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Lorin Krueger

Mankato Golf Club

CEO Reinvented


Boys & Girls Club



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Area Teacher Shares Her Love of Agriculture in Classroom

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1 Million Cups Initiative Finds Success in Mankato

25 Years of Diving Deep

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Editor’s Introduction


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Connecting Back


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Editor: Lisa Cownie

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Information: ABOUT CONNECT Locally owned Connect Business Magazine has ‘connected’ southern Minnesota businesses since 1994 through features, interviews, news and advertising.


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Thank YOU for 25 Years Twenty five years ago was founded, the Dow Jones hit record highs for that time reaching 3,914.20, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5%, the lowest since the start of the early 1990s recession in July 1990. (and it was the year Wayne Gretzky set a NHL record with 802 goals scored...but I digress.) 1994 was also the year Connect Magazine launched (later the word Business would be added to the title). Although I was not a part of its creation, I am very proud now to be a part of the publication. For 25 years it has been a resource for businesses in the region. A resource that relies on the region’s best asset to learn from: the people. In the inaugural March 1994 issue, Publisher Jeff Irish said, “If we do our job well, the information contained within the pages of this magazine will strengthen your own local business connections and provide tangible benefits to your organization.” Twenty five years later and I think Irish’s vision remains intact. While the magazine looks a little different, the heart of that sentiment still drives everything we do. Thank you for being with us for a quarter of a century. I can’t even imagine what is in store for us in the next 25.

Lisa Cownie EDITOR

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By Lisa Cownie Photos by Kris Kathmann

Lorin Krueger embraces an opportunity in Southwest Minnesota as the next step in his career.

Lorin Krueger in Sailor Plastic's Adrian, Minnesota manufacturing facility.

hen Mankato native Lorin Krueger drives across southwest Minnesota, he sees more than small towns dotting the map. He sees opportunities. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? I have lived here my whole life, but as I’ve gotten out and around more in southwest Minnesota I find there are a lot of really neat businesses. Last month Connect talked about River City Eatery in Windom. That is a neat business. The Worthington area is really starting to pick up. The city of Luverne has a lot of things in motion right now and they brought back another pork processing facility to replace the Gold’n Plump Chicken processing place, which had been there forever, but now they’re closing that down. I even had an opportunity to meet the mayor of Luverne at dinner one evening and hear the plans that they have. There’s a lot of small businesses popping up in those smaller towns. I’ll tell you what, the people who wanted to stay are really making something happen.” And Krueger is one of those making something happen, although he has taken a circuitous route to get to where he is today, owner of Sailor Plastics in Adrian, Minnesota. A whole new direction from what he had done his entire previous professional life. And a bit outside the radius of where he thought he wanted to own a business. “It’s interesting when I looked at Sailor, I started checking out the community,” he explains. “The big thing for me was to check out the K-12 school. That checked out. Also, Adrian has a lumber yard, they have a grocery store, a hardware store. The key though is the school system because I want to make sure it’s a place that can attract young families which will be my continues > future employees! CONNECT Business Magazine


CEO REINVENTED “Without that, these small towns will shrivel up and go away. They need something to keep people there. It was really interesting after I started looking into Adrian, I started running into people who live in Mankato now but grew up there. For instance, Todd Loosbrock of U.S. Bank, he is from Adrian. Then I ran into Kenny Klooster, Edward Jones, who is also from Adrian. Then Bob Kitchenmaster is from Hills, Minnesota which is just southwest of Adrian. There are so many people that moved to Mankato from there because there wasn’t necessarily an opportunity, but I think there’s opportunity growing. People want small businesses in the community.” Krueger is no stranger to taking an opportunity and helping it grow. We last featured Krueger on the cover of Connect Business Magazine in 2004. At that time, he was the CEO of Winland Electronics. A company he co-founded in the mid 70s as a small, local start up and helped grow to a publicy-traded, $20 million dollar

plus company. A lot has changed for Krueger since that interview. “The company (Winland) continued to grow and we were very prosperous. I retired from Winland in 2008. We came to a point in time where I wanted to do something different and the company was growing. So, I moved to just being a director of the company at that time and stepped down from my CEO duties. Then, of course, I had to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life! I did take a year to look at a lot of different things.” Born and raised in Mankato, Krueger always knew those “different things” would be something that would be beneficial to the place he has always called home. Graduating from Mankato East and later Mankato Area Technical Institute (now South Central College), Krueger didn’t want to get too far from home. But an opportunity elsewhere presented itself right away.

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“In about 2009, 2010 a friend of mine in Chicago had an opportunity and we formed a new company that we located in Lisle, Illinois called Supply Tigers,” Krueger explains. “It is a purchasing, consulting and sourcing company for businesses. I was able to put what I learned in my years at Winland to good use.” His experience with Supply Tigers poised him perfectly for understanding the business end of Sailor Plastics, a specialty bottle manufacturer for the food industry. And that’s where we pick up this cover story. Krueger’s journey since our last visit with him has taken many turns. Your history with Winland has been well covered over the years, so let’s start with your life after Winland. Even after retiring as CEO, I have still been involved with Winland’s board this whole time. Winland sold its manufacturing operations to Nortech, but still kept the security electronics products, so they still

Lorin Krueger | Sailor Plastics An opportunity came up in 2015 with a company called Sailor Plastics, which is in Adrian, Minnesota. It met all the criteria of what I was looking for in my next business ownership. Except one, I guess. One criteria I had was that it couldn’t be farther than 50 miles away from Mankato. This is 135 miles! So a little farther away but once I looked it over and got to know the community, it felt right and that is my focus now.

have those going today in addition to other investments as Winland Holdings. I was also in on the ground level helping start Supply Tigers, which I helped grow and then after a few years sold my interest but took with me a lot of valuable

experience. After I sold my interest in Supply Tigers, I started looking for another business to buy and had my feelers out to all the different people I knew around the community and let them know what I was looking for.

Let’s talk about Sailor Plastics. What is it? You know those cute little honey bear containers you see on store shelves...that‘s us! Sailor Plastics is a manufacturer of bottle products for the food industry. We really thrive on the people who make fresh squeezed juices and flavored waters. We do a lot of work with sauces, like barbecue bottles. Probably a third of our business is with honey producers. We produce cute little honey bears as well as other bottles that are styled for the honey industry.

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“At this stage in my career I was looking for something that was maybe between one million and five million in revenue. I was looking for something that was profitable. I didn’t want to have to nurse a business back to health again.“


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What attracted you to this particular business? It’s a far cry from electronics or anything you had done before. Sailor Plastics was founded by the Sailor family in the 1950s. They started producing bottles in about the mid ‘70s and have been building and making plastic bottles since about 1977, I think. It was really interesting how I came upon it. It was a second generation family operating the business and they didn’t have another person in the family interested in taking it over. They decided to put it up for sale. That family feel is part of what attracted me to the deal. Having that owner support was really important. And I knew as I initially took over, I would have that support during the transition. They cared about the ongoing success of the company and they cared about making sure any new owner would stay in Adrian. What are some of the criteria that you were looking for when it caught your eye? At this stage in my career I was looking for something that was maybe between one million and five million in revenue. I was looking for something that was profitable. I didn’t want to have to nurse a business back to health again. I wanted to be a private business. I wanted the owner to be

Lorin Krueger | Sailor Plastics able and willing to stay around for a couple of years to help transition the business. I wasn’t really particular. It didn’t have to be a technology business, even though my 30 years prior to that were all technology. Manufacturing is manufacturing. Manufacturing bottles, that’s a lot simpler than making circuit boards. They have a lot less parts. The operations have always been located in Adrian? Yes. It was founded in Adrian by Terry Sailor’s father and it grew and grew making plastic products for the food industry, companies like Schwan’s and Blue Bunny Ice Cream. At that time, I think, there was a company called Morrell Foods and Swift Foods out of Sioux Falls and Worthington. Little known fact, Sailor was one of the original producers of bottles for Cookies barbecue. Today our customers are smaller business owners that use our bottles for their fresh produced juices. For example, here in Mankato you’ll find our products at WYSIWYG. It’s wonderful to have that local connection. That’s the type of business model, the type of customer model that we have. Then we also have our bottles featured by many distributors throughout the nation. We are not selling much international because of the shipping constraints you have. Imagine putting 100,000 of the honey bear bottles in the truck, they take up a lot of space. That’s good for us because it also keeps out foreign competition. It’s not cost effective to make a bottle in a low-cost production country, then ship it to the United States. It’s very expensive, just the shipping cost alone would be steep. Our shipping costs are high, so our concentration is more in the middle of the United States. You mentioned WYSIWYG. How do you find businesses like that or do they find you? I think part of it is the Sailor reputation. Sailor has an established customer base, and a lot of our new people come from referrals through them. That’s how we connected with WYSIWYG. More recently in the last two years our eCommerce efforts have really ramped up. With a redesign of

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our eCommerce platform. We shot all new photographs, using another locally owned company, Concept & Design. Then we increased our outreach with programs such as Mailchimp. We already had a customer base of over 4,500 customers in the system. But it seemed every year we would bring on 400 new customers, but then lose 200. There was this constant churn. So the real hard work was just keeping in contact with those people and bringing them in. So when prospective customers are trying to find us, our internet presence is a big deal.


March | April 2019


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Would you say developing eCommerce for Sailor is one of the biggest impacts you’ve made since you bought the company? Yes. I think so. Through my experience with Supply Tigers, we did a lot of work building a website system. We also worked with the packaging industries. It helped me know how programs needed to be set up for distributors and larger customers to be interested in our products. With Supply Tigers we would run the buy side of things. We would find a company like Sailor to produce or quote product for our prospects and customers. I knew how the industry worked and I brought that experience with me. I think that helped a lot in redesigning the go-to-market strategy for Sailor Plastics. When I think of manufacturing, I think of big warehouse spaces, a lot of stuff going on, and a lot of people there but you were telling me yours is smaller. Yes. That’s right. It’s quite small in space and personnel for the quantity of product we put out. It’s due to the way we do things. It’s called a reheat and blow process for producing bottles. It uses a bottle preform. The preform supplier we have, and we’re fortunate for this, is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 25 miles away. We buy our preforms, which look like a test tube with the cap threads of the bottle already on it. It goes into a machine and we reheat the preform and then that goes into a mold that clamps down and blows the bottle up into the form of the mold. It blows it up in the form of a square bottle, a round bottle, a honey bear, or a barbecue

GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER! Not only is Krueger gifted in business, but in a band as well. He plays both guitar and is a vocalist in the local band Roses & Thorns. “I started playing guitar at age 11. My cousin was in a popular regional band in Mankato in the 60s and that got me interested,” says Krueger. “Playing music like any art form allows a person to use their creative side. It is also very relaxing and something you can lose yourself in for hours, a great way to defrag the brain. Having bandmates, challenges you to open up to new ideas and helps me break out to different music I may not explore. As you can see a lot of similarities to business.”

Lorin Krueger | Sailor Plastics

“About every four or five seconds we produce two bottles. This runs five days a week, eight hours a day. With some overtime during our busier seasons.”

Bottle preforms are heated before taking final shape in a mold.

