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And loving every minute as Taylor Corp. CEO Also in this Issue: • Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa • Eldon Jones, Crysteel founder • Hilltop Florists & Greenhouse

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December 2012 • Volume 5, Issue 4

22

Taylor Corp.

40

Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa

Jo Anne and Chuck Kodet purchased an upper North Mankato building as an investment property and as a place where Jo Anne could open a salon and spa, renting space to other stylists. Today Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa has 17 stylists.

Eldon Jones

Eldon Jones, 87, with his wife, Helen, started out in farming, but Eldon’s engineering and tinkering prowess soon led to the invention of better farm equipment and eventually truck hoists that were the foundation for Cysteel.

Since resuming his role at the helm of Taylor Corp. two years ago, Glen Taylor has revitalized his far flung privately held corporation — and he’s enjoying every minute of being back in the game.

36

42

Hilltop Florists & Greenhouse

Noel Van Tol grew up in Hilltop Florist and Greenhouse, a family-owned business since 1880 on Mankato’s hilltop. Today Noel, her husband Gene Biewen and her ex-husband Larry Van Tol and his wife Kathy operate the business.

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 3

Features

F E A T U R E S

D E P A R T M E N T S ■

From the Editor................................. 6

20

Joe Spear: 2012 looking positive

■ Business Commentary.................... Calie Afdahl-Doble: Good child care improves economy

Business informer............................. 8

Job trends.......................................10

Greater Mankato Growth................28 Celebrating business in Greater Mankato

Vehicle, retail, construction trends in the area ■

Regional, state unemployment information

Departments

Construction, real estate trends.....11

Celebrating business in Greater Mankato

Building permits, housing starts, home prices, interest rates

■ Greater Mankato Growth Bring it Home and Hospitality awards

Retail trends....................................12

Auto sales, retail sales and hotel business ■

Agriculture Outlook.........................14 Agribusiness trends........................15 Area commodity prices

Regional Outlook.............................34

Business memos/ Company news................................44 Brunton Architects adds architect, Gislason opens ■

Hutchinson office, Schmidt Siding & Window honored, and more

Business updates............................16

Bremer income up, ADM plans for drier future, Best Buy posts big losses for the quarter, and more

On the Cover: Glen Taylor, founder of Taylor Corp., returned as CEO two years ago. Photo by John Cross

4 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

CVB .......33

Jack M. Geller: The power of collaboration

Kent Thiesse: Farming and the fiscal cliff ■

Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities . ........................30

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december 2012 • VOLUME 5, ISSUE 4 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EXECUTIVE Joe Spear EDITOR ASSOCIATE Tim Krohn EDITOR CONTRIBUTING Jack M. Geller WRITERS Tim Krohn Pete Steiner Calie Afdahl-Doble Kent Thiesse Marie Wood

PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman John Cross COVER PHOTO John Cross GRAPHIC Jenny Malmanger DESIGNER PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING David Habrat MANAGER ADVERTISING Karla Marshall sales ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey

From the Editor

CIRCULATION Denise Zernechel DIRECTOR

For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail kmarshall@mankatofreepress.com. MN Valley Business is published 12 times a year at 418 South 2nd Street Mankato, MN 56001.

2012 economic benchmarks showed positives

O

ur January 2012 issue of Minnesota Valley Business carried a cover story with the headline: “2011 closes strong for the local economy,” and “There is optimism about the year ahead” Those prognosticators of optimism were reasonably accurate from a preliminary look at the data that is not yet complete for the year. In 2011, virtually every measure of business had been good. From job numbers to retail sales, to commercial development, the region finished stronger in 2011 than 2010. The River Hills Mall management reported sales increases in almost every category, a phenomenon General Manager Paul Wilkie had called “impressive.” The housing sector was one weak area, with sales of existing homes up less than 3 percent in 2011. That area appears to have come back somewhat this year. In late 2011, Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges estimated the city might see 100 single family homes built in 2012. North Mankato officials were suggesting maybe 20-30. So the expectation was in the 130 range for both cities. While the figures are not complete, an approximation of the measure, all housing starts, showed a 20 percent increase combined for Mankato and North Mankato through September. Sales of existing homes increased about 4 percent through October this year compared to last, while gains were less than 3 percent in 2011. The area housing indicators that seemed a bit weak in 2011 performed better in 2012. Most categories in 2012 showed gains although the lag of data leaves about the last quarter open. Last year, our sources looked forward to a new mall store opening in the Pier One building and a new Marriott Courtyard hotel coming on line. Both happened. Hentges was hopeful that 2012 might be the year that Wal-Mart decided to break ground on its 500-job distribution center. That did not happen, but nine executives from Wal-Mart met with the city in September and officials see encouraging signs.

6 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

By Joe Spear Hentges said he couldn’t disclose details of the meetings, but the last time Wal-Mart issued information on the project was in 2010 when they said the project was “in the near term of their 5-year plan.” Assuming near term means the first half of their five year plan, they could break ground in mid-2013, all other things being the same, which of course, in business, is usually never true. Circumstances, the market and everything else can change. Still, the national economy continues to build strength, and Wal-Mart has opened four new stores in Minnesota in Burnsville, Lakeville, St. Cloud and Redwood Falls. The Highway 14 four-lane project from Mankato to Interstate 35 in Owatonna has been completed. It seems all the pieces might be in place for one of Mankato’s biggest job development deals. If that happens, you can bet all business and economic indicators in Mankato will be off the charts in 2013. MV Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com

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Agriculture

Crop prices down a bit Local cash corn prices in November slipped to the lowest level in five months to a still strong $7.15 per bushel. That’s more than a dollar higher than a year earlier. Soybeans also are at the lowest point in five months to $13.46 per bushel, but still $2 higher than a year earlier.

Natural gas inventories at record Working natural gas inventories are at a record high level. As of Oct. 26, working inventories totaled 3,908 billion cubic feet, which is 56 Bcf greater than the previous record high on Nov. 18, 2011. EIA expects the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $4.00 per million British thermal units in 2011, to average $2.77 in 2012 and $3.49 in 2013.

Less coal used

Hog prices fall High feed prices fell to the lowest point in nearly two years as the industry has been hit with a glut of hogs sold due to high feed costs. A 185 pound carcass was selling for $74.68 in November, that’s down from $83.32 the month before and $81.08 a year earlier.

■■■

Energy

Sandy damages oil infrastructure Hurricane Sandy resulted in the loss of electric power to about 8.5 million customers on the East Coast and the shutdown of two refineries, major petroleum distribution terminals, and pipelines because of power outages and flooding. The federal Energy Information Administration projects that the West Texas Intermediate crude oil price will average $89 per barrel in the fourth quarter of 2012, about $4 per barrel lower than in last month’s prediction, while the Brent crude oil price is expected to average about $1 per barrel less than in last month’s forecast at about $110 per barrel over the same period

Gasoline falls 30 cents U.S. regular gasoline retail prices began October at $3.80 per gallon and fell to $3.49 per gallon on Nov. 5. Projected regular gasoline retail prices should average $3.56 per gallon during the fourth quarter of 2012. Hurricane Sandy, however, has contributed to higher wholesale gasoline prices on the East Coast, and the recovery schedule for affected refineries, pipelines, and distribution terminals contributes to uncertainty over the near-term price outlook. EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices, which averaged $3.53 per gallon in 2011, to average $3.64 per gallon in 2012 and $3.44 per gallon in 2013.

U.S. crude production up U.S. total crude oil production should average 6.3 million barrels per day in 2012, an increase of 0.7 million bbl/d from last year. Projected U.S. domestic crude oil production increases to 6.8 million bbl/d in 2013, the highest level of production since 1993.

8 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

U.S. coal consumption in the electric power sector will be below 1 billion short tons for a fourth consecutive year in 2012. EIA forecasts coal consumption in the electric power sector to total 825 million short tons in 2012. Lower natural gas prices to electric generators have led to a significant increase in the share of natural gas-fired generation. Power sector coal consumption should to grow by 6 percent in 2013 as higher natural gas prices lead to a reduction in natural gas-fired generation. Coal production will decline by 7 percent in 2012 as domestic consumption falls. Coal production for the first three quarters (January-September) of 2012 was 46 million short tons below the same period in 2011. Production should remain flat in 2013 as inventory draws and lower exports offset an increase in domestic consumption in the forecast.

Electricity use down Residential sales of electricity in the United States are projected to fall by 3.5 percent in 2012. The decline in residential sales this year reflects the mild winter temperatures in the first quarter of this year, particularly in the south where many households heat using electricity. Residential electricity sales decline by 0.5 percent in 2013 as lower electricity demand for space cooling during the summer offsets the increase in first quarter consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hurricane Sandy Situation Report, at least 8.5 million customers were without power at some point as a result of Hurricane Sandy, compared with a peak number of 6.7 million customers during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

Renewable energy use down After growing by 14 percent in 2011, total renewable energy consumption is projected to decline by 2.6 percent in 2012. This decrease is the result of hydropower use falling by 13.8 percent as it begins to return to its long-term average. The decline in hydropower from 2011 to 2012 more than offsets the projected growth in the consumption of other renewable energy forms. Renewable energy consumption increases 2.5 percent in 2013 as hydropower continues to decline (2.4 percent) but nonhydropower renewables grow by an average of 5 percent. Solar energy continues robust growth, although the total amount remains relatively small. Consumption is projected to grow by about 30 percent in both 2012 and 2013.

