David McMillan: Newest Member of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents
David McMillan, a 1983 graduate with a degree in economics, is new to the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. He was sworn in, along with two other new regents and one incumbent, on March 10, 2011.
McMillan, from Duluth, is a senior vice president of the energy company ALLETE. “As a regent, my practical experience intersects with my knowledge of the business world, the university system, research, law, and academics," McMillan said.
After graduating from UMD, McMillan earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1987. He joined Minnesota Power in 1989 as a company attorney and was named senior attorney in 1995. In 1998, he was named vice president-customer solutions and in 2000 became vice-president-strategic accounts/marketing.
In his first assignment representing the Board of Regents, McMillan attended the inauguration of UMD Chancellor Lendley “Lynn” Black. “I was reminded of crossing a stage in the same Romano Gym in 1983 getting my undergraduate degree,” he said. “Now, I am taking on a new role and the experience is unlike anything else I've done. It's a fulfilling outcome, and it's humbling too. As I sat on the stage with Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon and Mayor Don Ness, I thought about how richly blessed I have been with opportunities.”
UMD played a strong role in McMillan’s career. Some of his professors encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. That’s when Economics Professor Rick Lichty offered him a position in Duluth, conducting applied research at the UMD Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). “I became a research fellow working on the potential economic impact of new and expanded regional industries for NRRI, the Natural Resources Research Institute,” said McMillan. “That was before NRRI had staff or a building.”
McMillan credits Lichty with preparing him for important opportunities. “Professor Lichty showed me how powerful it was when the world of academics, research and business worked together,” said McMillan. “I give him great credit for the path my life has taken. We created simulations of the economy of Northeastern Minnesota and the impact of outside sources. We modeled how the economy would change if a wafer board manufacturing plant or a taconite plant were added. We looked at what would happen if we added a health care facility or if the forest products industry increased.”
Presenting papers along with UMD faculty and working with UMD’s Glenn Gronseth on the Duluth Business Index and economic forecasting all had an impact on McMillan.
CONNECTED TO THE U
“I came to Duluth because I wanted to be independent and yet not too far from my family and Duluth had a lot to offer.” McMillan said. His family vacationed on the North Shore of Lake Superior when he was growing up. “Duluth held all those good memories. I like to hunt and fish and I could do that while I was in college. I had the best view of Lake Superior from my dorm room in Griggs Hall.”
Now McMillan’s daughter, Mary, is studying international business and marketing in Bordeaux, France, through the U of M Carlson School. His son, Drew, is senior at Duluth’s East High School and plans to attend the U of M College of Science and Engineering.
“My grandfather graduated in 1931 with a degree in civil engineering, and my grandmother graduated in 1929 with a botany degree,” said McMillan. “My dad graduated in 1961 in mechanical engineering. I graduated from UMD in 1983 and from the law school in 1987. My wife, Cari, graduated from UMD in 1984, Mary will graduate in 2012, and Drew in 2015.”
McMillan acknowledges that his career path could have gone in several directions. “I’m in Duluth, in part, because of my wife, Cari. She worked in the Bureau of Business and Economic Research while we were in school together at UMD,” said McMillan. Cari also worked at Minnesota Power during the summer of 1983. She finished her last year of college while McMillan worked for the BBER and NRRI. “In May 1984 Cari graduated, in July we were married, and in August I started law school.”
After receiving his law degree in 1987, McMillan became a corporate lawyer for Union Pacific Railroad, based in Omaha, but after only two years, an opportunity at Minnesota Power lured him back to Duluth.
BACK TO DULUTH
“ALLETE has been a great company to work for,” said McMilllan. “They have a tremendous civic commitment. They encouraged me in my role as chair of the NRRI Advisory Board, Goodwill, St. Luke’s, the DECC, and other local and statewide entities. McMillan said ALLETE has a great sense of what it needs to do to help the community thrive. They also support APEX, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, an organization working to expand economic growth and business development.
“ALLETE is now the second largest investor-owned power company in the state,” said McMillan. ““Over half of the power we generate goes to the taconite and the paper industries in our region. The research and academic support of UMD, NRRI, and the U of M help the industries in our region stay competitive in global markets while utilizing resources in a responsible and efficient manner. If taconite hadn’t been developed long ago with help from the U of M, we would be a very different company today.”
McMillan is especially pleased with the partnerships ALLETE has with UMD and the community. “There’s a rich and deep history between UMD and ALLETE,” he said. “I'm a big supporter of the UMD Financial Markets Lab, for example. There is nothing we like better at ALLETE than to hire an employee who has a practical appreciation for some of the issues facing companies that raise capital in today’s evolving financial markets.”
A background in economics is an asset to McMillan. “The Board of Regents are taking on some hard challenges with future funding of the university,” said McMillan. “I am passionate about public service, and I think I’ll be able to make a difference as a University of Minnesota Regent.”
Written by Cheryl Reitan