A LIFE OF NEW BEGINNINGS Born and raised in Mankato, Krueger got a first hand view of the growth of the region. “I had the opportunity to attend several brand new schools in Mankato. Back in the ‘60s, Mankato was on a huge growth trend. We moved to Hilltop Mankato in 1964 just prior to Kennedy Elementary School being built. I then attended Franklin for middle school and I was part of the first graduating class of Mankato East High in 1974. We had the opportunity to do all of the naming of the mascot and be involved with a lot of different committees to put together the school colors and song. “I graduated with a group of really neat people. I still keep in touch with a few of them from both East and West. It’s a fun and successful class. Even from a young age, I was interested in technology. I was an amateur radio operator in high school. One of my instructors at Mankato East was an amateur radio operator. Also, while I was working my senior year, I worked at a CB radio shop that was started by three instructors and one of their students. I’d go down after school and that was my parttime job, selling and servicing CB radios primarily sold to truckers. My interest in technology just started growing. So from there I went to Mankato Area Technical Institute as it was known at the time. Now it’s South Central College. That’s where I really obtained my grounding in electronics. “I went through the program with communications as my specialty driven by my amateur radio background. At the end of that, I took a position with a company in Waseca called EF Johnson. I was working under John Bipes, who I worked for at the CB radio shop, who became an

sauce bottle. The machinery really paces the product line. You need a technician to maintain the machinery. You need a person to load the preforms into the machine and you need another person packaging the product as it comes out. We have some very simple systems. About every four or five seconds we produce two bottles. This runs five days a week, eight hours a day. With some overtime during our busier seasons when people

engineer at EFJ. I got to work with John for just a few months in the engineering lab. At that time, EF Johnson was going through some significant changes due to contracts with the cellular phone program, which was brand new in its infancy. “That was in the mid 70s, cellphones were just being discussed and EF Johnson was involved in the program. They were also working on some advanced radio programs. It was my dream job to be an electronic engineering technician and work in communications. It all came to a screeching halt only a few months after I was there. The contracts were put on hold and I eventually was laid off from EF Johnson, just 3 months after marrying my wife, Mitzi. After that event, “I went back to my Technical College instructor Denny Siemer to help me look for opportunities. He and another person Swen Farland were just beginning Winland Electronics. I was a temporary hire that just would not go away. We started in the basement of Denny’s house on Viking Drive in Mankato, building alarm systems for agricultural buildings. That was 1976. In 1977 we were getting a little bigger and needed more space and people. We moved to the Mankato Free Press newspaper building and continued to grow from there. As the company grew, we moved into the security electronics area, and contract engineering and manufacturing, and built the building in 1995 in Eastwood Industrial Center. Another early advisor was Clint Kind. Clint was the dean of the College of Accounting at Minnesota State. The business was growing and needed more structure. Clint introduced us to another professor at MSU, Kirk Hankins. Kirk eventually came in as a partner and became CEO and President of Winland Electronics back in about 1981. Kirk helped the company organize and help us to go public in 1983. I succeeded him in 2001 as CEO.” CONNECT Business Magazine



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are consuming more juice and using more barbecue sauce. Our honey production is also more broadly based in the summer months because it stretches from Canada all the way to the southern borders. Where right now our biggest honey producers are limited down south. How many employees total? Sixteen. What is a day like for you? I know you office mainly out of the Hubbard Building here in Mankato, while the bulk of the business remains in Adrian. We have an office in the Hubbard Building. To help our eCommerce efforts, in

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The Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is there to help people like Krueger invest in the region’s smaller communities. SWIF is a great resource for the business community. In the case of Sailor Plastics, it helped with some gap financing to help get the deal done. Among SWIF’s managed funds is $11 million dedicated to supporting regional businesses through a revolving loan program. SWIF leverages private investments by partnering with banks, credit unions, economic development centers to help create and retain quality jobs, foster entrepreneurship, and help the region’s smaller communities compete in a global marketplace. SWIF’s business finance loans generally fall between $50,000 and $400,000. Lenders then provide a 50-percent match. SWIF says that when loan applications are considered, the organization looks at how critical or necessary a business is to the region. To learn more about SWIF and its Business Finance Program and Microenterprise Loan Program, please visit or call 320-587-4848.

Lorin Krueger | Sailor Plastics May of this last year I hired a young man, a recent graduate from Minnesota State and we located him in the Hubbard Building, which is really an entrepreneurial center. It has a really cool vibe to it. I don’t know if people realize what is going on there. That building houses a lot of eCommerce and entrepreneurial businesses. But there are also some more

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I know music is one of your hobbies it sounds like. What else do you like to do when you’re not working? “Living in Minnesota of course, you go hunting and fishing and that’s always a big thing for me. I played softball with the same team of guys for over 30 years. I also enjoy spending time with family. My wife Michele (Mitzi) and I have a son Jon, who lives in Mankato. Our daughter Emily lives in Sherburn with her husband Tony. We also like to spend time with our many friends. We live in a great little neighborhood outside of Mankato and we get together often. We live right above the hill from Javen’s Winery. It’s one of our frequent gathering spots in the neighborhood and small business,” he smiles. While Lorin has certainly proved he can go to the distance when it comes to running a business, his wife goes the distance quite literally! His wife, Mitzi, is a marathon runner. She has certainly been one of Lorin’s top supporters throughout his career, and encouraging her running is one way Lorin gets out of the office and around the country in support of her. “Recently she did the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, so we drove down to Tulsa a week before Thanksgiving,” he says. “We drove the Route 66 piece through Missouri and Oklahoma, which is interesting. I enjoy those outings and that time with her immensely.”




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CEO REINVENTED mature businesses located at the Hubbard Building. It’s a good location for our outside sales office and eCommerce operations. Also my contact base is stronger in Mankato for recruiting and finding people. I live here and it’s an area I wanted to keep in closer touch with. The production facility and the fulfillment facility is in Adrian, Minnesota and will always be in Adrian. They do a very good job of processing purchase orders, taking phone orders and processing our internet orders. We’re probably one of the top one or two employers next to the school district in the city of Adrian. How would you describe yourself, because you have the technical background and you’re obviously clearly a very good businessman. So how do you bring that all together? Oh man. It’s a mess. (chuckles) I’ve been fortunate to be around and work with a number of very smart and very bright people. Going back to Clint Kind, who was

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the first to help Winland. Kirk Hankins Sr., Kirk taught me management accounting and business. I didn’t know business when we started Winland. He taught me business. Denny Siemer taught me electronics, and taught me a lot of good things about life. I have a small consulting group out in Minneapolis I have worked with since 2000 they are still a part of my team, that I call on. Meeting people are a constant in my business dealings by design. You just build this network of people and lean on it. I think it’s more of an integration of all these different people’s knowledge, skills, and things they’ve taught me. I have learned where to call to get help, and be willing to reach out and get that help when I need it. That’s one of my mottos... just keep learning. Yes, they keep you constantly learning. You have to trust the people that you hire or work with or are employed by you. They know the answers to most of the issues of

Lorin Krueger | Sailor Plastics

“You have to trust the people that you hire or work with or are employed by you. They know the answers to most of the issues of the day. They really do. My job is more of a coach, maybe come up with a different game plan or help them come up with a solution to the opportunity or the problem of the day.” the day. They really do. My job is more of a coach, maybe come up with a different game plan or help them come up with a solution to the opportunity or the problem of the day. My style is not command and control, it’s more of empowerment. I just let them run with it and I always seem to get really good answers and results. What do you think is next? You’ll just keep trying to grow Sailor Plastics? Yes. Sailor Plastics is my growth oppor-


tunity. I want to grow it to a certain size and am enjoying spending a lot of time working on it. The culmination of my past skills allow me to handle the administrative side, so I take most of that load myself. For the accounting resources I work with Eide Baily and Kitchenmaster Accounting. They both work with me on the administrative and finance side. United Prairie Bank has just been super through this transaction. Getting Sailor up to the next level of growth is my priority. That

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“I think it’s the network of friends and people I’ve met over time.. I’ve just built this network over time. It’s key to me, having a network of people and friends around that I can call on, it helps me feel comfortable being here. I know if I needed something, or I needed advice, or I needed help I could reach out and get that fairly quickly.”

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said, though, I don’t intend to make this a huge growth company. It’s more of a small business and I want to keep it like that and stabilize it. And I want to make sure that when it is time for me to sell the business, there is a team that could carry on for whoever may own the business going forward. It’s become important to me to leave the business in Adrian, as the Sailor family wanted to leave the business in Adrian. I think Sailor is an important part of the community and part of what makes Adrian, Adrian. You were born and raised in Mankato and you haven’t left. What do you like about Mankato? What keeps you here? I think it’s the network of friends and people I’ve met over time. I have had opportunities to work in different community service programs starting way back in 1977 with a group called the Exchange Club. I met a lot of business people, we became friends. I was a part of the Valley Industrial Development group now Greater Mankato Growth. I’ve shared my passions with the South Central College electronics department and I support the Foundation. I’ve just built this network over time. It’s key to me, having a network of people and friends around that I can call on, it helps me feel comfortable being here. I know if I needed something, or I needed advice, or I needed help, I could reach out and get that fairly quickly. Editor Lisa Cownie writes from Mankato.

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March | April 2019



A Big Slice of the Farm Bill Pie Let me guess. The first thing that comes to your mind is farmers. It may be a dairy farmer such as myself. A person that makes his or her living raising pigs, turkeys or beef cattle. Then again, maybe it makes you think of a crop farmer; you know the guy that has absolutely nothing to do during the winter months. (By the way, that is not true. Crop farmers have many tasks to do during the winter.) If I had led my column with the Agricultural Adjustment Act, you probably would have stopped reading there. But I digress. The Farm Bill isn’t really even called The Farm Bill. Legally, and in a world of political correctness, it should be referred to as the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). It came into existence when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) first came up with the plan to aid American citizens during a time of hardship by creating the New Deal. Some argue it was the worst plan ever created. I say, it was a great plan, it’s those involved that didn’t keep it as effective as it was back in 1933. In that 85-year-old legislation, was the opportunity for the government to pay farmers to stop production of certain commodities, in an effort to whittle away the surplus of crops. Those surpluses were then distributed to the needy citizens of our country. It served as a model for the food stamp program. Yes, food stamps have been available to those in need since 1939! As farmers, we hear a lot of grumbling about Agricultural Adjustment Act. Most people assume it affects only farmers. We used to hear jokes about how the bills on the farmers’ hats became curved; we were always sticking our heads into the mail box looking for money. (Please note: I shook my head side to side, as I typed this, in dismay. I find that a bit disparaging.) How little people understand on how much it costs to grow food for consumption and production and how little the crop 24

March | April 2019

The Farm Bill isn’t really even called The Farm Bill. Legally, and in a world of political correctness, it should be referred to as the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). It came into existence when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) First came up with the plan to aid American citizens during a time of hardship by creating the New Deal. Some argue it was the worst plan ever created. producer is getting paid is astonishing. If we don’t continue subsidizing the production of food, you may well pay $10 for a gallon of milk, which it does actually cost in Belize. A nation of very little government assistance to farmers. Be thankful for being a member of America’s society, where we spend the least amount of our hard-earned money on food for our tables. The largest portion of AAA is involved with nutrition programs for those in need: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), among many others in the promotion and education of citizens in proper nutrition. Take a look at the graph above. It’s surprising how much is actually attributed to those that consume food and those that produce it. As you can see, farmers do receive assis-


2018 Farm Bill Spending

5 Year Baseline

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Nutrition Crop Insurance Commodities Conservation Trade Other Titles*

76.1% 8.9% 7.3% 6.8% 0.5% 0.3%

Source: Farm Bureau/Congressional Budget Office

tance with crop insurance and conservation. I am not a big fan of some of the conservation programs, as it tends to put excellent production acres into non-production. My beef, is a farmer will earn more income putting his fertile land into conservation, rather than lease it out to another farmer. How are young farmers supposed to get started when this is happening? I would like to think it would be more important for him or her to pass on his or her legacy. After looking at tons of information and trying to compile it into one small space, it is in my humble opinion that consumers and farmers need to work together to keep the AAA working like a fine-oiled tractor seat or a wheel on that squeaky grocery cart. Kerry and her husband Steve own and operate a dairy production business in rural New Ulm. Currently, they are milking 140 cows with the help of one full-time employee and several part-time helpers.