Ethanol production down As a result of drought conditions depressing corn harvests throughout the Midwest, fuel ethanol production fell from an average of 890 thousand bbl/d during the second quarter of 2012 to an average of about 806 thousand bbl/d in October 2012. EIA expects ethanol production will remain near current levels through the first half of 2013 and recover in the second half of 2013, averaging over 850 thousand bbl/d (13.0 billion gallons) for the year. The projected lower ethanol production is generally matched by higher ethanol imports and lower ethanol exports.

CO2 fall further After declining by 2.1 percent in 2011, fossil fuel emissions are projected to further decline by 2.9 percent in 2012. This decline is followed by an increase of 2.2 percent in 2013. Petroleum emissions fall by 1.5 percent in 2012 and grow by 0.2 percent in 2013.

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Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims

Minnesota initial unemployment claims

Business Barometers

Nine-county Mankato region

Major industry

’11

October ’12

Percent change ’11-’12

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

156 254 57 159 626

226 269 70 202 767

+44.9% +5.9% +22.8% +6.7% +23%

2011

2012

130,000

110,000

1,000

A

M

3,849 2,656 1,689 6,622 14,816

4,793 3,068 1,669 6,273 15,803

+24.5% +15.5% -1.2% -5.3% +6.7%

2011

2012

J

J

A

Local number of unemployed

S

O

N

2011

D

2012

Nine-county Mankato region

6,460 6,521

10,000

2,809.5 2,824.0

3,000 2,000

M

Percent change ’11-’12

Minnesota non-farm jobs

120,000

F

’12

(in thousands)

128,687 127,831

J

’11

Services consist of administration, educational, health care and social assistance, food and other miscellaneous services. *Categories don't equal total because some categories not listed.

Nine-county Mankato region

100,000

October

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

Services consist of administration, educational, health care and social assistance, food and other miscellaneous services. *Categories don't equal total because some categories not listed.

Local non-farm jobs

Major industry

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Minnesota number of unemployed 2011

2012

158,823 155,188

225,000

8,000 200,000

6,000 4,000

175,000

2,000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

October

2011

Unemployment rate

4.4%

4.4%

56,694

56,903

2,618

2,627

2012

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

10 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

J

F

M

County/area

(includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties)

Number of unemployed

150,000

A

Unemployment rates

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

Number of non-farm jobs

D

Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota U.S.

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Counties, state, nation Oct. 2011 Oct. 2012 4.4% 4.2% 5.4% 6.2% 5.3% 4.4% 4.9% 5.1% 5.8% 5.4% 5.4% 8.5%

4.5% 4.5% 5.3% 5.8% 5.2% 4.2% 4.6% 5.2% 6.2% 5.2% 5.2% 7.5% J. Malmanger

Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato 2011

2012

Residential building permits North Mankato (in thousands)

2011

$3,000

$1,636.3 $2,239.4

2012

$8,000 $2,000

$6,000 $4,000

$1,000

$2,000 $0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of North Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region 2011

2012

250

Information based on Multiple Listing Service and may not reflect all sales

159 144

200

Housing starts: Mankato/North Mankato 2011

Includes single family homes attached and detached, and townhomes and condos

2012

40

34 7

30

150

20

100

10

50 0

$0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Commercial building permits Mankato $9,000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota

2011

0

2012

(in thousands) $8,921.3 $1,865.2

Commercial building permits North Mankato (in thousands) $12,000

2011

$268.9 $321.4

2012

$9,000

$6,000

$6,000 $3,000 $0

$3,000 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

2011

County

2012 4.1%

5.0% 4.5% 4.0%

3.4%

3.5% J

F

M

Source: Freddie Mac

F

Foreclosures:

Interest rates: 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

3.0%

J

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of North Mankato

Source: City of Mankato

5.5%

$0

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan

2012 second quarter 2011 2012 48 10 8 32 13 17 14 10 4

41 13 10 26 13 14 19 16 3

Percent change -14.6% +30% +25% -18.8% 0% -17.6% +35.7% +60% -25%

Source: Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council J. Malmanger

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 11

Business Barometers

$10,000

(in thousands) $5,247 $2,922.2

Retail/Consumer Spending Vehicle sales 2011

Business Barometers

Sales tax collections

Mankato — Number of vehicles sold 897 2012 820

1,200

$500

1,000

$300

600 400

$200

200

$100

0

$342.1 $391.4

$400

800

Includes restaurants, bars, telecommunications and general merchandise store sales. Excludes most clothing, grocery store sales.

Mankato 2011 2012

(In thousands)

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

$0

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Lodging tax collections 2011

$50,000

2012

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Mankato food and beverage tax

Mankato/North Mankato $42,736 $44,908

2011

$75,000

$47,973 $62,041

2012

$40,000 $50,000

$30,000 $20,000

$25,000

$10,000 $0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

Source: City of Mankato

D

$0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato J. Malmanger

Gas prices-Mankato 2012

2011

$4.00

$3.34

$3.00 $2.00

$3.21

$1.00 $0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

2012

2011

$3.29

$3.00 $2.00

$3.24 (2012)

$1.00 $0

J

F

M

Source: GasBuddy.com

A

M

Oct. 22

Nov. 19

Percent change

Archer Daniels

$27.21

$25.55

-6.1%

Ameriprise

$57.03

$59.74

+4.8%

Best Buy

$16.88

$13.75

-18.5%

Crown Cork & Seal

$37.25

$36.90

-1%

Fastenal

$44.12

$41.47

-6%

General Growth

$19.04

$18.95

-0.5%

General Mills

$39.35

$40.46

+2.8%

HickoryTech

$10.39

$9.39

-9.6%

$1.50

$1.60

+6.7%

Itron

$41.25

$40.80

-1.1%

Johnson Outdoors

$20.39

$21.45

+5.2%

3M

$88.95

$89.57

+0.7%

Target

$62.19

$63.01

+1.3%

U.S. Bancorp

$33.36

$32.08

-3.8%

Hutchinson Technology

Gas prices-Minnesota $4.00

Stocks of local interest

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J. Malmanger

12 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

Wells Financial

$18.65

$19.75

+5.9%

Winland

$0.46

$0.68

+47.8%

Xcel

$27.91

$26.14

-6.3% J. Malmanger

Agricultural Outlook

Lack of action by Congress would hit farmers hard

T

he 2012 election is over, and the ag policy discussions are now focusing on the “fiscal cliff ” and finalizing the next Farm Bill. If the fiscal cliff is not resolved by the end of the year, it would impact a large percentage of residents across southcentral Minnesota. The current Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30 and some programs will be discontinued without a new or extended Farm Bill.

The fiscal cliff The fiscal cliff is a name attached to the combination of spending cuts and tax increases at the federal level that are scheduled to take effect at the end of 2012 if Congress fails to reach an agreement to address the budget deficit. Automatic tax increases would add about $550 billion to the treasury, and spending reductions would reduce about $110 billion in spending in 2013. This would essentially cut the budget deficit in half from the current level in one year. However, most economists agree it would likely lead to a recession. The tax increases that would result from reaching the fiscal cliff would affect most taxpayers, including farm operations. Farmers also would be affected by the higher tax rates that would kick in under the alternative minimum tax. In addition, capital gains taxes are scheduled to have a substantial increase in 2013, if not adjusted. The capital gains tax rate would increase from the current rate of 15 percent to a 20 percent rate in 2013. Another issue that affects farm operators are changes in the depreciation deduction for capital purchases such as machinery, grain and livestock facilities, tile, etc. The depreciation limit for accelerated depreciation was $500,000 in 2011 before dropping back to $139,000 for 2012. The deduction will be reduced to $25,000 in 2013 without any adjustments by Congress. A major issue that could have a significant impact on farm families is the potential large increases in the estate taxes in 2013 and beyond. The current exemption from paying estate taxes for farm families is $5.1 million per individual, and the current estate tax rate is 35 percent. The estate tax

exemption will drop to $1 million per individual in 2013 with a 55 percent tax rate, without any adjustments by Congress. An estate with a land parcel of 125 acres, valued at $8,000 per acre, is worth $1 million, which would hit the new exemption threshold. This change could have a large economic impact on younger farm families that inherit the family farm operation in the future, as they could be required to pay substantial estate taxes to continue farming.

