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Most influential Hentges, Zierdt chosen by peers as economic leaders Also in this Issue: • • • •

Greg Bednar fuels his inner “motorhead” Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds Mark Weinstein, Bedpost Furniture Special Focus: online marketing

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April 2012 • Volume 4, Issue 8

20 The influential ones

Mankato city manager Pat Hentges and Greater Mankato Growth CEO Jonathan Zierdt were judged by their peers to be leaders in the area’s economic growth.

42 Food for thought Suzette and Steve Howe needed to help their horses get well, and in the process, founded an animal feed and nutrition business to help others do the same.

38 From academics to autos Greg Bednar loves cars and he put the pedal to the metal in a career change.

46 Profile: Bedpost Furniture Mark Weinstein, owner of Bedpost Furniture in Mankato, and Nickie Van Stelten, have had the best sales year in several years and new national predictions say Mankato growth will spur furniture sales increases of 28 percent in the next five years. MN Valley Business • april 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 Joe Spear: Influence may be the currency of growth.

Business informer............................. 8 Vehicle, retail, construction trends in the area

Job trends......................................... 9 Regional, state unemployment information

Departments

Construction, real estate trends.....10

18

■ Business Commentary.................... Richard Kakeldey: New estate tax deductions for small business and farms ■

Greater Mankato Growth annual meeting highlights ■

Retail trends....................................11

Agriculture Outlook.........................12

Agribusiness trends........................13

Business updates............................14

Area commodity prices ■

ADM looks to use crop residue as feed, AgStar has record net earnings, “Cash mobs” helping local businesses.

Regional Outlook.............................36 Jack M. Geller: Spring is a time for optimism

Kent Thiesse: Conservation lands will decline ■

Greater Mankato Growth CVB .......33 Great outdoor adventures in Greater Mankato

Auto sales, retail sales and hotel business ■

Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities . ........................30 Groundbreakings, new businesses, relocations and expansions

Building permits, housing starts, home prices, interest rates ■

Greater Mankato Growth................29

Up & Coming...................................38 Greg’s Champion Auto

All in the Family..............................42 Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds

Business memos/ Company news................................48

Galli Storm joins RCEF board, Brown Printing honored by EPA, Bresnahan to lead First National, and more

On the Cover: City Manager Pat Hentges (left) and GMG President and CEO Jonathan Zierdt. Photo by John Cross

4 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Missing Something? Contact Cheryl Olson for solutions to your advertising puzzle.

507-344-6390 mankatomag@mankatofreepress.com

April 2012 • VOLUME 4, ISSUE 8 PUBLISHER

James P. Santori

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Joe Spear

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Tim Krohn

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

PHOTOGRAPHERS COVER PHOTO GRAPHIC DESIGNER

From the Editor

PAGE DESIGNER

Jack M. Geller Sara Gilbert-Frederick Tim Krohn Jane Laskey Jean Lundquist Dick Kakeldey Kent Thiesse Marie Wood Pat Christman John Cross John Cross Jenny Malmanger Christina Sankey

ADVERTISING MANAGER

David Habrat

ADVERTISING SALES

Cheryl Olson

ADVERTISING ASSISTANT

Barb Wass

ADVERTISING DESIGNERS

Seth Glaser Sue Hammar Tony Helget Christina Sankey Aaron Tish

CIRCULATION DIRECTOR

Denise Zernechel

For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call Cheryl Olson at 507-344-6390

MN Valley Business is published 12 times a year at 418 South 2nd Street Mankato, MN 56001.

6 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Influence may be the currency of growth

I

t’s hard to miss the signs of economic growth in the Mankato region. Minnesota Valley Business attempts to quantify them each and every month in our economic indicators section, a compilation of 20 plus measures of business, agriculture, employment, construction and real estate. There are also anecdotal signs of growth. From revamped storefronts in Old Town and downtown Mankato to remodeled restaurants, new truck and auto dealerships, expansions of existing dealerships, and even a parking ramp chock full of shiny, big pickup trucks. Growth can be measured by new streets, new housing subdivisions and infrastructure improvements as well. Behind almost every sign of economic growth, there was someone with influence who made it happen. So, this month’s feature on some people who have influence in Mankato seemed like a good approach to give others a sense of what it takes to promote and make growth happen. Our survey asked a wide variety of leaders who they considered most influential in each of three categories: Growing the Economy of the Area, Civic Pride and Developing a Regional Political Voice. Once that list was winnowed down to a handful, we asked those folks who in that group they would consider most influential, leaving out themselves. Those considered most influential in the Growing the Economy area were not too surprising: Mankato city manager Pat Hentges and Jonathan Zierdt, president of Greater Mankato Growth. Hentges and Zierdt are facilitators of many new developments and business dealings that involve either the city or the private sector. But they don’t just work with new businesses, they work with existing businesses as well in helping them grow or find the resources they need to be successful. This kind of stewardship has been one of the biggest changes to the Mankato area in the last 20 years. When the River Hills Mall was built, a group of us from The Free Press visited the headquarters of Herberger’s in St. Cloud. Herberger’s was going to be one of the mall’s anchors and was a pretty large newspaper advertiser. We asked the executives at Herberger’s how the city of St. Cloud was able to grow at a faster rate than Mankato. There was no silver bullet, it turned out. Theypointed to civic and business leaders who saw advantage in working together. There were indeed people of influence who were key to the city’s growth.

By Joe Spear At the time — Mankato in the early 1990s — I remember thinking we weren’t as focused in that way. There seemed to be a lot of turf battles among civic organizations, governments and even some businesses. There didn’t seem to be a common understanding of where the city and region should go. Battle scars prevented people from working together. All of that seems to have changed. Clearly, there are competing interests and we still have our share of controversy, but it seems, like always, if the controversies get aired, everyone has a chance to have their say, and somehow things move on. Of course, some of the “old guard” simply retired or moved away and the influx of new leaders didn’t take many queues from the turf battling of old. And as we’re seeing at the state level, citizens really don’t stand for business as usual obstructionism that hinders a community’s or a state’s growth. Today’s leaders also seem more in tune with understanding there are various constituencies out there and maybe money doesn’t speak as loudly as it once did. The region also has more players since becoming the Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area. That wider distribution of power and money may be creating a play-nice-withothers atmosphere as well. Today’s influential people are not necessarily measured by the money and power they wield, but by how many people they can bring together to improve the economic well-being of the community. MV Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com

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Business Informer

Construction Local home sales down Sales of existing homes in south central Minnesota were off to a slow start in the first two months of the year. January saw 59 home sales, compared to 90 a year earlier. In February, 75 homes were sold compared to 97 a year earlier.

Commercial construction up Commercial construction was on an upswing in February in Mankato and North Mankato. Mankato issued $1.7 million in commercial building permits up from $1.5 million a year earlier, while North Mankato had $333,500 in permits, compared to none the same month a year before.

■■■

Agriculture

Gas price average will be $3.72 Regular-grade motor gasoline retail prices are expected to average $3.79 per gallon in 2012 and $3.72 per gallon in 2013, compared with $3.53 per gallon in 2011 (state taxes affect pump prices). During the April through September summer driving season this year, prices are forecast to average about $3.92 per gallon with a peak monthly average price of $3.96 per gallon in May.

Lots of natural gas The warm weather this winter has resulted in natural gas working inventories that continue to set new record seasonal highs, with February 2012 ending at an estimated 2.44 trillion cubic feet, about 41 percent above the same time last year. EIA’s average 2012 Henry Hub natural gas spot price forecast is $3.17 per million British thermal units, a decline of about 83 cents from the 2011 average. The Henry Hub spot prices should average $3.96 in 2013.

Farm prices stay high

Coal use down

Corn was staying strong at $6.39 per bushel in March, up from the previous month and higher than the $5.81 received in March of 2011. Soybean prices also were stronger at $12.98 per bushel in March up nearly a dollar from a year earlier. Hog prices are also maintaining strength at $87.16 in March for a 185 pound carcass. That’s up $8 from a year earlier. Hogs hit a high last year of $101 in April. Milk prices slipped $2 from February to March, but were about $1 higher than in March of 2011. March prices were $18.83 per hundredweight.

The government expects electricity generation from coal to decline by nearly 5 percent in 2012 as generation from natural gas increases by about 9 percent. EIA forecasts that electricity generation from coal will increase by 3.8 percent in 2013, as projected coal prices to the power sector fall slightly while natural gas prices increase, and coal regains some of its power sector generation share.

■■■

Energy

Oil price predictions rise The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil is expected to average about $106 per barrel in 2012, $5 per barrel higher than was predicted last month and $11 per barrel higher than the average price last year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, supply disruptions in the Middle East and Africa contributed to a significant increase in world crude oil prices during February. Constraints in transporting crude oil from the U.S. midcontinent region contribute to the expected continuing discount for WTI relative to other world crude oil prices. The government expects WTI prices to remain relatively flat in 2013, averaging about $106 per barrel.

8 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Coal production also down Coal production will decline by 4.4 percent in 2012 as domestic consumption and exports fall. Production declines are expected in all coal-producing regions, with the largest occurring in the Interior region. EIA projects that secondary inventories will rise in 2012, but decline in the following year, primarily in the electric power sector, as consumption grows. U.S. coal exports should remain strong but be below the 107 MMst exported in 2011. Forecast U.S. coal exports are 99 MMst in both 2012 and 2013. U.S. coal exports averaged 56 MMst in the decade preceding 2011.

CO2 emissions continue falling After declining by 2 percent in 2011, fossil fuel emissions are projected to fall an additional 0.4 percent in 2012, but increase by 0.9 percent in 2013. After falling by 2.1 percent last year, petroleum emissions continue to decline slightly in 2012, and then increase by 0.4 percent in 2013. Natural gas emissions rise in both 2012 and 2013. Coal emissions fall in 2012 by 3.4 percent, but rise by 1.9 percent in 2013.

