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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. Stop by for a cup of coffee and say hello.

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Through the 1970 song “Stage Fright,” ‘60s-’70s country rockers The Band publicly admitted having a performance phobia. Playing that song, singer/bassist Rick Danko would repeatedly confess, “See the man with the stage fright, just standin’ up there to give it all his might. And he got caught in the spotlight. But when we get to the end, he wants to start all over again.”

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If tomorrow is likely to look like yesterday, Cyndi Zarbano will do something to change that today. She sits forward on a chair in her St. Peter home and says, “This life is not a dress rehearsal. I believe life’s a journey, and I don’t want to keep doing the same thing.”

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8,400 for November 2011 Published bimonthly

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She was the kid most likely to enjoy ScoobyDoo and Inspector Gadget, and later on, Columbo and Murder She Wrote, and most recently Law and Order and CSI—in other words, practically any detective or whodunit show with a puzzle needing solving.

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Locally owned Connect Business Magazine has ‘connected’ southern Minnesota businesses since 1994 through features, interviews, news and advertising. Connect Business Magazine is a publication of Concept & Design Incorporated, a graphic design firm offering print design, web design, illustration and photography.


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In This Issue The large layout on Le Sueur heights. Fountains spraying water. Flapping American flags. Bluegrass meticulously clipped at five inches. The imposing 300,000 sq. ft. Cambria plant of Le Sueur captures most everyone’s imagination. It’s our region’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We sense something magical is being manufactured inside. Every 118 seconds—President Marty Davis claims—another slab of Cambria natural quartz product leaves the line. And when it does, the whole building quakes, as if birthing a child. Besides kinetic Marty Davis, this issue Connect Business Magazine features two inquisitive women with military backgrounds filling unique industry niches: Heather Arndt of ABC Services of Le Center and Cyndi Zarbano of Fostering Professional Development in St. Peter. Finally, on an internal note, Connect Business Magazine recognizes the contributions of Cory Sjoblad, our sales manager since January 2001. He recently accepted a business development position at Jari USA in St. Peter. We wish him well. Going forward, rather than have a single salesperson, we will have a specialized sales team of three. Advertisers interested in southern Minnesota’s first and only locally owned business magazine—and the only one covering all nine counties in south-central Minnesota with a circulation of 8,400—should contact Becky Wagner at 507-232-3463 to get the ball rolling. Sursum ad summum,

Daniel J. Vance Editor

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Le Sueur-based businessman primarily responsible for Cambria—just one facet of a multi-pronged family business employing 2,500 people overall. By Daniel J. Vance Photo by Jeff Silker

Through the 1970 song “Stage Fright,” ‘60s-’70s country rockers The Band publicly admitted having a performance phobia. Playing that song, singer/bassist Rick Danko would repeatedly confess, “See the man with the stage fright, just standin’ up there to give it all his might. And he got caught in the spotlight. But when we get to the end, he wants to start all over again.” Though a diehard fan of The Band—he maintains a close friendship with The Band’s catalyst, Ronnie Hawkins, and often gives away the group’s CDs as gifts—47-year-old President/CEO Marty Davis of Le Sueur-based Cambria in no way shares The Band’s stage fright. That’s because from his birth on, relatives have believed in and encouraged him, and helped build his confidence. In fact, the same could be said for all his siblings, who developed similar schemas from a St. Peter childhood. All are co-owners in Cambria, Cambria Mortgage, Davisco Foods International, Davis Family Dairies, and Sun Country Airlines. Having caught a collective confidence, the Davises have set the sky as their limit—literally. For example, this July, the Davis family team purchased Sun Country Airlines for $34 million to

add another 850 employees. More down-to-earth and founded in 1943, 800-employee Davisco Foods International annually produces 330 million pounds of cheese and has been a major Kraft Foods supplier and food manufacturer ingredient supplier. Cambria and its 650 employees—Marty’s core responsibilities—are the only U.S. producers of natural quartz surfaces that combine natural quartz, resin, and pigment to create countertop, bathroom, and fireplace applications. It has manufacturing facilities in Le Sueur and Belle Plaine, and in Toronto, Indianapolis, and Cleveland, Ohio. Finally, 100-employee Cambria Mortgage has been making Upper Midwest inroads. In his hilltop Le Sueur office, Davis feels right at home surrounded by dozens of cheery photos, colorful Leroy Neiman prints, and media clippings marking company milestones. Rather than stage fright, Marty, his family, their management teams, and employees all seem to have acquired a healthy dose of stage might, i.e., the strength of character to make the seemingly impossible possible, and to please difficult-to-please audiences. continued >


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Stacey Johnson Owatonna, MN (507) 455-5299

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My sources say that when you were a little boy, you and your brothers one night locked your two-year-old sister Julie and your babysitter out on a second-story roof. Did that actually happen? I don’t remember it exactly, but I’ve heard that story. I thought we locked them in the basement. There were five of us kids born within six and a half years of each other. We had adventure and a full childhood. St. Peter was just the best place to grow up. Everybody in town seemed to know what people should and shouldn’t be doing and they were aware of everyone’s kids. Don Burch owned the shoe store and if Mr. Burch saw us kids doing something we shouldn’t, he would tell us and we’d listen. He was an authority figure—many were. I worked for Bob Swedberg when I was 12 and for Tom Cook at Big John’s Restaurant when I was 13. We walked beans for Jim Kennedy and the Wettergrens. I pumped gas for Butch Frey and Al Mogenson at the Skelly gas station, cleaned the First National Bank and Lager’s for ServiceMaster, where Bernard Langr (correct spelling) was my boss. He was picky and a good boss. I had a key to the bank when I was 14. Franny Connor was the drug store clerk and if she told us to stop running the aisles and leave, we did. (Laughter.) The kids respected adults and everyone knew each other. Kids knew the boundaries. We felt secure there. We roamed the town a lot. In the summer, I often would leave home in the morning and return at night for dinner. My great-great uncle Walter Moss owned a watch shop and sometimes I was in the way and breaking crystals, making a mess of things, and he would let me learn anyway. It seemed we were related to everyone: the Wettergrens, Pells, Petersons, Hermels, Menks, Seitzers, and others—we were all connected. That gave me a sense of confidence and security. There was always a place to go for a cookie or when you were in trouble, and places to work or to just play around. St. Peter was just a great town, and still is. I met my wife Anne in Mankato. She has been great for me, very supportive and helpful. Her dad, Tom Dunn, hauled milk for my grandpa in the ‘50s.

Marty Davis | Cambria

What about your parents? For example, is there one thing about your father’s personality that you now see in you? One thing I admire is his candor. He says what he thinks and doesn’t beat around the bush. He finishes what he starts and is a very hard worker. He has integrity and wisdom. If he has an ego, he keeps it to himself. But most of all, having your dad behind you gives you great confidence in taking risks, trying new things, making moves, and exploring opportunities. He does all that himself, so we have been able to observe. My grandpa, Stan Davis, has that same presence. As for my mother: she got us kids involved in everything. St. Peter had an Easter Egg Hunt contest and my mother got us interested in finding the Easter egg hidden somewhere in town. We were given clues based on history. Mom got out the history books and motivated me. One year, I may have been the one finding the Easter egg, but it was my mother who was instrumental in making me believe I could. I was a Star Tribune paperboy and they had a contest in which the paperboy selling so many subscriptions won a free Disneyland trip. My mom said I could do it, and I did. She helped me believe I could do anything. In ‘96 or ‘97, U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich invited me to Washington D.C. because he and Rep. John Linder (R-Ga) were interested in having me run for U.S. Congress against Rep. Dave Minge. I met with Gingrich a few times—a captivating guy, so intelligent. After the first meeting, I was quite excited and called home to Mom. I hadn’t told her or anyone I was meeting with Gingrich. Then I told her she wouldn’t believe whom I had just met privately. She guessed the President, then a U.S. Senator, and then the Speaker of the House. The meeting itself hadn’t surprised her.

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Take me through your career path. Minnesota State Head Baseball Coach Dean Bowyer recruited me to play center field and I went to school there two quarters. However, I soon realized I needed to get out of the area to get focused, in part because I was hanging around St. Peter too much. I took a year off school to work in a NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

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I graduated with a B.S. from the University of Minnesota knowing I wanted to be in the creamery business. I never really wanted anything else. Columbo yogurt factory in Boston. Then I went to the University of Minnesota to major in food science and nutrition. In college, during summers and weekends, I worked at our Davisco Foods cheese factory. (I had started in our cheese barreling room at age 16.) The last two summers of college, I worked for Opus Construction on a road grading crew and later a concrete crew. It was hard work. I graduated with a B.S. from the University of Minnesota knowing I wanted to be in the creamery business. I never really wanted anything else. My grandmother Gloria Davis often spoke to us kids about the family business—and it was a pretty small one at the time. But she had that vision. She was such a bright lady and really special. Dad never pushed for our joining the family business, but did allow us to work in the factory as kids. He always said having a factory job would be a big benefit to us. He did introduce us to a dairy school professor at the University of Minnesota, but left the decision of enrolling up to us. I went into the creamery business in St. Peter right out of college. I started out working in the plant, then the manager there left,