Got an agriculture related story idea? Email our correspondent Kerry Hoffman at


Johnson Shares Her Love of Agriculture in the Classroom We all have at least one person in our lives that we look up to and trust. Sometimes it’s a parent or sibling. Other times it’s a teacher. Such is the case with Elizabeth Johnson. A recent recipient of Minnesota’s “Teacher Turn the Key” award, she was inspired to become an ag teacher by her very own ag teacher, Mrs. Hoffman, at Sleepy Eye Public School, in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. The award is given to the top agricultural teacher in Minnesota. To qualify, you have to have been teaching between two and four years. Johnson applied for the award last spring and was notified of her selection and given the opportunity to attend the National Association of Agricultural Educators in San Antonio, Texas. “It’s also a sort of scholarship,” Johnson said. “They covered my expenses to go to the conference and I was able to go through programming offered specifically to ag teachers.” Johnson attributes her success to Mrs. Hoffman, “My high school ag teacher really pushed me to be the person I am today. She encouraged me to do things that I didn’t think were possible. “I love everything that agriculture stands for,” Johnson said. “I love helping students find their passion and accomplish the impossible. You know they say, ‘You never work a day in your life, if you love what you do.’ I honestly love going to work every, single day.” Johnson has always enjoyed working with children, no matter the age. “All kids are amazing,” Johnson said. “Every kid has potential that walks through my classroom door. I try to find what they enjoy doing and incorporate that into my classroom or lesson.” Agriculture classes are not just about animals and corn. Students learn welding, plumbing and general repairs on all sorts of things. “When people think of agriculture, they


Agriculture classes are not just about animals and corn. Students learn welding, plumbing and general repairs on all sorts of things. “When people think of agriculture, they think of pigs and cows, but it is so much more than that,” Johnson added. think of pigs and cows, but it is so much more than that,” Johnson added. Curriculum includes career development events, such as speaking and parliamentary procedure and food service, team work, work ethic and public speaking. You can also find Johnson showing students how to weld, work with natural resources, repair gas engines and study horticulture, ag business and animal science. At one point, she put a shout out on social media looking for used toilets to teach a class on plumbing. “There is so much that relates to agriculture; people just don’t realize,” Johnson added. Teaching brings with it new adventures. No two days are the same. “Every day is organized chaos,” Johnson said. Johnson finds a bit of humor every day that keeps her job enjoyable. “One day I was giving a tour in the shop to the 8th graders,” Johnson said. “A girl picked up a welding electrode and thought it was a sparkler that is used for the Fourth of July.” Another fond memory for Johnson involved welding, “A student was welding together a fairly large shooting target in shop and he accidently welded two ladders

into his project,” Johnson chuckled. “He was using the two ladders to hold the top bar in place on his target.” Because Johnson likes to keep things fun and interesting, it seems the students have absorbed that tactic as well. “The students claimed they had to get something very urgent from their vehicle for class,” Johnson explained. “Surprise on me. They brought me a live raccoon in a trap!” Johnson feels it is important to teach and have students learn about topics connected to agriculture. Sometimes, that means the students may not love the topic, but making the lesson fun for them. “The key to my teaching style, is to put as much passion as I can into every topic, even if I am not super excited about it either,” commented Johnson. “My excitement rubs off on the students and we have fun learning about everything.” Johnson hopes to help students find one topic they are passionate about and could possibly see themselves doing for the long term. In talking to Johnson, it is clear she has a passion for teaching agriculture to all people. Being as passionate as she is, it’s possible she too finds future ag teachers coming out of her classrooms. CONNECT Business Magazine



GreenSeam: Agriculture with a Capital “C”

Sydney Kappel GreenSeam

Your Future is Here Editor’s note: As GreenSeam gets set to celebrate its third anniversary since officially launching the name and brand, we asked GMG to give us an update on the organization. Southern Minnesota through northern Iowa have long been known as areas in which agriculture flourishes, but recently, the area has been labeled as the GreenSeam. GreenSeam LLC, named for this abundant region, is an organization that strives to redefine agribusiness and create unity in the GreenSeam region. GreenSeam LLC is celebrating one year of becoming registered with the state of Minnesota as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with their election of an established board of governors, and it is more than safe to say GreenSeam will be celebrating many more years of success after this first, highly successful year. While many citizens within the GreenSeam region do not think of themselves as part of agribusiness, these people all make up what agriculture is and does. Agriculture is so much more than farming, a fact that GreenSeam has been promoting in their tireless work to redefine agribusiness. Their work has been thriving, leading to companies ranging from banks to law firms to food corporations investing in the GreenSeam vision. Sam Ziegler, Director of GreenSeam, describes the organization, saying, “GreenSeam is not simply a place; GreenSeam is also a state of mind and being.” As a region, the GreenSeam economy is booming. In 2016, GDP expanded in the region by 4.6%. This supports the fact that the agriculture industry has the highest strategic advantage in the region, boasting a concentration that is almost four times that of the national average. GreenSeam recognizes that ag has always been a driving factor behind success in this region, and through starting more dialogue about ag, conversation around it has been increasing. Minnesota has long been called 26

March | April 2019

Keynote Speaker, Harry Stine speaking at the 2018 Rural Legislative Forum.

“the land of 10,000 lakes,” but Minnesota alone has a far greater number of farms and ag-related businesses, not to mention the ones in northern Iowa, that define this region’s success—success that GreenSeam sees and wants to build upon. As a division of Greater Mankato Growth Inc., GreenSeam is centered in downtown Mankato, which is not only in the GreenSeam region, but also an area that propels the growth of GreenSeam. Why? The Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area is home to five colleges and many area high schools that see what GreenSeam is doing and have implemented agribusiness curriculum into their schools. Minnesota State University, Mankato noted agriculture as a distinct area in their 2016 Master Plan, and in addition to this have hosted GreenSeam events on their campus. South Central College of North Mankato is home to the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture, a center of ag excellence

that has been growing and working with Mankato Area Public Schools to offer more agriculture-based learning in their classrooms. Kim Mueller, Career and College Readiness Coordinator at Mankato Area Public Schools, has this to say about GreenSeam: “Mankato Public Schools have been positively impacted by initiatives that GreenSeam has done in our community to bring awareness and resources of Agriculture into our classrooms. I have personally contacted Sam Ziegler many times to help make connections for teachers, students, and programming. For example, our district was introduced to MN Ag in the Classroom through GreenSeam, which we now use as a resource in all of our elementary classrooms. GreenSeam was my first contact to find local businesses who might be willing to host ag tours for our students. We are thankful to have a resource that keeps us aware of the innovative and rapid

David Krause, Chair of GreenSeam.

changes that are happening in Agriculture and working with us to pass that awareness on to our students and educators.” With the Mankato school systems buying into GreenSeam’s vision, it is evident that the future of GreenSeam is secure in the hands of future leaders—children and young adults who are already seeing agribusiness’ potential in their classrooms. While GreenSeam was a project that began with funding from Greater Mankato Growth Inc., the organization is fundamentally guided by its investors. GreenSeam takes those interests seriously, and the organization has one cohesive vision from the top down—to elevate GreenSeam from southern Minnesota-northern Iowa to the rest of the United States as an innovative agribusiness epicenter. To truly show how

agriculture affects everyone, GreenSeam’s website ( features a section for stories from those who want to share how ag influences their daily lives. These “I Am Ag” stories highlight how GreenSeam has already begun to challenge and change how everyone views agriculture. David Krause, Chair of GreenSeam, describes his reasons for being “ag” saying, “As a farm boy from Jeffers, Minnesota and a southern Minnesota community banker for 35 years, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact agriculture has on our economy, this region and our way of life.” The vision of GreenSeam is forward thinking and targeted at long-term impact to help businesses and provide beneficial return in the future. Investors are seeing that GreenSeam is proactive and has the ability to really change the region, noted in an increase in positive news surrounding agribusiness. Krause also describes the impact of agriculture in this region, stating, “Through cutting edge technological advances and courageous entrepreneurial ventures, agriculture has provided a robust and diverse region of thriving communities with quality healthcare, education and old-fashioned values.” With GreenSeam’s Chair seeing these positive attributes of ag and a solid Board of Governors behind him, it goes to show how valuable a resource GreenSeam is to invest in.

Ziegler perhaps describes GreenSeam best, saying, “GreenSeam is the premier agriculture epicenter of the United States, just as Silicon Valley is the epicenter of technology or Wall Street is for financial solutions. If you are a business or individual that finds value in being connected to agribusiness, then GreenSeam is where you need to be.” The location of the GreenSeam is a goldmine of potential, and those who invest in GreenSeam will certainly receive the benefits of having invested in such an asset right here in the southern Minnesota-northern Iowa area. GreenSeam takes pride in what they do, with a brand that is well-organized with a cohesive goal. Agriculture is tied to everything in our world, so investing in GreenSeam is not only investing in now, it is investing in your own future—a future that is right here in the GreenSeam. For more information visit Sydney Kappel is a Greater Mankato Growth Marketing & Communications Intern. Greater Mankato Growth’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Bridget Norland, edited this article.

Catch the Hometown Business Connection on KEYC News 12! KEYC News 12 and Connect Business Magazine bring you the stories of area local businesses and how they impact Southern Minnesota. • First Wednesday of the month on KEYC News 12 at 6 • Repeats Thursday on KEYC News 12 Midday • See all previous episodes on

CONNECT Business Magazine


BULLETIN BOARD Local Chamber and Economic Development News

Check Out What’s Happening In Your ! y t i n u m m o C

sophomores attend this free event each year, where nearly 100 area businesses and organizations showcase the various positions and career clusters in which they offer employment. This program helps increase awareness of local job and career opportunities and helps area students choose a path for success in their future careers. Find out more at!

Greater Mankato Growth Rosi Back: Greater Mankato Growth, Visit Mankato, City Center Partnership and GreenSeam are looking forward to sharing their accomplishments from this past year and exciting plans for the future at the 2019 Annual Meeting. This completely redesigned event has moved from a luncheon to an evening event with an annual meeting preceding a social and sit-down dinner featuring keynote speaker, Jonathan G. Zierdt. Mr. Zierdt will share “The Journey...a 15 Year Retrospective” at the dinner. Join us on Tuesday, March 12 as we raise our glass to the companies, organizations and volunteers who partner with us to help our community thrive. Register at

Henderson Chamber Blue Earth Chamber Cindy Lyon: The Blue Earth Area Chamber announces the honorees from their 78th Annual Banquet. Business of the Year is Riverside Town & Country Club, Rising Star is Oswald Brewery and Community Service awarded to Lars Bierly. The Chamber will host its 2nd Annual Soup Cook Off and Raffle on Saturday, March 23 from 11am-3pm. Join us for our grand opening ribbon cutting of the new Giant Welcome Center on Friday, April 5 at 10am. It is an all-day event at our new location: 1134 Giant Drive. The 3rd Annual Wine Walk is set for May 11. This event chooses a nonprofit recipient each year, and proceeds from ticket sales to our event are given to the recipient.

Visit Fairmont Stephanie Busiahn: Spring out of your comfort zone with an artistic excursion at Fairmont’s historic venues! Hear Ireland’s We Banjo 3 perform their “Celtgrass” fusion at the Fairmont Opera House on March 9. Then circle back March 30 for the critically-acclaimed Sun Records tribute, One Night in Memphis. Find your way to the Red Rock Center on March 16 to experience acapella sensation, Due North! For more live entertainment events, check out the Fairmont Area Calendar on our website,!

Fairmont Area Chamber Ned Koppen: Area Career Exploration (ACE) will take place April 10 at the Fairmont Jr/Sr High School. Over 600 high school


March | April 2019

Jeff Steinborn: The Henderson Area Chamber welcomes new member Wingnut Welding & Repair. The Henderson Fire Department hosts a meat raffle each Friday night at Charlies Bar through the end of February. The Henderson Lions Club hosts bingo each Thursday night at the Henderson Event Center through April 11. Plans are underway for the Henderson Classic Car Roll-In. The first Roll-In is May 21. The famous Sauerkraut Days will take place June 28, 29, 30.

Jackson Economic Dev. Corp. Tom Nelson: The Jackson Economic Development Corporation (JEDC) is excited to promote their newly constructed 30,000 sq/ ft speculative building that is available for sale or lease. The JEDC also has commercial and industrial land available, located near I-90. The Jackson Business Development Committee is proud to announce the Jackson Business Challenge offering a $20,000 prize package to the winning entrepreneur. A façade upgrade program aimed at downtown Jackson will soon be announced.

Lake Crystal Area Chamber Julie Reed: It’s that time again to join or renew your membership with the Lake Crystal Area Chamber of Commerce. On behalf of our Board of Directors, we’d like to thank our members for your support. Your ongoing financial contributions are vital to our ability to continue to deliver business support and events to promote our town. We are looking forward to the new Chamber of 2019 and anticipate a very successful year. Those interested in getting involved should contact the Chamber office to have any questions answered.