Initial unemployment claims

Minnesota initial unemployment claims

Nine-county Mankato region ’11

February ’12

Percent change ’11-’12

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

294 195 62 268 819

268 211 92 200 771

-8.8% 8.2% +48.4% 25.4% -5.9%

2011

February

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

2012

120,000

2,000

110,000

1,000

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

Local number of unemployed

S

O

N

2011

D

2012

Nine-county Mankato region 9,666 8,327 10,000

Percent change ’11-’12

5,265 2,922 2,032 6,371 16,590

5,051 2,777 1,878 6,355 16,061

-4.1% -5% -7.6% -0.3% -3.2%

Minnesota non-farm jobs (in thousands) 2,711.4 2,751.5 3,000

J

’12

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 123,455 124,703 130,000

100,000

’11

0

J

F

M

A

M

2011

J

J

A

S

2012

O

N

D

Minnesota number of unemployed 2011

219,737 195,550

225,000

2012

8,000 200,000

6,000 4,000

175,000

2,000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

J

F

M

County/area

(includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) January

2011

Unemployment rate

5.8%

5.1%

55,651

56,370

3,426

3,006

Number of unemployed

150,000

A

Unemployment rates

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

Number of non-farm jobs

D

2012

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

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 January 2011 January 2012 5.8% 7.8% 8.3% 11.2% 7.3% 5.7% 7.9% 8.0% 8.3% 7.0% 7.1% 9.8%

5.1% 7.0% 6.9% 9.4% 6.1% 4.9% 6.7% 6.4% 7.2% 5.9% 6.6% 8.7% J. Malmanger

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 9

Business Barometers

Major industry

Business Barometers

Residential building permits Mankato $427.0 $673.2

$10,000

(in thousands)

2011

2012

Residential building permits North Mankato $230.9 $520.7

$3,000

2011

2012

(in thousands)

$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

2011

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

2012 97 75

150

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Commercial building permits Mankato $1,523 $1,662.1

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

2012

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota

$9,000

M

1 2

30

10 M

A

2011

50 F

M

40

20

J

F

Housing starts: Mankato/North Mankato

100

0

J

Source: City of North Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region 200

$0

(in thousands)

2011

2012

Commercial building permits North Mankato $0 $333.5

$12,000

2012 (in thousands)

2011

$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

5.1%

5.0% 4.5%

3.5%

3.9%

J

F

M

F

Foreclosures:

Interest rates: 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

4.0%

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

Source: Freddie Mac

O

N

D

Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan

Third quarter 2010 56 16 15 41 14 13 31 26 13

2011

Percent change

45 24 6 28 11 9 12 10 6

-20% +50% -60% -32% -21% -31% -61% -62% -54%

Source: Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council J. Malmanger

10 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Vehicle sales

753 1,072

2011

Mankato 2011 2012

(In thousands) $464.2 $490.6 $500

2012

1,000

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

Business Barometers

1,200

Sales tax collections

Mankato — Number of vehicles sold

$400

800

$300

600 400

$200

200

$100

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

$0

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Lodging tax collections $26,694 $27,600

$45,000

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 2011 2012

$44,915 $50,096

$60,000

2011

2012

$50,000 $30,000

$40,000 $30,000

$15,000

$20,000 $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 $3.75

$4.00

2012

2011

$3.00 $2.00

$3.59

$1.00 $0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Gas prices-Minnesota

$3.00 $2.00

$3.54

$1.00 $0

Feb. 13

March 14

Archer Daniels

$30.93

$31.57

+2.1%

Ameriprise

$55.04

$57.48

+4.4%

Best Buy

$25.21

$24.72

-1.9%

Crown Cork & Seal

$37.35

$37.16

-0.5%

Fastenal

$50.58

$52.37

+3.5%

$16.71

$16.80

+0.7%

General Mills

$39.34

$38.51

-2.1%

HickoryTech

$11.86

$10.75

-9.4%

Hutchinson Technology

$2.14

$2.24

+4.7%

$41.12

$47.00

+14.3%

Johnson Outdoors

$18.31

$16.98

-7.3%

3M

$88.03

$89.52

+1.7%

Target

$52.36

$58.60

+11.9%

U.S. Bancorp

$29.18

$31.34

+7.4%

Wells Financial

$15.35

$17.00

+10.7%

$0.61

$0.85

+39.3%

$26.44

$26.42

-0.1%

Winland J

F

M

Source: GasBuddy.com

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J. Malmanger

Percent change

General Growth

Itron

2012

2011

$3.68

$4.00

Stocks of local interest

Xcel

J. Malmanger

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 11

Agricultural Outlook

Land conservation program nicked by high crop prices, federal deficits

L

ast year, the Conservation Reserve Program celebrated its 25th anniversary of conservation success. CRP was established in the 1985 Farm Bill, and today has more than 400,000 landowners participating, most of whom are farmers and ranchers, and currently has over 29.6 million acres under some-type of CRP contracts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the CRP program as the largest and most important conservation program in recent decades. CRP continues to make major contributions to national efforts to improve water and air quality, prevent soil erosion, protect environmentally sensitive land, and enhance wildlife populations. Some of the benefits of the CRP program: • 450 million tons of soil erosion reduced annually. • Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorus from flowing into rivers, streams, and lakes in the U.S. • 2 million acres of wetlands and buffers restored. • 2 million acres of stream bank protected along rivers and streams. • Enhanced populations of ducks, pheasants, quail, and other wildlife species. • CRP provides over $1.7 billion per year to private landowners, which are dollars that help support local businesses and the local economy. • CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the U.S. In 2010, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road. • There are currently 43 Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs (CREP) in 32 States in targeted watersheds, which has generated over $1 billion in additional state and private funds for federal conservation efforts through CRP. There are just under 29.7 million acres enrolled in the CRP program, which is down from 36.8 million acres in 2007. Currently there are approximately 24.4 million acres under

12 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

General CRP contracts, 4 million acres under Continuous CRP contracts, and 1.3 million acres under CREP contracts. Sign-up for Continuous CRP is on-going, and will likely continue to be on-going under the New Farm Bill. Continuous CRP targets the most sensitive environmental land areas, such as filter strips, buffers, wetlands, etc. The CREP program is a CRP partnership with State Conservation Programs, which target specific watersheds. In 2011, CRP contracts on 4.4 million acres expired, but landowners offered only 3.75 million acres for enrollment into CRP. Of that total, USDA accepted 2.83 million acres, resulting in a net reduction of about 1.57 million acres. Strong crop prices and net farm incomes from crop production, along with increasing cash rental rates, probably discouraged some landowners from re-enrolling crop land into CRP in 2011. Continued strong crop prices and further increases in cash rental rates in 2012 are likely to again affect the number of expiring CRP acres that are offered for re-enrollment. With over 6.5 million CRP acres set to expire in 2012, enrollment similar to 2011 would reduce the total CRP acreage to under 26 million acres by the end of this year. About 75 percent of the CRP acres are in 10 states — Texas, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Missouri, and South Dakota. The percentage of CRP acres expiring in 2012 from these states is very similar, with North Dakota having 838,223 CRP acres expiring, followed by Texas with 827,750 expiring acres. Minnesota has 290,064 acres expiring while Iowa has 230,856 acres expiring. The bids that are offered into CRP for 2012 will be evaluated, using the “environmental benefits index.” USDA plans to target the most environmentally sensitive land with the sign-up in order to reduce soil erosion, protect water and air quality,

■ “Strong crop prices and net farm incomes probably discouraged some landowners from re-enrolling crop land into CRP.” By Kent Thiesse

and to enhance wildlife protection and carbon sequestration. There will continue to be special focus on buffer strips near rivers and streams. The CRP program is likely to be a key focal point during the development of the next Farm Bill in the coming months. In an era when Congress and the administration are looking to reduce the deficit, there will be pressure to reduce the current annual expenditure of just under $2 billion on the CRP program, including about $1.7 billion in annual rental payments. Keeping acres enrolled in Midwestern states, where average land rental rates have increased dramatically in recent years, will likely be much more expensive in the future. Others feel we need to reduce CRP acreage in the future due to the need for expanded grain production to meet the demand for more world food and increased renewable energy production. On the other hand, the CRP program remains extremely popular with many farm, wildlife, and environmental organizations, as well as with members of Congress. Most experts expect the size of the CRP program to be reduced from 32 million acres to around 25 million acres in the next Farm Bill. 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

Corn prices — southern Minnesota 2012

2011

$8.00

(dollars per bushel)

$6.39

$12.98

$12.00 $11.00 $10.00

$5.81

$2.00

$12.00

$9.00 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA

J

F

M

M

J

J

Milk prices

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

2012

2011

A

S

O

N

D

$87.16

$22.00

$80.00

$20.00

$70.00

$18.83

$18.00

$79.87

$60.00

$16.00 F

Source: USDA

M

A

M

Minimum prices, class I milk Dollars per hundredweight

2012

2011

$24.00

$90.00

J

A

Source: USDA

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices $100.00

$8.00

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

$14.00

$17.69 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.

Pauline Kruger Vice President, Mankato Location

Matt Zebro Vice President, Commercial Lending

1601 Adams Street, Mankato, MN 56001 • PO Box 310, 53 1st Street SW, Wells, MN 56097 800.944.5869 • www.wellsfederal.com

J. Malmanger

Business Barometers

$13.00

$4.00

$50.00

(dollars per bushel)

2012

2011

$14.00

$6.00

$0

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota

Updates: Business news, local relevance

■ ■

AgStar has record net earnings

AgStar Financial Services reported year-end 2011 net after-tax earnings of $75.4 million, a 13 percent increase over 2010. The 2011 earnings will result in a patronage dividend allocation of $40.3 million to stockholders in 2012. The earnings were the strongest ever. An increase in net interest income and lower provision expense contributed to the strong results. In addition, the company launched a Minority Lending Program, which offers immigrant and minority farmers with limited lending opportunities a place to turn for loans, leases, financial resources and guidance. AgStar was also named a Top Workplace by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. As a client-owned cooperative, AgStar pays back to qualified stockholders in the form of a patronage program. Through this program, 55 percent of AgStar’s eligible earnings are returned to stockholders.