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and by default I was suddenly supervising 25 employees. My dad never really named me manager. I spent 1990-91 also managing the Nicollet operation before becoming involved in our South Dakota plant. By 1993, we had formalized our dairy powder business into a food ingredient division. In 2001, we started Cambria and I went over there. In the past, when asking interviewees about their candor, I’ve asked if that has gotten them in trouble. I’m sure that has been the case with you, too. But have there been times when your candor opened up doors? In our company, we call candor “direct communication.” Authenticity is born of it and it helps relationships grow faster. It builds trust. That’s something I believe all my siblings received from our father. Your authenticity could turn some people off before they get to know you. I’ve had to learn when to have more moxie and when not. Certainly, my candor has a better governor (i.e., a regulator) today than when I was 30 years old. All of us Davises have a passion for what we’re doing and sometimes we are a bit quick with our emotions. As I have matured, I have learned to better control these emotions and am not as quick to react. Also, I have learned how to better frame arguments. In August, you were on Dr. Laura Ingraham’s nationally syndicated radio show. In fact, you were on the same hour as Texas Gov. Rick Perry. What did you discuss with Dr. Ingraham? Laura is a good friend. We talked about job creation and how uncertainty in government isn’t good for business. This government, including our President and Congress, has created a great deal of

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Marty Davis | Cambria

uncertainty for business. They derailed the recovery just as the recovery was beginning. We need to cut spending and the size of government. In 1994, I was impressed with President Clinton. If you remember, in his 1995 State of the Union address, he said, “The days of big government are over.” That was a big leap for a guy like Clinton to take that position and adjust to the circumstances of the day. He and Gingrich set the stage for America to grow again. And it did. Clinton was a believer in free trade and welfare reform. He understood government had to downsize, even though it took the 1994 (Republican-dominated) midterm election for him to realize it. He adjusted. President Obama hasn’t. He has stayed with his government-is-the-catalyst, stimulus program, far-left approach, which I strongly disagree with. No government, Republican or Democratic-controlled, can create jobs. Government does not sell a good or a service in a competitive platform and does not create profit from its efforts. Government is (and should only be) a service provider—a very necessary one—to support private sector commerce. Its jobs are born of the private sector and it can’t create them for the private sector. It just doesn’t work that way. The growth of big government concerns me. In the ‘80s, I believe Honeywell, Northwest Air, and Dayton-Hudson were Minnesota’s largest employers. Today, the U.S. government, State of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota are. That should concern the taxpayer. It’s backwards. Individual employees in the public sector are not the issue because government has many talented, good people. We could use their talents in the private sector.

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Getting to know you:

Martin Edward Davis Born: June 15, 1964. Education: St. Peter High School, ‘83; University of Minnesota ‘89, BS in food science and nutrition. Family: Anne, wife; children, Pete, Jack, Charlie, and Danny. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

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Give examples of uncertainty. Businesspeople aren’t sure what will happen next on the tax front. No one knows what Obamacare will look like or really what it is. As for healthcare: Cambria has been offering HRAs (health reimbursement accounts) and our employees have really started reducing their healthcare costs. Let the patient (the employees) manage their own expenses. I get a kick out of people saying Americans can’t manage their own healthcare. Women are often the home finance managers and, in general, they are darn good cost managers. They know grocery prices, school expenses, when prices rise, and they know enough to move to different brands or different stores. They are good buyers. They already manage many other costs in their households, but our government tells them, in a sense, that they just aren’t able to manage their own healthcare. It’s absurd. Taxes and healthcare are big expense items in any business’s cost structure. Regarding the banking industry, Treasury Secretary Geithner and Congress overreacted. The meltdown and unsavory financial activities were for the most part only in New York and only involving the mega banks and financiers. They have

All this regulation restricts those small startups. Young risk takers can’t get capital. This overregulation will have short- and long-term negative job creation effects. overregulated banks far beyond that hedge fund fiasco and gone out onto Main Street. Mark to market (accounting) is a terrible policy and that goes back to the Bush Administration. So all of that restricts the availability of capital for small- and medium-size entrepreneurs. For example, the foundry in Le Sueur today (Le Sueur Inc.) began as a small startup in the ‘40s by Mark Mueller’s dad, Butz. Today, Le Sueur Inc. employs 600. All this regulation restricts those small startups. Young risk takers can’t get capital. This overregulation will have short- and long-term negative job creation effects. What’s the real story behind the Cambria silo on US 169? The silo was born of spontaneity. I drive

by it all the time going to lunch. One day, I called my assistant to find out who owned the silo. I told the owner we would like to paint and clean it, and rent it from him. We now have the right business model that utilizes the storage aspect of the silo in order for us to meet Department of Transportation permitting requirements. DOT has been fair and tried doing the right thing throughout—and after all was said and done, they did. We appreciate that. The silo is staying, so that’s good. As for today, who makes company decisions? My dad, brothers, Jim Ward our chief financial officer, and I are an integral part of all we do, even though we have different responsibilities. We talk frequently, often daily.



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Marty Davis | Cambria

Who has what areas? My brother Jon runs Davisco Foods and brother Mitch works with him on the technical side. Mitch also runs our dairy farm enterprise, Northern Plains Dairy and New Sweden Dairy. Brother Matt helps me run Cambria. He is in Business Partner Services and heads up customer service, quality control, and university training— important aspects of interacting with our U.S. and Canada business partners. All four of us are very involved in everything we do and work well together. We are all partners. Our sister Julie is a partner too, although she doesn’t work in the business every day. She certainly is a part of all that we do and is very insightful and supportive. Everyone pulls their weight. Jim Ward is our key non-family person and is involved in everything we do. Each of you has unique gifts, and one of yours is in being able to talk and

establish relationships. I would imagine that has made you the company spokesperson? We all play that role in different ways. Jon and Mitch are excellent public speakers and relationship oriented. Matt isn’t as public, but handles things just as well. I am probably more visible because I deal with a consumer products company. So Mitch and Jon would be more in the public eye if you had a Davisco Foods brand cheese, for example. Sure. They are excellent speakers and do a lot of speaking and networking in that industry. My strength in that area isn’t any greater than theirs. I really feel we are all pretty equal. Everyone asks, How do you brothers get along so well? It’s because none of us are lazy; we all work hard. Our 92-yearold grandfather Stan set the bar. Everyone here works hard, including our managers and all our employees. The Davises may own

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CONNECT: Through Cambria, you have met people you wouldn’t have met through Davisco Foods International, such as Paul Harvey, Cheryl Tiegs, Ronnie Hawkins, and Bobby Knight, among others. After meeting someone like Cheryl Tiegs or Bobby Knight, does coming back home to Le Sueur and St. Peter sometimes seem a bit dull? DAVIS: No, because I like Swan Lake and Schmidt’s Meat Market and the river valley culture where I grew up. Cheryl and I became friends through a mutual friend before we hired her. The thing about meeting well-known people is that in doing it you find out how equal everyone really is. Cheryl is down-to-earth and engaging. She grew up in Breckenridge, Minnesota. Through meeting celebrities, I have learned that most started out the same as everyone. They grew up wanting to do something and to be something. They aren’t any different. You get in their cars and some have dirty cars and some have clean ones, some are late and some on time, some are friendly and some not. They are just like everyone else. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

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Large Shoes

these businesses, but there is far more to it than the Davises. We have excellent people everywhere. Hard work can overcome a lot of flaws and challenges—and we have our share, so we all work real hard. What all are the Davises involved in? We operate Davisco Foods International, which employs 800. Depending on milk and cheese prices, our sales range from $700 million to $1 billion. I was in that business until 2002, when I moved over to Cambria. Davisco Foods is an excellent company and has really good people. Davis Family Dairies are a big part of our enterprises and the most impressive to tour. It’s a very dynamic business and much more complex than one might think. Cambria Mortgage began two years ago. John Schroeder, a long-time friend at TCF Bank came to us. We knew the mortgage business was in a major downturn and felt that was the right time to build that business.

And Cambria? Cambria was really born of Davisco Foods. We have 650 employees and factories in Indianapolis, Cleveland (Ohio), Toronto, Le Sueur, and a soon-to-be fabrication plant in Belle Plaine. Cambria Mortgage, Davisco Foods International, Davis Family Dairies, and Cambria are businesses we manage and operate day-to-day. Also, we own Sun Country Airlines, but don’t operate it the same way we do our other businesses. When purchasing it, we were confident it had a strong management team. The time I spend with CEO Stan Gadek is more of a general philosophical and strategic nature regarding fundamentals of how the company should move forward. Day-to-day operations are his. I work as our family liaison with Stan and am the managing director reporting back to my siblings and dad. You feel that comfortable and have

that much trust to warrant that? Yes. My job is to build mutual trust with Stan Gadek, to help him navigate the direction, the strategy, and to support his moves. Stan is candid, straightforward, and well grounded, which was one attraction in buying the airline. During our due diligence, he got quite direct at one point and felt moved to apologize. I said an apology wasn’t necessary. I was impressed and had appreciated his spirit. With him, what you see is what you get and you know where you stand. He doesn’t mince words and is a sharp operator. Someone who knows you gave me a question. He said to ask, Why did you buy an airline? We didn’t look at it that way. We bought what we thought was a good business opportunity. It was a well-run company with an excellent brand and was positioned to grow. One thing we believe is most important to

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Marty Davis | Cambria

When with our dairy company, I visited Asia often, especially Japan. The Japanese were outstanding to do business with. business is people and in Sun Country we saw a tremendous culture and excellent people. In our judgment, their business model had good discipline. It looked like a model built for success. This is primarily why we invested. We certainly looked at the fundamentals of the industry as well, and became comfortable with them. Not long ago, I spoke with John Barry’s son. John Barry owned Sun Country in the ‘90s. His son said the company was special then because of the family-owned feel and unique culture. With Davisco Foods, you have had a unique culture developing since 1943. Your company culture and Sun Country’s must have differences. That’s a good point. Sun Country’s culture started with a group of laid-off Braniff International Airways pilots and flight attendants in 1982. That DNA is still in that company—it was there when Mr. Barry owned it. We feel it’s still there. We also feel Stan is as good as anyone in being the steward of that culture and enhancing it. He’s downto-earth and is a person that cares about the details that matter, and he is a competitor. Sun Country’s 2008 bankruptcy was not the result of a financial condition. The company had to be extricated—this is very important and people need to understand this—in order to protect it from the fallout of the criminal activity owner Tom Petters had been involved in. It was a unique, and I think, appropriate, use of bankruptcy. They protected hundreds of jobs in a business that was having operational success. A key factor in our purchase was realizing their business model hadn’t failed; but rather realizing Petters had failed them. If Sun Country had not gone into bankruptcy, no company, let alone Sun Country, could have withstood Petters’ liabilities arising from his criminal acts. Stan Gadek and the bankruptcy trustee had to choose bankruptcy as a tool to insulate the company from criminal activity it had never participated in.