Prospects for the Farm Bill In April the Senate passed its version of the next Farm Bill, which was followed by the House Agriculture Committee passing a Farm Bill out of committee. However, the House failed to take up the bill on the floor. Now, the question is whether the House will take up the Farm Bill during the lame-duck session before the end of 2012. Once the House passes a Farm Bill, it would then need to go back to a Senate/House conference committee to work out differences and be signed by the president. The current Farm Bill expired, but some programs are maintained under a continuing resolution. Funding for food and nutrition programs, which make up over 75 percent of Farm Bill spending, are continued under current spending guidelines. Similarly, annual rental payments for existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts will continue to be made; however, no new CRP contracts may be added. Payments under the Milk Income Loss Contract program were discontinued when the Farm Bill expired, which is a major issue to dairy producers who are suffering large financial losses due to the 2012 drought. There are many other USDA programs for conservation, rural development, and export enhancement that will be discontinued without a new Farm Bill or an extension of the existing one. Both versions of the new Farm Bill called for some major changes in the safety net portions of the Farm Bill. Both versions would eliminate direct payments but would keep a government

14 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

By Kent Thiesse subsidized crop insurance program. Both versions of the Farm Bill call for reductions in total CRP acres, and some merging of existing conservation programs. There are some large differences in the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill in the food and nutrition programs, both in terms of funding levels and revisions in program administration. It will likely be difficult for Congress to complete a new Farm Bill by the end of December, especially given the amount of time that will be necessary to address tax and spending issues associated with the fiscal cliff. The more likely scenario is that the current Farm Bill will be extended into 2013, allowing existing food and nutrition programs, farm programs, and other programs to continue at current levels. Congress would then finalize a new Farm Bill in the 2013 session. MV Kent Thiesse is a farm management analyst and vice president, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal. He can be reached at (507) 381-7960 or kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com

Agriculture/Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota 2012

2011

$8.00

(dollars per bushel) $7.15

$6.09

$2.00 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA

$0

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

$20.00

$80.00

$18.00

$70.00

$74.68 M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

$21.36

$22.00

$90.00

F

Minimum prices, class I milk Dollars per hundredweight

2012

2011

$24.00

$81.08

$100.00

Source: USDA

J

Milk prices

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

2012

2011

J

$11.32

$4.00

Source: USDA

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices $110.00

$8.00

N

D

$20.68

$16.00 $14.00

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA. Based on federal milk orders.

Corn and soybean prices are for rail delivery points in Southern Minnesota. Milk prices are for Upper Midwest points.

J. Malmanger

Business Barometers

$12.00

$4.00

$60.00

2012

2011

$20.00

(dollars per bushel) $13.46

$16.00

$6.00

$0

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota

Updates: Business news, local relevance

■ ■

AgStar retires ’03 allocations

AgStar approved the retirement of its 2003 patronage allocations. With this retirement, AgStar distributed $22.8 million in earnings to more than 11,400 eligible stockholders. In 2012, AgStar distributed $40 million in patronage dividends. The patronage program was implemented in 1998 and targets a seven to 10 year retirement timeframe of non-qualified dividends. Yearly allocations are based on company earnings and the amount of products or services a stockholder purchases from AgStar during the year. AgStar has allocated $336 million in patronage dividends and retired more than $80 million to qualified stockholders.

Updates

Bremer income up

Bremer Financial Corp. reported net income of $21.4 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, an increase of $1.4 million or 7.2 percent from the $20 million earned for the same period last year. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, net income was $70.2 million compared to $57.0 million earned in the first nine months of 2011, an increase of 23.1 percent. The increase in 2012 earnings compared to 2011 was driven largely by a lower provision for loan losses. ■

Hutchinson Tech reports loss

Hutchinson Technology reported a net loss of $14.7 million, or $0.62 per share, on net sales of $63.6 million for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30. Excluding certain items, the company’s non-GAAP net loss for the quarter was $13.0 million or $0.54 per share. In the preceding quarter, the company reported a net loss of $13.9 million, or $0.59 per share, on net sales of $61.0 million. Excluding certain items, the non-GAAP net loss in the preceding quarter was $14.6 million, or $0.62 per share. ■

ADM considers drier future

At the height of this year’s drought, decision-makers at the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland kept an uneasy eye on the reservoir down the hill from their headquarters in Illinois. At one point, the water level fell to within 2 inches of the point where the company was in danger of being told for the first time ever that it couldn’t draw as much as it wanted. The company uses millions of gallons of water per day to turn corn and soybeans into everything from ethanol and cattle feed to cocoa and a sweetener used in soft drinks and many other foods. Rain eventually lifted Lake Decatur’s level again. But the close call left ADM convinced that, like many Midwestern companies and the towns where they operate, it could no longer take an unrestricted water supply for granted, especially if drought becomes a more regular occurrence due to climate change or competition ramps up among water users. With half of Minnesota still in deep drought, the DNR told

16 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

50 water users, including several major ones, to stop drawing from rivers and streams in October.

Best Buy reports loss

Best Buy announced a GAAP net loss from continuing operations of $13 million, or $0.04 per share, for the three months ended Nov. 3, compared to net earnings from continuing operations of $173 million, or $0.47 per diluted share for the prior-year period. ■

General Growth’s report mixed

General Growth Properties, hurt by special charges, reported a hefty third-quarter net loss — but underlying profitability at the big mall operator strengthened with the help of a portfolio streamlining. The Chicago-based real estate investment trust, which own River Hills Mall in Mankato, had a net loss in the latest quarter of $207.9 million, or 23 cents per diluted share, due in part to a $98 million asset-impairment charge as well as an accounting adjustment that reduced earnings by $123.4 million; in the yearago quarter, the REIT had a net income of $252.1 million. Investors tend to look past REITS’ bottom-line results in favor of a more commonly accepted measure of operating performance known as funds from operations, or FFO, which removes the skewing effect of depreciation. General Growth’s FFO rose 8.8 percent in the latest period to $231.1 million, or 23 cents per share, from $212.6 million, or 22 cents per share, in the year ago period. On that basis, GGP’s earnings matched Wall Street expectations. ■

HickoryTech net income down

HickoryTech reported third quarter revenue of $45.8 million, up 1 percent compared to the corresponding quarter in 2011. Net income for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2012, totaled $1.7 million, down 18 percent year over year, and earnings per share totaled 13 cents per diluted share, a 19 percent decrease from last year primarily as a result of Telecom revenue declines and added depreciation expense companywide.

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Special Focus: Recruiting the best

Careful recruitment slows turnover By Marie Wood

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iring people who will make a positive impact on your company’s product and culture starts with effective recruitment efforts. Kristie Campana, who holds a Ph.D. in industrial/ organizational psychology and teaches at Minnesota State University, is experienced in recruitment and employee selection. For five years, she Kristie Campana worked at MDA Leadership Consulting, where she was an internal consultant for Target and Schwan’s. Q: What questions do managers/owners need to answer before they begin recruiting? A: First, managers need to have a good sense of how many positions they need to fill and how quickly those spots need to be filled. Second, managers must have a good sense of what skills, knowledge, and characteristics are necessary for the position. Managers should think carefully about what they expect a new employee to have right when they begin the job, versus what skills or knowledge can be learned on the job. Third, managers need to know how much they are willing to spend on recruitment. Q: How can you best define the skill sets and character traits that you are seeking? A: Examining previous job descriptions, talking with job incumbents or direct managers, and reading job description resources such as onetonline.org can help managers define what tasks are most important for performance and what skills and personality characteristics will ensure a good fit. It is also important to consider the difference between requirements necessary to perform a job vs. plusses. Q: Should you recruit from within or outside the company? A: Internal recruiting tends to be faster, cheaper, and less risky. You know this person has been a strong performer. Internal promotion also communicates that there is upward mobility in the company, which can prevent ambitious employees from leaving. However, internal recruiting can lead to conflict among employees and managers will have to keep applicant information confidential. When an internal candidate takes the position, there will be a gap in the position they leave. External recruitment is more time consuming and new hires will require more training. On the other hand, bringing new people in can generate innovation.

18 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

Q: What do your recruitment methods say about your company? A: Methods of recruitment can communicate the culture of an organization. Organizations that want to be seen as innovative and fresh should use social media and other Web tools. Job applicants typically get the best information from talking with people who already work with the company. Organizations can provide incentives to employees for highquality referrals. Recruiters can get job candidates in touch with job incumbents. This is helpful when a recruiter is hiring for a technical job. Q: What are some new approaches to recruiting? A: Current employees can be a great source for finding good workers — top employees may suggest other people they believe are talented. Asking top employees where you would need to look to “find them again” is a useful technique. Keep track of strong applicants who you’ve turned down due to a lack of experience — two to three years down the road, those applicants may have the experience necessary. Q: How do you know if you’ve gotten your recruiting “right?” A: First, your applicant pool will demonstrate the appropriate qualifications. If applicants are failing selection tests, this suggests that a job posting may be overlooking a necessary ability. Second, applicants will accept job offers. If applicants refuse the job offer, your offer may be less attractive than competing offers or something has turned them off. Ask applicants why they turned down your offer. Finally, if you are recruiting well, you should have fewer employees leaving the organization. High turnover suggests you are not finding the right people for the job.. MV

Online resources

onetonline.org is a jobseeker site that can help employers define jobs and identify abilities. Choose the advanced search tab. thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com has the latest hiring news, tips and trends. hiring.monster.com offers recruiting and hiring advice including sample job descriptions.

employees

Local labor pool tightening By Marie Wood The job market still favors employers, but the times are changing. In 2011, the oldest baby boomers turned 65 and 10,000 baby boomers will reach 65 every day for the next 18 years. While some are postponing retirement, others will retire at unprecedented rates. Meanwhile unemployment in the Mankato area is about 5 percent. “The labor pool in Mankato is starting to constrict,” said Casey Enevoldsen, human resources business partner at Navitor, a division of the Taylor Corporation in North Mankato. “You really have to be passionate and believe in the mission of your company. A large part of being a good recruiter is marketing and selling your organization’s unique value proposition as an employer to your future employees.” As president of Southern Minnesota Area Human Resources Association, Enevoldsen hosted a seminar on IT recruitment presented by Paul DeBettignies of HireCast Consulting of Minneapolis. “A lot of the core things we learned here is to be proactive and use diverse ways to show future employees who you are as an employer, especially your purpose and how your employees will be able to contribute to the overall mission through their unique talents,” Enevoldsen said. While IT recruitment is ultra competitive, the lessons apply to all recruitment. The name of the game is to create talent pools of viable candidates. “Recruiting is a contact sport. Most companies can’t wait for candidates to show up at the door. You can’t just post and pray. Go where they’re hanging out,” DeBettignies said.