Updates

“Cash mobs” helping local businesses

You’ve heard of flash mobs, where people appear to randomly gather and break into elaborate song and dance routines. But now, a new phenomenon, called “Cash Mobs,” is spreading. Instead of breaking into song, members of cash mobs break open their wallets to spend money at locally owned businesses. Since starting last year, cash mobs have been organized in 32 states and Canada. But unlike flash mobs, which are generally entertaining and trivial, they come with a serious purpose. The cash mobs are a chance for business owners to begin building a longer-term relationship with customers. The formula is straightforward: People commit to spending at least $20 each at a local business to help expose and market it, which brings in new customers. Like flash mobs, cash mobs are organized using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As their popularity has spread, they have received publicity from conventional media through announcements in the newspaper or on the radio. ■

ADM looks to use crop residues for feed

Archer Daniels Midland Co. and China Agricultural University launched a research program to confirm that a portion of the corn in cattle rations may be effectively replaced with a mix of corn processing co-products and corn stover — the stalks, cobs and leaves left on farmers’ fields after the harvest. An increasingly prosperous Chinese population is eating diets higher in animal protein, and driving higher demand for grain in the country. China’s livestock currently consume about 112 million metric tons of corn per year. Cattle producers may be able to reduce their animals’ consumption by more than half by using a mix of corn processing co-products and corn stover. In more than 20 cattle-feeding trials, which ADM has conducted in partnership with three U.S. agricultural research universities, researchers have been able to replace more than 60 percent of the grain in ruminants’ diets with a mixture of stover treated with hydrated lime and high-protein distillers’ grains without negatively impacting the animals’ growth and development.

14 • April 2012 • MN Valley Business

Ethanol companies set for growth

Government data showed the U.S. exported 76.3 million gallons of ethanol in January, 33 percent above January 2011 totals and nearly six times higher than January 2010. Exports to Brazil fell from previous months, due largely to that nation’s recent decision to reduce the mandatory ethanol blend level from 25 percent to 20 percent. Brazil is struggling to make enough ethanol to satisfy domestic demand. Brazil may become a net importer of ethanol this year for the first time in at least 10 years. ■

Demand revs up for Harley, Polaris

Motorcycle maker Harley Davidson and all-terrain and snowmobile makers Polaris Industries and Arctic Cat are riding high as consumer confidence has apparently fueled stronger sales. They are in the leisure-products group populated with a variety of companies tied to discretionary consumer spending, like boat maker Johnson Outdoors. But demand for motorcycles and ATVs seems to be powering much of the group’s gains. Polaris reported that fourth-quarter revenue jumped 26 percent to $782 million. Rival Arctic Cat’s most recent quarter saw sales climb 36 percent to $207 million. Wall Street expected $181 million. But rising gasoline prices might dampen demand for the recreational vehicles. ■

Food companies reach for the snack

Facing stagnant growth in their base grocery business, packaged-food companies are increasingly turning to snacks as an avenue for growth. The companies hope to capitalize on American consumers who continue to snack more throughout the day, and on trends in developing markets, such as more women entering the workplace and the spread of modern retail formats. Analysts and companies project that there’s enough growth to go around in the $560 billion global snacks market. So even as such smaller snack players as ConAgra Foods or General Mills try to get bigger in snacking, such larger players as PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay, and Kraft Foods need not worry about losing any market share. Another incentive is the fact that snack prices can be raised more easily than those of some grocery staples, according to analysts. Snacks generally start at lower prices and offer the added value of convenience, for which shoppers are willing to pay more. They’re also generally bought on a whim, such as when drivers fill up their tank at gas stations or shoppers pick up a prescription at a drug store, making them an afterthought that satisfies an urge.

Professional resources to help grow your business AUTOMOTIVE Jerry’s Body Shop, Inc. 1671 Madison Ave, Mkto, MN 56001 507-388-4895 www.asashop.org/member/jerrys

EDUCATION MSU Extended Learning MSU-Mankato Campus ext@mnsu.edu 507-389-2572 800-722-0544 x9 www.mnsu.edu/ext

MEDIA The Free Press Media 418 S 2nd Street Mankato, MN 56001 507-625-4451 www.mankatofreepress.com

Good morning Mankato! We’re happy to be here. We may be new to Mankato, but we’ve been around Minnesota for a long time. So you can expect big things from us. Like building area businesses, and a healthier community together.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH Mankato Clinic Urgent Care 1809 Adams Street Mankato, MN 56001 507-385-4075 www.mankatoclinic.com

Stop by for a cup of coffee and say hello.

1290 Raintree Road, MankBUPt BANK  t#remer.com Member FDIC. © 2011 Bremer Financial Corporation. All rights reserved.

For information on including your service to this directory, please contact

Cheryl Olson

507-344-6390

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Special Focus: Online Marketing

How to pump up your mix of online marketing

By Marie Wood

F

or many of us, the online marketing world is an alphabet soup of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SMO (Social Media Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). The bottom line is that you must continuously post content online to help you rise in search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website. Anjon Roy, owner of ConnectingMainStreet.com, helps his clients strengthen their Web presence, build online authority so their website is found where potential customers are searching, and execute proven online marketing strategies. As a consultant for the Small Business Development Center at Minnesota State University, Roy assists small businesses in online marketing, social media and e-commerce . “A website is a dynamic thing. This is a tool you can use to generate more leads and increases sales for your business,” said Roy of Mankato. A good online marketing mix is your website with a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. Here are Roy’s tips to market effectively online. N.A.P. your home page N.A.P. Stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. One basic rule is to put your name, address and phone number on the home page of your website. When Yahoo, Google and bing run searches, the engines look for this data. Pump up your about page Website analyses indicate that the about page is one of the most clicked link on websites. “The more time and effort you spend on the about page, the more you’re going to get that feeling of trust. It’s like an awesome sales page where people are learning about you. You get to sell them on who you are before you sell them your product,” said Roy. Claim Your Listings Claim your listings on Yahoo! Directory, Google Places and bing Local. Each search engine has a link to claim your listing. Make sure all your information is exactly the same as your home page. “Those listings are part of what Google uses to assume trust,” said Roy. When your information is accurate and consistent, you create authority on the web and your business will appear in directories and searches for location specific services or products.

16 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Join Google Plus By joining and posting on Google Plus, you can tie your social accounts together, post your content and influence the Google search Anjon Roy engine. Once again, you are creating authority online which improves your search result rankings, explained Roy. Schedule social media postings. Roy recommends bufferapp.com, a social media scheduling service that offers three plan levels. The first level is free and offers 10 posts in your Buffer and one Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter account. Through Buffer, you can syndicate one message on all your social media sites. Simply fill your buffer account and the posts go to all your followers, friends and contacts on schedule. Plus Buffer runs reports that show you the impact of every post. What should you post? Roy follows the 80/20 rule. He advises that 80 percent of your posts should educate your clients and 20 percent should promote your company, services or products. When choosing educational content, stay relevant to your industry. “You can’t be 100 percent selling or 100 percent educational. People aren’t going to take action unless you ask them,” said Roy. MV

Web Resources HootSuite.com, TweetDeck.com, bufferapp.com can help you schedule and post messages across social media sites ConstantContact.com offers an email marketing overview and how-tos. ClickZ.com posts online marketing news and trends. Office Moxie offers an informative blog and email newsletters. ConnectingMainStreet.com offers online marketing tips and email updates.

Email marketing more important than ever

By Marie Wood

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mail marketing is more relevant than ever with the popularity of smart phones. Studies show that email is the first and most frequent thing people check — more than six times a day. Holly Anthony, owner of Office Moxie in Madison Lake, specializes in providing marketing support services and computer software training. She focuses on helping small businesses and non-profits succeed in web-based marketing by managing her clients’ social media profiles, email marketing accounts, websites, blogs, and more. “Email marketing is an effective and economical way to drive traffic to your website, blog, and social media pages,” explained Anthony. Here are a few of Anthony’s best practices. Permission-based email Don’t add people to your list without their consent. You run the risk of losing credibility with customers, who may mark your email as spam. Also let people know when, how often and the type of information they will receive. To help build your list, put an email signup box on your website and include a link to the sign-up box in your email signature.

Integrate social media Include social share buttons in your emails. People can click on your Twitter or Facebook button to friend, follow and join discussions on these pages. On the flipside, add a “Join my Mailing List” button on your social media profiles. Get your emails read Subject lines with less than 49 characters (including spaces) achieve better open rates, so keep them short and compelling. “April Newsletter” is not going to create urgency, but “Limited Time Offer” could entice customers to open your email. Establish yourself as the expert. Think about the hot topics for your industry and audience and offer information that is valuable to them. Ask readers to submit a question to answer in future email communications. You can also include answers to frequently asked questions from your customers.

Holly Anthony Create a communication calendar A communication calendar will help you manage the frequency of your email communications and your open rates. It will also allow you to plan your marketing campaigns. Get an email marketing account Bulk email service providers, such as Constant Contact, iContact, and Mail Chimp, are built for one-to-many email communications. In addition, they offer reporting metrics that are key to measuring your marketing efforts. While some service providers charge a monthly fee, they are affordable and essential to launching effective email campaigns. MV

Be brief Emails must read well on smart phone, tablet and computer screens. Don’t “stuff ” your emails. They should contain simple messages with one call to action. You may want to drive readers to your website or blog with a link to “read more.”