Your companies do business all over the world. What have you learned from other cultures? When with our dairy company, I visited Asia often, especially Japan. The Japanese were outstanding to do business with. They have discipline and urgency in regards to issues, and seek accurate and punctual information. They are demanding but fair. I learned much about credibility, character, and quality control. Some people say the Japanese culture isn’t warm, but we found it to be. When I was married, three of our Japanese customers flew in for the wedding. They have warm, deep relationships, but not initially. That takes time. You have to earn their trust. Could Japan be the next place to expand Cambria? Asia as a whole will be. This afternoon, we’re interviewing a gentleman from China to open a Cambria office there. Certainly, one motivation for doing this has been our experience there. I was in Asia perhaps 30 to 40 times in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. I know this is off topic, but one thing I want to mention on the international scene is Mexico. One of our country’s greatest mistakes over the last 30 years has been in not helping, more profoundly, Mexico’s development. If we could help develop their economy into what Japan became, we would have a consumer market that would be a huge economic boom to our country. Their economy could be bigger than Japan’s. A tremendous opportunity exists. It would be hard work but I assure you, if Mexico were next to Japan, Japan would have already helped develop Mexico. We should help Mexico move away from corruption to creating an ownership society, where personal, honest wealth can be built. When we opened our Mexico City office for Davisco Foods International in the ‘90s, I grew to know our landlord well. His grandfather had built the building we rented. That family property had been corruptly taken

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A down economy often is the right time to build and look at niche growth opportunities. My dad has always said that and it’s true. If your products are innovative, unique, and fresh, you can move forward by penetrating market share.

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away from him three times and he had to pay off people in the courts each time to get his building back. Here in the U.S., we have county recorders and court systems with integrity to establish credible ownership. These simple fundamental changes we consider a given would help Mexico’s middle class blossom. You worry about jobs leaving America? Get an economic environment in Mexico that creates more consumer markets and you won’t have to worry about where our jobs are going. All over the nation, thousands of businesses are retrenching or shuttering. All yours are expanding. At one point, Cambria was listed in Entrepreneur magazine as the nation’s fourth fastest-growing company. How are you able to expand when most everyone else is cutting? A down economy often is the right time to build and look at niche growth opportunities. My dad has always said that and it’s true. If your products are innovative, unique, and fresh, you can move forward by penetrating market share. One reason for our success is that Cambria markets direct to consumers. We don’t go through big box stores or brokers. We have a direct sales force. Often in lean years, conventional distributors are more concerned about survival than building long-term relationships with manufacturers like us. If having used distributors to market our products, we wouldn’t have been able to penetrate the market so well. When the market dropped off, we doubled our color development and in 2010 doubled our marketing staff. We placed higher expectations on our sales force. We told them if the company was to succeed they had to be extraordinary. Average sales performance wasn’t going to work and we moved the average performers out. It was hard, but we had to do it.

Marty Davis | Cambria


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Our people have great relationships with our customers and knowledge of our markets. This, quality control, and color innovations have helped us have a record year to date. Our other businesses have always expanded during downturns—and this desire often has meant having difficult discussions with our bankers. In fact, we have had to self-fund some of our growth because our bankers would not participate. What else does Cambria and Davisco Foods International have in common? The value of having quality people. I have worked in the dairy business, which in terms of sales is more institutional, business-to-business in sales. The last ten years, with Cambria, I have been in the consumer products business. The greatest lessons I learned moving to a new industry was that, first, the world has many excellent companies and industries. If we stay in one industry, sometimes we get kind of lost in just that little world. The second lesson is that at the end of the day business isn’t about our products; it’s about our people. It’s people that make the business succeed. It’s customers, suppliers, and, most importantly, employees. At every company I have worked, including our family businesses and others, it’s the people that make a business succeed. If you walked through this factory right now, people would greet you with waves and hi’s. They are positive about what they do. That’s the key ingredient with the success of any government, business, athletic team or school. This is why St. Peter High was such a great school; they had great parents, teachers, and coaches—just really good people. Editor Daniel J. Vance writes from Vernon Center.

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A 2010 National Bureau of Economic Research study found business startups less than a year old employed three percent of American workers while accounting for nearly 20 percent of gross job creation. Therefore, it would seem encouraging and nurturing start-ups would be an essential

ingredient in restarting a floundering economy. As quoted in Fedgazette, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve publication, a nationwide study from the Kauffman Foundation over a longer period found start-ups less than one year having an even more profound impact on job growth, reporting, “for all but seven years between 1977 and 2005, existing firms typically lost jobs. On average, they lost about one million per year when job gains are also accounted for, while new firms (those less than one year old) added an average of three million jobs a year.” With these weighty statistics in mind, what worries many Upper Midwest business leaders is that the number of Upper Midwest private start-ups under one year old has been on a steady downward trend for quite some time—a cumulative 24 percent from 2006-2010 alone. The steepest drop has occurred in Wisconsin, where the number of startups fell nearly 50 percent over a much longer period, from 2000-

2010. In 2010, Minnesota and Montana experienced its lowest number of start-ups since 1994, the year the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began charting the data. And not only is the number of start-ups shrinking, but also their number of employees. According to BLS, average employment at Upper Midwest start-ups less than one year fell from a high of about eight employees in 1995 to about five employees in 2010—with only one upward tick, in 2002.

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Finally, to add more gloom and doom, the five-year Upper Midwest start-up survival rate in both 2009 and 2010 fell under 50 percent for the first time since 1999. In addition, the start-ups that have survived are not growing as fast as start-ups 15 years ago. To sum up: At the very time America and Minnesota could use more start-up firms to create jobs that could lift us out of a recession, their number, size, survival rate, and growth rate have been steadily dropping over the last 15 years with no hint of turning. In his cover story interview on page 16, Cambria President Marty Davis suggested tax and healthcare uncertainty, along with burdensome government banking regulations, as possible factors in the decline of start-ups. This editor believes yet another factor could be declining U.S. and Minnesota birthrates. We simply have fewer younger adults to begin start-ups and many entrepreneurial Baby Boomers have already started and established theirs. Also, many international college students

seeking to start businesses after graduation are seeing more and better opportunities in their land of birth than in America. On the surface, at least, these numbers and conjectures seem to foretell doom and gloom, yet a closer look yields a more promising prognosis. For example, rather than hire employees into what many startup owners consider an uncertain business environment—as Marty Davis noted— many have been subcontracting out and/or hiring temporary workers. So the number of people working per start-up could be a hair closer to levels in years past—just through a second party. Also, technology- and web-based companies, which began their exponential rise in the mid-‘90s, often have much lower barriers to entry and typically aren’t as labor intensive as the dominant manufacturing start-ups of years gone by. In other words, the switch from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy partially could be to blame. In addition, the declining number of

employees per start-up could be attributed, in part, to start-ups of all types becoming more productive through technology and innovation. Compared to 1995, southern Minnesota arguably has more tools to help start-ups, including SCORE, Small Business Development Center, Riverbend Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation, and a boatload of economic development corporations and chambers of commerce. We also have incubators and JOBZ. In light of the declining number of start-ups, the ones surviving theoretically could be receiving more attention, which could spur future job growth. Perhaps the type of start-ups showing the most promise for job creation are those born of larger companies that have the resources to self-fund, transfer employees internally, and move in experienced managers. In other words, these companies can bypass many present-day hurdles. Ten years ago, for example, Le Sueur-based Cambria was a start-up. Today, it employs 650.



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By Carlienne A. Frisch Photo by Kris Kathmann

Professional St. Peter healthcare educator that wears many hats throws her latest into the ring. If tomorrow is likely to look like yesterday, Cyndi Zarbano will do something to change that today. She sits forward on a chair in her St. Peter home and says, “This life is not a dress rehearsal. I believe life’s a journey, and I don’t want to keep doing the same thing. I love bedside nursing, but I believe educating others to be better at what they do is an equally important calling. I believe I’m a good intensive care nurse, both as a bedside nurse and an educator.” That’s why in 2008 Zarbano formed Clinical Review Legal Nurse Consultants as a limited liability corporation to review medical-legal cases for merit, locate experts, and work with insurance companies to review records. The services segued into presenting seminars on medical topics as a subcontractor for other companies. In July of this year, she formed Fostering Professional Development, Inc., an “S” corporation that in January 2012 will begin offering a variety of speakers nationally on healthcare issues. Zarbano will become one of her new company’s speakers by subcontracting through Clinical Review. Instead of continuing to operate her business out of her home, Zarbano recently bought a 4,700-square-foot Victorian-era house on South Minnesota Avenue in St. Peter and in it set up the Fostering Professional Development office. Tammy Rosburg, a friend of Zarbano’s with a long history of management, fills the role of company vice president. Zarbano’s ex-husband, Sam, is the new company’s operations manager. Zarbano hopes to add five employees—including a travel coordinator, print materials coordinator, administrator and janitor—by year’s end. “I want to bring jobs to St. Peter in my business,” Zarbano said. “I chose to buy real estate and to open the business in St. Peter with hopes of further making an impact here.” continued >