Job Fairs

Mankato is a regional education center with Minnesota State University, Bethany Lutheran College, South Central College, Rasmussen College and Gustavus Adolphus College. All host job fairs regularly so employers can meet students face to face. “The most effective recruitment method is going out into the community to job fairs,” Enevoldsen said. “You can differentiate the people with passion and drive.”

Job Boards

Everybody posts on Monster Board and Career Builders, but sometimes they generate a slew of applications that are not realistic candidates. For specialized or professional positions, niche job boards are an effective option. Professional associations have their own boards: human resources, public relations, nurses, auto mechanics, IT and more. “The job boards aren’t working in and of itself. You have to do proactive recruiting to create a talent pool for two to three years down the road,” Enevoldsen said. One of the best online tools is Indeed.com, an aggregate site that collects listings from job boards, company career pages, newspapers, associations and more.

Staffing Firms

Staffing firms can be a good option for organizations that hire many employees and temporary employees. “It’s good to develop a strong relationship with your staffing agencies. It is important that the agency or agencies you work with know your company’s culture so they can spot the right candidates for you,” said Amy Ites, career services adviser at Rasmussen College Mankato Campus. Ramona Morgan, operations and HR director for Minnesota Soybean, recently used a head hunter to fill a highly specialized executive position. Morgan advised that staffing firms can be beneficial to companies without an HR department. “Now you’ve got a specialist,” Morgan said.

Casey Enevoldsen

Amy Ites

Social Media

Human resources professionals need to use social media — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at minimum — and engage with potential candidates. For instance, General Mills recruiters can be contacted directly on Facebook. “We need to be people when we’re online, too. We can’t be just HR professionals,” DeBettignies said. MV

Ramona Morgan

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 19

Business Commentary

Strong Minnesota economy needs strong child-care businesses

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hey say it takes a village to raise a child. Every day, parents rely on their families, friends, teachers, congregations and countless others to provide a safe and nurturing community for their children. Strong communities create strong children who become healthy and productive citizens, ready to begin their own families. Community members may forget to include child care providers in this list of important champions for children. Child care providers play a critical role in nurturing our children. Families are juggling more and more responsibility and are responding to greater economic burdens, making time an incredibly precious commodity. Many parents are taking on more than one job or working longer hours to make ends meet. Making sure their child is properly cared for while they’re away becomes top priority. But getting enough information to feel like they are making the right decision can be time-intensive and stressful. Fortunately, parents have an ally in Child Care Resource and Referral. For the past 35 years, CCR&R has worked in our community to ensure positive beginnings for all young children and their families. CCR&R is a resource for parents looking for care; a support to child care providers and a partner and information source for community leaders. This work grows with our community. According to U.S. Census data from 2010, there are over 350,000 children under the age of five living in Minnesota. Nearly 300,000 of these children will need some form of child care services according to Child Care Aware of America data. Parents utilizing CCR&R services receive help finding child care that meets the needs of each unique family through a customized search. Each local agency maintains a database containing information on every licensed child care program in Minnesota, including availability. Child care providers receive support services through educational opportunities, coaching and grants through CCR&R. T.E.A.C.H. scholarships and R.E.E.T.A.I.N. grants promote the development of high-quality child care providers and programs, while encouraging expert caregivers to remain in the field. These professionals are often educators and small business owners. Maintaining a small business in Southern Minnesota has unique challenges. Targeted support delivered through trainings and coaching offered through CCR&R help address these challenges. In 2011 child care problems prevented 12 percent of parents from taking or keeping a job. In fact, there is a strong connection between economic productivity and availability of quality child care. Quality child care allows parents to head off to work each morning with peace of mind. With this in mind, it becomes clear that a strong Minnesota needs a strong child care system. Parent Aware Ratings — a Consumer Reports-style Star Rating system and product of this coalition — is designed to demonstrate the quality of child care and early education programs. Parent Aware is currently available in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties. Watonwan County will join the initiative in

20 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

January 2013 and Brown County in 2014. This voluntary initiative will spread to all counties in our region by 2015. S t a t e funded Early Learning Scholarships are now available for f a m i l i e s residing in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties. With the ever-rising rate of children in these counties receiving free or reduced lunch, these scholarships provide income-eligible families financial support for their preschool aged child to attend a high-quality early care and education program. By bridging any funding gaps and decreasing financial barriers for families, more children will have access to participate in a Parent Aware rated program. Yes, it takes an entire community, or village, to raise healthy children. Communities benefit from a financial investment in early child care and education programs. Recent studies document a return to society of more than $17 for every dollar invested in such programs, primarily from savings on welfare, special education, and criminal justice costs. Child Care Resource & Referral coordinates support from government, corporations, foundations, fees for services and individual donors to deliver this return on investment in our community. Thanks to these contributions, working parents find appropriate child care, families in need receive help to pay for child care, preschoolers enter kindergarten ready to learn and support is available to children and their families at their greatest time of need. MV

By Calie Afdahl-Doble

Calie Afdahl-Doble is an Outreach Coordinator/Quality Coach for Child Care Resource and Referral, Region 9. caliea@c2r2.org

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Cover Story

Righting the ship Glen Taylor repositions, grows Taylor Corp. By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross 22 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

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ince resuming his role at the helm of Taylor Corp. two years ago, Glen Taylor has revitalized a far flung corporation that is one of the largest privately held companies. He’s building a new leadership team that has turned the company around in sales and profits and, he believes, will be able to lead the Taylor Corp. as he eases out of day-to-day operations, with the eventual plan to have the company operated largely by foundations who can use profits for charitable endeavors. But for now, the 71-year-old who initially planned to return as CEO for one year, is clearly relishing the art of the deal and the doing what he spent most of his career doing — finding new customers, out-maneuvering the competition, and looking for new ventures, even in a down economy. “We’re not relying on the economy picking up. We’re focusing on new products and new customers,” said Taylor during a recent interview in his office at the upper North Mankato corporate headquarters — an office where virtually every flat surface is piled with paperwork. “We’ll make it tough on some of our competitors. As a private company we can move fast. And we have money in the bank.”

New approaches Many Taylor divisions have found new customers but still do printing. Corporate Graphics, once a local job shop, now also prints children’s books sold worldwide. And Corporate Graphics Commercial has added high tech equipment to print a variety of flexible packaging material such as stand-up pouches used to hold juice drinks and other food items. The company has also moved into a number of products and services it wasn’t involved in before. For banks and other financial institutions, Taylor Corp. developed software that minutely tracks all of the required information institutions must send to customers. If, for example, a bank needs to show regulators it properly sent certain notices to all its customers, the Taylor Corp. software

Todd Schoof checks pages coming off the press.

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 23

Cover Story

Still a printer — sort of Through most of its history, Taylor Corp. was easy to categorize as a printer. Large presses turning out wedding invitations, business cards, greeting cards and letterhead provided the foundation of the company. “We’re still a printer, but we’re so much more diverse with technology,” Taylor said. “When we make a sales call, we don’t lead with printing.” Instead Taylor Corp. offers a variety of technology that allows companies to track everything they do, track all their products, track sales calls, find ways to be more efficient. “Then we tell them, ‘and we can do all your printing.’” The company now employs 600 technical people who write software for a variety of business applications. The need to refocus and expand the Taylor Corp. holdings is what brought Taylor back as CEO in 2010. At the time, Taylor’s daughter, Jean Taylor, had been CEO since 2007. She’d been an executive with Taylor Corp. since 1994. She left the company when Glen Taylor came back. At the time of her departure, the Star Tribune reported of a power struggle within the corporation. A female HR executive, who left Taylor Corp.

at the same time, was quoted as saying three top male executives had sought to oust her and scale back Jean Taylor’s role. While Taylor hasn’t discussed details of the turbulent times, he’s blunt about the problems he found with the company and management team two years ago. “In 2008 when the economy went bad, it affected us as a corporation. It was a double-whammy as other technology hit printing hard,” said Taylor. Print industry sales nationwide fell 22 percent from the prerecession peak. Most of the top management who’d grown the company alongside Taylor were retired and Jean Taylor led a relatively young and untested management team. “The young mangers only lived through the good times and didn’t have the experience in what to do when you didn’t have growth,” he said. “They responded mostly by saying where do we cut back. What I saw at Taylor Corp., it had become the norm. All the meetings were about how sales were down and what do we do. There was an attitude that if business is down somewhere, let’s close it. “My attitude was always, what else can we make there, how can we change?”

