Women 360: Infused with service, Julia Nelmark highlights a life of service


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With deep Midwestern roots and an education steeped in goodwill towards others, Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation President Julia Nelmark has built her life on a foundation of service.

The fifth of seven children in his family, Nelmark learned the importance of helping others from his mother, a nurse, and his father, an accountant. Her parents were role models in terms of always stepping in to help others and doing whatever needed to be done.

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Nelmark continues to live these values ​​in her adult life today, through her work at the nonprofit MMCDC, volunteering for her children’s sports activities, supporting various events and fundraising. at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, and serving on the Church Finance Board as well as the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors.

Nelmark manages to balance a full-blown position, family life and volunteering with an ease that seems to come naturally to him.

Her education in Springfield, Ill. Took her to college in the large city of Chicago, where she received her accounting degree, following in her father’s footsteps. There, she met her husband of 31 years now, Tad Nelmark, who became an insurer as she began to climb the corporate ladder in finance.


The Nelmark family (left to right): Julia, Tad, Sam, Matt and Claire.  (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

The Nelmark family (left to right): Julia, Tad, Sam, Matt and Claire. (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

“I worked 60 to 70 hours a week,” she recalls. “We both commuted more than two hours a day in city traffic and I was pregnant with my third child. We realized that this was not the life we ​​wanted and that the city was not the place where we wanted to raise our children.

Her husband had started dividing his time between working in a company and returning to the Wolf Lake area with his twin brother to work on their parents’ farm, and it was these family ties to northern Minnesota that ultimately brought the couple in Detroit Lakes. He became a full-time dairy farmer (until 2020 when he returned to underwriting insurance), and she joined TEAM Industries, while their children attended Holy Rosary and then Detroit Lakes High School.

She took a job at MMCDC in 2003, where she says she found the spark she lacked. She became president of the organization in August 2018.

“There was something missing in my old life in Chicago and in my work in for-profit companies,” says Nelmark. “Detroit Lakes is a great community and MMCDC has given me the purpose and satisfaction that I was looking for. I like what I do!”


Nelmark on a bridge over a waterfall while on vacation.  The Nelmark family has a tradition of rafting together.  (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

Nelmark on a bridge over a waterfall while on vacation. The Nelmark family has a tradition of rafting together. (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

The MMCDC, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is responsible for much of the redevelopment of downtown Detroit Lakes, including the building where the organization itself houses its administrative offices, the century-old Graystone Hotel. Its lending operations occupy the Blanding building at the opposite corner of the block, and the entire block is owned and operated by MMCDC.

Through funding and organizational efforts, she has supported the renovation and development of many buildings in Detroit Lakes and beyond, reaching the White Earth Reservation and communities in Minnesota.

Nelmark is particularly interested in her work on the White Earth Reservation, as she believes that relationships, understanding, and support to the Native American community are essential. MMCDC’s Indigenous affiliate, White Earth Investment Initiative, works to serve the reservation and Native Americans across the state, including many White Earth members living in the Twin Cities.

Along with the White Earth Investment Initiative, efforts that support business growth, jobs, affordable housing, homebuyer education, and free tax services are at the heart of MMCDC’s efforts.

Nelmark herself has done substantial work on financing the New Markets Tax Credit, locally and regionally, and has been instrumental in helping several businesses and non-profit organizations in the Lake District of Detroit to secure this necessary funding. The New Markets Tax Credit program attracts private investment to low-income communities through tax credits, spurring community development and economic growth.

“Funding in new markets helps businesses start, grow and prosper,” says Nelmark.

Jamie Marks Erickson, Head of Development at MMCDC, describes Nelmark as “exceptional”.

“With experience ranging from corporate America to rural America, she is highly qualified to lead MMCDC,” said Erickson. “Despite her incredible CV, she’s got her feet on the ground, not to mention the enthusiasm with a capital E!”

As great as her career is and with all she’s accomplished, Nelmark remains incredibly humble.

“The most rewarding thing in my life has been watching our children grow into caring, caring adults,” she says. “When I hear their views and see them helping others, I think, ‘We made it! “”


Nelmark with his daughter Claire, who is preparing her doctorate in chemistry.  (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

Nelmark with his daughter Claire, who is preparing her doctorate in chemistry. (Contributed / Julia Nelmark / Women 360)

Their daughter, Claire, 25, is studying for her doctorate in philosophy in chemistry, while Sam, 22, is a student at the University of North Dakota in managerial finance and accounting. Matt, the youngest, is 20 years old and studies computer engineering at North Dakota State University.

The Nelmark family take summer rafting trips together (with some whitewater) and have visited several places across the country. Glacier National Park is a favorite, as are trips to Duluth, Wisconsin and Michigan, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.

Puzzles are also a favorite pastime for Julia, and she laughs as she compares her hobby to her job.

“Structured finance and community development is like putting a puzzle together,” she says. “We have to figure out how to put the pieces together and adapt them to help communities. “

“I like helping people and the community,” she adds. “When something needs to be done I’m going to be there, jumping in to do whatever it takes to make things happen.”


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