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“I have the best job in the world,” Zarbano said. “I travel, meet great people, stay in nice hotels, and eat great food. I’m always on vacation.” The public face of the business is already in place. “I have speakers on contract whom I have interviewed,” Zarbano explained. “I tweaked their proposals and the manual that gets handed out at the beginning of each presentation. Then I scheduled their presentations for next year. Most presenters have another job, so they have one topic, although a few have two. We have 15 topics for January, 12 with new speakers, and three that I will present. In February, we’ll add five more topics. My goal is to have 50 different presentations. “I like to think the unique component is that I get to decide what topics to present. I currently have a list of 20 topics that seminar attendees repeatedly have told me they want or need to make their practice better. Most are nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, and pharmacists.” “I’m good with people, at education, and at nursing,” Zarbano said. “Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve loved. When I was 14, my parents helped me get a job as a kitchen assistant at a local nursing home. I loved the geriatric population and their eagerness to share their journey. I always wanted to be a nurse, but didn’t think I was smart enough, so I got a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, with a minor in sociology, from Minnesota State. As I grew older, I became more self-confident and decided to try to become a nurse. I don’t like taking out loans, so I joined the Naval Reserve and competed for a stipend program for nursing. I was one of 32 people chosen nationally and was commissioned as an officer (ensign). I got an RN degree, and then, in 1995, my bachelor of science in nursing from MSU.” (Zarbano also has 28 credits toward a master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner. She is considering applying them toward a Master of Science in Nursing Education degree, which she can get online from MSU.) “I owed the Navy five years in return for my education and gave them a little over six,” Zarbano said. “I loved my Navy time as a nurse, mostly in ICU (intensive care unit) in naval hospitals in Bremerton, Washington, and San Diego. I became an assistant division officer and then a division officer in Guam, as well as a critical care flight nurse there on medivac flights.” She achieved the rank of lieutenant commander before leaving the military. After working at various hospitals as a psychiatric nurse and critical care nurse, Zarbano saw another purpose to which she


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Clinical Review Legal Nurse Consultants | St. Peter

could put her experience and expertise. “I wanted to become a certified legal nurse consultant,” Zarbano said. “In 2008, I attended a certified legal nurse consultant course in Atlanta. After becoming certified, I came back and contacted attorneys. I offered a “brown bag” educational opportunity for lawyers to learn about traumatic brain injuries. I also contacted insurance companies about reviewing medical records for merit. One attorney asked if I would be willing to do national seminars for PESI, an Eau Claire, Wis. seminar company, and I began to do that while continuing to work as an ICU nurse. Several similar national seminar companies approached me, and I began to do more speaking at seminars.”

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2) Hobbies: I love to read murder mysteries and general fiction. I listen to classical music. I like to bake and cook. I watch birds at the bird stations in my back yard. I love to travel, and I’m learning to garden. 3) Accomplishments of which you are most proud: a) Having served my country, which made me not only a nurse, but also a leader, and b) going back to school to get a nursing degree. 4) Possession you value most: My cats. 5) Intangible you value most: My integrity. I really try to do the right thing for the right reasons. 6) Three words that describe you: Hardworking, generous, and loyal. 7) If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing? If I wasn’t a nurse, I’d probably be a social worker, and I would resume working on a novel I began writing one summer when I was bored. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011

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When preparing to deliver a program, Zarbano explained, the process begins with a period of intense research, using current journals, texts, and research websites such as CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature). She purchases some of these sources and accesses others using the Internet. Her role as a legal nurse consultant has included researching topics and standards of care— skills she finds beneficial when preparing a seminar topic. Her goal is to have at least 80 percent of her reference materials no older than three years at the time she begins the presentation of a new program. It takes Zarbano up to five months to prepare information for the manual and the paired PowerPoint accompaniment for each program. She finds her most productive research time is when she’s sequestered in her office, but it often occurs on the road while presenting programs. “Because I travel four or five days most weeks, I have become very efficient working in airports and hotel rooms,” Zarbano said. “In my role as a legal nurse consultant, I have helped find experts—a neurologist, for example—to review records and testify

The process begins with a period of intense research, using current journals, texts, and research websites. as needed. And I’ve done some of that work myself. I no longer promote this service, but I want to try to keep cases that don’t have merit from stressing health care professionals. If legal cases come to me now, I usually subcontract to another expert Nurse Consultant. I try to get people to do the right thing.” Zarbano’s public speaking soon became the focus of her business. Her credentials provide credibility and reflect her expertise. In addition to being a registered nurse and having bachelor of science degrees in psychology and nursing, Zarbano is a certified legal nurse consultant, a certified nurse life care planner, a certified critical care nurse, and a certified medical-surgical registered nurse. Among the seminars she offers are courses to prepare people for taking the

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1) Childhood: I’m the youngest of four children. I was named Cynthia and called ‘Cyndi’ with a ‘y’ because my father, Robert Johnson’s, nickname has been ’Cy’ all of his life. I graduated from St. Peter High School in 1982. 2) Favorite school subject: English—I love to read and write. 3) Least favorite subject: Physical education—I was pretty introverted and not competitive back then, and I didn’t want to interact physically.



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4) Preparation for your business: Life experience, nursing, writing college papers, public speaking in the military, which you do as you move up in ranks. I’ve done a lot of educating, both to students and to other educators.

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CCCN and CMSRN exams. Although having no typical day, Zarbano’s weeks do reveal a pattern. Monday mornings, she works from the Fostering Professional Development office and takes an afternoon flight to her speaking location, usually in the United States, occasionally in Canada. “I have the best job in the world,” Zarbano said. “I travel, meet great people, stay in nice hotels, and eat great food. I’m always on vacation. I recently was on a ten-day Alaska cruise during which I did four presentations on ‘Critical Care Essentials.’ Each speaking day was four hours long for the four days we were at sea. I waived my honorarium and did 16 hours of work to get a ten-day cruise for myself and Sam in exchange.” She’s going to Alaska again in December (no cruise this time) to speak on the subject of how to complete a thorough health assessment. Zarbano’s usual schedule is more mundane than a trip to our 49th state. On Tuesdays, she does six hours of speaking in an eighthour seminar and drives (usually 1-2 hours) to the next day’s location, where she conducts Fostering Professional Development business from her hotel room. Wednesdays and Thursdays are repetitions of Tuesday. After the final day of presenting, she normally hops a plane home and resumes her work in St. Peter on Fridays (and frequently works on weekends) before the cycle begins again Monday. Although her list of recent seminar topics is unlikely to raise either the eyebrows or the blood pressure of non-medical readers, Zarbano has developed a solid following—one might even call them fans—in the healthcare field. “I’ve had groupies—nurses and a nurse anesthetist—follow me from state to state,” Zarbano said. They come to hear her

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speak on topics such as “Effective Physical Assessment” (Montana, New Jersey, Washington and Texas), “Mastering Lab Interpretation” (Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey), “Medical-Surgical Certification Preparation” (Florida, California and Louisiana) and “Fundamentals of Critical Care” (California). Although Zarbano usually arrives home


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on Thursday, sometimes it’s Friday. (“I sleep well on a plane,” she said.) Until recently, she would leave for her nursing job in Minneapolis on Saturday evening. “On Saturday and Sunday nights I had been working in ICU at Abbott Northwestern Hospital,” she explained. “I would go home to sleep Sunday during the day and return to Abbott on Sunday night. In the military, I routinely did 80


to100 hours a week. Challenge invigorates me. I think I do this a lot better than most people. I like to have a lot of irons in the fire. A lot of my journey is avoiding boredom. I’m a terrible ‘waiter,’ so I want everything to happen now. But if it did, I’d be bored. I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.” Despite being an expert juggler of activities, Zarbano has accepted the fact that

there is no way to stretch a seven-day week into nine days. As she grows Fostering Professional Development, Inc. she has had to let go of the bedside nursing career she dreamed of as a child. Her last day at Abbott Northwestern Hospital was in late September. She doesn’t feel, however, that she is deserting patients. “There is no shortage of registered nurses in Minnesota,” Zarbano said. “I like doing the right thing for the right reasons. I’m bringing information about evidence-based practice, called EBP, to practicing health care providers. They don’t have time to read all of the recent medical journals to learn about proven standards as they change.” Her goal is to help improve professional practice by having herself and the speakers for her company do the necessary research and to bring information about those changes to health care professionals. Zarbano not only brings EBP to seminar attendees throughout North America, she also makes that education available through other methods that she calls “products”—webcasts and “webinars.” The latter are CD-Rom presentations (she hopes to have them available early next year) that offer training, a quiz and a continuing education unit credit. These will allow a buyer to view a program at home on a computer instead of driving to a session in order to meet the requirements for the training. Upcoming topics for the one-hour “webinars” include “Life-Threatening Electrolytes, “ “Gastro-intestinal Assessment,” and “Critical Thinking.” “We want nurses to use critical thinking to assess a situation and to make the right choices,” Zarbano explained. While letting the door to ICU shut behind her, Zarbano is adding a seminar to her February 2012 speaking schedule. Its title is “Healthcare Providers as Entrepreneurs.” “That’s a new one I’m putting on for the new company,” Zarbano said. “My journey has taken me where I’ve wanted to go. I have no regrets.” Editor Daniel J. Vance writes from Vernon Center.

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Since December is already on the tip of everyone’s tongue, I have no qualms wishing you an early Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa or any other blessings you may wish on these or any other holidays you may or may not celebrate. How is that for showing diversity? That said, buckle your seat belts and hold tight because today I am writing on an important subject that runs counter to diversity. Away we go…. I could do the research, but face validity alone would justify this claim: Millions of good-paying American manufacturing jobs have vanished over the last 30 years only to reappear in China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, and a host of Daniel J. Vance other countries closing fast in our rearview mirEditor ror. Here’s one possible solution among many: You and I could ask our federal legislators to create and begin heavily promoting—and I mean heavily—the crucial importance of buying American along with a website that could help Americans easily identify and purchase “Made in America” products.