Cover Story

provides instant and detailed verification of everyone it went to and when. The company also provides the myriad printed booklets and information those financial institutions need. And if you buy a refrigerator or TV, it might be a Taylor Corp. division that printed the booklet, mailed you a warranty card and sent you e-mail confirmations of the transactions. “We also do a lot of work with companies” marketing people. We do extensive tests and responses on what they’re doing now and show them how they can increase sales.” Taylor has also been methodically building a diverse leadership team with a range of experiences in different industries to keep the Reva Baggott proofs pages before they go on the press at Corporate Graphics. company growing long after he leaves as CEO. That includes a group of foundations and trusts will keep the company promoting from within and hiring talent that is drawn to the together and growing. revitalized company. The framework, said Taylor, is designed to still give future Taylor is also prepared for the future transition of the management teams enough flexibility to make the business company — of which he reportedly owns some nearly 90 decisions they need to. percent. Rather than have the company sold in whole or pieces, That certainty of the future is important, said Taylor, as the Tom Cray uses a state-of-the-art digital printer at Corporate Graphics.

company recruits employees and managers. “If you have someone in their 40s thinking about coming on board, they don’t want to wonder what’s going to happen to the company if something happens to me.”

Glen Taylor

The farmer within This fall, Taylor and his wife Becky Mulvihill, went to Iowa, crawled into a massive John Deere combine and harvested corn for three long days. “I have a soft spot for farming. Our land in Iowa and Minnesota had good crops this year.” Several years ago Taylor expanded his business interests into agriculture in a big way. He owns several thousand acres of land in Minnesota and Iowa, owns chicken operations, mostly in Iowa, that produce 12 million eggs per day, and more recently bought hog operations in southern Minnesota. He operates some of his farmland in partnership with other farmers and his son oversees the farming of 7,000 acres of land they farm in Iowa. Taylor, who grew up on a farm near Comfrey, said the egg business continues to grow and change. Rather than sell eggs in the shell for grocery stores, the operations ship out tanker trucks full of liquid eggs, egg whites or yolks for a variety of uses by food customers. “Sales are up every year. Bigger and more sophisticated companies are becoming customers — customers from Europe and Asia. The company is also working on cage-free chicken operations. “Customers want it but it’s more expensive,” he said of the move toward cage-free. The Minnesota hog operations raise 30,000 hogs at a time. He said the hog industry has hit a recent tough patch due to high feed costs, but said the businesses are doing well.

Born, April 20, 1941.

Helping people to hear In 2006, Taylor bought 15 percent of an emerging, but cashstrapped Minnesota company called Envoy Medical Corp. He and other investors have since poured millions into developing and now marketing an implantable device to help people with moderate to severe hearing loss. Unlike hearing aids, the company’s Esteem device is implanted in the ear. The only device of its kind, it also differs from cochlear implants that are implanted in the inner ear of profoundly deaf people. The Esteem is implanted in he middle ear for moderate to severe hearing loss. Envoy spent more than 15 years and well over $100 million developing the device and in 2010 the FDA gave its approval. “We’re selling it, but we still need to get volume of sales up for it to pay for itself,” said Taylor, who is on the company’s board of directors. “We’ve done 900 people, but we need more doctors to do it and distribute it more broadly.” Besides getting more doctors to embrace the technology, Taylor says getting health insurance to cover part of the cost for patients is imperative for long-term success for Envoy. “It costs $30,000. People who can afford it do it.” Because the device is new, Taylor said insurers have been reluctant to cover it, but he hopes that changes as the device’s benefits are recognized. “The cochlear implant is more expensive and insurance covers that,” Taylor noted. The Esteem device treats conductive and/or sensorineural hearing loss. In normal hearing, sound causes the ear drum to vibrate, moving fluid inside the cochlea, prompting tiny hairs to

Taylor purchased majority ownership of the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team in 1994. Taylor purchased the Minnesota Lynx WNBA basketball team in 1999.

Grew up on a farm near Comfrey. Family: Wife Becky Mulvihill; Children, Jean, Terri, Taylor Moor, Jeff, and Kendahl. Residence: Mankato Corporate headquarters: North Mankato Graduated from what is now Minnesota State University. Attended Harvard Graduate School of Business. While attending college in Mankato, he went to work for Carlson Wedding Service, which printed wedding cards. Taylor later purchased the business for $2 million, expanding it dramatically through acquisitions and start-ups to form Taylor Corp.

Has donated to and served on the boards of numerous charitable and non-profit organizations, including Taylor Library in North Mankato and MSU’s Taylor Center. Taylor has been ranked No. 149 on the Forbes 400 and his company No. 254 on Forbes ranking of private United States corporations. His net worth was reported by Forbes to be $1.8 billion in 2012.

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 25

Cover Story

Taylor was a Republican state senator from 1981 to 1990, serving as assistant minority leader from 1983 to 1985 and minority leader from 1985 to 1988.

Glen and Becky Taylor are regular attendees at Timberwolves home games. touch nerve endings, which converts the movement into electric signals sent to the brain. In conductive hearing loss, sound moving through outer and middle ear is blocked. The more sever sensorineural hearing loss happens when the hairs don’t vibrate properly. Hearing aids, which amplify sound, don’t effectively filter out unwanted noise. And unlike many cochlear implants which still require patients to wear external components, the Esteem device is entirely implanted in the ear. In simple terms, the Esteem device works by a sensor picking up vibrations from the ear drum, converting them into electronic signals, cleaning up and boosting the signal and converting the signals back into a vibration transmitted into the cochlea. Patients can control the device with a remote control and adjust volume and other settings. Timberwolves successor While Taylor is comfortable the team he is building at Taylor Corp. will be able to move the company forward if something happens to him, his Timberwolves NBA team is a different matter. “The Timberwolves are different. The NBA needs someone running it if something happens to me. I thought I needed to find someone to be a limited partner and eventually buy me out. Taylor is the biggest reason the Timberwolves are still in Minnesota, having saved the team from moving to New Orleans when he bought the franchise in 1994. Taylor said selling the team would be no problem, but he wants to bring in a partner and eventual owner who will keep the team in Minnesota. He’s in no rush to sell the team and has not set timetable. “I have parties interested, but it’s a complicated process.” Taylor believes the groundwork has been done to maintain a successful franchise in Minnesota. As chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, Taylor helped negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with NBA players that cover the next 10 years. And, as part of the Vikings stadium bill, the Timberwolves home arena —Target Center — will get a massive renovation.

MV

Taylor is looking for a partner who would eventually buy the NBA Timberwolves.

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Mankato Public Safety Center Private Office & Entrance Photo Courtesy of Paulsen Architects

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Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

Celebrating Business in Greater Mankato month of year over year job growth. Over the past three years, there were 225 building or renovation projects started or completed, with just 131 of those accounting for an investment of $286 million. Earlier this year Greater Mankato was named 11th in the nation on Forbe’s “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” among all areas in the nation having populations up to 250,000. Not only do businesses in our area support their communities, they support one another. From providing an entrepreneur with valuable advice to collaborating with one another on shared projects to purchasing products and services from one another, our business community is truly that – a community. And it is our privilege at Greater Mankato Growth, the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and City Center Partnership to serve this community. Thank you for a wonderful 2012 and we look forward to a prosperous 2013.

Greater Mankato Growth

For one evening each year, the Greater Mankato community gathers together to celebrate our region’s outstanding businesses, organizations and professionals at the Greater Mankato Business Awards & Hall of Fame. You can see highlights of this year’s event, as well as the award recipients, on pages 30 - 33. This year’s honorees have accomplished much, not the least of which is contributing significantly to our community’s vitality. The entire business community can share in this accomplishment, because having a healthy business climate contributes to the health of the community. From jobs to philanthropic contributions, our business community makes a significant impact on the community as a whole. Here in Greater Mankato we are fortunate to have so many businesses that understand and appreciate this positive, symbiotic relationship between business success and community success. The signs of community success have been seen everywhere – November saw our 26th consecutive

Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development 28 • november 2012 • MN507.385.6640 Valley Business

• greatermankato.com

growth

in Greater Mankato

New Business Bull Pucky’s 410 South Front Street, Mankato

New Business Great Wall Restaurant 1802 Commerce Drive, North Mankato

New Business Pond Road Antiques 111 Butterworth Street, Mankato

New Business Salvage Sisters 613 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato

NEw Business Woodside Apartments 311 Roosevelt Circle, Mankato

New Facility Mankato Public Safety Center 710 South Front Street, Mankato

New Faility Margaret R. Preska Residence Community Minnesota State University, Mankato

Greater Mankato Growth

New Business BerryBlendz 1600 Warren Street, Suite 12, Mankato

GR E

O AT

ER MANK AT

BUSINESS AWARDS & HALL OF FAME

2012

Presented by:

The Journey to Success

On November 13, more than 450 members of the business community gathered to honor some of our region’s most outstanding businesses and professionals at the Greater Mankato Business Awards & Hall of Fame. Please join us in congratulating those who received awards from Greater Mankato Growth and our affiliate organizations the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and City Center Partnership.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Greater Mankato Growth

Presenting Sponsor

Dinner Sponsor

30 • dECEMBER 2012 • MN Valley Business

Event Sponsors

Video Sponsor

Awards Hall of Fame Inductees

Wells Federal Bank

Lloyd Lumber-Just Ask Rental

Distinguished Business Award

RedSky Lounge

MN Valley Business • DECEMBER 2012 • 31

Greater Mankato Growth

Brunton Architects

Entrepreneurial Business Award Business Award

Bent River Outfitter

Brian Fazio Business Education Partnership Award

Greater Mankato Growth

Junior Achievement of Greater Mankato

Hap Halligan Leadership Award

Young Professional of the Year

Marsha Danielson

Christi Wilking

32 • december 2012 • MN Valley Business

Awards Bring it Home Award

Hospitality Award

Mahkata Wacipo Pow Wow

Mankato Brewery

Awards New Construction Under $2 M

Tandem Bagels (Owner: Tony and Anne Frentz Architect: I&S Group)

Brunton Architects Office (Owner: Corey Brunton; Architect: Brunton Architects)

Façade Improvements

Downtown Detail

City Center Place (Owner: Northwestern Office Building Partnership Architect: Paulsen Architects)

629 North Riverfront Drive Owner: Gatchell Properties LLC; Architect: Paulsen Architects)

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 33

Greater Mankato Growth

Renovation Under $1 M

The power of collaboration Regional Outlook

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entered the Minneapolis Convention Center with a mixture of curiosity and excitement. The occasion was the 2012 Tekne Awards; the Minnesota High Tech Association’s version of the Academy Awards for technology entrepreneurs and innovators. And as I entered the Convention Center I was handed a badge and steered toward a reception area upstairs designated for the award finalists. In the ballroom below were approximately 1,000 guests in a festive mood from all across Minnesota’s high tech industry. I knew this was going to be a fun evening. As I climbed the stairs to reach the reception area I noticed everyone shared the same badge as me with the word “Finalist” on it. Slowly as my eyes focused I began to see friends and colleagues I have either known or have gotten to know over the past two years. For you see, in 2010 the Blandin Foundation was awarded a multimillion dollar grant from the National Telecommunications Information Administration to coordinate a large, statewide initiative designed to promote broadband adoption all across rural Minnesota. Known as the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) project, this unique initiative brought together more than 20 different organizations, institutions, agencies and rural communities to focus their efforts on increasing broadband adoption among Minnesota’s rural residents, as well as rural businesses. And it was this initiative, spearheaded by the Blandin Foundation that was a finalist for the 2012 Tekne Award in the category of “Innovative Collaboration.” As a broadband researcher for many years the Blandin Foundation tapped me back in 2010 to serve as the project’s evaluator over the next two years. In other words it was my job to document all the activity by this large group of partners all across the state and at the end of the 2-year effort to examine the impact and consequences of their work. To state that the scope of the project was comprehensive is an understatement, as the project strategically targeted key groups of non-adopters. For those lowincome rural residents who couldn’t afford a computer, our partner PC’s of People secured, refurbished and

distributed over 2,000 computers to needy rural families. The average annual household income among those receiving these computers was $12,145, with over 35 percent having an unemployed head of household. After all, for many Minnesota businesses today you can’t even apply for a job without being able to submit your application online. And if you are thinking, about the unmet computer literacy and training needs of many rural residents, our partners at DEED, U of M Extension, MnSCU and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace delivered more than 31,000 hours of training and technical assistance, both online and across rural Minnesota. More than 2,000 rural businesses were provided training; over 6,000 rural businesses were reached; and direct technical assistance was provided to more than 60 small rural businesses by our partner at the U of M Extension. Over the two years U of M Extension not only provided this important technical assistance, but with more than 60 percent of all major purchases beginning with a web-search today, they helped rural businesses understand the importance of managing their “digital tele-presence” in today’s economy. This was all bolstered by the efforts of the nine rural Regional Development Commissions providing outreach and media information all across their respective rural regions. As I noted, this was a remarkable coordinated effort with a broad scope across an even broader geography we call Greater Minnesota. And what was the consequence of all of this time and effort? Well beginning with over 4,000 baseline surveys conducted back in 2010, we have tracked the growth in broadband subscriptions from quarter-to-quarter, regularly reporting our progress to the National Telecommunications Information Administration each quarter. With a goal of achieving 38,000

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By Jack M. Geller, Ph.D new broadband subscriptions across rural Minnesota within the 2-year period, the current count now stands at 40,496. So it was with a good measure of accomplishment and excitement that we gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center that evening. For two years I had the opportunity to document an extraordinary effort of coordination and collaboration across multiple organizations, universities and state agencies. And now with the project winding down at the end of 2012, here we were to celebrate our collective efforts. So it was with great satisfaction as we watched former WCCO news anchor Don Shelby take to the podium and announce that the Blandin Foundation’s Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community project was the winner of the 2012 Tekne Award for Innovative Collaboration. A great collaboration indeed. MV Geller is professor & head of the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota Crookston. He also serves as director of the federally funded EDA University Center at UMC. He can be reached at gelle045@umn.edu

Business Feature Eldon and Helen Jones have spent 60 years together in marriage and in business.

The genius next door Eldon Jones of Crysteel By Pete Steiner Photos by Pat Christman

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ldon Jones says it could be revolutionary. After 10 years of wrestling with it, he believes he’s finally solved another engineering problem. The Super Scissor Hoist for dump trucks “achieves both power and safety.” He is patiently explaining all this to a non-engineer — why his newest patent (he thinks he has about a dozen in

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all) — may be the most important he’s gotten since the one that put Crysteel Manufacturing on the map more than four decades ago. “I rearranged the geometry,” he says, “found a way to rearrange some of the pivot points.” At age 87, he has high hopes for the Super Scissors, which employs either a single hydraulic cylinder or twin cylinders in a heavy-duty frame.

That makes it safer, giving dump trucks far more stability than the traditional front-mount telescopic hoist, which provides only lifting power and can be very unstable. The Super Scissors comes in seven sizes with more than enough power to handle the heaviest load. 60-year partnership “He tries to teach me all this, but I’m not mechanical,” his wife, Helen, chuckles. But the two, a team for nearly 60 years, always acknowledge each other. “I could design and build the product,” Eldon says, “but Helen could run the company.” The company, of course, was Crysteel — today actually two companies, Crysteel Manufacturing (now part of Truck Bodies and Equipment International or TBEI) and Crysteel Truck Equipment, formerly Crysteel Distributing. Both do business worldwide, with hundreds of local employees on the 26-acre site east of Lake Crystal on Highway 60.

The side-dump hoist and bed for pickup trucks is just one of many engineering inventions or improvements Eldon has created over the years.

1966 Ford pickup Parked in Eldon Jones’ garage in Lake Crystal is a blue 1966 Ford pickup. It has more than 200,000 miles on it with the original engine. The steel on the body has been replaced. “It’s my main vehicle,” Eldon declares proudly. What you can’t see, unless he shows you, is the Lo-Boy hoist underneath the bed. He had realized the Lo-Boy could be useful when installed onto a pickup, then onto larger farm trucks that hauled corn to the elevator. So again, he had Schwartz build 50 units, which he stored and sold out of his old hog barn. By then he was out of the livestock business. With Helen and the five children at home, he hit the road to sell his idea. Helen remembers that as a challenging time. Eldon would be gone two weeks at a time, staying in cheap motels, marketing the hoists from Ohio to Arkansas to Nebraska. But during that

Business Feature

Making it better Born in New Ulm, Eldon Jones worked the family farm near Judson after a stint in the U.S. Army that included being part of the first wave of occupation troops in Japan following World War II. At 28, he was finally able to marry Helen, the “city girl” he’d first laid eyes on when they were in the Lake Crystal High School band more than a decade earlier. She would be not only his wife and the mother of their five children, but also, eventually, his business partner. While on the farm, they grew corn and beans, and raised beef cattle and hogs. In the ‘50s, “Farmers did everything — except chickens. We didn’t have chickens!” Helen says. Eldon had always loved equipment. “Every farmer is constantly trying to make his equipment better,” he says. To that end, “I taught myself how to weld, and I started tinkering.” Amazingly, the inventor who would acquire multiple engineering-based patent designs does not have an engineering degree. His “tinkering” led to his first marketable idea: an attachment to his old two-row corn

planter that made it more efficient. He had an Iowa company manufacture the units, which he advertised in The Farmer magazine. Dozens of the units subsequently sold. But his first actual patent was for a hoist with an hydraulic cylinder he could attach to his tractor, mounted to help unload a wagon box of corn. That hoist would eventually evolve into the LoBoy hoist, his third patent, in 1965, which would become the foundation for Crysteel. Several other companies were making hoists at the time, but none was ideal. “I figured out a way to make it better,” Eldon says, adding that it was literally a matter of inches that enabled his lower-mounted hoists to be more efficient. He hired Schwartz Manufacturing in Lester Prairie to build 50 units. He brought one to Machinery Hill at the State Fair, and while the units sold across several states, newer, fancier combines were making corn pickers obsolete, eliminating the need for farmers to buy the hoists to empty wagon boxes.