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 17

Business Commentary

New estate tax deductions for small business and farms

O

ur Minnesota Legislature in the special session held in July, 2011 enacted a new statute for decedents dying after June 30, 2011. Essentially, this new statute creates an additional up-to $4 million deduction for the value of “qualified small business property” and “qualified farm property” passing to qualified heirs. This new law dovetails to some extent with Section 2032A of the Internal Revenue Code. Many farmers are familiar with Section 2032A and its effect on lowering the value of agricultural real estate to a “productive use value”. In light of the substantial rise in agricultural land values, this new legislation should be of great assistance to estate planners in reducing the potential estate tax for Minnesota farmers. The scope of the new legislation also encompassed “qualified small business property.” Very importantly, the new legislation will also impact small businesses in Minnesota and business owners should be aware of the new Minnesota legislation in light of the impact it may have on their own estate planning. The new statute encompasses property that consists of assets of a trade or business, shares of stock or other ownership interests in a corporation or other entity engaged in a trader business. There are a number of qualifications in order for an estate to utilize the new exemption amount. Some of the qualifications are as follows: • The value of the property must be included in the federal adjusted taxable estate. • The decedent or the decedent’s spouse must have materially participated in the trader business within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code Section 469. • The gross annual sales of their trader business must be $10 million or less for the last taxable year ending before the death of the owner. • The property cannot consist of cash or cash equivalents and adjustments must be made to the value of the property qualifying. • The decedent must have continuously owned the property for three years ending on their date of death. • A family member, as it’s defined in the law, must continuously use the property in a trader business for three years following the death of the decedent. • The estate and the qualified heir must agree in writing to pay any recapture tax which may occur if the business fails to qualify as a qualified small business subsequent to the decedent’s death. The new law also provides for a recapture within three years after the decedent’s death should the qualified heir dispose of their interest in the property other than a transfer to a qualifying family member....Again, this is somewhat similar to Internal Revenue Code Section 2032A in that the federal law also provides for a recapture but extends to 10 years from the date of death of the decedent.

18 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

An important distinguishing factor for planners is the fact that the involvement of the family members is determined by looking at Internal Revenue Code Section 469. There are seven specific tests under the Treasury Regulations By Richard Kakeldey interpreting Section 469 to determine whether or not the family member would have “materially participated” in the activities of the business. This is significantly different than Internal Revenue Code Section 2032A which, pursuant to federal regulations, has a more liberal view of what the family member must do in order to “materially participate” in order to be deemed a “qualified heir.” Therefore, business owners must make sure that their legal and tax advisors view carefully the code sections in order to determine whether or not their estate might qualify for the new additional exemption amount in Minnesota. The requirements for complying with the new statute for “family farms” are fairly restricted and significantly different than Internal Revenue Code Section 2032A. The property must be a farm that meets the requirements of Minn. Statute 500.24. Essentially, this is the “anti-corporate farming” statute in Minnesota. The property must have been the homestead of the decedent or the decedent’s spouse and must be “class 2a” property. There are many aspects of the statute that will need to be sorted out and the Minnesota Department of Revenue has not issued new forms or provided direction at this point in time as to the manner in which the election shall be made and the specifics relative to their interpretation of the statute. Although the new Minnesota law provides some additional complexity to the planners, it could certainly be a valuable tool to reduce Minnesota estate taxes that would otherwise be due from a small business owner or farmer’s estate. It is critical that all business owners and advisors be aware of the new Minnesota law and track the evolution of the statute as it moves forward. This could prove to be a substantial benefit to small business. MV Richard Kakeldey is an attorney at Kakeldey & Koberoski in Mankato, 625-1030, kakeldeylaw.com

For more information, contact the advancement ofďŹ ce at 507.344.7313

Cover Story

Most influential Pat Hentges and Jonathan Zierdt have helped lead a booming area economy By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross 20 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

I

n the realm of influencing the greater Mankato area, Pat Hentges might be the head waiter while Jonathan Zierdt is the guy who does the seating arrangement at the table. “My job is to set the table — put the infrastructure in, put the process in place that facilitates private investment and private development,” said Hentges, Mankato’s city manager. “I create relationships among other people, get them to sit down together and then get out of their way,” said Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth. The men — with different roles, talents and approaches — were chosen by a broad section of community leaders as the two most influential people when it comes to economic development in the region. (See related story on the Most Influential process.)

Leaders are made, not born says local professional coach By Tim Krohn Diana Gabriel believes most of the best leaders are made through a deliberate process of self awareness, methodical development of skills and practice. Gabriel, a certified professional coach who helps with leadership development at several area groups and private companies, follows a Strength Based Leadership process. It’s a process created by the Gallup organization that helps people identify their innate strengths and leverage them to become good leaders. “What Gallup found out was that people want leaders who create hope, engender trust, provide security and show compassion,” Gabriel said. “If people understand their strengths they can develop their capacity to provide that and go from being a good leader to a great leader.” Gabriel said it takes both technical skills like time management and soft skills of the individual to develop leadership. “The other piece is people who want to be a leader and have gifts and talents, they have to be responsible for their own development. That can be in opportunities like taking leadership opportunities in groups like GMG or the YWCA, or going to executive coaches,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities for them but at the end of the day they have to take responsibility for that.” Gabriel said developing the next generation of leaders needs to be deliberate and involve current leaders. “Established leaders need to be very cognizant of bringing along the next generation with mentorship or offering them opportunities.” And she said even people who are smart, confident and involved in activities need to develop skills. “That can be missed along the way. Sometimes people just assume that because someone is good at something they must also be good at leading, but maybe they don’t have the training to really lead well. “I think there’s more consciousness about developing leadership in the community now. It’s more purposeful now.”

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 21

Cover Story

Public/private partnerships Hentges and Zierdt say the roles of and relationships between government and private business have changed over the years. Decades ago saw powerful local business owners naturally fill the role of setting the development agenda. Local elected and appointed officials tried to accommodate those goals while going about the other needs of running a community. Today, with dramatic growth and with much more outside corporate investment in the area, private business leadership is more diffused. And elected and appointed leaders are more deliberate in their obligations and goals. “Our council over my 15 years here has really evolved into the role of putting the infrastructure and other things in place and letting the private sector make the investments,” Hentges said. “The days of wielding all these financial incentives for getting companies (to locate here) is past. Having good infrastructures in place — roads, sewer and water extensions, the industrial parks — those kinds of things bring the private sector in to make investments,” Hentges said. “I think we’ve set that stage well, and I think our neighbors across the river (in North Mankato) have done the same thing.” Helping spur that private development — through relocations or expansions of existing businesses — is where Zierdt comes in. “I try to connect people that can help each other get things done. If this person has an idea and this person over here has something that can help, you help them get together and connect the dots,” Zierdt said. “You have to be constantly sharing information and creating relationships. At Greater Mankato Growth we ask ourselves every day what can we bring that adds value to the situation, that is constructive.” Zierdt says that as a leader who hears a lot of proprietary information and guarded business plans, it’s imperative he jealously guards information. “People have to trust you. If you’re constantly sharing information, it has to be in a trusted way.” While leadership, skill and influence on both the public and private sides play key roles in economic growth, Hentges said a lot of things have aligned well to bring Mankato-North Mankato to the point of being a major regional center.

Hentges’ youth: entrepreneurialism, hard work

Cover Story

By Tim Krohn Despite his success and stature as the city manager of a major regional center, Pat Hentges jokes that he’s the least successful among his four brothers. “One brother is a priest in Rome — in my mother’s eyes he’s the most successful — and one was president of a large manufacturing company and two were successful vice presidents of sales and marketing. “So based on income and in the eyes of my mother I’m the least successful as a public servant.” Hentges, 57, and his brothers were all influenced by their parents’ faith and work ethic. Born in Sleepy Eye, Hentges moved with the family to Faribault when he was a teen, where he attended the private Bethlehem Academy. “My dad was a long-time owner of a regional smalltown dairy in the Windom and Marshall area. He sold his interest and moved to Faribault and opened an offsale liquor store as kind of an early retirement job,” Hentges said. “He was a small business entrepreneur. We didn’t make a lot of money but we did well and we all worked in the businesses from a young age. The work ethic part of that was very formative.” After graduating from St. Cloud State, Hentges worked for the city of Faribault as a planner and assistant administrator and then city administrator until 1990. He went to the private sector for a few years, working for Met-Con Construction as general manager, doing commercial construction, development and road contracting. “One of the things I missed at Met-Con was the community aspect of being involved in local government.” Hentges returned to city government as administrator of Columbia Heights for three years until being hired in Mankato in 1996. (He earned a master’s degree in urban management from Minnesota State University.) Hentges said his pubic administration skills were honed when he worked in Faribault because of a very forward-thinking, progressive council and business community. “I was very fortunate in my early years in Faribault to have a very unique council that was comprised of the president of a major company, small business people, public servants and females,” Hentges said. “I think they were very helpful in having me look at budgets and development in a very analytical way. “Faribault is progressive and has a lot of competition along 35W with cities like Owatonna. At that time we had a lot of ground to make up with Owatonna and I think they’ve done that.” MV

22 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Pat Hentges

“There are a lot of reasons. Everyone plays a role — the business community, ISJ, higher education and nonprofits. And some of it’s just luck and geography.” The next level Zierdt and Hentges say continuing the strong growth in the region requires more focus on a few areas, including attracting and keeping good workers, developing clear and orderly landuse plans and maintaining quality of life. “What companies, including Wal-Mart (which is planning a distribution center here) talks about is livability. “They do want a competitive tax environment and they want good development sites and well-grounded employees — those things are important. “But they look to communities that have a lot to offer — crime free, free of gangs, fewer socio-economic problems, less poverty,” Hentges said. Zierdt said maintaining high livability is imperative. “The really big issue going forward is the whole idea of talent. We have 25,000 students here every year and maybe 4,000 or 5,000 get into our job market. “We have something many communities don’t have. We’re a nice size community with a lot of amenities close to a major metropolitan area. We have to focus on how to make sure the community remains attractive to talent to come and want to stay,” Zierdt said. “It used to be you created jobs and people would come. But now the younger generations, they choose where they want to live because it’s the place they want to live.