Submit your chamber news to

Le Sueur Chamber

Sleepy Eye EDA

Julie Boyland: In Le Sueur we have two new businesses: Kevin’s Repair, owned by Kevin and Julie La Tour at 1300 Commerce Street, and BP Motor Co., owned by Chris Wyman and located at 31061 Forest Prairie Road. The Le Sueur Area Retail & Business Expo, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, will be held at the Valley Green Square Mall, Thursday, March 28, from 3:30pm to 7:30pm. The Expo will offer many demonstrations, with many exhibitors from construction, landscaping, new vehicles, health & wellness, education, and much more.

Kurk Kramer: The Sleepy Eye EDA held their Annual Planning Meeting and set goals for the upcoming year and beyond. The discussion topics included continued work with downtown revitalization involving the Sleepy Eye Coffee Company and Sleepy Eye Brewing Company of Adalyn Properties, and continued work with Tommie Johnnie LLC. Other discussion topics included the Downtown Façade Program, Little Sprouts Learning Center, EDA Pocket Park plans, a 5-year downtown plan, EDA incubator space, and community housing needs and considerations.

New Ulm Area Chamber Sarah Warmka: The New Ulm Area Chamber is pleased to announce the 2019 Business of the Year recipients: Citizens Bank Minnesota and Sewing Seeds Quilt Company. Welcome to these new members: New Ulm ATA Martial Arts, Dave Borchert – Brown County Commissioner, Preferred Insurance, The Women’s Forum, Sippet Coffee & Bagels. Upcoming events: Schell’s Bock Fest on March 2, Farm Show March 8-9; Business of the Year Banquet on March 12, St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17 and the Home & Health Show March 22-24.

Nicollet Area Chamber Alesia Slater: We are looking forward to an eventful spring. We are planning the citywide garage sales for April 26 and 27. Citywide cleanup will be May 4. Before we know it, it will be time for our 3rd Annual Crusin’ on Pine and 99; first roll in for 2019 is set for May 23. We are anxious for the snow to melt and the sun to shine!

Region Nine Development Comm. Nicole Griensewic Mickelson: Need a business loan? Region Nine administers a Revolving Loan Fund program to assist existing businesses, as well as new entrepreneurs, in securing financing they are otherwise unable to secure through traditional channels. The primary goal of the program is to create new jobs, or retain existing jobs, in the region. In 2019, make Region Nine your regional partner for progress! To learn more, go to what-we-do/revolving-loan-fund/.

Small Business Development Center Julie Nelson: SBDC is pleased to announce the launch of seminars and events dedicated to women entrepreneurs and business owners. Join us April 18 for #Rosie Was Right: A workshop for women who believe they can do it. This all-day session will show women how to re-ignite their business passion and engage in tech-ideation to create new products, streamline business processes or improve marketing and operations. Go to and click on Training for full details.

Springfield Chamber Denise Gicker: The Springfield Chamber has been busy planning our annual Spirit of Springfield and Business of the Year award banquet which is scheduled to take place in March. Nominations from the public will continue through the month of February. Please watch for all the event details to be released soon!

Waseca Economic Development Gary Sandholm: Waseca was selected by University of Minnesota Extension to host the first Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference on September 5 and 6. Industrial Hemp is hot, and Waseca is taking a leading role with growers, oil extraction, and research in place plus several manufacturing spaces available for hemp related companies. Addressing a need in the community, the Waseca EDA has applied for Child Care Shortage Grant to develop ways to successfully meet the shortage issue.

Discover Waseca Tourism Gary Sandholm: Outdoor activities – fishing, wildlife watching, hunting, and boating on and around area lakes, hiking at Court House Park, and bicycling will be the focal points for 2019. Community Ed will have expanded offerings with its equipment rentals to get more people to use the outdoor recreation amenities in Waseca. Half Pint Brewing Company and Trio Coffee, Wine, and Ale House now complement Ward House Brewery with a variety of tastes and experiences.

Winnebago City Council Jean Anderson: Amos Boeck of Ron’s Plumbing, HVAC & Electric, Inc. of Wells purchased Royer’s Inc. Plumbing & Heating of Winnebago. Both entities will continue to service their current customers. Winnebago’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt will be held in Whiting Park on April 20 at 9am. A Bago Fun Fest Fundraiser will be held on April 27 from 5pm to 7pm at City Hall. A full meal including pork sandwiches or hamburgers, plus fixings, will be served.

CONNECT Business Magazine



Lisa Cownie




Connors Plumbing & Heating

Green Giant

Business Anniversaries Around The Region Celebrating Milestones in Business As we at Connect celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we thought it would be a good time to check in with others throughout the region celebrating anniversaries as well. Most of these have been featured in years past, but have changed significantly since starring in our pages. We begin though, with two first-timers.

Why Celebrating Your Business Anniversary Is Important It doesn’t matter if your business is turning eight, 28 or 128, celebrating your company’s anniversary can be a powerful sales and marketing tool, both inside company walls and to the outside world. Anniversary celebrations can provide three big benefits. First, it can help with employee morale, especially if the celebration includes recognizing their hard work. Touting them as a part of the success shows they mean more to you than just being a number. Second, it helps build business relationships by acknowledging that your customers play an important role in your longevity. And third, of course, an anniversary celebration gives you a chance to promote and raise awareness about your business. 30

March | April 2019

70th Anniversary New to the pages of Connect Business Magazine is a long-time, locally-owned business in Waseca. Connors Plumbing & Heating celebrates 70 years in 2019! When Bob Connors started his own business in Waseca 70 years ago, he based it on one slogan, “Community Minded, Customer Committed” it’s that mindset that is credited for the Connors Plumbing & Heating, Inc., seven decades in the business.

“We feel the key to our longevity is our high-quality work force. As a team we have a promise to honor our customers by offering great, same-day service, up-front pricing and quality workmanship. We have a service partner program to take care of our best customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. These are the values started by Bob Connors in 1949 and we continue to emulate them today,” says Peggy Hildebrandt of Connors. Family owned and operated, it has been important for the Connors to keep the business locally owned while growing regionally. Employing 14 people today, Connors services a wide swath of southern Minnesota primarily Waseca, Steele and Le Sueur counties. “We’re a family owned and operated business. We always have been. Our company was started by local Waseca citizens and is owned and operated by local Waseca residents,“ says Hildebrandt. As part of the 70-year celebration, Connors will hold an open house and Chamber Business After Hours event on April 11. For more information on Connors, call 507-835-2540.

40th Anniversary I t ’s n o t a business per se, but it has certainly impacted the business community of Blue Earth. The Green Giant is turning 40. The city of Blue Earth has a giant reason to celebrate in 2019, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jolly Green Giant. A symbol that looms large over the community, a towering recognition of the company’s part in the city’s development and Green Giant’s continued contribution to the local economy. “We are very lucky here in Blue Earth having this 60-foot giant creating a wave of tourism and economic development with the expansion of the SENECA plant a few years ago,” says Cindy Lyon with the Blue Earth Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Giant has thousands of visitors from all over the world, every year. We have over 10,000 signatures each summer. It’s, well, giant!” Originally financed by local business and industry leaders in 1979, the 60-foot Jolly Green Giant statue was erected in what became known as Green Giant Statue Park at a cost of $1,000 per foot. The giant’s feet wear size 78 shoes. His smile stretches 48 inches and he weighs 8,000 pounds. He is fashioned of fiberglass. In the winter he is fitted with a red scarf, not only to keep him warm in the cold Minnesota weather but also to represent the company’s advertising symbol seen on frozen foods packages and in nationwide advertising in newspapers, magazines and television.




J&R Schugel

Haala Industries

45th Anniversary

45th Anniversary

St. Peter Food Co-op

Jerry Schugel was profiled in Connect Business Magazine in March 1998. This year, J&R Schugel celebrates 45 years of being in the trucking business. Headquartered in New Ulm, J&R Schugel celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2019, although the original roots of the company date back 65 years! It was in 1954 that Harold Schugel founded Harold Schugel Trucking. In 1974, family members Jerry and Rich Schugel joined him to form J&R Schugel.

Haala Industries was featured in September of 1998. A young-ish company at the time, Haala has remained committed to the Sleepy Eye community.

The next big change for the family-owned company came five years ago, when J&R established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) for the business. The ESOP allows eligible employees an ownership stake in the truckload carrier, which services 48 states with regional and over-the-road operations in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and on the West Coast. One key to longevity for the business has been continuously updating trucks and training for drivers. J&R Schugel is nationally recognized as having one of the most modern fleets on the road today. The average age of their trucks is one year and the trailers are two years. For more information on J&R Schugel Trucking, visit

Haala Industries, Inc. is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2019. Haala Industries first opened its doors in 1974 to service the metal fabrication and repair needs of the local community. Today, 45 years later, it is regarded as a leading innovator and manufacturer of metal fabricated products for a variety of concrete pipe and precast customers across the country. Haala offers fabricated rebar products, wire cone cages, flared end cages, trash guards, safety grates, pipe ties, barrier pins, pond skimmers, custom grates and guards, lift bars/cables and stud welding primarily used in the concrete pipe industry. Haala Industries, Inc. currently employs more than 40 employees. The company says it has remained competitive in the market by using the latest technology of high definition plasma cutters and robotic welders. This provides customers with specialized products that enhance time and consistency of the finished product. Haala is one of Sleepy Eye’s largest employers and strives to continue to build relationships in the community and across the country. This commitment is demonstrated by their active membership and participation with the ACPA (American Concrete Pipe Association), NPCA (National Pre-cast Concrete Association) and the World of Concrete.

40th Anniversary When you look at the current building and its 2,600 owners, it’s hard to imagine the St. Peter Food Co-op starting off 40 years ago with 60 members in a significantly smaller storefront. When the Co-op first opened in July of 1979, inventory consisted mostly of bulk items, including beans, grains, flours, dried fruits and nuts, and occasionally local produce. An all-volunteer crew ran all store operations with the goal of making $100 a day simply to break even. The Co-op eventually moved to a consumer co-op structure and in 1994, moved to a brand new location on the corner of Broadway and Highway 169. Membership and sales were growing, but in March of 1998 a tornado destroyed much of St. Peter. An outpouring of support from the community and other Co-ops throughout the country allowed the St. Peter Food Co-op to reopen after three weeks. It has continued to grow ever since. In April of 2011, the Co-op moved into its current location on Mulberry Street. The expansion and revitalized building is a true example of what can be accomplished within a small community using resources from federal, state, city, and grassroots organizations. Today, the St. Peter Food Co-op is a 10,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store offering all major departments, including wellness and personal care and it is open to everyone, not just owners. It boasts hundreds of visitors each week. “We will continue to thrive in the rapidly changing food world because we are connected to the communities of southern Minnesota,” says Store Operations Manager Erik Larson. “Our longevity is a result of Margo’s [O’Brien, General Manager] visionary approach—she’s made the Co-op a truly inclusive place for all members of the St. Peter and surrounding community.” CONNECT Business Magazine


United Prairie proudly supports


Mankato, MN • 507.344.1450

years of helping you get there.




Sue and Jim Sneer with Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen. Thielen and Jim Sneer, founder of United Prairie Bank, are both Maverick football alumni.

