Catching Up with Minneapolis Northwest’s Business Development Team
Meeting and group planners looking to host a fun and memorable event in the Minneapolis Northwest area can turn to Josh Anderson, Megan Diaz and Katie Lofrano for all their event-planning needs. Get to know the business development team below!
Business Development Manager Katie Lofrano joined Minneapolis Northwest Tourism in December 2018 and brings an impressive breadth of industry knowledge with her. Prior to joining the team, Katie excelled in business development with another local CVB, and over the course of five years, she learned the ins and outs of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. She wore many hats, from front office work to accounting, and grew to be one of the top sales managers.
Katie was ready to transition to a larger organization like Minneapolis Northwest Tourism and is excited to work for a DMO with a wide variety of properties and possibilities. “I really like the array of venues in Minneapolis Northwest,” she says. “Everything in each city we represent is different; there is something for everyone.”
Katie works with smaller associations, corporate groups, religious groups, and social groups such as weddings, family reunions and military groups. Like her team members Josh Anderson and Megan Diaz, Katie cannot recommend Minneapolis Northwest's Event Assistance Fund enough. What makes the fund unique is the flexibility to put dollars toward any part of a meeting or event – lodging, transportation, food and beverage, entertainment options and more.
Katie is a member of Meeting Planners International, Associations North, Christian Meetings and Conventions Association, and Minnesota Festivals and Events Association. She enjoys her work and even feels like a match-maker at times. “In this position, you’re a helping hand, a match-maker, a connector piece,” she says. “I’m passionate about what I’m doing and my passion shines through when talking with planners about our cities.”
Fast Five with Katie
Favorite movie – How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
Favorite adult beverage – Mojito
Bucket list item – Visit Greece
Must-watch TV show – Friends
Cats or dogs – Dogs (she has two!)
Josh Anderson, Director of Business Development, joined Minneapolis Northwest Tourism in December 2014 and oversees the sports, government, religious and education markets. He focuses on bringing sports tournaments, meetings and special events to the northwest suburbs while helping schedule, plan and execute events for Minneapolis Northwest, such as our annual Partner Games, Lunch and Mores, and Mix and Mingles. Josh appreciates that no two work days are the same. “Every day is a little different, and that is why I love this job,” Josh says. “It is always my goal to get national events, state events, and possibly something international, as well.”
Some days Josh spends time in his office making calls, responding to inquiries and setting up meetings. Other days he’s visiting with clients and helping to meet their needs. There are times when Josh attends tournaments to get an up close look at the event he helped facilitate. “I enjoy seeing the events we help work on or bring in become annual events and have an impact on our communities,” he says, and he was especially proud of having the 2017 US Handball National Championships in Minneapolis Northwest. “It was really exciting because it was a national event and brought the best handball players in the nation to our area.”
No matter what he’s doing on a given day, Josh loves building relationships with current partners and potential clients, and enjoys acting as the liaison between clients and facilities and/or hotels in Minneapolis Northwest. He uses his industry expertise and connections to find venues that fit exactly what planners are looking for, being mindful of venue availability, timing, and the size and type of venue. And if planners have any financial difficulties, Josh is quick to mention our Event Assistance Fund. “Our grant program is a great opportunity for planners,” he says. “They can use it to help new events get off the ground or help established events grow. And any way we can help and think outside the box to make an event successful is always something we want to do.”
Josh grew up in Maple Grove and studied at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato where he graduated with a major in English and a minor in business. He worked as the Sports Information Director in Bethany’s athletic department for two years and then spent several years working for Visit Mankato before joining Minneapolis Northwest. Josh is a part of MN Sports – a coalition of sports sales people from CVBs and sports commissioners throughout the state. He is also on committees for the 2018 National Association of Sports Commissions Symposium.
Fast Five with Josh
Favorite sports team to follow – Minnesota Twins / Minnesota Vikings
Favorite sport to play – Golf / Baseball
Bucket list item – Skydiving
Coffee or beer – Beer
Must-watch TV Show – Game of Thrones / anything Marvel comics
Senior Business Development Manager Megan Diaz joined Minneapolis Northwest Tourism in May 2018 and works to connect corporate groups and associations with the appropriate venue and resources for their meeting and event needs. She is supported by an extensive background in hospitality, stemming from her early days as a Sales Coordinator for the Galleria Marchetti in Chicago, a gorgeous event center in the heart of the Windy City. It was there that Megan fell in love with the process of building and maintaining relationships with clients.
A natural helper, Megan excels at meeting peoples’ needs. She attends conferences throughout the year where she meets dozens of planners during a brief period of time. Although appointments are short, they are a fantastic way to connect. And her daily work focuses on building solid partnerships with area venues, hotels and restaurants. This gives her valuable insight into business developments in the area, which she can then pass on to event planners.
Throughout the years, Minneapolis Northwest Tourism has hosted successful events geared toward helping event planners understand all that the area offers. In addition to education conferences, Minneapolis Northwest Tourism hosts an annual Taste of MNW Tour, a familiarization tour that introduces new and seasoned event planners to unique venues around the area, as well as the capabilities of Minneapolis Northwest Tourism. Looking for a little extra help? Megan can provide welcome bags and arrange site visits in advance. Like Josh, she also recommends utilizing our Event Assistance Fund, which aids planner in bridging the gap when it comes to hosting an event in our area.
Megan’s extensive hospitality experience includes working for Country Inn & Suites in Brooklyn Center, the Courtyard Marriott in Maple Grove (which she helped open), and the downtown Hilton Minneapolis, the largest hotel in the Midwest outside of Chicago. The best tour she gave was to NFL officials when they were considering Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII! She then worked as the Director of Sales at Hilton Garden Inn Maple Grove before joining Minneapolis Northwest Tourism.
“My hotel experience has been a tremendous help when talking with potential clients,” she says. “I know what types of questions to ask planners and what details to look for.” She is also an expert on the Minneapolis Northwest area and has known CEO Dave Looby for many years. She even served on the Minneapolis Northwest Tourism Board of Directors before officially joining the staff. When asked what she likes most about the Minneapolis Northwest area, Megan says, “What’s not to love? We have unique venues, great shopping, great restaurants, and everything is easy to get to while still feeling close to the city.”
Megan currently serves on the Education Committee for Meeting Planners International (MPI) and is a member of Associations North. She grew up in Little Falls and New Brighton and was the youngest of 11 children. She has been married since 2001 and lives with her husband and three kids in Becker, Minnesota.
Fast Five with Megan
Favorite movie – Lord of the Rings
Favorite adult beverage – Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
Bucket list item – Visit the UK
Favorite sport – Swimming
Must-watch TV show – Outlander