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For example, in August, I was in an office products store purchasing supplies for a new business venture and while in the stapler section checked product labels. Every office stapler there was made in China. Later, I searched online for an American-made stapler and learned about Staplex, which touts itself as the “World’s first and largest manufacturer of Electric Staplers since 1949.” From New York City, the company manufactures a complete line of heavy-duty, high-end, American-made electric and manual staplers. In a Connect Business Magazine telephone interview, a Staplex company representative said, “We export our staplers all over the world and get our share of the (high-end) market. But if we had gone low-end (like all others in the stapler industry) and kept our manufacturing here, we would be out of business now because we wouldn’t have been able to compete on price. We didn’t go low-end (by manufacturing overseas) because in doing so we would have lost our supply chain and quality control and would have been unable to guarantee we could produce our products with the same quality and rapidness the market counts on us for.” Major office supply retailers haven’t stocked Staplex electric and manual staplers for years because of its higher price and heavier weight—the latter means it can’t safely hang from a store peg, said the representative. He said many high-use businesses over the years have become frustrated with lower quality foreign-made staplers and after doing research bought Staplex. Would I have purchased a Staplex stapler online had I known

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about it? In my situation: No. In my work outside Connect Business Magazine, I have a one-person mental health counseling office and don’t need a heavy-duty, high-use $135 stapler. However, many larger businesses would purchase one if made aware. Which begs the question, Why haven’t our federal legislators already hammered home the importance of buying American and at the same time created a website featuring “Made in America” product with links to appropriate company websites? I went online recently and discovered at least a dozen websites that list and promote American-made product. Some are for-profit while others seem to have been started by patriotic citizens lacking any sort of imagination. In general, these websites lack curb appeal—and not one I surveyed listed Staplex, the world’s leading electric stapler. Imagine the economic ripple effect had our federal government spent just $1 billion of its $800 billion stimulus program heavily promoting over television, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine the importance of buying American and, while doing so, mentioning a website that sells American-made product. Readers, we Americans could turn our economy around in a matter of months if we all were sold on the absolute importance of buying American-made and adjusted our purchases accordingly. In other words, we right now have the purchasing power to control our own economic destiny. American-made products can easily be identified. The Federal Trade Commission states, “For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or

limits on the claim, the product must be ‘all or virtually all’ made in the U.S….’All or virtually all’ means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That is, the product should contain no—or negligible—foreign content.” Any “Made in America” website also could include companies making qualified claims, such as products with “70% U.S. content” or “Assembled in USA.” On the federal level, a $1 billion—or some other substantial amount— marketing campaign could spark incremental economic growth to pull us out of recession. Is $1 billion too much to ask to salvage our economy from a tight downward spiral? Not if you consider we just spent far more than that removing Muammar Gaddafi from power. Thanks for listening, and I hope this spurs you on to further thought. Thanks for reading southern Minnesota’s first and only locally owned business magazine. Next issue, meet our 2012 Business Person of the Year. I am sure you will agree our panel of Minnesota State University College of Business judges has chosen well. Editor Daniel J. Vance also writes“Disabilities,”a nationally self-syndicated newspaper column (danieljvance. com). Email letters to the Editor by December 1 for next issue. We may edit for space and clarity.

CORRECTION: Last issue, an ad pictured Jana M. Klein as a representative with a particular company. Prior to publication, she became a USBank Payment Solutions Consultant.

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Any chamber of commerce, convention and visitors bureau, or economic development organization in our reading area—large or small, from Amboy to Waterville—can post on our free bulletin board. For details, email

Fairmont Bob Wallace, Fairmont Area Chamber

Lake Crystal Julie Reed, Lake Crystal Chamber

Minnesota Department of Human Services Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Abuse Division awarded over $940,000 to Services for Challenging Youth of Martin County to prevent underage use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Prevention Coordinator Erica Volkir will implement the five-year federal block grant provisions to build a community coalition focusing on training, awareness, prevention, and curriculum in grades 6-12 at Fairmont Area Schools.

Don’t miss this year’s fun-filled “Christmas in Lake Crystal” on December 3. Start your day with the free admission, 60-vendor Holiday Gift and Craft Fair from 10-2 at LCARC. Activities include a chili feed, pictures with Santa, coloring contest, cookie and bake sale, and silent auction. Stay for the Family Scavenger Hunt at 3:00 followed with the Holiday Christmas tree lighting in Marston Park. Celebrate the season in Lake Crystal. For more, call 726-6088.

Fairmont Stephanie Busiahn, Fairmont CVB

Mankato Jonathan Zierdt, Greater Mankato Growth

Blizzard Snowmobile Club and Fairmont Convention and Visitors Bureau co-host the 2012 Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association “Winter Rendezvous “ on February 9-12. Fairmont Holiday Inn will serve as the host hotel. Snowmobilers from throughout Minnesota will gather to network, trail ride, and enjoy a Minnesota winter. So, gas up your sled and make tracks to the border! For more information or to register, visit

Join us as we honor some of the Greater Mankato region’s most outstanding businesses and professionals the evening of November 15. “The Greater Mankato Business Awards & Hall of Fame—The Chapters of our Success” is a Greater Mankato Growth event, with awards also presented by our affiliates, the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau and City Center Partnership. For more information, visit

Faribault County Linsey Warmka, FCDC

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Backwoods Designs, owned and operated by Scott Lehman, is a cabinet and woodworking business providing high-quality products to customers in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. Scott worked with FCDC to put together a business plan and financial projections. They worked together to obtain private financing and he also was awarded a revolving loan through the City of Winnebago EDA. Backwoods Designs now has a Winnebago location on Main Street.

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Local Chamber & Economic Development News

North Mankato Wendell Sande, Port Authority Madelia Courtney Hennis, Madelia Chamber of Commerce

Get into the holiday spirit in beautiful downtown Madelia! You’re invited to help us celebrate our 12th annual Razzle Dazzle Parade of Lights on Friday November 18 starting at 5:00 p.m. Enjoy fun activities, food, music, Santa and his reindeer, and a parade of lights. Bring a float or be a spectator! While here, take time to shop our quaint downtown business district. For more information, contact the Chamber at 642-8822 or see

Work is expected to begin this month on a $2.4 million renovation of the former Big Dollar Store at 422 Belgrade Avenue. The project includes six commercial spaces on the ground floor and seven apartments to be constructed on a new second level. All the commercial spaces are pre-leased with first occupancies expected by year-end. Corey Brunton is the developer and the project is supported by $455,000 in Tax Increment Redevelopment funding.

Sleepy Eye Kurk Kramer, Sleepy Eye EDA The Sleepy Eye Economic Development Authority is currently working with the City Limits Lounge as it has requested to be annexed within the city limits of Sleepy Eye. Friendz Salon has recently purchased a new building on Main Street in Sleepy Eye as they expand their salon and tanning business with plans to add more tanning booths and more stylists. Studio 34 & Dungeon’s Gym has added their third building on Main Street as well. This third location is home to an indoor obstacle course, mini golf course, and power lifting area.

Mankato Anna Thill, Greater Mankato CVB

Springfield Marlys Vanderwerf, Springfield Area CVB

Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau completed a major visitor research initiative using North Star Destination Strategies to conduct the study. The final report includes information on who visits Greater Mankato, from where our visitors come, what they do while here, how they prefer to learn about our destination, and more. A copy is available for all stakeholders by contacting Anna Thill, president of Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau, at or 507-385-6664.

Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce CVB kicks off the Christmas shopping season with a Tauer’s Super Valu Holiday Preview on November 9. Store vendors offer treats and samples, and businesses host open houses. On November 15, businesses gather at a local restaurant for the Shop Springfield First Breakfast to hear a motivational speaker. On November 16, the Jingle Bells promotion begins after which winners of $2,000 in Springfield Bucks are drawn December 21. continues next page >

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St. Peter St. Peter Area Chamber 1) St. Peter Ambassadors coordinated the first St. Peter Oktoberfest October 14-15. 2) The Chamber coordinated the 8th annual Girls Night Out October 6 in which hundreds of women visited 50 St. Peter businesses. 3) Chamber Diplomats held a ribbon cutting on October 14 for Rising Sun Chiropractic at 1520 S. Minnesota (Dr. Seth Nelson). 4) St. Peter Chamber and League of Women Voters St. Peter sponsored a candidate forum October 25 for local races.

St. Peter Russ Wille, St. Peter Community Dev.

Anytime Fitness relocated to the former St. Peter Ford property at 100 Dodd Avenue (Highway 22 North). The new location is twice as large as their former downtown location. Members can access the facility 24 hours a day; also, Sioux Trails Mental Health Center purchased the last remaining lot on the Marshall Street cul-de-sac in the North Industrial Park. Sioux Trails Mental Health intends to occupy their new clinic facility in the Spring of 2012.

Waseca Kim Foels, Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce

Have questions about marketing, expanding your business, permits, start ups, and more? BusinessConnection is a free, one-stop, electronic business assistance and referral network developed with GrowMinnesota! chambers and co-sponsored with Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. It can be accessed online at or or (888) MINN-BIZ (646-6249). Personal assistance available 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. M-F. If you’re a veteran business owner or an ambitious entrepreneur, make Waseca your next opportunity!