United Prairie Bank’s Roots Run Deep at Minnesota State University, Mankato


e’ll help you get there” is United Prairie Bank’s motto, and that’s what UPB’s partnership with Minnesota State Mankato has been for decades. Since 2011, UPB has sponsored the College of Business’ Integrated Business Experience program. The IBE allows students in the College of Business to experience real-world thinking by launching and running a small business. Thanks to Distinguished Alumnus Jim Sneer (‘59), the bank provides $30,000 annual funding for the United Prairie IBE Program each year, a third of which is earmarked for scholarships. The partnership really started nearly 60 years ago when Sneer first connected with Minnesota State Mankato. A Mountain Lake native, he came to Mankato after a year at South Dakota State University, where he was the top 100meter runner. He’d been advised to play football, so came to what was then Mankato State College to be a running back and, later, a defensive player. With no scholarship available, he got a job on campus. He said, “I scraped dishes in the cafeteria.” In 1959, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business

The College of Business’ Integrated Business Experience program allows students in the College of Business to experience real-world thinking by launching and running a small business. Thanks to Distinguished Alumnus Jim Sneer (‘59), the bank provides $30,000 annual funding. administration, and on January 2, 1960, he began work at the First National Bank of Windom. His comment: “I loved it.” In 1973, Sneer had the opportunity to become a bank owner. He and an investor and partner from Iowa bought the Farmers State Bank of Mountain Lake. The purchase of more banks followed, and their son, Stuart, also a Minnesota State Mankato graduate, joined the operation.




“It’s part of our family’s background, with nine family members and a couple of in-laws having graduated from Minnesota State Mankato. That’s how highly we think of the University. Several United Prairie Bank employees are graduates of the Integrated Business Experience program.” - Jim Sneer

Renamed United Prairie Bank in 1992, it now boasts 11 sites in 10 communities with headquarters in Mankato. As a member of the UPB board, Sneer continued his relationship with Minnesota State Mankato. He explained, “It’s part of our family’s background, with nine family members and a couple of in-laws having graduated from Minnesota State Mankato. That’s how highly we think of the University. Several United Prairie Bank employees are graduates of the Integrated Business Experience program.” Scott Bradley, UPB’s president and CEO, explained why the IBE arrangement, which originated with a four-year agreement, is now entering its eighth year. He said, “We feel very good about the educational experience of the students and about our opportunity to meet the best and brightest. Given the philanthropic businesses the students develop, we feel it’s a worthwhile program to continue funding.” Three UPB representatives attend student presentations for funding of IBE projects.

IBE allows students to jointly create and run their own business for 15 weeks. They develop a business plan, obtain a bank loan, create products, manage the enterprise and make profits. A semester-long program that integrates four courses required for all College of Business students with a threecredit practicum, IBE allows students to jointly create and run


their own business for 15 weeks. They develop a business plan, obtain a bank loan, create products, manage the enterprise and make profits. A monetary donation of company profits is a planned part of the program, in addition to requiring students to be volunteers. The company can choose where to donate the money and the 160 volunteer hours. Professors are available for guidance, but are not present during practicum hours unless requested. Students rely on guidance from a UPB adviser, who is usually a former student. In addition to Sneer’s involvement with the College of Business, he and his wife have created the James and Susan Sneer Football Scholarship Endowment. It provides support for students in Maverick football, like Adam Thielen, who now is a Vikings team member. Thielen has created a ripple effect by founding a charitable organization, the Thielen Foundation, with his wife, Caitlin, also a Minnesota State Mankato graduate. The Thielen Foundation partners with and supports organizations that specialize in youth development. Sneer’s response: “Metaphorically, it’s like father, like son.”

In 2013, Sneer received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, an honor that is received by less than one percent of alumni.

In 2013, Sneer received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, an honor that is received by less than one percent of alumni. It is presented to graduates who have achieved high rank or honor in their professions, have a widespread effect on their communities, and have been recognized for their achievements over the course of their careers. Sneer also has served on the Minnesota State Mankato Foundation Board for eight years. The current strategic relationship of United Prairie Bank and the IBE program is three-fold: it benefits Minnesota State Mankato, provides students with an internship through UPB, and provides UPB with the opportunity to know the students well enough to offer them post-graduation employment. It’s Jim Sneer’s vision in action.

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Background image: A Mankato Golf Club map drawn in the early 1920s, when the course was 9 holes in length.

By Lisa Cownie Photos: Mankato Golf Club

Mankato Golf Club celebrates 100 years of building business relationships. There are many business tools available today that weren’t around 100, 40 or even 10 years ago: smart phone apps, Skype meetings, and super high-speed internet just to name a few. Nowadays there are a LOT of high-tech ways business gets done. However, there is a more traditional business tool that is still thriving, a good old-fashioned way to get business deals made. It’s not in a conference room or an office building...but on a golf course. Overall, participation in the sport of golf may be down a bit, but still an estimated 25 million people play in the United States alone. More impressive is the number of top CEOs, sports stars, movie stars and entrepreneurs who are avid golfers. Forbes estimates 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf. So, you see, golf isn’t merely a leisure sport. It’s the martini lunch of the modern workforce, a dynamic venue where business gets done. You don’t necessarily have to have skills off the tee, on the greens, or out of the bunker to win, but you will become avidly skilled in the art of advancing business relationships, whether it’s your boss, current/prospective client, or future employer. “Through the game of golf and the culture around it, I learned many basic values; respect your elders, be honest, work hard, be kind, no one is great and no one is small,” says George Peterson, founder of The Creative Company in Mankato. “Some of these lessons were taught to me by my father and mother, but many of them just came from being exposed to golf and the people who played the game. Those qualities and values were continues > and still are an integral part of the game.” 36

March | April 2019

CONNECT Business Magazine




Playing the Long GO L F CGame LUB A Centennial Celebration 1919-2019

The Complete History 1919-2019

Mankato Golf Club original members, December 1923.

A century ago, yes 100 years ago, it was a group of businessmen that had the foresight to recognize what a golf club could mean to the city of Mankato. Business leaders from Mankato Citizens Telephone Company, National Bank of Commerce and local law offices were among the men who moved mountains...well, trees make their dream become a reality in 1919. The earnestness of the Club’s early history is prevalent today. What started as a nine-hole course with cups for holes, has turned into an immaculately manicured 18-hole course: the pride of the now nearly 350 members. “MGC is more than the walls of the clubhouse, the splash of the pool or the timeless beauty of our 100-year-old golf course. In essence what makes MGC such a special place are the current and former members from all walks of life who have built a welcoming facility full of connections to each other, to the Mankato community and to the state of Minnesota,” says Peterson. The current golf pro and manager of the Club, Dave Torbenson, says those early founders really paved the way for what is an integral part of the community. “Although our history dates back to 1919, MGC has adapted to the ever-changing needs of our membership through the years,” says Torbenson. “Staff and members are very welcoming to new members and guests and appreciate that the golf club is not limited to just golf. We strive to meet the needs of the entire family, golfer or not, with many special member events and opportunities in the clubhouse and at the pool as well. The annual Open House

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March | April 2019

In celebration of the 100-Year History, the Mankato Golf Club, under the guidance of Katie Zinni and George Peterson, has compiled a book detailing the history. And it’s full of pictures! The cost is $48.95 plus tax. The book may be purchased by stopping by or calling the Mankato Golf Club Golf Shop at (507) 387-5636.

Mankato Golf Club | 100 Years

held each March is a great time to explore all that Mankato Golf Club has to offer.” A century ago, of course, southern Minnesota looked a lot different than it does now, both the landscape and the business climate. For us living today, it may be difficult to imagine or understand the challenges of that time. The world was Dave Torbenson just recovering from World War I. Women could not vote. There was no commercial radio or television. It was a time of uncertainty around the world and around the country. Mankato had a healthy economy, but a group of businessmen at that time knew something was missing. By 1918, it was estimated there were more than 2,500 courses in America. But there wasn’t one in Mankato. It first came up during lunch meetings among the businessmen in town in the fall of 1918. Even though there were only two sets of golf clubs in the entire city at that time, these men seemed determined to bring the game to Mankato. Seemingly casual conversations at first, over the course of a couple of months, the conversations became more earnest, more serious. One day over


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Open House Set For March The Mankato Golf Club Spring Open House to explore all that MGC has to offer on and off the golf course will be held the evening of Tuesday, March 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Clubhouse. New and exclusive for 2019, in the week leading up to the open house, dining will be open to the general public. This will begin on Tuesday, March 19. This is a special offering to kick off the centennial season and include the entire Mankato community. In addition, over Memorial Day weekend, MGC will be opening up the tee sheet to the general public with special pricing. “The great people of the Mankato area community and our fantastic MGC membership are the reason we are celebrating this very special milestone in 2019. This centennial season, MGC looks to further connect with the community with these special days and offerings, so more people can experience and enjoy what has enabled Mankato Golf Club to endure for the past century and lead us into the next 100 years,” says Torbenson.

CONNECT Business Magazine


Playing the Long Game

Their first order of business was to find a location for a golf course. By January 10, 1919 they found their spot. They quickly elected a board of directors and organized 50 shareholders at $500 each to purchase the land. The asking price was $24,000, or $150 an acre. lunch at the Elks Lodge, the group pulled out a paper bag and began taking minutes, signifying the first official meeting on December 31, 1918. Their first order of business was to find a location for a golf course. By January 10, 1919 they found their spot. They quickly elected a board of directors and organized 50 shareholders at $500 each to purchase the land. The asking price was $24,000, or $150 an acre. It seems the perfect spot today, but at

that time some wondered how the group of men chose the piece of land they did. It was heavily wooded with ravines, hard to imagine it as a golf course. Just like the extraordinary men hoping to make history with Mankato’s first golf course, the land itself had quite a history. Phillip Hodapp was born in Hasloch, Baden, Germany on April 23, 1833. His parents sailed with him to America in 1837, where they joined a colony of German-American farmers in St. Paul. All

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grown up and married by the fall of 1854, Hodapp and his wife traveled to Mankato by wagon. Here the Hodapps settled on a 160-acre timber claim. It was a unique opportunity as the property had originally been deeded to a soldier fighting in the Civil War. That soldier ended up dying before he could take possession of the land. The property was then granted to Hodapp by President Abraham Lincoln himself on March 25, 1862 (the club has a copy of the original deed to prove it!) Hodapp put the land, overlooking the valley, up for sale in 1918 and the directors of the newly-formed Mankato Golf Club, knew it was the land they wanted for their course. (an excerpt from The Complete History, Mankato Golf Club) Treating the Club as a business, the founders decided additional capitalization of the new corporation would be 200 shares of stock at $100 per share. Dues were set at $25 per year plus $10 for wives and children under 20. That is how the Mankato Golf

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Mankato Golf Club | 100 Years

The property was then granted to Hodapp by President Abraham Lincoln himself on March 25, 1862 (the club has a copy of the original deed to prove it!)

Club was originally financed. Buoyed by the enthusiasm of the founders, including H.A. Patterson, P.M. Ferguson, John Nyquist and Frank Landkamer, the Mankato Golf Club got off to a strong start. Members working together to clear

the land and build a rudimentary course. Playing began mid year 1919. By the mid 1920s, though, the business slump hit and the next few years were a very difficult period for the Club. Many members left the community to find work, others could not afford to keep up their membership. The economic downturn took its toll on the golf club, as it struggled to keep up the required 200 memberships, dues from which were necessary to maintain the Club. But just as some faltered, the hardship strengthened the resolve of others and some of the founders renewed their commitment to the cause. One man, H.A.

Patterson, carrying seven memberships himself to ensure the club could stay open. But the fast, successful start almost came to screeching halt as the decade ended with the stock market crash of 1929. In Minnesota, the economic outlook was even bleaker than most. The banking industry was proving unstable and farm foreclosures grew steadily. Yet golf continued to provide a much-needed diversion from daily life and the game grew in popularity. MGC weathered this economic storm of the 20s, only to face an even bigger challenge from Mother Nature herself. It was in June of 1929 that a tornado

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CONNECT Business Magazine


Playing the Long Game

tore through Mankato, cutting a swath nearly a mile wide and 15 miles long. The Mankato Golf Club was in its path. When it was all over 20 minutes after it began, the roof of the clubhouse was found on No. 9 green, some parts of the building were found in the ravine by No. 2 green. The tornado destroyed the Clubhouse. However, it did not destroy the spirit of MGC members of the time. And they rebuilt. The Club has survived many challenges since those early years,

It was in June of 1929 a tornado tore through Mankato, cutting a swath nearly a mile wide and 15 miles long. The Mankato Golf Club was in its path.