Business Feature

Eldon’s main vehicle remains his 1966 Ford pickup, with the original engine and more than 200,000 miles on it. time, they also discovered Helen was a good business manager, good at keeping the books. So in 1969, they made the decision to open their own manufacturing facility. Borrowing $25,000, they opened a small facility in Arlington with just one other employee. He could weld and paint, and they paid him $2.25 an hour. The following year, with the help of a local economic development group, they moved to Lake Crystal, erecting a 9,600-square-foot facility on the site where the company still operates today. Eldon came up with the name for the company — Crysteel — that acknowledged both the location and the main raw material. The company grew rapidly, expanding the building seven times from 1973-86 to its present 151,000 square feet. A move to dump trucks “We were really naive about things like insurance and taxes,” Helen says. “We learned on the job. We were optimistic and young and” as Eldon finishes her sentence, “We had faith in what we were doing. I give her so much credit for keeping the business end going.” They both saw an opportunity in selling a broader range of truck equipment, so Crysteel Distributing was born in 1974. By the late ‘70s, with 90 percent of their sales to the farm market, Eldon foresaw their market for farm trucks diminishing if more farmers chose to move their grain with semis.ÊStill, with 300 distributors, they were set up well for repositioning and expanding their market. Eldon had been fascinated by

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dump trucks since watching an old newsreel about the building of the Hoover Dam. In 1980, the company began designing and building dump bodies. But dump trucks carried heavier loads, so the Lo-Boy had to be modified into a more heavyduty hoist. That would be the first of numerous innovations catering to the municipal and construction markets. New endeavor Eldon Jones retired as president of Crysteel in 1990, at 65, with Helen, three years younger, succeeding him. In 1994, son Peter became president. TBEI bought Crysteel Manufacturing in 2005, while a new local group is in the process of taking over operations at the distributing company. As he meticulously recounts his inventing and business history, the question occurs: Is Eldon Jones a genius? “I know he is!” Helen says. Eldon still shows up regularly at Crysteel, saying, “I may have retired, but it’s really hard to stop thinking.” Both he and Helen now spend a lot of time in a newer endeavor that they’re passionate about — this one an idea she came up with: GRACE Thrift Store on Lake Crystal’s Main Street. She says she wanted to do something after she retired, so she enlisted seven local churches to help establish it as a 501-c-3 nonprofit. After 17 years, “It’s going great guns.” Proceeds go to local school, library, scouting and other civic projects. GRACE, by the way, stands for Give Recycling A Chance Everyday. Helen created that acronym. Seems inventing is a game that two can play. MV

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Jo Anne and Chuck Kodet purchased an upper North Mankato building to serve as Lor Ray Salon & Spa operated by Jo Anne and as an investment property for the North Mankato couple.

Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa

Kodets couple investment property with salon business

By Marie Wood Photos by Pat Christman

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few years ago, stylist Jo Anne Kodet was looking for a salon where she and two colleagues could all rent chairs. At the same time, she and husband Chuck Kodet were looking for an investment property. They looked at the Lor Ray Drive Dental Clinic and it was Chuck who had the vision to turn the clinic into a beauty salon. “It met both of our needs. We were looking for an investment property and I was looking for a booth rental. I wanted to create a healthy environment where I could work with my friends,” said Jo Anne of North Mankato. The Kodets hired sub-contractors and put in sweat equity, too. The dentist chairs were moved out, new sinks were installed and beautician chairs were moved in. A cubby that

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once stored X-ray machines now stores hair dryers. Antje Meisner, an interior designer, helped them choose colors, furniture, flooring and décor. “We couldn’t have done it without her,” Jo Anne said. A massage therapist has a private and relaxing space in the basement. Most stylists have their own room with walls but open doorways. Each room has its own sink so stylists can shampoo, cut, color and complete all their client services in one room. “It’s open, yet private,” Jo Anne said. In July 2010, the Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa opened for business. With 17 stylists and one massage therapist, every room is filled. For the Kodets, the beauty is that they have no

employees. While Jo Anne enjoys the friendship of colleagues and clients in her own salon, she has no management responsibilities. “Everybody runs their own business out of here. They set their own hours. That’s what we tried to provide so people could take ownership and have their own entity in the building,” Chuck said. The stylists prefer the flexibility and autonomy to schedule their appointments and sell their own product line. The women have the freedom to be entrepreneurs, moms and wives. Depending on the season, the salon serves 60 to 120 clients per day. “It’s a good work environment since we all work for ourselves,” said stylist Jessie Lotton-McDougall. At Lor Ray Drive Salon, there is more camaraderie than competition. Because all the stylists have their business cards at the front desk, Jessie receives calls from coworkers to see if she needs appointments and would like a new customer. “We do always invite people who are interested to stop by. We do take walk-ins. If there are four to five of us in, we can manage to squeeze people in,” Jessie said. Chuck, an engineer for Parker Hannifin in New Ulm, handles the building maintenance while Jo Anne is the business mind. She has created a system to organize booth rental, licensing, bookkeeping and administrative tasks. Jo Anne is also the first one to respond to building issues. “Our personal time is very important: family, education, church. We had to make sure the business didn’t take away from that,” Chuck said. As a wife and mother of two daughters, faith and family come first in Jo Anne’s life.

The massage therapy room in the lower level of the building. She has done the hair of some of her clients since high school. She remembers their prom up-dos and now she’s cutting and styling their children’s hair. Some of her secondgeneration clients are graduating from high school. “It’s one of those jobs that gives back way more than you feel like you can give,” Jo Anne said. Even when the parking lot is full, the noise level inside is low. The privacy of Lor Ray Drive Salon can be very important because the salon is where many women come to talk, laugh and cry with their stylist. “People tell you they have cancer and they’re going to be losing their hair and what should they do? It’s such a private moment. You don’t want them to share it with the rest of the world,” Jo Anne said. Joann Pehrson of Mankato has been going to Jo Anne once a week for a shampoo and style for about 15 years. Jo Anne finally convinced Pehrson to go gray and stop spending the money to color her hair. Pehrson loves her healthy natural color and admits she should have done it years ago. “She’s turned out to be one of my best friends. She and I can talk about anything. She’s a sweetheart,” said the 80-year-old Pehrson. MV

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Each room is rented and operated by different stylists who manage it as their own business.

Sweetheart stylist Jo Anne has been a local stylist for 25 years and managed a salon for 14 years. As she and the other stylists, including longtime coworker Nancy Wenner, were setting up shop, they often ended up behind the front desk chatting and laughing. While Jo Anne Kodet sees customers at the salon she also “I like everyone I work with. We have our own individual rooms, a little privacy, but we are still able to visit. It’s really rents space to 16 other stylists as well as a massage therapist. quaint,” Nancy said. Jo Anne said she feels like her salon is one small way she can ■ give back to the community. Jo Anne said that it feels good when stylists tell her “Thank you for giving me such a great Co-owner and stylist, Lor Ray Drive Salon & Spa place to work.” Business degree, Minnesota State University “She has a happy-go-lucky spirit,” Nancy said. For Jo Anne, the greatest reward as a stylist is her clients. She Catechist, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, North Mankato schedules clients on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Even with limited hours, Jo Anne prefers to spend 45 minutes with each Mother of two daughters female client. Like a doctor’s office, she places a reminder call to her clients a day before their appointments. MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 41

Jo Anne Kodet

All in the Family Larry and Kathy Van Tol (left) and Noel Van Tol and her husband, Gene Biewen

A store of inspiration Two couples, ex-spouses work closely at Hilltop Greenhouse By Marie Wood Photos by Pat Christman

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oel Van Tol grew up in Hilltop Florist and Greenhouse, a family-owned business since 1880 on Mankato’s hilltop. As a girl, she disbudded endless rows of carnations and received a penny for every three corsage points and puffs she made. In 1976, Noel and husband Larry Van Tol purchased Hilltop Florist from Noel’s parents, Eddie and Marguerite Keane. “They were ready to retire and Larry realized the value of a family business — to let it go out of the family, it would be a shame,” Noel said. Noel and Larry divorced in 1982 but maintained their business partnership. In 1995, Larry married Kathy. Today Kathy Van Tol handles the daily operations and management of Hilltop Florist. Kathy began working with Noel and Larry in 1989 when she designed the retail store expansion. At project’s end, Kathy joined the floral staff part time. Noel is retiring, but she is still involved in the

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business and her husband, Gene Biewen, also works there. “When I came into this family business 30 short years ago, it was immediately obvious that there was no room for coasting or anonymity — that we were representing to the public a quality of product and service that had been the pride of generations before me,” Gene said. Essentially, two couples are at the heart of Hilltop Florist and Greenhouse. With exes and new spouses working side by side, they’ve created a family atmosphere that’s supportive and friendly. Here’s how Hilltop’s garden grows. MVB: How has Hilltop Florist changed since 1976? Larry: If I reflect back on the land and all the greenhouses, what we really did was modernize it all. We took down the old houses, modernized others, and made it all energy efficient. We also specialized the greenhouses for our needs.