Hentges said stepped-up efforts in recent years by nonprofits, government and businesses are focusing on quality of life. “An educated workforce wants things like recreation, athletics, art, the civic center, good schools. Livability in a community is a factor in many of these business investments. That’s become a much more critical thing in the 30 years I’ve been doing this.”

By Tim Krohn Majoring in secondary education and minoring in coaching, Jonathan Zierdt’s plans were to teach biology and do some coaching. He never got a job doing either, but he feels he’s still spent his career doing both. “I love to think I still teach and coach in an informal way, with staff and volunteers, helping to move a group of people who have a common end goal even if they have a different pathway,” Zierdt said. With an elementary school principal father and teacher mother, Zierdt was immersed in the world of education growing up in the small town of Spring Valley near Rochester. He was also deeply involved in the Boy Scouts and was a highly decorated Eagle Scout. Zierdt went to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where his high school sweetheart, Ginger, was attending. (She would later teach elementary school in Mankato and is now on the MSU faculty.) He graduated in 1990, but instead of teaching, Zierdt accepted an offer to oversee 1,500 Boy Scouts in and around Owatonna. “I decided we should do this while we’re young and had no children because of all the work on weekends and evenings. Then I thought in a few years I’d go into teaching,” Zierdt said. “But then people were inviting me to do things and I just never went back to education.” Those other things included directing the United Way in Owatonna and then leading that city’s chamber and visitor bureau. Zierdt spent a few years operating his own organizational consulting business, until being recruited to head Greater Mankato Growth. “I spent 20 plus years in what I call executive leadership of community-based organizations. I feel I have a calling, a passion for this.” He said his leadership qualities evolved over life. “I grew up in a great household and great modeling in my parents. And the Boy Scouts gave me great leadership opportunities. All the other roles let me cut my teeth even more.” Anyone who knows Zierdt knows a man of unbridled optimism. “I hear that a lot. I get out of bed in the morning and I have a choice, it’s going to be a good day or a bad day. I like to think it’s going to be a good day and tomorrow will be better. I guess I’m just wired that way.” MV

Jonathan Zierdt

Cover Story

Next generation of leaders At age 45, Zierdt isn’t exactly sure which generation of leadership — old guard or up-and-comers — he is in. But he said it’s important to find ways to foster leadership skills in younger generations. “The Y and X generations are much more into social media and technical skills. But at the end of the day leadership is all about building and fostering relationships. They might do it through social media or technology and I might rather pick up the phone,” Zierdt said. “But bringing those younger leaders up is all about helping foster those relationships.” Hentges, at age 57, said he’s in the “twilight” of his professional career. “I’m at the stage of kind of hurrying to get everything done I want to get done.” He said he’s watched people like Paul Vogel, his community development director, and Tanya Ange, his assistant city manager, grow. “The people I started working with on all sides of development are different today than 15 years ago. “There is professionalism and traits in our staff I think are very important. They deliver results and stability that says we can deliver things with a very process-oriented system in a timely manner.” On the private sector side Zierdt and Hentges note that longtime influential leaders — people like Curt Fisher, Denny Dotson, Dennis Miller, Taylor Corp. founders — are often still active in the community, but that a new group is taking on more of the leadership mantle. “Now you hear more from people like Tony Frentz, Robb Else, Dave Schooff and others who are quietly going about their business. And ISJ — the largest employer outside MSU — the leadership they’ve brought in has changed things dramatically,” Hentges said. MV

Zierdt exudes passion, optimism

Cover Story

Most Influential finalists Growing the Economy of the Area

Dan & Angie Bastian, owners Angie’s Kettle Corn

Dr. Greg Kutcher, president Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato

Richard Davenport, president MSU

Todd Loosbrock, president U.S. Bank

Denny Dotson, owner Dotson Co.

Todd Snell, owner Snell Motors

Curt Fisher, developer, Coldwell Banker Fisher Commercial

Glen Taylor, owner Taylor Corp.

How the Most Infuential were chosen MN Valley Business/The Free Press wanted to find those people who are considered the most influential in the greater Mankato area in the three areas of: Growing the Economy of the Area; Civic Pride; Developing a Regional Political Voice. Those selected in the Growing the Economy category are featured in this month’s magazine, while those in the other two categories will be highlighted in the May issue. Rather than simply seek nominations or arbitrarily choose among a group of civic leaders, we asked a broad section of area leaders to participate in a process for determining the most influential.

24 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

First, everyone was asked to name people they believed were the most influential in each category. That list was then winnowed down to the top vote-getters in each category. Those finalists were then surveyed again and each asked to list who they believe were the top three most influential people were from among the group of finalists (not including themselves). That produced our list of the top two most influential people in each category.

Year-to-date Economic Impact 2011 Total Economic Impact: $40,500,000

Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

Strengthening and Supporting our Region’s Existing Businesses Grow Minnesota! may have only recently been announced as the recipient of a Minnesota Progress Minnesota Award, but the program has been receiving accolades from businesses and those who serve them for years. As part of this state-wide program founded by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the business development staff of Greater Mankato Growth (GMG) conducts face-to-face visits with area company officials. GMG typically includes in these visits the appropriate government officials from the Greater Mankato Regional Economic Development Alliance (REDA), a regional collaboration of cities and counties that work with GMG in coordinated business retention and attraction efforts. “Strengthening and supporting the region’s existing businesses is a priority for us,” said GMG President & CEO Jonathan Zierdt. “The health of the businesses in our backyard is critical to our region’s robust business climate and overall vitality.” In 2011 GMG performed 43 Grow Minnesota! visits to a diverse collection of businesses from throughout the Greater Mankato region. According to GMG’s Business Development Director Tom Riley, while the individual visits aren’t often publicized, the benefits can be seen throughout the community. “Because of our commitment to confidentiality, you typically don’t hear about these visits, but there are a lot of positive outcomes, some immediate and some that come later. The visits enable us to touch base with a business, see what they’re

doing and learn where we might possibly be able to help. We don’t profess to know everything about every business, but we can provide connectivity to supply chains and resources that the business may not know about.” The program not only benefits the businesses visited, but the marketplace as a whole. Through the visits, GMG is able to identify overall business challenges and opportunities for the region, leading to proactive economic development activities. The information gathered on these visits is also aggregated with that from other areas across the state, providing state-wide trends and regional comparison data that can be useful to GMG and businesses from the region. Greater Mankato Growth will continue to support and foster the growth of existing businesses in the region through future Grow Minnesota! visits. For more information or to schedule a Grow Minnesota! visit to your business, go to greatermankato.com/business-growmn.php. Greater Mankato Growth’s participation in Grow Minnesota made possible through the generous funding by:

Greater Mankato Growth

Far from a typical Grow Minnesota! visit While Grow Minnesota! visits typically take place in and around the Greater Mankato region, there are times when it’s beneficial to visit a company’s corporate office. One particularly interesting and impactful Grow Minnesota! visit involved MTU Onsite Energy. After making a number of visits to MTU’s facility in Mankato, representatives from and the city traveled to the headquarters of their parent company The Tognum Group in Germany. These visits provided the opportunity to discuss MTU Onsite Energy’s current and future growth and investments in the Greater Mankato marketplace and enabled GMG and the city to be responsive to MTU’s business development needs. “MTU was one of the companies we identified as having a high potential for growth and supply chain compatibility with other companies in our area, which is why we took a proactive approach to working with their company officials both locally and internationally,” explained GMG’s Jonathan Zierdt. Over the past year, GMG’s interactions with MTU Onsite Energy have resulted in the development of several strategic relationships and industry specific links that benefit both MTU and other organizations in the region.

Grow Minnesota! visit to Tognum headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Pictured are Jim Pockrandt and Markus Hentschel from MTU Onsite Energy, GMG President & CEO Jonathan Zierdt, Tognum’s Ralph Behringer, Mankato City Manager Patrick Hentges and Friedrichshafen Mayor Andreas Brand

Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development

507.385.6640 • greatermankato.com

2011in Greater in Pictures Growth Mankato

NEW BUSINESS - Frozen Yogurt Creations 1901 Madison Ave, Suite 450, Mankato

NEW BUSINESS - Julie Marie’s 121 Sioux Road, Mankato

NEW BUSINESS - Quick Lane Tire & Auto 1925 Madison Avenue, Mankato

NEW LOCATION Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota 121 E. Cherry Street, Mankato

NEW BUSINESS - Sport Clips Haircuts 1872 Madison Avenue, Suite B, Mankato

Greater Mankato Day at the Capitol Thank you to the 180+ individuals who participated in Greater Mankato Day at the Capitol. You were instrumental in letting legislators know why Greater Mankato matters to the state of Minnesota and its economy. Visit greatermankato.com/gmg-dayatthecapitol.php for photos and video of the event. * Photos By Sport Pix

Greater Mankato Day at the Capitol

MN Valley Business • march 2012 • 29

Greater Mankato Growth

EXPANSION - Anytime Fitness 1751 N. Victory Drive, Suite 300, Mankato

Member Activities Upcoming Member Events

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. April 3 May 1 June 5

Mankato Clinic @ Madison East Center JBeal Real Estate Group in the Historic Graif Building North Star Aviation

2012 Business After Hours Sponsored by

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. April 18 May 16 June 20

Pediatric Therapy Services, Inc. and EllieGail’s Bakery & Catering Mayo Clinic Health System United Prairie Bank - Hilltop

2012 Business Before Hours Sponsored by

Greater Mankato Growth

Cavalier Calls on the Newest Greater Mankato Growth members

BARK.L Consulting Engineers 11 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 002, Mankato

LEEP 929 N. Fourth Street, Mankato mankatoleep.org

Nicollet Bike Shop 607 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato nicolletbike.com

Special Olympics Minnesota P.O. Box 3505, Mankato somn.org

30 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. Annual Meeting On March 6, more than 300 individuals from the Greater Mankato business community gathered in the Minnesota State University, Mankato Centennial Student Union Ballroom to hear about the successes of 2011 and goals for 2012. The event also gave Greater Mankato Growth and its affiliates the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and City Center Partnership an opportunity to thank those in the business community who made the achievements of 2011 possible and will be instrumental to the organizations’ future progress in 2012. View the annual report and photos of the event at greatermankato.com/gmg-annualmeeting.php.