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March | April 2019

Mankato Golf Club | 100 Years

a credit to the members and the leaders over the past decades. There are still members today who remember those early times and look forward to the future. Peterson’s family has been with the Club since the beginning. “Well, really, I have been a member since I was born in 1938!” muses Peterson. “My mother and father were lifetime members and as a result I belonged under their name. When they instituted junior memberships I joined under that category. I came back from the Army and married Sandy. We became stockholders in 1962. Sandy would go on to become the first woman stockholder. All of our children were either junior members or stockholders and their children, our grandchildren, have all been at one time or another members. Before all of that my grandfather, Dr. C.P. Peterson, was one of the original members. Now I realize that someone from our family has been a member of the club for all of its hundred years.”

The MGC has come a long way in the last century. Already members and the community are looking forward to what is next. “For the golfer it is by constantly improving on our wonderful golf course and offering diverse programs and access for young, old, seasoned golfers and beginning golfers to enjoy the course and all the aspects of the great game of golf. For those more interested in the many amenities of the club including the heated pool and dining operation, each year we are adding more special dining opportunities, theme nights as well as many family events through the year. There has and will always continue to be attention paid to the grounds around and visible from the clubhouse. In 2018 we renovated the entire 1st tee complex and a landscaping in front of the clubhouse is planned for this spring,” says Torbenson.

Club Amenities Today Mankato Golf Club features a classic championship 18-hole golf course. Other amenities include an extensive practice facility complete with a large practice green, full shot and short game area, outdoor heated swimming and kiddy pool. The clubhouse features a food and beverage operation with dishes ranging from a burger and fries to a four-course meal. The Clubhouse is also available for special events, meetings, banquets and weddings.


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CONNECT Business Magazine


Playing the Long Game

See pages 32-35 for

“MGC over the past 100 years has been the place to connect with other business owners and influential people in the Mankato area. We understand that for business owners having a place to entertain and do business is very important and the Mankato Golf Club is a great place that checks all the boxes,” says Torbenson. That evolution really signifies what the Club has become. Not just a place to do business. Not just a place for men to gather. Not just a place to play golf. A swimming pool was added in 1960 to encourage more family involvement. Women, who at first only took the role of social planning, began taking on a larger role outside the clubhouse on and off the course. Now they have their own leagues. And, today, there are more youth opportunities than ever before. The dining experience, too, is top notch. “MGC over the past 100 years has been the place to connect with other business owners and influential people in the Mankato area. We understand that for business owners, having a place to entertain and do business is very important and the Mankato Golf Club is a great place that checks all the boxes,” says Torbenson. “Also, in this competitive job market, we understand that a club such as MGC can be very important in bringing the best candidates to Mankato and we would love to speak with any business leaders about how MGC can play a big part in your recruiting pitch.”


March | April 2019

The Spirit of the Game

Mankato Golf Club | 100 Years


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r, Joe Krugel, caddy, he Krugel Invitational

Bud Chapman, golfer, Joe Krugel, caddy, in ravine on No. 10 at the Krugel Invitational

As the Mankato Golf Club heads into its next century, it looks forward to continuing to be a place where business is conducted, where families come together, and where friendships are forged. “Golf is a game like no other and can mean so many different things to different people’” says Torbenson. “We are lucky to have such a classic and exquisite golf course as a canvass for each golfer to paint their picture. At Mankato Golf Club we embrace all of these differences in what the game means to our members and their families while celebrating what golf represents. Whether a person is an avid tournament golfer, a social golfer with a group of friends or family, or an 8 year old just learning the game, we pride ourselves on being a facility that can meet all of the needs of what our members want from and enjoy about the game of golf.” Editor Lisa Cownie writes from Mankato.

THE ESSENTIALS Mankato Golf Club 100 Augusta Drive Mankato, MN 56001


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507-233-3900 CONNECT Business Magazine



At the Crossroads of Experience and Entrepreneurism

Lisa Cownie EDITOR

How the 1 Million Cups Initiative is Paving a Path to the Future in Greater Mankato


March | April 2019

1 Million Cups events are held from 8:30-9:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the Hubbard Building in Mankato.

the presentation, I had two local business owners come up to me and tell me they had a space for me and would love to help out any way they can. That’s how I got where I am now. I started renting in the Hubbard Building immediately after 1 Million Cups and when Dain Fisher opened Mogwai Collaborative, I knew it was the right fit for me. The co-working space is great and I love the variety it brings.” Ruprecht is just one example of how 1 Million Cups is helping grow the entrepreneurial spirit in the Greater Mankato Region. His company, Cubic 3D, for instance, is a small 3D printing firm that specializes in creating functional items from ideas. The challenge has been taking the manufacturing process of 3D printing into a more affordable market and helping businesses understand all the ways they could use his 3D services in order to grow their business, and likewise, his customer base. 1 Million Cups surfaced in Mankato almost two years ago, led by volunteers committed to bringing this free program to our community to educate, engage and

inspire entrepreneurs. “When I was starting the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship as the new Director (of a brand new Center), I needed to get some entrepreneurship events started that would help me to involve student entrepreneurs with people in the business community. COB Dean Brenda Flannery said she’d been to a 1 Million Cups and suggested it as a model we could use. I went to a couple of 1 Million Cups in St. Paul and Rochester and fell in love with the format – so I filled out the application to start one here,” she explains. Here’s how it works: once a month two entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts to a group of students, faculty, small business people, economic development people, realtors, bankers, lawyers and potential investors. After the brief presentation, there is often lively and engaging conversation about their business models, goals and challenges. Those in attendance then offer advice on how to grow and improve the entrepreneurs’ ideas. Nationwide, 1 Million Cups communities aim to present


Diversity, equity, inclusion. There is a movement sweeping the nation that relies on these three words to bring entrepreneurs together and to elevate them in their communities. It’s known as 1 Million Cups. Founded in 2012 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, it’s based on the notion that entrepreneurs – and all business relationships really – develop over a million cups of coffee. Along with a little conversation. “That idea of helping others over a cup of coffee is so homey and nice. We do enjoy our coffee and it gets the energy going,” smiles Yvonne Cariveau, Director, Minnesota State University, Mankato College of Business Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. “The 1 Million Cups program is like a support group in some ways – the entrepreneurs are presenting and asking for help with the next steps and the audience is there to help them.” That’s the value in the initiative: audience experience. With a room full of community and business leaders, the purpose of 1 Million Cups isn’t to provide financial support for entrepreneurs but, rather, guidance on how to grow their business. And that’s something organizers say, you can’t place a value on. “I got involved with Million Cups from Yvonne Cariveau and Mike at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Yvonne encouraged and invited me to present and I worked with Mike after that to get everything ready. In addition to getting the presentation stuff ready, they have both helped me tremendously with my business. If I have any questions, they are my go-to mentors,” says John Ruprecht, founder of startup Cubic 3D Printing in Mankato. “1 Million Cups has helped me grow as a business in crazy ways. I walked in there basically working from home and one of the things I said I was looking for was a space to get established. At the end of

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an inclusive and supportive front door to their local entrepreneurial ecosystems. It all feeds into the mission to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities. Here in Mankato, dozens of businesses have made presentations. “I think 1 Million Cups is working wonders in the local community because it is a place

“I think Million Cups is working wonders in the local community because it is a place for like-minded people (both start ups and well established business owners) like me to come together and see how they can help each other.” - John Ruprecht

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for like-minded people (both start ups and well established business owners) like me to come together and see how they can help each other. No one feels obligated to help, but they are there because they want to see everyone succeed and grow in the Mankato area and beyond. It is a completely different atmosphere when you walk in the room for 1 Million Cups because people don’t come for personal gain, they come to help,” says Ruprecht. In fact, Cariveau says the learning extends all around the doesn’t stop at those making the pitch. CONNECT Business Magazine



“We started November of 2017 and it’s had a huge impact already. Something people often say, is that there are lots of agencies and groups out there, but that people aren’t coordinating/connecting.

Well, at 1MC, we are. Our organizers talk to each other once a month and we share information with each other and that has helped us to form partnerships we might not have had before. The SBDC Director

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March | April 2019

is one of our organizers, he connected me to the Better Business Bureau and I did a workshop with them last fall. Our emcee is Lisa Hughes from MN DEED and she introduced several of us to funding sources we might want to look at for grants. It’s just impacted the community in so many ways beyond its original intent,” says Cariveau. Ruprecht says he isn’t sure where he would be if it weren’t for the mentorship and experience he gained through 1 Million Cups. Keeping businesses like Cubic 3D, and entrepreneurial minds like Ruprecht’s in Mankato, is one goal of 1 Million Cups. “We often have students presenting about their businesses and some have talked to me afterwards about how they think they might stay in Mankato now that they see the support available to them in this area. Students and business people sit side by side in the audience and mingle before and after the event – the community people love meeting the students, and vice versa – they share a common interest in start ups. The community members that present, report liking the coaching process where we help them with their presentation and the event itself. They have reported getting new contacts, resources and offers that they would not have before,” Cariveau says. There are 180 1 Million Cup chapters in the country. The 1 Million Cups presentations are held the first Wednesday of every month. For more information, visit


Yvonne Cariveau, Director, MSU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“We started November of 2017 and it’s had a huge impact already. Something people often say is that there are lots of agencies and groups out there, but that people aren’t coordinating/connecting. Well, at 1MC, we are. Our organizers talk to each other once a month and we share information with each other.” – Yvonne Cariveau



Boys & Girls Club of Mankato Five months ago, the culmination of years of hard work and vision by several business and community leaders came to fruition when the Boys & Girls Club of Mankato opened its doors. The need for an organization like this was apparent from day one. “We currently are serving K-8 grades, and while we do not have geographic limitations, our members are from Mankato and North Mankato. We currently have over 100 members enrolled with about 45 attending each day. We are working on transportation so that we can increase our daily attendance,” says executive director Erin Simmons. The Club rents the upper level of the St. John the Baptist Parish Life Center. Boys & Girls Club of Mankato, under the leadership of Boys & Girls Club Rochester, has a vision to serve underrepresented youth in the Mankato community. It is dependent on the community embracing the opportunities there. “We strive to be a place where the community comes together to serve kids. In some instances, such as Girl/Boy Scouts, Girls on the Run and Stride, this means bringing the opportunities to the kids. In other cases such

as Bellissimo and author Vickie McLaughlan, it is bringing talent to our kids,” she explains. “With 45 kids in our space everything is consumable which means that we will always be in need of office supplies, art supplies, games, sporting equipment and food. We are also in need of volunteers to support in many ways such as opening the door during our busy time (5-6pm), reading, playing games, shooting hoops or helping kids with homework. We have something for everyone!” She says the large number they serve already is evidence a program like the Boys & Girls Club is needed in Mankato. “Roughly one third of the kids in our district are not participating in afterschool activities. The Boys & Girls Club of Mankato gives all kids a place to belong,”

says Simmons. The Club focuses on positive youth development in three key areas of Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Good Character and Citizenship. Overall, Boys & Girls Club of Mankato will engage youth in the participation of generation changing programs that support a commitment to education, positive values, healthy habits and high expectations for success as an adult. Donations of supplies, money, and area business or trade expertise is always needed. To find out how you can help, contact Erin Simmons. Boys & Girls Club of Mankato 709 South Broad Street Phone: 507-720-6898

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Garden Secrets It is not your grandfather’s landscaping company. Rather, New Ulm’s Garden Secrets focuses on each individual plant and how it fits into the overall landscaping plan. Unlike the typical landscaping service, Garden Secrets is dedicated specifically to the care and quality of the individual plants as well as the well-being of the garden as a whole. Owner Katie Hesse founded Garden Secrets in July of 2018. A business that is firmly grounded by her passion for gardening. “I decided to take my lifetime of gardening experience and channel it into a sustainable, viable gardening service,” says Hesse. “Gardening became more than just a job to me, it became a true passion in my life. Garden Secrets offers professional gardening services for residential and commercial properties, with virtual 3D design, routine maintenance, installation, containers and seasonal décor packages. From her base in New Ulm, Hesse serves Southern Minnesota and the Southwest Twin Cities Metro areas. “It’s been great so far,” says Hesse. “We have already provided our services to clients all over our service areas. It has been very busy with our start-up process. Our


