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 Megan Diaz, Katie Lofrano or Ashlee Mueller for all their event-planning needs. Our venue and meeting planning services are always complimentary. Get to know the business development team below!
Director of Business Development, 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. 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 Professionals 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. Contact Megan at email@example.com
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
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 Sports Planners who are looking for sporting facilities conveniently located near family-friendly hotels, restaurants and attractions for thier next tournament or sporting event. Katie also works to bring new live events, such as film festivals and concerts to the area. Katie is resourceful at matching the right tournament or live event with the right venue. And as with all of our CVB services, Katie's assistance is complimentary. She is an extension of a planner's team!
Like her team member 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 tournament or live event – lodging, transportation, food and beverage, entertainment options and more.
Katie is a member of the Minnesota Sports coalition and serves on the board for the Minnesota Festivals and Events Association (MNFEA). She also serves on the Education Committee for Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and is a member of Associations North.
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.” Contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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!)
Business Development Manager, Ashlee Mueller, joined Minneapolis Northwest Tourism in May 2019 and brings extensive experience in the hospitality industry, along with a passion for the Minneapolis Northwest. Prior to joining the team, she was a sales manager at Great Wolf Lodge, Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, Westin Edina Galleria and Radisson Bloomington Hotel by Mall of America. Her past work experience also includes being a lead event coordinator at one of Minneapolis Northwest’s most unique venues for team-building events, WhirlyBall!
“Hospitality is the perfect fit for me,” she says. “I love helping people and being social.”
If you are looking for an expert on all things Minneapolis Northwest, Ashlee is your go-to gal! She grew up in Maple Grove, served as a Maple Grove Ambassador and worked at the Maple Grove Community Center. Combining her passion and knowledge for the area with her strong business development background in a variety of settings, Ashlee has found her true calling in Minneapolis Northwest.
“I get to promote the area I love and share that with other people,” she says. “I grew up here, so it’s about being passionate about your own backyard and showing everyone how cool it is.”
Ashlee works with the SMERF market, helping meeting planners plan social, military, educational, religious and fraternal events, along with government events. She also enjoys volunteering for two of her favorite causes: veterans and dogs. She volunteered at the Minneapolis VA Hospital as a “coffee girl” chatting with the veterans and has fostered several dogs through local animal rescues. She is also a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Associations North, the Christian Meetings and Conventions Association (CMCA) and Society of Government Meeting Planners (SGMP).
Ashlee currently lives in Osseo with her husband, son and two dogs, Louie and Freddy. Contact Ashlee at email@example.com.
Fast Five with Ashlee
Favorite adult beverage – Margarita on the Rocks
Must-watch TV show – Handmaid's Tale
Favorite ice cream – Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Favorite Quote – "What you think about, you bring about." - Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
Favorite Music – 80's and everything by Queen