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NOVEMBER 2010 This issue featured Fairmont’s Wes Clerc, who owned and operated five thriving McDonald’s franchises in Fairmont, Blue Earth, St. James, Windom, and Marshall. He was also involved serving on Fairmont City Council, Fairmont Economic Development Authority, and Martin County Library board. When interviewed, he rarely called his employees “employees,” as if doing so would diminish their intrinsic worth. Instead, for the most part, they were “people.” Other companies featured: Twin Rivers Archery (New Ulm) and LJP Enterprises (St. Peter). Memorable quote: “I won with just under 70 percent of the vote. My main focus was to have the attitude of and treatment by the City become more conducive for businesses.”—Wes Clerc, on running for a Fairmont City Council seat in 1991. 5 YEARS AGO

NOVEMBER 2006 This issue featured Bob Wallace of Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce and Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund. Other featured companies: Jetter Clean (Mankato/Fairmont) and Stadium Pizza (Mankato/St. James). Memorable quote: “Education is so key. I can’t stress this enough. Nowadays you need something beyond a high school education to succeed.”—Bob Wallace, while discussing the importance of Presentation College in Fairmont. 10 YEARS AGO

NOVEMBER 2001 Cover story: Sharron Moss-Higham of Kraft New Ulm. Profiled companies: Palmer Bus Service (St. Clair) and Henry Busse Jr. (Mankato). 15 YEARS AGO

NOVEMBER 1996 Cover Story: Glen Taylor. Profiled companies: New Ulm Precision Tool and Exclusively Diamonds (Mankato).


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By Daniel J. Vance Photo by Kris Kathmann

Inquisitive Le Center businesswoman helps businesses and schools make informed hiring decisions.

She was the kid most likely to enjoy Scooby-Doo and Inspector Gadget, and later on, Columbo and Murder She Wrote, and most recently Law and Order and CSI—in other words, practically any detective or whodunit show with a puzzle needing solving. However, it took Heather Arndt until age 24 and a mysterious call from a total stranger to realize her inherent love for investigation could form the basis for a successful career. And it has. She grew up in a modest home with her parents and two brothers in Brooklyn Park, Minn., where Mom would work for various companies, including most recently Cargill, the same employer Dad would keep 27 years while doing drafting and facility management. As a side business, Mom sold Melaleuca, an environmentally friendly cleaning product line. But it was her experience with the Boy Scouts of America that changed her—more specifically a little-known BSA offshoot called the Explorers, which had “posts” that gravitated around specific occupations such as police, fire/ rescue, health, aviation, engineering or law. In a Connect Business Magazine interview, 36-year-old Heather Arndt, owner of prescreening and background check service company ABC Services of Le Center, said, “I was 14 when I started with North Memorial Hospital’s Explorer group and 15 when I began two years of being in the Brooklyn Park Police Explorers. I always knew I wanted to go into medical or some type of investigative work.” With the Police Explorers, she learned police street tactics, investigation techniques, the correct way to enter homes, and routine police stop mechanics. Annually, her Explorer post of five boys and two girls competed against other Police Explorer posts in Minnesota. continued >


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Inspector Gadget

She said, “I’ve always had a knack for being able to pick up on things—an instinct. I enjoy digging and trying to solve puzzles. My mind just wants to feed on information and learn and find out why or how this or that happened. I enjoy investigating.” And since 2001, she has had plenty of experience. That’s the year she bought ABC Services of Le Center, Connect Business Magazine reading area’s only full-service employee pre-screening and background check service. It offers a menu of services that includes address and Social Security number traces, credit and bankruptcy reports, civil and criminal searches, and verification of professional licenses, employment, and education. “It was my intention to do law enforcement as a career,” said Arndt from her downtown Le Center office. “After graduating from Robbinsdale-Cooper High in 1993, I started at Hennepin Community College, went three weeks, and decided it wasn’t right for me. So I went into the Army Reserves. After basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in 1994, I did advanced training at Fort Sam Houston. I started as an operating room technician and decided I didn’t want to stand there handing a doctor surgery tools all day. So I changed to combat medic.” The Army taught her much, she said. She had to grow up fast. Sometimes early morning, officers would throw metal garbage cans down the hall and bang lids to wake everyone up. Lights were flicked on and off. From that moment, she had exactly five minutes to get up, get dressed, make her bed, brush her teeth, and be outside in formation ready to go. If not, she had 20 or so pushups as punishment. She said of the Army, “You had to learn how to move very quickly and if your bed wasn’t made properly they tore your mattress off the bunk. If your wall locker was unlocked, they would open it and pull everything out to remind you to lock it. They kept you on edge. You had to be perfect. They teach you that way because in combat you can’t afford to make mistakes. You had to be on top of your game at all times because out in the field one mistake could injure your life or that of another soldier.” Through it all, she also learned discipline, and developed a stronger self-esteem and self-confidence. She left the Army in 1996.


Inspector Gadget

Dating Game


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Said ABC Services owner Heather Arndt: “By coincidence, I met my husband at the exact same place where my parents met years earlier—at a Red Wing bar and grill. I have family in Red Wing. I was there with my cousins and Brad just happened to be there. We talked and traded telephone numbers.”

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She added, “When you are 18, you think you know everything. Then you step out in the real world and get hit by a truck and suddenly you realize you really didn’t know everything.”




Inspector Gadget

Office Party “One thing I have tried staying clear of is the corporate world,” said 36-year-old Heather Arndt. “One thing nice about owning a small business is I can make my own work schedule. I can leave and go to a child’s choir concert or a tennis match two hours away. I encourage our employees to make use of the flexibility. I like being my own boss. “For employees, I have Jody, who does marketing and is a great salesperson; Keely, who works side-by-side with me; and my mother-in-law, Wanda, the bookkeeper. We work as a team. Keely goes into the courthouse to retrieve information and sends out information to our researchers. She and I are constantly shuffling records back and forth.”

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After the Army, she began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a job similar to one she held in high school. But she hated working weekends. So she took a position as a Twin Cities receptionist. About the same time, she met the man who would become her husband and eventually moved with him to Le Center. “I didn’t even know where Le Center was before moving here,” said Arndt. “In fact, I didn’t even know where St. Peter was. I really didn’t know any of the area past Shakopee and just knew I-35 went out of Minnesota. That had been the extent of my traveling.” In 1998, she became pregnant with their first child, Chase. At the time, she was commuting back and forth to the Cities for her receptionist job. She also was having pregnancy complications and per doctor’s orders had to take the last three months off to stay home. All this convinced her of the importance of working closer to home. The answer: her mother-in-law Wanda asked her to join the family bookkeeping business, Arndt Bookkeeping Connection. The job filled a need, but by 2000, Arndt was tired of bookkeeping— there wasn’t much investigative work involved and all the numbers were beginning to look alike. She went hunting for receptionist positions because that seemed to best fit her experience. While applying for a receptionist position at a North Mankato radio station, Arndt interviewed with JO Guck Bailey, general manager of three radio stations. “JO Bailey said I was too overqualified,” she was saying, “and that I should find something else. I had an accounting background



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Inspector Gadget

and knew payroll, taxes, and accounts receivable. She said being a receptionist wasn’t what I needed, but rather I should be doing accounting. What she said was the best thing that could have happened. She still remembers me. At the time, I was upset, but looking back, it was best. After that, I had to go back to the drawing board.” Soon, she was working for Condux International in Mankato in accounts payable. It was a pleasant place to work, she said, but after eight months her mother-in-law had too much bookkeeping business to handle and was strongly tugging on her to return. The timing of her employment move from Condux International back to Le Center was uncanny, to say the least: only a few months later, Condux International’s business began tailing off, and, as the last one hired, Arndt would have been the first let go. Soon after returning to Le Center and Arndt Bookkeeping Connection in 2001, she received a mysterious telephone call one morning from a woman asking her to consider buying a “different type of business, one I had probably never heard of before,” said Arndt. “She had started the business a few years earlier and wanted out to pursue a nursing career. I was only 24 at the time. I told her I needed to bring my mother-in-law in to a meeting with her. I don’t know why the woman approached me. I have no idea. I had never met her and had lived in town only four years. It’s a mystery to this day. But I look at it as being a God-send, a blessing.” She had been looking for something different, was willing to take hold of a challenge, and the idea of owning and operating a prescreening and background check business fit hand-to-glove her love for investigation. It was called Selly Services—a name she legally had to keep five years. With the sale, of course, she inherited customers. The first sixth months brought a number of difficult adjustments and challenges, but she hung in there by adapting to customer needs and building rapport. At first, she and her mother-in-law were doing about 25 names a day for background checks and manually writing everything down. (That number would grow to 450 until a couple years ago when the economy stumbled. The company name changed in 2006 to ABC Services. It presently does about 250 names a day.) “Today, we do screening for about 35 companies throughout the U.S., including ones in Florida, New York, South Dakota, and Minnesota,” said Arndt. “Everything now is done on computer and we enter the information on secure websites. In large measure, we visit courthouses for these companies, get the information, and send it back. We physically have to visit courthouses. We have researchers all over we work with, including ones covering every Minnesota county. All the information isn’t available online.” In part, the company searches for potential employee criminal acts, thefts or DUIs. The latter, especially, would be important information for a school bus company seeking new drivers, for example. You wouldn’t want a person with three DUIs driving a bus filled with young children, said Arndt, or a person with a theft conviction working as a bank teller. “We don’t do these background checks to discourage people from getting jobs,” she explained. “We do it to help employers make good decisions on whether a person is right for a job. It’s very important we not make mistakes because what we do could change a person’s life. If we make a mistake, a person could be rejected for their dream job.