Greater Mankato Growth MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 31

Organizations Name Volunteers of the Year Greater Mankato Growth, the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City Center Partnership honored their volunteers of the Year at the Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. Annual Meeting in March. All three organizations rely heavily on volunteer support and were thrilled to be able to honor their standout volunteers.

Volunteer of the Year Tami Reuter

Tami has served as a Greater Mankato Growth volunteer in a variety of capacities. For more than 12 years she has played a pivotal role in welcoming new businesses and leaders to Greater Mankato as an Ambassador, serving as chair, team captain and on the social committee. Tami has also served as a volunteer for the past six years in helping with the planning and execution of the Greater Mankato Career Expo and the Business Career Day that reaches more than 1,000 area high school students annually. And for more than five years, Tami has served as a member and a Chair of the Greater Mankato Leadership Institute program’s curriculum steering committee, helping GMG shape curriculum that will meet the needs of each class of participants and providing ongoing support and advisement throughout the program. “Tami’s many contributions to our community extend well beyond her volunteer work at GMG and we are grateful to have her on our team,” said GMG President & CEO Jonathan Zierdt.

Volunteer of the Year JO Guck Bailey

JO Guck Bailey has been a tremendous supporter of the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and general tourism in our community for years. She stepped into a leadership role in January 2010 to serve on the CVB Board of Directors. Her background in sales and marketing, particularly related to media, is invaluable to an organization such as the CVB. Additionally, she understands how important tourism is to Greater Mankato and how the CVB can help develop this community as a great destination to visit. Not shying away from hard work, in addition to sitting on the CVB Board, JO has been involved on several committees including research, marketing and branding, nominating, staff searches and more. She also is active on the core Mankato Marathon planning team. “JO’s wisdom and skills have helped shape our success and the future direction of our organization,” said CVB President Anna Thill. “She is a valued mentor and a great asset to the CVB.”

Greater Mankato Growth

Volunteer of the Year Tami Paulsen

Tami Paulsen has gone above and beyond in service to the City Center Partnership and City Center Mankato/North Mankato. It was through her relentless commitment to Co-Chairing the inaugural CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour that the project got off the ground and was a success. Though Tami would quickly remind you that she wasn’t alone, she fully committed herself to ensuring the sculptures were all in order before and after installation, assisted in directing volunteers who worked on the project, and tirelessly promoted the tour. In conjunction with Co-Chairing CityArt she also simultaneously served on the City Center Partnership (CCP) Board of Governors, Executive Committee and Chaired the CCP Aesthetics & Livability Committee. According to CCP Coordinator Eric Harriman, “The City Center is better because of the imprint Tami has made on it and with the overwhelming community support for the project her impact will continue to be felt for years to come.”

April 10 | 4 – 7 pm Verizon Wireless Center

• Check out booths form area businesses • Enjoy food samples from a variety of restaurants • Visit with colleagues old and new Everyone from the business community is invited to attend! 32 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

Great Outdoor Adventures in Greater Mankato By Christine Nessler, Marketing and Leisure Sale Director

trail around the Indian Lake Conservation Area. “Mankato offers excellent bicycling for everyone - from recreational riders to the extremely experienced riders, there truly is something for every bicycle rider in the Greater Mankato Area,” said Charley Serrill, Bike Technician for Scheels. The Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau has partnered with local riders to create a map with four incredible loops that highlight what a beautiful area we live in. Maps are available online or at the CVB office in the Verizon Wireless Civic Center. “For road-bike riders, the Mankato area features some of the best road-riding opportunities in the state,” said Serrill. “All within minutes of riding out of town, fantastic road routes can be found in every direction - you just have to decide how far you want to go!” No wonder the folks from the metro want to visit our community. What’s not to love about fresh air, scenic views and miles and miles of lush river valley, paved and unpaved trails and scenic roadways? Not only are we a regional hub, we’re a regional wonderland of outdoor beauty and adventure. Find out more at visitgreatermankato.com.

The Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is an affiliate of Greater Mankato Growth (GMG), operated as an LLC under GMC.The CVB is dedicated to the important work of attracting and servicing visitors to Greater Mankato.

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 33

Greater Mankato Growth

Greater Mankato has a significant draw from Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. As the area’s regional hub, we provide shopping, dining, entertainment, arts and culture and so much more. The Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau has also noticed a trend of pulling visitors from the metro area due to our abundance of outdoor fun, including five rivers within 15 minutes of town and multiple biking opportunities. It all adds up to a very unique, accessible and exciting community. The Blue Earth County river valley has more miles of river than any other county in the state of Minnesota. There are a variety of opportunities for people to enjoy these rivers, including a guided paddling experience with Bent River Outfitter. The crew at Bent River Outfitter knows the rivers like the back of their hand. One of the founders of Bent River, Dain Fisher, grew up on the river. “Growing up here in the River Valleys of Mankato has been a true blessing,” said Fisher. “I’ve backpacked all over the country and different parts of the world and I’m proud to say that coming home is never a disappointment. Our area is rapidly gaining popularity for outdoor recreation. The Bent River Outfitter guides, including myself, are so thrilled to be a part of it!” Bent River Outfitter can show their customers all the hidden treasures of the river, including waterfalls and secluded places for a quiet picnic or a bit of reflection. Bent River Outfitter offers adventures year-round, so in addition to paddling in the summer, you can snowshoe in the winter. Bent River also offers exciting seasonal packages. Check out bentriveroutfitter.com to find out what adventure awaits you. Bikers are taking notice of Greater Mankato as well. We have miles and miles of low-traffic, smooth roads with wide shoulders. These are perfect conditions for road bikers. We also have over 50 miles of paved trails. Our trail system offers spectacular views of streams, wetland areas and a wealth of wildlife. For mountain bikers we have many opportunities, including the challenging trails of Mount Kato, the relaxed, off-road experience of Seven Mile Park trails and the beautiful

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Spring is a time for optimism Regional Outlook

I

t sure felt like spring was in the air when the February jobs report was released showing an increase of 227,000 jobs. While that was a bit higher than most analysts expected, what actually was most impressive was that February was the third consecutive month in which the economy created over 200,000 jobs. As any statistician will tell you, one occurrence is often perceived as an episode; two back-toback occurrences give you a reason to pause and observe; however three consecutive occurrences is categorized as a trend. And while this continuing upward trend in jobs is not that steep, it appears to be spreading a great deal of optimism. What was equally exciting to see was that in addition to the higher than expected job growth in February, the economy simultaneously witnessed an increase in the employment participation rate. In other words, people who had previously been sitting on the sidelines unable to find a job in the past are now encouraged to once again join the workforce and start looking. The fact that several hundred thousand Americans re-joined the workforce and the overall unemployment rate still remained steady at 8.3 percent is a good sign. And lastly, amid all this optimistic news it was also reported that average weekly wages increased as well. Having all of these indicators trending upward at the same time gives one reasons to hope. Here in Minnesota the trends and the optimism are equally on display. The January jobs report indicated that our state economy added 15,500 jobs and the state unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent; more than 2.5 percentage points lower than the national average. Over the past year the state economy has now added a “net” 29,000 jobs. The strength of the state’s private sector was substantial when you take into account the continuing loss in government jobs during the same period of time. For example, in January the private sector actually created 17,200 new jobs, while government shed 1,700 for an overall net gain of 15,500. These contradictory trends have been quite consistent throughout the year with the private sector actually creating close to 37,000 new jobs in the past year, while government agencies shed a total of 7,900 jobs. And while

“Over the past year the Mankato/N. Mankato area has outpaced all other metro areas in terms of job growth.” By Jack M. Geller, Ph.D

one could argue that the loss of government jobs seems to be slowing down the overall jobs recovery, one cannot deny the fact that in the fourth quarter of 2011 Minnesota’s private employers reported close to 50,000 job openings; an increase of 47 percent from the same quarter the year before. Without question Minnesota’s private sector is both growing and gaining traction. The housing market in Minnesota has been weak for years and has created a significant drag on the economy. But now even the housing market seems to be trending in a more positive direction bringing a bit more optimism for 2012. Realtors report that the number of homes receiving offers continues to rise, while the number of new listings entering the market declines. And while the average price of homes has not significantly risen, it is fair to say that the continuing decline in the average price of homes seems to have bottomed out and may be in a position to increase from this point forward. Locally here in south central Minnesota, the economy actually has been quite robust. While the Mankato/ North Mankato metropolitan area typically doesn’t receive much statewide attention, some might be surprised to learn that over the past year the Mankato/N. Mankato area has outpaced all other metro areas in terms of job growth. In fact in the past year jobs grew at a rate of 3.6 percent in the Mankato area. Not that impressed? Well over the same period of time jobs in the Twin Cities metro grew at 1.1 percent; in Rochester the rate was 0.2

36 • April 2012 • MN Valley Business

percent; and in Duluth net jobs declined by a rate of -0.9 percent. With that as a reference, how does 3.6 percent seem now? Let’s remember that spring is the time of year that always brings out the optimist in all of us; but this spring the economic optimism may well be warranted. At the same time one must be careful not to be unrealistically optimistic. The recent February forecast of a $323 million budget surplus is a good example. While a multimillion dollar surplus is always a good thing, let’s remember that this surplus was created as a result of reduced government spending, not because of a fast-growing economy. In fact since the November forecast the combined revenue increase as a result of income, sales and corporate income taxes was a very modest $45 million, or an increase of 0.2 percent. So while the economic recovery continues in Minnesota and across the nation, let’s remember that the recovery can’t afford any sudden jolts. And while some may imagine jolts such as a natural disaster or unexpected geo-political events, it also includes unwise tax and economic policies designed to speed up the recovery. While it’s hard to admit, sometimes the smartest thing a policymaker can do is to sit back and just let the economy continue its course.

