Former Minneapolis Chamber CEO Todd Klingel Dies At 63
Todd Klingel, who spent 13 years as CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC), has passed away after a battle with colon cancer. He was 63.
Klingel left the MRCC in June of this year to focus on his health and spend time with family.
In a statement, MRCC board chair Laura McCarten said, “Todd was a great civic leader in our community, dealing with complex — and sometimes contentious issues — with intelligence, grace, humor and respect. He has left a lasting legacy on the Chamber, Minneapolis and the region.”
During his tenure at the MRCC, Klingel played an instrumental role in many of the region’s major economic developments. He voiced support for the building of Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium, as well as the recent round of renovations at Target Center.
Greater MSP, a St. Paul-based economic development partnership, was created in part due to Klingel’s regionalism mentality, which involved working closely with other chambers and civic organizations around the metro.
He also advocated for the state to invest more in transportation, including support for the Southwest light-rail.
The effort that Klingel said he was most proud of, though, dates back to 2004 when he, U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis and then-Mayor R.T. Rybak partnered with the Minneapolis Public Schools and Achieve Minneapolis to create the STEP-UP internship program. To date, roughly 22,000 students have participated in the program. Additionally, he helped establish Career and College Centers at every public high school in Minneapolis.
“Todd was a gifted and generous leader, and a passionate advocate for so many important initiatives in our community,” Davis said in a statement. “I had the opportunity to work with him on several projects, and the STEP-UP program was near to his heart. 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.”
Klingel, a St. Paul native, began his 40-year career in the Twin Cities publishing scene. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1975, he joined MCP Inc. and played a part in the launching of several publications, including the Twin Cities Reader and CityBusiness.
In the years following, he went on to create a parenting publication called Raising Minnesota; a monthly events and things-to-do calendar called Twin Cities Directory; and local football tabloid, the Viking Update.
Later, he would become the owner and operator of downtown weekly newspaper Skyway News.
Klingel’s experience in publishing eventually led to the Minneapolis Downtown Council where he became executive vice president in 1991. During his tenure there, Klingel helped create the Holidazzle Parade that ran from 1992 to 2013. He also helped bring the Minneapolis Aquatennial Festival under the Council’s programming, as well as a number of other efforts.
“Todd was the engine that drove so much of the great excitement that the Downtown Council generated when I worked with him in the 1990s,” said Stew Widdess, a former Dayton Hudson marketing executive, in prepared remarks. “From the ‘Party under Glass’ for the 1992 Super Bowl to the Aquatennial to the Holidazzle Parade, Todd was every bit a showman. He livened up the atmosphere for all of us who worked downtown and made this great city fun.”
Klingel is survived by his wife Debb; children Sarah, Lindsay and Jeff; and grandchildren Lucca and Leo.
The MRCC said in a release that Klingel’s funeral arrangements are still pending.