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ABC Services | Le Center

Because of this, we have to carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. We do our best to give the best information to our clients.” Knock on wood, Arndt said, the company has never faced an E&O claim. ABC Services has two primary revenue streams: the first involves performing background screening only in Minnesota for a number of national companies; the second involves the same with southern Minnesota companies doing business nationwide. Besides businesses, one large client set includes 16 Minnesota school districts, including the one in Le Center. For instance, schools districts need to know if potential employees and teachers have Bureau of Criminal Apprehension records, appear on the state Sex Offender registry and/or are faking Social Security and address information. “So we run a report for the school district,” said Arndt. “They will look at what ‘John Smith’ had on him. If it’s appropriate for him to Schell’s Vacuum Tonic label, c. 1905. work there, they’ll hire him. If not, they will give him a copy of his report and a letter explaining their action.”


Arndt said, “Many businesses don’t use services like ours. Big businesses, for the most part, understand the reasoning why it’s important, but smaller companies think it’s expensive when it’s not. But if I were a business owner, I’d rather spend $35 for a package deal to get the right person working for me than having to spend tens of thousands of dollars in litigation fees down the road because a person turned out to be someone different.” An example of what Arndt talked about involves the late Susan


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507-625-4171 | 1960 Premier Drive, Mankato, MN 56001


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ABC Services | Le Center

Inspector Gadget

Weaver, who years ago hired a service company to clean the air ducts in her home. The service company didn’t do background checks. Six months after the service call, the technician returned to rape and murder Weaver, then set fire to her home to cover up evidence. Had the service company spent $35 on a background check, Arndt said, Susan Weaver likely would be alive today because the murderer had been out on parole after serving a prison sentence for a rape conviction. Weaver’s sister Lucia Bone, understandably, has become a passionate advocate for pre-screening and background checks, and attends National Association of Professional Background Screeners conferences. “Just today,” began Arndt, “I found someone convicted of conspiracy to kidnapping, a serious felony. Through background checks we find a lot of assault cases and ones involving prostitution.” One southern Minnesota business using ABC Services has been 110-employee Jones Metal

Products in Mankato. The company has perhaps “four or five” direct competitors in Minnesota. ABC Services background check packages range from $25 to $45, depending on information needed and the type of search. A basic Bureau of Criminal Apprehension search for Minnesota costs $17. “When buying our services, companies aren’t buying just to protect customers, they are also buying peace of mind,” said Arndt. Recently, one company sent in 1,200 names one day and 2,300 total in the same week. ABC Services promises a 72-hour turnaround. Even with that one-time flood and others, business has fallen 50 percent the last few years because businesses have slowed hiring. “We can tell when the economy is going back up because we see it here first,” she said. “And we can tell when college kids come home and we can tell when they are going back to school in the fall because they


ABC Services Address: 35 East Minnesota Street LeCenter, MN 56057 Phone: 507-357-6320 Web:

are looking for jobs in a different part of the state. We can tell when the holidays are here because people are looking for temporary jobs to earn money for Christmas.” So is the economy making a recovery? “We are not in a recovery yet,” said Arndt. “When I start seeing another 50 to 100 more names a day, then I would say we are on the way up. Recovery can be a very slow process.” Editor Daniel J. Vance writes from Vernon Center.

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4 The Team If not for a well-rounded education from her mother, 1978 St. Peter High graduate Bridget Blaido never would have begun 4 The Team within the last year in St. Peter. “My mother raised my brother and I to be independent individuals,” said 50-year-old Blaido in a telephone interview. “She instilled in us that there was nothing either one of us couldn’t do or be expected to do. For example, my brother was expected to cook and sew, and I was expected to known how to fix a car and change tires.” Her training came in handy. She became pregnant as a high school junior, had a baby senior year, and married at age 18. She went on to study accounting and her husband gave up a Minnesota State football scholarship for work. They are still married. In 1995, while working for Sween Corporation in data processing, she and a business partner bought Sween ID Products and changed the name to ID Services. They split the company in 2000 and she kept the engraving portion. “Then last year, my son-in-law and I went to hockey tournaments and sold tee-shirts on the spot,” she said. “We took our heat press and cooked tee-shirts. It’s called sublimation, where we imprinted graphics directly into 100 percent polyester.” At the same time, fellow hockey team members—Blaido played on the River Valley Vixen—urged her to start screen-printing


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and embroidery. Their nudge became 4 The Team. She believed a niche existed serving high school teams like Nicollet, Cleveland, St. Peter, and Le Sueur. Today, in part, she embroiders business logos onto most any clothing and serves high school, Gustavus Adolphus, and youth sports teams. She said, “I like best the creativity—and also working with the captains of high school sports teams. They want something designed and are thrilled that it’s their tee-shirt for their team.” 4 THE TEAM Telephone: 507-931-5966 Address: 219 West Park Row Web:



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Old West Country Store


Recently, Tammy Lillo began part-time taking over her father’s metalworking business, Timeless Images in Metal, and opened a metal work retail store at the site, called Old West Country Store. Her parents taught her from an early age “that if you want something in this world, you have to work for it,” said 46-year-old Lillo in a telephone interview. “They instilled a good work ethic.” After graduating from Wellcome Memorial in 1983, she was a multi-tasking, trucking company dispatcher that enjoyed dealing with drivers. That four-year experience nudged her into a 10-year stint of owning and operating a truck herself. “My parents say there’s nothing normal about me,” laughed Lillo. “I tend to do what’s unexpected of the average woman. For example, I’ve been addicted to riding motorcycles long as I can remember.” In the family business, Lillo does general metal repair work, but her true joy comes from creating original metal items, anything from railings for decks and permanent massive yard decorations to one-of-a-kind Christmas keepsakes. “This year for Christmas, for example, I’m making life-sized (metal) trees, bells, and Santa’s sleighs,” she said. “These will be lit up and decorating the lawn. Scaled-down versions will be available in the store. We will also have plenty of (metal) wall hangings for sale this Christmas.” With each original creation, Lillo starts out with an image in

her mind, gets it on computer, and uses a plasma cutter to cut the metal. She has wall hangings featuring Americana, from soothing beach scenes and Harley Davidson motorcycles to wildlife including moose and caribou. She said, “I like having the ability to take an image in my head and have it come to life through the end product. It’s amazing what you can do with metal—what you can make it look like when you’re done.” Metal shop hours are 9-5 daily. OLD WEST COUNTRY STORE Telephone: 507-278-3671 Address: 56634 177th Lane, Good Thunder Web:

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Very New or Re-formed Businesses or Professionals New To Our Reading Area


After returning to Fairmont, she spent six months talking about the benefits of music therapy to anyone that would listen. She eventually found a receptive ear with three agencies that serve adults with disabilities. A number of local parents of children with disabilities have hired her, too. She said, “I especially love working with kids with autism because music is so powerful and can help in so many different ways, including their speech, cognitive goals, and behavioral issues. It’s not a cure and won’t work for every child with autism, but we won’t know until we try. It’s an alternative way of working with them.” Besides her music therapy business, the recently married Labes has about 30 private music students learning piano, saxophone, and flute.

Starting a music therapy business was Emily Labes’ answer to marrying her love for music and her yearning to help people. After growing up in a musical family, and taking piano lessons, choir, and band throughout high school, she had a tough decision to make after graduating from Fairmont High. “I wanted to teach music as a profession and I also wanted to do something in the psychology field,” said 26-year-old Labes in a telephone interview. “After doing research, I learned about music therapy, which is exactly in the middle between the two. So I went to Wartburg College and majored in music education and music therapy, and had a psychology minor.” After college, she sought being a music therapist at a children’s hospital. That led to an internship at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where she worked six months in burn, hematology, oncology, and cardiac units. She was won over to the joys and efficacy of music therapy after working with a two-year-old boy with a traumatic brain injury. She said, “When he knew it was time for music and I walked through his door, his face would light up and he just smiled. The rest of the day he wouldn’t show much emotion for anything.” She defined music therapy as “using music to meet nonmusical goals,” such as helping clients with physical, speech, and cognitive rehabilitation, pain management, relaxation, and leisure.

EMILY LABES MUSIC THERAPY Telephone: 507-236-6514

To be considered for one of three spots in the January Hot Startz!, email the editor at Businesses considered must have started—or changed greatly in form—within one year of our publishing date. Professionals chosen must be new to our reading area.

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Emily Labes Music Therapy



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Fairmont From the Chamber: new members include Town & Country Agency and R&S Cleaning and Maintenance. From Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont: new employees include Dr. Jeremy Fleischmann, podiatric foot and ankle surgeon; Dr. Terri Peterson, Mayo Clinic Health System board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and Diplomate of the American Board of Pain Medicine; Christel Rinehart, certified mental health nurse practitioner; and Dr. Rabia Hasan, family physician.

Lake Crystal Mayo Clinic Health System opened a new, expanded clinic practice on the first floor of Crystal Seasons assisted living facility. From the Chamber: new members include Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Teachers Association. With a loan from Southern Minnesota

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Initiative Foundation, Doug Fahrforth is expanding generator manufacturer Blue Star Power Systems.

Le Sueur From the Chamber: New members include China Kitchen; 2011-2012 Chamber board members include Nikki Kupser (Greater Minnesota Gas), Marilyn Erickson (Treasures In Town), Bill Bjorndahl (Park Elementary School) and Jeff Kulzer (Cambria). Mayo Clinic Health System in Le Sueur relocated its two Le Sueur medical practices to the new Minnesota Valley Health Care campus at 625 S. Fourth.

Mankato Amanda Gerdts LAMFT, NCC, began Footnotes Family Counseling Services. Northern Comfort hired Master Plumber Jesse Freeburg and began a new plumbing division. From Maschka, Riedy & Ries Law Firm: Jerry Maschka (personal plaintiff injury), Jack Riedy (general litigation), Chuck Ries (bankruptcy and creditor/debtor rights) and Marc Christianson (personal injury defense) were named 2011 Super Lawyers. Spherion Corporation relocated to 709 South Front Street, Suite #2. From HickoryTech: The board authorized a stock repurchase plan with the intent of re-


purchasing up to $3 million of HickoryTech common stock; subsidiary Enventis celebrated the 10-year anniversary of SingleLink Unified Communications (VoIP); Enventis held a groundbreaking in Duluth to start construction on its $24 million Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative project; the company board voted to declare a quarterly dividend of 14 cents a share to shareholders of record on November 15; Enventis achieved a “Customer Satisfaction Excellence Gold Star” from Cisco.