March | April 2019

clientele and fan base is constantly growing and our 2019 season is filling up quickly! “Which is great because our business started late in the season we were faced with a time crunch on getting our name and services out to as many communities as possible before the season ended.” Right now Hesse is working out of her home, but does have her eye on a brick and mortar location in New Ulm which

she hopes to close on soon. “Everyone has been great in welcoming our business and also utilizing our services. All of our clients have had outstanding positive feedback,” says Hesse. Garden Secrets Phone: 507-217-3044 Website: Facebook: Garden Secrets



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Replay In early 2018 John Duderstadt Jr. looked around his community and noticed something missing. “There is nothing within in an hour radius of Fairmont that deals in used video games from every generation,” says Duderstadt. “I always felt it was a small void in town, there are no more rental stores, so typically in this area it is sales on Facebook and hoping the transaction goes as intended or a drive to Mankato. We also lost our Radio Shack so I am continually adding in more electronics, listening to customers on their wants and needs and trying to bring them a convenient location that has most of what they are looking for.” So in October 2018, Duderstadt opened Replay in downtown Fairmont. His gut was right, he wasn’t the only one missing this type of retailer and business has been good. “There are no stores quite like Replay anywhere near Fairmont, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had hoped the holidays would be strong and I wasn’t disappointed. Community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” Replay’s biggest offering is, of course, video games. But the store also carries

video game consoles, games and accessories from every generation starting with Atari and Pong in the 70s, Nintendo, Sega, Intellivison, Playstation, Xbox and everything in between. But Duderstadt didn’t stop there. “We also carry commercial grade audio cables, mics and adapters. Everything you may need to get a PA system up and running. And lastly we offer a selection of musical items such as guitar pics and strings, cleaning kits for brass instruments, drum sticks and more. We can also order anything we do not have in stock. PC games are slowly being added in and coming soon will be card based games such as Dungeons and Dragons,” says Duderstadt.

“It was just the right time, right place and right opportunity. I grew up playing video games and have a passion for them. I also enjoy working with the public and have spent years in the retail industry. When asked casually in the past what I would do if I had the choice, I would say open my own video game store. This storefront became available in August and the stars aligned properly so I jumped in.” Jumped in, and hasn’t looked back. Replay 207 Downtown Plaza Phone: 507-618-0017 Facebook: Replay- Video Games, Electronics & More

CONNECT Business Magazine


CONNECTING BACK 2014 Of course, in this issue we celebrated 20 years! For the 2014 celebration we chose, for the sake of space, one profile story from each year to update. Each person picked had fresh information to share. Those making that list were: Sarah Richards, Jones Metal Products; Ted and Jodi Marti, Schell’s Brewing Company; David Minge and Gil Gutknecht,U.S. Congressional Representatives; Karl Johnson, K&P Johnson Farms; Jerry Johnson, Clear With Computers to Superior Edge; Maureen Gustafson, Greater Mankato Growth to Gislason & Hunter; Dennis Miller, Midwest Wireless to Consulting; Bob Gunther, MN Representative; Louise Dickmeyer, Nonprofit Innovations to People Driven Performance; Mary Ellen Domeier, New Ulm Area Catholic Schools to Retirement; Glen Taylor, Taylor Corporation; Jerry Bambery, BAMCO to Retirement; Brian Paulsen, Paulsen Architects to I&S Group; Tom Rosen, Rosen’s Diversified; Jennifer Pfeffer, Pathstone Living; Marty Davis, Cambria; Dan and Angie Bastian, Angie’s Kettle Corn. The issue also profiled a new face to the pages of our magazine, Tailwind’s Kyle Smith.






We featured a special 15-Year Anniversary special section. On the cover, we featured Robyn Waters, Minnesota State business graduate who went on to become a vice president with Target Corporation.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, Tom Atwood, Owner/Broker of Century 21 Atwood Realty graced our cover. Other profiles were Pneumat Systems and Aerospace Systems in Fairmont.

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301 Webster Avenue, North Mankato Serving South Central and Southwest Minnesota 52

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Two decades ago we featured a man running a different type of “business”, Leo Berg, Executive Director, of New Ulm’s Heritagefest, an event that at that time had the highest visitor count of any festival or tourist event in Connect’s reading area. Also featured was Lakeview Funeral Home of Fairmont and Lambrecht’s in New Ulm.


Change–As Inevitable As The Rising and Setting Sun Old soldiers may just fade away, but old publishers rise from the mothballs for a second say. Perhaps the owners of Connect Business Magazine simply needed some filler copy, but as founder of the publication, I appreciate being asked to help commemorate the magazine’s 25th anniversary. In the years leading up to 1994, I thought a great deal about how to improve communications within the regional business community; how to keep dollars working within the area by showcasing the products and services available in our own backyards. I also believed the entrepreneurs who took the chances, created the jobs, and generously contributed time and money to support local events were being short shifted and deserved greater recognition. I was convinced that a focused, richly-illustrated publication was the best vehicle to achieve my aims. Yet my work experience in the printing industry was littered with examples of others who tried similar ventures and failed. High-end printing in the early ‘90s was an expensive proposition – far more so than today. The preparation cost of a single color photograph could buy a night on the town for a party of four, drinks included. But, things were about to change. Just as the K-T boundary marks the extinction of the dinosaurs, the early ‘90s sounded the death knell for many old-line professions and long-established ways of doing things. It took the eye of faith to see the growing technological tsunami and imagine how it would reshape the landscape of virtually every business enterprise. Desktop computers of the time were memory-challenged, slow-witted workplace oddities (much as I am today). Cell phones were unwieldy bricks with all the intelligence and sex appeal of Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. Digital cameras were little more than laboratory prototypes with resolutions inferior to a Kodak Brownie.

Yet each new product release and upgrade brought staggering new capabilities. Astonishing reductions in time, cost and labor began revealing new business opportunities. The impractical became the possible. For me, it was the right place and time. Connect Business Magazine was the product of technological change. It was the first, and is the longest continuously published full-color, business periodical to serve south central Minnesota. Under the guidance of a good writer, editor and staff, it survived faltering baby steps and gained a loyal reader base. Importantly, it also drew sponsors who recognized the value of targeted advertising. But change giveth and taketh away. The ‘90s also ushered in the elephant that walked into the center of the room and sat down without hardly anyone noticing. The first time I saw a demonstration of the internet was on a black and green monochrome CRT. No sound, no video, no pop-up ads – just a few stuttering lines of text. When the screen froze, my enthusiastic guide stepped in much as an old professor would if his film strip broke. I was told the words on the screen had come from a computer in another state. I was told that had things worked as intended, we would have been able to communicate back and forth and exchange information. Rather than coming away with a bad taste in my mouth, I can honestly say I was impressed. It was perhaps the only time I’ve ever felt I was looking directly into the future. I didn’t know how or if businesses would utilize the internet, but if it developed at the speed of other new technology, it would be a force to be reckoned with. Whether embraced or shunned, attitudes about utilizing the internet depended to a large degree on how you buttered your bread and how many gray hairs were on your head. It’s no surprise that the internet struck fear into the hearts of magazine and newspaper publishers everywhere. Here was a new


way to instantly deliver news with minimal capital investment and no material production costs. At one point, I wondered if this change would sideline Connect before it ever got out of the starting blocks. In retirement, I’ve found old age is not so much a matter of reaching a fixed point in time but the point at which one no longer sees change as a path to something better. I remember an old uncle lambasting a mechanical digger. “Look at that infernal machine,” he said. “Think of all the men it’s putting outta work. Where they gonna get a job now?” When I started seeing unemployed ditch diggers everywhere I looked, I knew it was time for me to make my exit and put Connect into the hands of people who continue to see change as opportunity for new and better things. While I cannot take credit, I am incredibly proud of the standing of Connect Business Magazine on its 25th Anniversary. The current staff has not only maintained the highest production standards in print, but has shown the vision to partner with local television and web-based services to deliver a more dynamic, widely accessible resource. Well done! I’ll always prefer the simplicity of the printed page, but if you have age-challenged eyes like me, give ‘em a treat. Check out these feel-good video tie-ins: Hometown Business Connection on KEYC News 12 and Connect TV on YouTube. Have a profitable day,

Jeffry Irish Publishersaurus, retired CONNECT Business Magazine


By James Figy

Connect Business Magazine celebrates 25 years of promoting local business.

In 1994, local businessman Jeffry Irish decided to finally pursue an idea he’d been considering for a while: starting a business magazine. Irish couldn’t have known how much of an impact publishing Connect Business Magazine would have on the business community in the Minnesota River Valley. However, he figured it wouldn’t be too much extra work. After all, as owner of the Nicollet-based graphic design firm Concept & Design, Irish already had the skills and staff needed to put together a magazine. It was something they could even do during downtime. Two key reasons motivated Irish to create the magazine. First, he believed area companies needed a magazine that would be delivered directly to business leaders, which would allow them to advertise specifically to a regional audience, according to the publisher’s note at the beginning of the first issue. “The second is that many area businesses operate in relative obscurity,” Irish writes in that first column. “Time and again I have encountered companies who are completely unaware that a particular product or service they require is being produced literally in their own back yard.” Connect has grown and evolved over the 25 years since it started, but it has remained committed to continues > these two ideas on which it was founded. 54

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25 Years of Diving Deep A Broad Range of Businesses and People Currently under the direction of Editor Lisa Cownie, the magazine’s rotating lineup of local writers continues to produce articles about local companies and businesspeople. Many are established


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While Connect Business Magazine has been publishing consecutively for 25 years, the company that produces it is celebrating a larger milestone. Concept & Design, a graphic design and photography studio, has achieved 40 years of serving the business community in Greater Mankato and beyond. Jeffry Irish opened the design studio in 1979 in a two-story brick storefront in downtown Nicollet. The company moved directly next door to a new one-story building in 1984, just after Jonathan Smith started working there. Just before Smith graduated from South Central College, Irish visited one of his classes, scoping out possible employees. He looked through Smith’s portfolio and hired him to be an illustrator on the spot. Back then, of course, the profession was very different, and the new building housed many art supplies that are no longer necessary. “We had our light tables and wax keylining and airbrushing,” Smith says. “I used to wear a gas mask because the particles from the airbrush were so thick in here.” “And all we heard was the hum of the airbrush compressor,” adds Becky Wagner, who was hired in 1986. “It was an everyday sound.” By the time Kathmann joined the team as the final member thus far, most of the tools of the trade had become digital. He started as a graphic design artist for the company in 1996, picking up more and more of the photography duties over time. Although it has been around for 40 years, Concept & Design has not rested on its laurels. It continues to evolve to this day and grow its services — as well as the magazine — to better meet the needs of area businesses. “Being a small company, to survive you have to push the boundaries and learn new skills. Otherwise you’re not going to have an edge up on anyone if you’re just doing design work,” Kathmann said. “We just try to be creative and push ourselves to do the best work we possibly can, and people recognize it and stick with us for that reason.”

Connect Business Magazine

figures in the local business community, such as Marty Davis of Cambria; Angie and Dan Bastian of Angie’s Artisan Treats; and even Glen Taylor of Taylor Corporation and his niece, Deb Taylor, the company’s current CEO. Other profiles though, feature more obscure names and identify emerging businesses that help keep this region unique and growing. In addition to adjustments in editors and writers throughout the years, the publishing staff also underwent a change. When Irish retired in 2015, he passed the torch to the remaining Concept & Design staff — Illustrator/Photographer Jonathan Smith, Graphic Designer/Photographer Kris Kathmann and Office Manager Becky Wagner — who have continued to support the local business community. “Jeff ’s vision was … connecting the area businesses to each other, making it more of a community in just getting to know them. I think that can have benefits,” Smith says. “And Mankato does seem to be really aware of everyone else now. I think we’ve probably played a role in that.” Kathmann also sees the advertisements as important, maybe more than some would think. “If you pick up Vogue or the New York Times, they’re speaking to the nation — they’re not speaking to your local area. So I’ve heard people say, ‘I love looking at the ads.’ They see people’s photos and they get to know who they are,” he says. What is important, is that people look forward to receiving the magazine, according to Wagner, who oversees production and circulation for Connect Business Magazine.


