In 2011, following a 21-year Navy career, Chip Laingen was working for Minnesota Wire, a custom medical and defense electrical company, when he proposed a federally funded business alliance to accelerate commercialization of technology products and services and contribute to regional economic development by supporting small businesses in the Upper Midwest. With support and funding by Minnesota Wire CEO Paul Wagner, Laingen launched St. Paul-based Defense Alliance. Since then, he’s worked to ensure the nonprofit program remains funded and accomplishes its mission. To date, the organization has received hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts awarded to small businesses and helped create numerous jobs. Laingen also serves as leading adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota’s Technological Leadership Institute.