Kathy: The biggest change was when we remodeled the retail store in 1989. Noel: Kathy designed the exterior and the interior of this expansion of our new retail shop. All the things outside, the pergolas, the gates to the greenhouse. Kathy: I was working for KSA Architects at the time.

MVB: Larry, what is it like working with your ex-wife and current wife? Larry: In the first place, they’re both very nice people, qualified, intelligent, dedicated and independently driven. They’re just two good people working together. For me it’s simple, I work with two very good people who I respect for what they do here. Noel: You spend a lot of time hiding in the greenhouses. Kathy: We don’t gang up on you too much. Larry: If I’m in trouble, I’m in trouble with both of them. MVB: What are your roles in the business? Noel: Over the last 10 years, I’ve been slowly going into retirement. Kathy has covered all the bases and filled in whatever I did. She has taken over. It’s much easier to have one person know all the ins and outs. She has taken over and delegated and has let us all assume different roles when she needs them. I’m grateful, very grateful. It’s allowed me to have so much freedom. Larry: I’m developing a new role. I’ve been gone. Kathy’s taken over my responsibility as well. Now I’m working my way back with the small things, but they make a difference: delivery, vacuuming, cleaning, working on the soils and chemicals that we use in growing ... I’m trying to make the best possible plant I can. I’m trying to grow a plant as close to perfection. We have each plant for 12 to 16 weeks and then they’re out the door. We learn from that each time. It’s a one-year learning curve. Every change we make is subtle to improve the plant. I don’t think that will ever end. Mass producers can’t do what we do and make any money. They can’t give the attention that we do. Kathy: I’ve been fortunate enough to be given responsibility, to learn the business from Larry and Noel. They’ve been fabulous mentors from all aspects: designing, going to market, accounting, being fiscally responsible, personnel and how to be a grower. MVB: How do you gain a competitive edge in the floral greenhouse market? Larry: One of the skill sets you both have is your artistic talents. That skill and knack is something that few people have. I’ve seen their work day in and day out. It separates our business from everybody else. Our varieties have grown hundred fold, easily. You always find unique ways to design. MVB: What sets Hilltop Florist apart? Kathy: We do grow our own cut flowers — roses. We’re one of two growers in Minnesota. There’s only a few of us left in the United States. Our garden center is truly one of the best. We grow a lot from seed, cuttings and plugs. We’re one of the few

MVB: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Kathy: The most rewarding is to see my staff excel, become wonderful designers, watch their passion and abilities grow. Larry: It is a heartfelt business from the earth: weddings, get well, funerals every aspect of life. The one delivery that stands out was for a wife’s birthday. Her husband was serving in Iraq. I brought a beautiful arrangement with balloons and little presents for their two children. It was as if he was present when I came to the door with the delivery. Noel: I call it instant gratification. When someone comes in the store, you can tell how happy they are because they’re buying flowers and they’re going to present them to somebody. You’ve made a difference in someone’s life and they’ll make a difference in someone else’s life. That happens all day long. MVB: What about weddings? Kathy: Weddings are a lot of fun, a lot of work trying to make someone’s perfect day. I haven’t had any Bridezillas. It’s always been a positive part of our business. Each wedding we try to create something new and different. It’s very personalized. Today the grooms are getting more involved. Sometimes they have good ideas or bring a lot of humor. It’s fun having grooms being involved in the decisions. MVB: What would you like people to know about Hilltop Florist? Noel: There’s something about a flower shop that sometimes people are intimidated by. They’re afraid to come in the door. We encourage people to come in and browse, walk in the greenhouse. There’s no pressure to spend money. We want people to know what a treasure a greenhouse is and we want to share it. Larry: It raises spirits. Kathy: Visually all your senses are stimulated. People browse our greenhouse just smelling the dirt. It’s a store of inspiration.

MV

Flower arrangements, like this one being done by Krista Helgeson, are made up for weddings, as gifts and for other occasions.

MN Valley Business • december 2012 • 43

All in the Family

MVB: How do you deal with the “ex” dynamic? Larry: We made a conscious decision to be nice to each other. It’s actually a very significant relationship. It didn’t have to turn out that way. It was good for our children, good for us. It was healthy. We grew up together, so she knows me pretty well. It’s hard to get away with anything. Kathy: It’s never been an issue. They’ve set a super great example.

that grow from very small to market. That gives us the advantage of quality. It’s what our forefathers were all about, what we’re still after today. The box stores offer different varieties. We offer uniqueness, exceptional quality, customer service. Each customer that comes in is very important — sort of that “Norm” feeling. We have talented designers. The dedication of all our employees, drivers, designers, growers, bookkeepers — it takes everybody to make Hilltop what it is today.

Business Memos/Company News

Gislason & Hunter opens Hutchinson office Gislason & Hunter will be opening an office in Hutchinson. Additional offices are located in New Ulm, Minneapolis, Mankato and Des Moines. The Gislason & Hunter Hutchinson office will open Jan. 1 and will be located in the Historic Jorgenson Hotel. ■■■ Brunton Architects adds architect Brunton Architects has added Scott Wullschleger. Wullschleger holds a master’s degree in Architecture and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from North Dakota State University. Brunton Architects provides architecture and interior design to clients throughout the upper Midwest. ■■■ Midwest Management honored The New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce honored Upper Midwest Management Corporation as the 2012 Industry of the Year. This award is based on a business or industry’s involvement in the community, chamber participation and legacy in the New Ulm business community. Jim Thomas, president of Upper Midwest Management, employs 20 people in three office locations and manages over 70,000 acres of land and 700,000 square feet of commercial property. ■■■ Schmidt Siding honored Mankato-based remodeling firm Schmidt Siding & Window Company was named the “Most Admired Home Improvement Company in South Minnesota” by Replacement Contractor Magazine, serving roofing, siding, decking, window and door professionals. Schmidt’s ranked 58th largest in the U.S. in the magazine’s Replacement 100 for 2012. Among the country’s largest replacement contractors, Schmidt’s also ranked 58th of the Top 550 Largest remodeling firms in the U.S. by Remodeling Magazine for 2012. Schmidt Siding & Window earned a spot in Qualified Remodeler’s Top 500 for the 19 straight year, coming in at 107 in the U.S. and sixth in Minnesota. ■■■ SMIF starts Entrepreneur Fund Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has established a regional endowed fund — the Entrepreneur Fund — to meet the growing need for entrepreneurs. SMIF will use the fund to support an environment for entrepreneurs through grants to collaborative entrepreneur projects, “seed fund” awards to assist in early stage development, and funding for specific events or programs. With several key donors, the fund will reach $1 million by 2015. Key donors and pledges to the fund include Davisco Family Holdings, Le Sueur; Dick and Patty Downs, St. James; Neil and Sue Eckles, Blue Earth.

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AgStar earnings up 21 percent AgStar Financial Services reported third quarter net after-tax earnings of $21.2 million and $69.7 million for the year, reflecting an increase of more than 21 percent over last year’s performance. Total earning assets increased nearly $300 million and total capital increased to $834.6 million from $806.2 million for the first nine months of 2012. ■■■ Vermeer admitted to trial lawyers group Barry G. Vermeer has become a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Vermeer is a partner with Gislason & Hunter and has been practicing for 32 years. Founded in 1950, the college is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada. Lawyers must have a minimum of 15 years trial experience before they can be considered for fellowship. There are currently approximately 5,838 members in the college. ■■■ LJP honored by disability council LJP Enterprises Waste and Recycling was honored as the statewide 2012 Employer of the Year for businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The Minnesota State Council on Disability presented the award. Vocational Rehabilitation Services had nominated LJP Enterprises for their achievement. The company’s president, Larry Biederman, and his wife, Judy, accepted the award. LJP was recognized for its long-standing commitment to providing employment and career opportunities for job seekers with disabilities. LJP has been a leader in developing and incorporating new and innovative strategies in the workplace. Interpreters, job restructuring, modified training materials, disability awareness training, job coaching and assistive technology are examples of the techniques and approaches they use. ■■■ Ecumen celebrates 150th Ecumen Pathstone Living Executive Director Jennifer Pfeffer and Beth Colway, director of fund development & public relations, joined 300 others in celebrating Ecumen’s 150th anniversary at a gala in November. Proceeds from the gala will help support Ecumen’s Awakenings initiative, a new approach to Alzheimer’s care that moves people away from unnecessary use of antipsychotic medications.

To submit your company or employee news. e-mail to tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com Put “Business memo” in the subject line. Call or e-mail Associate Editor Tim Krohn at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383 for questions.

Award Winning Design Congratulations to Tandem Bagels and Frentz Construction on being awarded the City Center Partnership CityDesign Award of Excellence for the recent renovation of the Tandem Bagels building. We are proud to have assisted in this great example of human scale design and oldworld intimacy wrapped up in a contemporary and vibrant storefront. I&S Group — contributing to the vitality of Greater Mankato’s City Center. Learn more at www.is-grp.com.

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