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

Up and Coming

Greg Bednar traded his career as a professional fundraiser to buy the Champion Auto store in Mankato and pursue his passion for automobiles

From academia to auto parts An admitted “motorhead” Greg Bednar is passionate about his new career By Jean Lundquist Photos By Pat Christman

38 • April 2012 • MN Valley Business

G

people who would take advantage of his philosophy. “I’m not naive,” he says, “but there are cases of genuine hardship.” Bednar employs three other full time people at Greg’s Champion Auto, plus a part-time bookkeeper. He says those employees make his approach workable. The first face customers see is that of service writer Danielle Burshem. “Danielle is a mechanic, too. She knows how to talk to the guys (mechanics) in back, and also how to give great customer service. That’s rare.” Bednar also has great praise to his two full time auto technicians, Dave Birk and Don Taylor. “Gone is the day of the grease monkey,” he says. “These guys are part auto diagnosticians, part computer technicians, and part counselors,” he says. The first two descriptions describe how they work with cars; the last describes how they relate to customers. “Often, people don’t understand their car, but they can describe a noise, or a smell. That’s when the guys have to be able to talk to people to repair their car.” Like all shops, each technician owns his own tools, Bednar says, but the expensive equipment needed to work with today’s complex cars, the shop provides. In addition, he subscribes to a service technician network, which allows Birk and Taylor to compare notes and learn from others across the country. “It’s not cheap, but the world of auto mechanics is changing so fast. They have the knowledge of other technicians with the click of a computer key.” That’s important, as cars become more and more complex. Bednar says his shop is now gearing up to repair hybrid

■ “Often, people don’t

understand their car,

but they can describe a noise, or a smell. That’s when the guys have to

be able to talk to people to repair their car.”

— Greg Bednar

Up and Coming

reg Bednar began his career in Mankato as a telecommunications software sales person for Hickorytech, or Mankato Citizens Telephone Company back then. In the next phase of his career, he was a professional fund raiser. He sought donations for Minnesota State University first. “That was during the Taylor Center days — that was a fun time,” he recalls. Then he moved to South Central College as a fund raiser before leaving to start a third phase of his career a couple of years ago. That’s when he bought Don’s Champion Auto at 55 Star Street in Mankato, and renamed it Greg’s Champion Auto. From the outside, it might seem an unlikely transition, but not to those who know Bednar. “I’m a motorhead,” he admits somewhat sheepishly. “Cars have always been my hobby,” he says, “especially anything made by Chrysler. I’m a Mopar guy to the bone.” One of Bednar’s cars is a souped up 1972 Plymouth Barracuda, which he races. “It will go from zero to 60 in two point five seconds; from zero to 100 in six seconds. It will cover a quarter of a mile in ten seconds. It lifts the from wheels right off the ground,” he says. He also owns a 1972 collector Dodge Charger. Although Bednar enjoys cars, he also enjoys people, and has approached his repair and parts business from that perspective. He has a three pronged approach: don’t sell people parts and services they don’t need; be honest, and take care of every car like it’s your own. Bednar started in the automobile repair business with the hope it is a place people will be comfortable sending their daughters and grandmothers, and everyone else who doesn’t know a lot about cars. Word of mouth advertising is one of the biggest compliments, he says. Bednar credits his firm religious foundation for his business style. “I have a real strong faith,” he explains. “My wife and I talked about how to have a profitable business and at the same time use the business to advance God’s kingdom.” That’s why Bednar has at times repaired vehicles for students and others at little or no cost. We’re such a car-centric society,” he says. “People need their cars to get to work, to get to the store, the doctor and to get to school. We think nothing of driving 70 to 100 miles here, but in some parts of the world, people would be driving across two countries to go that far.” Bednar knows there might be some

vehicles. “As they are coming off warranty, people will start looking for independent shops,” he believes, and he wants to be ready. Bednar admits that many people believe he bought the shop at the worst possible time, because the recession that was in full swing two years ago. In some ways, he doesn’t disagree. But always keeping an eye on the future, Bednar believed he could make it work. “With the recession, people were driving fewer miles, and needed fewer repairs on their cars. But people also stopped buying so many new cars, and holding onto their cars longer. Their older vehicles need more repairs.” Those cars that were purchased new a few years ago are also coming off warranty, and that often sends people to independent repair shops rather than dealerships, according to Bednar. One of the first changes Bednar made to the six year old building when he bought it was to soften the customer waiting area, and make it more comfortable. But he doesn’t intend to

end there with his ideas on how to become the go-to shop for car repair and maintenance. “We’re taking baby steps,” he says. Bednar is connecting with other independent repair shops looking for the ones he wants to emulate. “I ask people to mentor me, to teach me,” he says. He’s identified quite a few that he’s visited or wants to visit. And the big plan? “I’d love to have multiple shops, all of them atypical,” he says. “This takes constant training, the best tools, and the best people,” he says of his goals. And Bednar is having the time of his life. I should have done this years ago,” he says. “This is a great opportunity.” MV

Up and Coming

Don Taylor is one of two full-time technicians at Greg’s Champion Auto.

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All in the Family Suzette Howe, her husband and kids all take part in their Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds business.

Food for Thought Feeding their own horses led to a business opportunity for Suzette and Steve Howe and their boys. By Sara Gilbert Frederick Photos By John Cross

42 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

S

MN VALLEY BUSINESS: How have you found customers for your product? Suzette Howe: It’s mainly been word of mouth. Friends recommend us or people find us on the web. Some local vets have referred their customers to come out here. And a lot of the boys” friends buy from us as well. It’s a work in progress, but it’s grown a lot in the last year as we’ve been able to get more customer referrals. MVB: Do people come out as families to buy feed? SH: Oh sure. They’ll come to buy feed and the kids all run out to the barn to see the horses. With horses and dogs, it’s all about family. When you go to horse shows or go trail riding, you’ll see that it’s all family based. That’s true here, too. MVB: This business must be fun to do with your own kids, then. SH: It’s very rewarding. Horses have always been a good family bonding experience for us; we used to go to Waseca on Friday nights for horse shows, and we just couldn’t wait to get on the road to head down there. You learn so much doing that, and you create a great network.

Suzette and Steve Howe’s quest for high-quality feed for their own animals helped spur the development of their own business. MVB: How is everybody involved in the business? SH: Steve works full time, but he helps me with everything. I work a part-time office job in the mornings, so Travis is here then, and weekends, too. I have the boys go get the feed; they do the purchasing and stocking because I can’t do that. We all help the customers. MVB: Are there often times when all four of you are here working together? SH: That happens. The business has a lot of crossover with caring for our own horses, so that’s part of it too. I like to show our customers the beautiful end result. When they are able to look at our horses and dogs, they can see the difference the feed makes.

MN Valley Business • april 2012 • 43

All in the Family

everal years ago, one of Suzette and Steve Howe’s horses had health problems. He had been born with a deformity in his back legs and needed surgery. In their attempts to help the colt heal, they started learning about the impact of proper nutrition on his condition. They were told that they needed to carefully monitor his calcium and phosphorus balance, and that they needed to find the right feed for him. “That’s how we were introduced to it,” Suzette Howe says. That investment in nutrition made such a difference for their colt that they quickly made it a priority for the rest of their horses and their dogs, too. Not only were the animals healthier, they seemed happier and more beautiful as well. “I was on a quest to find good feed,” Suzette Howe remembers. Now the Howes and two of their boys — Travis and Nathan — have turned that quest into a business: Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds. They stock more than 20 different Hubbard and ADM brand products for horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and other animals in what used to be the garage of their home just south of Mankato. They can special order dozens of other options for customers as well, including feed for cows and pigs. Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds officially started only a year and a half ago, when Suzette’s job at the hospital was eliminated and she needed to pursue a new career. But the idea for it was germinating all those years ago, when she started looking for healthier options for her own animals. “Even when I was interviewing different feed dealers, I thought, “I’d love to do this as a job,’” she says. (Eagle Valley Ranch will have open houses and equine demonstrations from 4-7 p.m. April 19, 20 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 21.)

All in the Family

MVB: What do you like most about what you’re doing now? SH: We just want to be able to help people and their animals. We’re here to help. We had an open house last year, and we’ll do another one in April as well. We do demonstrations and show the horses, too. Anytime we can help people with their animals, we will.

MVB: You keep four horses of your own as well. SH: Yes, we’ve got four: Sasha, who we’ve had for 13 years, Lady, Dolly and Harris, a colt. We sold Bailey a year ago. He went to a big English barn in Statton, N.Y. They called me from out East and asked what feed we had him on — they want to keep him on it. But it’s not just how horse looks when they eat well; they feel better, too. When they feel good and look good, then they perform well, too. MVB: How did you come up with the name for the business? SH: That was quite the discussion. We wanted something that included valley, because we’re down here in the valley, and we had always called this the Howe Ranch, so we liked that. We see eagles out here a lot too, because we’re close to the Le Sueur River. So Steve finally said that was it and we just put it all together for Eagle Valley Ranch Feeds. MVB: Is the hope that Steve can start doing this full-time as well? SH: Eventually, he’ll be able to retire and we’ll both keep doing this. We’re not in this just for the short term. This is something we’re going to keep doing. We’ll be here for a while.

MV

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Style and service

Profile

Bedpost Furniture survives and thrives in a competitive, growing furniture market

Mark Weinstein and Nickie Van Stelten have worked together since 1973 when Weinstein owned the Lost Chord in Mankato.