North Star Aviation The Federal Aviation Administration granted North Star Aviation Part 141 flight training certification, making it the only training program in Minnesota to offer a four-year BS degree in aviation with Part 141 certified flight training.

From NuStar Realty: Rick Junker earned his Minnesota real estate license and joined NuStar Realty; Jennifer Wettergren joined the company. From Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau: The Sport Psych Team at Mankato Marathon was the only active sport psychology team connected to any American marathon; Rebecca Meyer, the “Season 8” at-home $100,000 winner of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, ran the Mankato

Marathon Minnesota Vikings 10K; Liz Madsen of Rapidan won the 2011 Mankato Marathon Commemorative print contest. From Minnesota State University: MSU Iron Range engineering students Matt Hudson and Eric Schaupp, who developed a lightweight portable generator that operates on multiple fuels, won the student division of the Minnesota Cup, honoring innovative entrepreneurs; MSU senior Kathleen Ritter was one of 12 people worldwide to win Zonta International’s $5,000 Jane M. Klausman Business Scholarship Award Finance & Commerce magazine named Marco CFO Jennifer Mrozek as one of the “Top Women in Finance” for 2011. From Old Main Village: residents Arnie Wiens, Lee Asche, Lois Reed, and Ethel Frost visited the World War II memorial in Washington for the national Honor Flight program; the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living recognized Old Main Village with its 2011 “Bronze Commitment to Quality” national quality award. From Greater Mankato Growth: New members include Betsy-Tacy Society, Shane’s The Auto Doctor, Do It Yourself Auto, AVID Nutrition, Flo-Rite Plumbing, Farmers Insurance Group (Nick McDonald), LawnCrafter’s, and Pizza Ranch Mankato. Small Business Development Center at Minnesota State Director Michael Nolan received Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) certification from the National Development Council. United Prairie Bank’s first Denim for Dollars drive provided more than $30,000 to local charities.

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Ameriprise Financial 1930 Premier Drive • Mankato, MN 56001 (507) 625-9050 Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.

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One Bright Star U.S. Commerce Association selected One Bright Star for its 2011 Best of Mankato.

Call Karla VanEman today! (507) 345-4040

New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce ‌supporting the businesses who make us a special place to visit for a weekend, or a lifetime. See our historical downtown, do some shopping – open your own business! We’ll help you make it your home‌.

Benchmark Litigation, The Best Lawyers in America, and Super Lawyers all rated Leonard, Street and Deinard Shareholder Douglas R. Peterson as one of Minnesota’s top litigators. Milbrett, Dauk & Co. employee Marilyn J. Pierce, CPA, celebrated 30 years with the firm. Pioneer Bank CEO David Krause named Michael Harrington as Senior Vice President Greater Mankato; he will be at the bank’s Mankato location, where he will 510 Long St, Suite 104, Mankato specialize in business development and commercial lending. Tony Frentz and Rob Else of Neubau Holdings II announced U.S. Bank as the newest tenant in the recently renovated HECO Building for 2012 relocation; the building will be renamed U.S. Bank Center. AmericInn Hotel & Conference Center earned TripAdvisor’s 2011 Certificate of Excellence. Mayo Clinic Health System launched a new Facebook page that combines more than 70 Mayo Clinic Health System sites in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. (See Coldwell Banker Commercial Fisher Group completed a lease between Mayo Clinic Health System and Northwestern

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Office Building Partnership at 209 S. Second, in which MCHS will lease nearly 16,000 sq. ft. Amber Pietan of AAA Mankato earned Luxury Lifestyle Specialist (LS) designation from the Travel Institute. Jo Ann Burns, owner of DCS Fitness Mankato, set a women’s bench press and dead lift record at the Northern Iowa Independent Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Association 2011 Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships. Sioux City-based Billings and Company acquired the qualified retirement plan division of Abdo, Eick & Meyers.

New Ulm From New Ulm Medical Center: Dr. Steve Stulc of the Institute for Low Back and Neck Care began seeing patients at New Ulm Medical Center.


Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Lee Strum, owner of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, won six franchise awards, including “2011 Franchisee Promoter of the Year� and “Top Sales Volume in Cities with 10,000-20,000 Population.�

From the Chamber: Shelter Products celebrated 30 years in business; Eric Jensen is the new owner of American Family Insurance at 1106 S. Broadway; new Chamber members include J.H. Heymann Builders and Vacuum & Sewing Center; Doug Ladd was named 2011 Chamber Volunteer of the Year; the Chamber announced the formation of a New Ulm Young Professionals group; Burger King New Ulm won the company’s West Division Area 2011 Cleanliness Matters award to finish first among 135 restaurants; and Notion IT owner Mike Wise joined Connecting Point Technologies as an account executive.

More from the Chamber: Berens, Rodenberg and O’Connor Law hired Josh Steinbrecher.

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From the Chamber: new members include Kingpins, Greater Mankato Area United Way, and Fostering Professional Development.

St. James Pepsi gave School District #840 a $25,000 grant for a “Toddler Town Playground.” Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota gave a “Legacy of Community Banking Award” that recognized 50 years of industry service to Myron Johnson, First National Bank chair. Watonwan Farm Services named Triston Wilmes as agronomy division manager. Brooke Malmgren now owns Kinder Ready Day Care Center. K & R Decorating expanded to include custom framing and Lori Hanchett’s “Gallery.” Mayo Clinic Health Systems in St. James laboratory earned Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval. Pioneer Bank CEO David Krause announced the election of Carlie Olson and Lucas Downs to the bank board of directors.

Sleepy Eye From Sleepy Eye EDA: Sleepy Eye Repair celebrated 25 years in business and was voted 2011 Sleepy Eye Business of the Year.

Personal issues hampering your work productivity? Primarily individual therapy for depression, grief and loss, career and life adjustments, crisis, anxiety and worry, and posttraumatic stress. Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor

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PARTNER WITH US, DO GOOD FOR YOUR COMMUNITY. Schwickert's is dedicated to doing good for the citizens of Greater Mankato. Through our gifts and pro bono services to local non-profits, we ensure that the quality of life we enjoy thrives. By partnering with local resources and suppliers–like Schwickert’s–you can help continue that important mission of doing good.

Waseca From the Chamber: Sacred Heart School was named 2011-12 Business of the Year and celebrated 125 years; Lau’s Meat Market has new owners, Bruce and Dawn Barrie; new Chamber members include Peak Computer Services, Compassionate Counseling Services, and Generations Antiques; and Clear Lake Signs relocated offices to 300 16th Avenue SE.

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Imagine someone comes to you with a new plan to save for your retirement. They take your money, but they spend it. Then, they find new investors. They take money from those new investors and give it to you, then go looking for still more investors so that they can give their money to the people whose money they gave to you. That is exactly what Charles Ponzi did in 1916 with the original Ponzi scheme. And that pretty well describes what Social Security does today. The money you pay into the system is not saved or invested in anything. Instead, it is used to pay benefits to those “early investors” who are retired today. When

you retire, you will have to rely on the next generation of workers behind you to pay the taxes that will finance your benefits. That worked fine in 1950 when there were 15 workers paying into the system for ever retiree. But today there are only slightly more than three workers supporting Michael D. Tanner each retiree. Within a couple decades, we will be down to just two workers per retiree. Once Ponzi was no longer able to persuade enough investors to keep giving him money, his scheme collapsed. Similarly, as the number of workers paying into Social Security shrinks, the program will no longer be able to pay today’s workers all the benefits that they have been promised. So is Social Security a Ponzi scheme, as Texas Gov. Rick Perry has charged? Some defenders of the current system insist it is not because, well, as USA Today editorialized, “Ponzi schemes are a criminal enterprise; Social Security is not.” But this is simply a tautology that says nothing about the program’s structure. Those young workers who will be forced to pay more in taxes while getting less in benefits will not take much comfort from Social Security’s legality.

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But those taxes and benefit cuts do point out one area where Social Security is different from a Ponzi scheme. Though it’s usually a swindle, people sign up for a Ponzi scheme voluntarily. Once Ponzi was unable to talk enough people into investing with him, his scheme collapsed. People participate in Social Security because the government makes them. And if the Social Security system begins to run short of people paying into the system, as it is now, it can always force those people to pay more. That’s what the program has done more than 40 times since it began. Even after adjusting for inflation, Social Security payroll taxes have increased by more than 800 percent since the program began. Social Security payroll taxes are now the highest tax that the average American family pays. Roughly 80 percent of American families pay more in Social Security taxes than they do in federal income taxes. Despite this, Social Security faces more than $20 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. That means payroll taxes would have to be hiked by nearly 50 percent, or the equivalent in other taxes, to keep the program solvent. Social Security can also cut benefits. Under current law, if nothing changes, a 30-year-old worker today can expect to receive just 76 percent of the benefits that

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Advertising he has been promised. That will be far less than the amount of money he could have had if he had been able to invest his Social Security taxes privately. In fact, many young workers will be lucky if they receive back as much in benefits as they pay into the system. Unlike Charles Ponzi’s original Ponzi scheme, Social Security will never go broke as long as the government can force people to pay more taxes and accept fewer benefits. But does that make Social Security better than a Ponzi scheme—or worse? This article first appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and specializes in healthcare reform, social welfare policy and Social Security issues.

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Nov-Dec 2011  

Marty Davis, Sun Country Airlines.