minnesota!, the chamber’s statewide business retention and expansion program that visits about 900 businesses annually to learn what they need to expand in Minnesota. Most economic development experts say that helping local businesses expand is far more economical than using public subsidies to lure new businesses to the state.
Blazar also represents the Minnesota business community on several task forces and study groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s labor relations policy committee. Blazar, who began his career in education, has served in a leadership capacity for Minnesota’s P16 Education Partnership, the Minnesota Health Data Institute, the Citizens League and the Lake Calhoun Sailing School.
He serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association and the Loppet Foundation. Before joining the chamber, he was manager of public affairs for Target Corp. from 1987 to 1992. Before that, Blazar was a freelance public policy analyst, specializing in state and local fiscal policy, economic development and telecommunications.
Blazar and his wife have three children and live in Minneapolis. He earned a B.A. from Northwestern University and a M.A. from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.