Todd Klingel, who stepped down as CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce for health reasons last winter, died Sunday of colon cancer. He was 63.

Klingel's 40-year career spanned publishing, promoting downtown Minneapolis, championing a regional economic-development posture and connecting Minneapolis kids with business internships.

"Todd was a great civic leader in our community, dealing with complex — sometimes contentious issues — with intelligence, grace, humor and respect," Laura McCarten, the chamber board chair said in a statement.

Klingel took over the chamber in 2003. Associates credited him with working closely with other business groups and governments on collaborative economic development, which led to establishment of Greater MSP as a regional economic development agency. Klingel also advocated for more state investment in transportation systems, including the Southwest light-rail line, as well as public funding of professional sports stadiums.

Klingel was most proud of his work to help establish the Step-Up internship program that was founded by then-Mayor R.T. Rybak and U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis in partnership with the Minneapolis Public Schools. Since the workforce-development program's inception, 22,000 students have participated in internships with area businesses and nonprofits.

"Todd was a gifted and generous leader, and a passionate advocate for so many important initiatives in our community," Davis said. "Todd recognized the importance of a student internship and the benefit it provides young people wanting to create a better future. We will miss him greatly."

Before joining the chamber, Klingel was executive vice president at the Downtown Council. He was instrumental in the creation of the former Holidazzle, the Nicollet Mall holiday parades that ran 21 years. He also championed initiatives to inspire downtown patronage after hours.

Stew Widdess, a former executive of what is now Target Corp., called Klingel: "a showman" who "livened up the atmosphere for all of us who worked downtown and made this great city fun."

A native of St. Paul, Klingel was a 1975 graduate of the University of Minnesota. An advertising man, he helped launch a publishing company after college that included the former Twin Cities Reader and what is now the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, in addition to other publications.

Klingel is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.