By Marie Wood Photos By John Cross When Mark Weinstein, owner of Bedpost Furniture in Mankato, was reading his trade publication, “Furniture Today,” a statistic caught his eye. In its Retail Planning Guide, Mankato-North Mankato was projected to be the 16th fastest-growing major metro area nationwide. During the next five years, furniture and mattress sales are projected to rise from an estimated $24 million in 2011 to $30.6 million in 2016. That’s a gain of about 28 percent. Growth in retail spending on big-ticket items such as furniture is good news for businesses and the community. In fact, in 2011 Bedpost Furniture had its best year in sales in the past five to six years. “Good businesses have shown increases,” Weinstein said. A longtime retailer and sales and marketing pro, the 62-year-old Weinstein relies on statistics to make his business decisions. When entrepreneurs come to him for advice, here’s what he tells them. “Don’t do it. You have 80 percent chance of failure. Show me you’re in the 20 percent,” said Weinstein of North Mankato. He entered the retail trade in 1971 when he purchased the Lost Chord, an iconic record store in downtown Mankato. Surprisingly, the long-hair hippie and Mankato State College student was able to get a $2,000 loan from his bank. The former owner gave Weinstein this valuable advice: “Buy for a dollar and sell it for two dollars and you’ll be O.K.” Weinstein and his housemates worked for free and opened

46 • april 2012 • MN Valley Business

when they wanted. In the days before Ticketmaster, Weinstein was a concert promoter and ticket seller. He also sold waterbed bladders that people filled and placed on the floor with no frame. Then in 1973, Nickie Van Stelten joined the staff and her husband made waterbed frames. Times have changed. Weinstein, who lived in a commune for a summer, furnishes upscale homes and sells mid- to highend furniture to a clientele over the age of 40. He runs a tight ship, has regular hours, and pays his 10 employees. In 1979, Bedpost was born when Weinstein moved the waterbed business into its own space near Madison East Center. Manufacturers began making frames and headboards, too. Van Stelten joined as a partner. “As we evolved, we had one advantage. We’re smaller and we can change,” Weinstein said. Bedpost continued to expand, and in 1987, it had a new location and name: Bedpost Sleep Center, where Weinstein was successful in selling all types of beds. Then in 1999, Weinstein and Van Stelten set up a high quality full-line furniture store, moving to their current location on Raintree Road, and altered the name to Bedpost Furniture. “We’re survivors. We’re still here,” Weinstein said. Style and comfort Weinstein reads all the home and design magazines, views merchandise online and attends trade shows. He visits Gabberts, HOM and Schneiderman’s in the Twin Cities to see their top sellers. “I copy. That’s what I do. I try to find what’s successful and copy it.” Still Weinstein is always looking for that unique item. For instance, he has been selling the Stressless chairs by Ekornes for 13 years and has branded the item in this area. The

Bedpost, now located on Raintree Road adjacent to River Hills Mall, has transitioned through various names and locations over the years.

Mark Weinstein

Owner of Bedpost Furniture Member of Greater Mankato Growth Former owner, Lost Chord Studied English and theater at Mankato State College Grew up in Quincy, Mass. Stressless line accounts for about 16 percent of sales. Stressless chairs offer a custom fit, support and versatile combinations for a home theater or basic living room. Originally from Norway, the line is now made in New Jersey. Weinstein strives to sell American-made furniture such as Smith Brothers, Borkholder, Rowe Furniture and others. Entertainment centers that suit flat-screen TVs are popular sellers. Bedpost Furniture also features dining tables, sideboards and bedroom furniture. Weinstein has an eye for style. He can match his customers with furniture from traditional to contemporary styles. Then he defers to Van Stelten and the design team to assist in choosing upholstery from a wall of samples. Working from line drawings to ensure the furniture suits the space, Van Stelten has furnished entire homes in the building stage. Van Stelten also helps her customers complement existing colors, upholstery and styles when adding or replacing furniture. “Our customers are over 40. They expect good service and that’s what we do,” Weinstein said. Rest easy Weinstein, who doesn’t sleep well himself, can relate to customers with sleep issues. With more than 30 years experience in selling beds, Weinstein is knowledgeable about mattress technology. “It has been my specialty. I understand people’s sleep problems.” Waterbeds were an early alternative to traditional spring foam mattress systems. Weinstein still carries waterbeds and parts, but now he sells the spring and foam bedding, too. However, about 75 percent of his inventory is the latest trend in bedding: latex, memory foam and gel memory foam mattresses. These Bedpost looks for unique items, such as the Stressless chairs by Ekornes, which accounts for about 16 percent of sales at the store.

Profil;e

beds are proven to align your spine, contour to your body, and relieve pressure points. “I think they’re the best way to sleep,” Weinstein said. That’s why Weinstein sells the top brands including TempurPedic, Therapedic International and icomfort by Serta, and carries the best selection in southern Minnesota. Business lessons When more furniture stores opened their doors in Mankato, Weinstein was not concerned. His dad was in the women’s garment industry and Weinstein follows his advice. “You’re always in competition with everybody,” Weinstein said. All retailers are after the customer’s dollar. In recent years, flat-screen TVs have been Weinstein’s greatest competition. With Van Stelten’s skills in interior design and accounting and Weinstein’s expertise in sales and marketing, they make a successful team. “We blend well together. I’ve gotten a little tougher over the years. Mark has softened over the years,” Van Stelten said. Customers will usually find Van Stelten, Weinstein or both partners at the store. “This is a fun, exciting job. Sure, I’d like to be playing golf in Florida, but I don’t dread coming to work,” Weinstein said. MV

Business Memos/Company News

Smith joins Capstone board

Capstone announced the appointment of David W. Smith to its board of directors. Smith brings 40 years experience in publishing and educational technology to his new role. Smith currently is lead director at Capella Education Company. He also is president of Woodwinds, and serves as an outside director for Inscape Publishing. ■■■

Country Inn & Suites honored

The Country Inn & Suites and Conference Center Mankato was presented with a 2011 Country Inns & Suites President’s Award. The President’s Award is presented to the properties that achieved top scores in guest satisfaction as measured by guest feedback for cleanliness and consistency in meeting (and often exceeding) the brand’s product quality standards. The award was presented to Linda Osborne, general manager.

Kato Insurance honored

Midwest Family Mutual Insurance has named Kato Insurance Agency to its President’s Club. The award recognizes outstanding continued service to customers and community and superior performance. The owner of the agency is Scott Michaletz. This is the fifth consecutive year of this achievement. ■■■

Lowis joins Waddell & Reed

Dan Lowis has joined Waddell & Reed as a financial advisor in the Mankato area. Lowis, 34, was a financial advisor with Edward Jones for the past four years. Waddell & Reed has more than 250 offices nationwide. Lowis can be reached at 388-4401.

■■■

Diamond Vogel “center of the year”

Diamond Vogel Paint on North Riverfront Drive has been honored as their Service Center of the Year for 2011. The award recognizes excellence and integrity in the sales and service of their products. Mankato was chosen out of 67 service centers located in 12 states. Manager Jason Johannsen accepted the award. This is the second time this award has been presented to the Mankato location. ■■■

Bresnahan to lead First National

■■■

Dickmeyer join PDP

People Driven Performance has hired Bill Dickmeyer as the new director of business development. PDP founder Denny Dotson said Dickmeyer brings more than 30 years of experience that includes owning a business and managing services sold to residential and commercial markets. Dickmeyer previously owned Custom Home Improvers. ■■■

Diel hired by S&S Thermo Dynamics

S&S Thermo Dynamics has hired Clark W. Diel as the new service manager. Diel is well known in the commercial and industrial HVAC & plumbing industry and the Mankato area, according to CEO Steven Peterson. ■■■

Hoffman qualifies for conference

Paul Hoffman, an Edward Jones financial advisor in Mankato, qualified for the firms 2012 Financial Advisor Leaders Conference. The conference recognizes advisor who are among the leaders in the firm and provides additional training. Hoffman was one of 570 advisors who qualified out of the firm’s more than 11,000 advisors. ■■■

Tripp honored by Verizon

Verizon Wireless has named Jason Tripp, assistant retail store manager at the Verizon Communications store at 1851 E Madison Ave., to the company’s President’s Cabinet. The honor is reserved for those ranking in the top one percent nationally in sales during 2011, placing him as one of the company’s top performers from among its more than 25,000 sales people nationwide. ■■■

48 • April 2012 • MN Valley Business

Michael Bresnahan

First National Bank Minnesota announced the appointment of Michael W. Bresnahan as president and chief executive officer. He replaces Larry Van Tol, who is retiring. # Bresnahan has more than 20 years in banking, most recently as chief financial officer at First National Bank Minnesota for the past two years. His father, John Bresnahan, was with First National for 40 years, retiring as president in 1997 ■■■

Galli Storm joins RCEF board

JoRae Galli Storm, a native of Mankato and local business owner recently joined the Regional Center of Entrepreneurial Facilitation, formerly the Riverbend Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation as a board member. RCEF is a non-profit entrepreneur and business development organization located on the Bethany Lutheran College campus. ■■■

Brown Printing honored by EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named Brown Printing as a 2012 ENERGY STAR partner of the year for strategically managing and improving the energy efficiency of its entire building and manufacturing portfolio. ■■■

To submit your company or employee news. e-mail to editor@manaktofreepress.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.

INTEGRITY INTERIORS |

PLANNING

When integrity is at the core of a company’s culture, it shows in the details. It steers their relationships, distinguishes their work and proves their value. At Paulsen Architects, it begins with trust–a trust that is founded from the strong character, skill and dedication of our staff. We are committed to every building and environment’s success down to the smallest of details. The result is a client experience that exceeds expectations and truly bold designs that inspire.

IT’S IN THE DETAILS

ARCHITECTURE | ENGINEERING |

PAULSEN ARCHITECTS 507.388.9811 |

WWW.PAULSENARCHITECTS.COM

Your Vision, Focused When transforming your vision into a final product, the details really do count. Whether in the care used to prepare accurate plans and specifications, resulting in lower project costs, or the passion placed in the design of window details, such as in the recent Minnesota Valley Health Center expansion, shown below, we take great pride in taking care of the details while maintaining your overall vision for the project. I&S Group — sweating the details so you don’t have to. Learn more at www.is-grp.com.

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