Since the first issue in March 1994, numerous area journalists have helped make Connect Business Magazine what it is. “Over time there have been a lot of people who have contributed,” says Jonathan Smith. “Our editors have steered the magazine over the past 25 years: Angelia Fredrickson, March 1994 to May 1996; Daniel Vance, July 1996 to January 2015; Grace Webb, March 2015 to May 2016; Lisa Cownie, July 2016 to Present.” Each new editor has impacted the magazine’s approach to reporting on the area business community as well as its overall aesthetic. “It has visibly changed depending on who the editor is at the time, which I think is good,” says Kris Kathmann. A number of writers have also contributed to the magazine. These include Mary Effertz, Roger Matz, Carlienne Frisch, Mike Lagerquist, Sara Gilbert Frederick, Joe Tougas, Deb Schubbe, Erin Dorney, Anna Vangsness, and Kerry Hoffman, among others. “We’d like to thank the people that help us put it together and make it what it is,” Kathmann adds.

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CONNECT Business Magazine


25 Years of Diving Deep

The cover and pages 6-7 of the first issue of Connect, March 1994.

“They enjoy reading about the business leaders we’ve profiled, hearing about their successes and roadblocks and how they overcame them,” she says. “I think that’s a big part of doing our job of connecting businesspeople in the area.” An important part of the job is showcasing the broad range of people and companies. Although the magazine features many prominent members of the business community, it also profiles many others who have a story to tell, even if they’re not household names. A recent example of this was the article about Wu Lin, owner of Tokyo Sushi & Hibachi in Mankato, according to Smith. The restauranteur’s passion was clear in the November 2018 cover story. “It’s not about who is the biggest and who has succeeded the most,” Smith says. “When you look at this story on Wu Lin, it’s the road he’s taken, the adventure, and it can be any size. You see his enthusiasm, so it’s a great story to read.” Over the past 25 years, the publishers, editors and writers have worked to tell these stories. Connecting business professionals has required new and exciting 58

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The total print run for the first issue in 1994 was 600 magazines. At that time, it was simply called Connect Magazine. additions to the magazine. This includes not just growing the distribution area but also innovating through frequent magazine redesigns, social media and video.

Connecting a Larger Area The total print run for the first issue in 1994 was 600 magazines. At that time, it was simply called Connect Magazine. “We added the word ‘Business’ to our name in July of 1996 to drive home the fact that we are a business magazine,” Wagner says. “Before the addition of this word, (former editor) Dan Vance was worried that to the casual observer, Connect Magazine

could have been an electrical supply or computer trade journal.” Now the magazine prints more than 12,000 copies and mails them directly to area business leaders in 15 counties — having recently added four counties in southern Minnesota and two in northern Iowa. This continued expansion was a goal from the beginning. In his column in the first issue, Irish expressed a desire for Connect to take readers “beyond city limits to a larger business environment that encompasses Mankato, North Mankato, St. Peter, New Ulm, and surrounding satellite communities. This broader view offers greater opportunity

Connect Business Magazine

for buyer and seller alike, without overreaching the practical advantages of close proximity and rapid response.” The expansion into Lyon, Redwood, Cottonwood and Jackson counties in Minnesota and Dickinson and Emmet in Iowa was strategic. Most of these counties to the west and south of the magazine’s existing distribution area — Sibley, Nicollet, Brown, Le Sueur, Watonwan, Blue Earth, Waseca, Martin and Faribault counties — did not have a business magazine serving their area. However, the residents still have important business relationships in the area, Smith says. “The idea being, we can reach them and bring them into the fold,” he says. According to Kathmann, it added value for the readers, companies profiled and advertisers to expand to these communities. “Marshall is probably the biggest one in that direction, so we’ve done a couple stories out there already,” he says. Through the expansion, the magazine has

furthered its goal of bringing together the local business community and promoting area companies. However, it has also started to employ other methods to do this that are more high tech. Connecting Through New Methods For a number of years, Connect Business Magazine has maintained its online presence by social media posts and regularly updating its website, which has an archive of issues dating back to 1996. Last year, it added a brand new feature: Connect TV. Connect TV finished its first season in January 2019. The five episodes have highlighted each business featured in the magazine through an interview with Cownie, who has a background in broadcast journalism and is currently also a morning news anchor for KEYC News 12. The idea to add video content originated from conversations that Cownie had with staff at True Facade Pictures, a Mankato-based video production company.

Kathmann recalled that not long before Cownie approached the staff at Concept & Design about adding the videos, he had watched a similar video online. Although he was unsure about adding video at first, he thought that if they could so something similar, it would be a good addition to the magazine. “Before we started doing it, I was visiting the Star Tribune website, and I saw the article about their restaurant of the year winner. The feeling of it was a lot like a Connect Business Magazine article: it had a lot of personality to it. The video at the top of the screen was only a minute or two, and was kind of a complement to the story text, and I thought it really added to the story,” he says. “Lisa and the True Facade guys knew exactly what I was talking about.” Connect TV offers a unique look at the businesspeople profiled in the magazine, but it can’t replace the in-depth storytelling found from cover to cover in an issue of Connect, according to Smith.

CONNECT Business Magazine


25 Years of Diving Deep

Sharing people’s successes and unique viewpoints on how to run a company will continue to be the priority for Connect. “We’re not looking at Connect TV to ever replace the magazine,” he says. “We see it as one of many possible ways of dipping our toes into new and different media, to supplement the quality of the magazine’s brand.” ‘What is the Worth of Connect?’ As Connect Business Magazine has grown over the past 25 years so has the business community it covers. “It seems strong,” Kathmann says. “Mankato seems like a pro-business area — and the surrounding region.” Things are booming, and there is an ever expanding number of enterprising professionals who have a dream to offer some new product or service. Sharing people’s successes and unique viewpoints on how to run a company will continue to be the priority for Connect Business Magazine, because it helps others understand how to

start or grow a business. One piece of advice that sticks out to Kathmann comes from a profile of Fallenstein and in the May 2017 issue. Succeeding in business, he paraphrases, is less about genius or inspiration than it is about hard work and attention to detail. “People always talk about their million dollar idea, but the execution is always more important than the idea. You can take a mediocre idea and execute it really well and be successful,” Kathmann says. “You don’t hear people saying that very often.” Back in 1994, Irish shared a similar sentiment in that first issue. Reflecting on what drove him to start the magazine, he writes: “Ideas are like pennies, there are millions in circulation but only a few that

Connect Business Magazine

are rare enough to be of any real worth.” After discussing those two main motivations — giving companies a local forum and making business leaders aware of others in the area — Irish acknowledges that it’s not for him to decide whether the magazine is successful. “What is the worth of Connect Magazine? That assessment will be made by you the reader and advertiser,” he writes. “If we do our job well, the information contained within the pages of this magazine will strengthen your own local business connections and provide tangible benefits to your organization.” James Figy writes from St. Paul.

THE ESSENTIALS Connect Business Magazine 208 Pine Street Nicollet, MN 56074 Phone: 507-232-3462 Web: Facebook: Connect Business Magazine Digital back issues of Connect Business Magazine, since January 2012, are available at:


Although its mission and business coverage have remained the same, the form Connect Business Magazine has taken throughout the years has changed quite a bit. It started as a 20-page magazine distributed monthly, says Becky Wagner, adding: “It’s fun to look at the first magazine compared to what it is now.” Some of the graphics were still sketched, painted or airbrushed by hand, Smith says. “The magazine was a lot smaller back then and also only full color on the cover and maybe one interior page. The others were two-color printing process, which back then was so much cheaper than full color,” he adds. Flipping through the pages of issue no. 1 is like opening a time capsule. There are images of old company logos, such as the previous Schell’s Deer Brand labels, and there also are businesspeople who have since retired or taken on new roles. One thing that has not changed is the length of the articles. Connect has also offered in-depth coverage of each company it features. The publishing staff has received feedback from readers in person and through reader surveys saying that the long-form features are what they enjoy most, according to Kris Kathmann. “When we ask them to rank the sections of the magazine, those are at the top,” he says. “I remember we were in a meeting with Jonathan Zierdt at Greater Mankato Growth, and when he came in the room to greet us, he said, ‘Oh, Connect — that’s when you want to dive in deep.’”


March | April 2019

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Live With Purpose, Even In Retirement Fish Don’t Clap—sounds kind of funny right? This is the title of the book I wrote a few years back. I wrote it to give out the secrets that I’ve learned over the past 20plus years of working with small-business owners and families on their finances and retirement planning. What I have discovered is that most people are so focused on retiring from something that they didn’t have any purpose after they got into retirement. I’ve witnessed over and over people who would accumulate wealth and feel financially ready for retirement, however, they failed to prepare for the emotional side of retiring. The problems started to arise when they didn’t have a purpose or compass any longer. Certainly, not having to show up at 8 a.m. on Monday sounds great, but what happens when that one week off turns into a month, six months and finally a year? When your phone stops beeping from requests from work, you lose relevancy with what you had been doing for the past 30 years. This can be a difficult time for many people. Watching TV all day or serving on a board at the country club doesn’t quite give you the same purpose you had while working. Fishing might be a fun way to pass the time, but the fish don’t provide you with meaning and personal growth—hence the book’s title. I’ve seen it. I’ve had clients in my office who absolutely had their retirement finances in place, ready to retire, and I’ve watched them cry later, saying it was the hardest year of their marriage. That led me to write my book. Its purpose is to help people reimagine what their purpose will be in their “next phase” of life. I’m not telling you not to retire; what I am saying is to do it with goals, as my mentor Dan Sullivan says, to “make your future bigger than your past,” however that might manifest for you. Fish Don’t Clap is written as an allegory to allow readers to see themselves in the story. It follows two couples through the planning they did to get to what their next phase could and should actually look like. 62

March | April 2019

It’s been well received, and you can find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBook store. Here are a few points from the book to help you think about your retirement future. 1. Financials: Certainly, your financials need to be in order for you to move to the next phase of life. After you have your plan in place and have hit your numbers, you mark this box as completed and move on to other things. 2. Savings “buckets”: We call them “iBuckets” at iWealth. This strategy puts purpose behind your savings. For years my wife, Trudi, and I had been good savers, but our savings outside of retirement accounts were all in one account. We now have six iBuckets that we set aside savings in each month, for things like vacations and an “opportunity” fund. Your risk with these investments needs to match the time in which they are needed. I wouldn’t put as much risk with my vacation money as I would with


my opportunity money. How about you? Do your savings match your purpose? 3. Not equally but equitably: Maybe one or two children work in your business and some children don’t. So how do you treat them “not equally but equitably”? This can be tricky, but with the right planning and communication, someday when you aren’t around to run the business, the whole family can still get together for Thanksgiving dinner. That is the bottom-line goal. 4. Daily purpose: This is an absolute musthave. Again, I’m not saying not to retire, but I have more and more clients who are working longer than they thought because it gives them purpose, not just money. They feel connected and a part of something. This can happen even if you work only a few days a week. Increasingly I see clients working part

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time as they transition into the next phase of life. Also, I see people’s purpose getting put to use with nonprofits. We all have nonprofits that we love. Why not volunteer so that you have something you love to do each week? In closing, remember that idea, to make your future bigger than your past. Let’s not retire so that we slow down and vanish. Let’s put some purpose to this next phase and look forward to that future. If you would like more information, please visit our website Brad Connors has been advising individuals, corporations, and institutional investors since 1994. He built his practice, iWealth, in Waseca, Minnesota, which is located 10 miles from his hometown of Waterville. Brad affiliated with Investment Centers of America, Inc. in 1998 and has consistently been in the top 5% of his peers, including 2010 ICA Representative of the Year. In 2014, Brad was honored with the distinguished Community Service Award at ICA’s Regional Conference. The award was presented to Brad based on his support and commitment to his local community through a variety of initiatives including charitable giving, youth outreach, community education and involvement. He has been on the forefront of helping other advisors grow their practice and teaching them what they should be working toward to have a profitable and enjoyable business. In 2017, iWealth transitioned to LPL Financial, the largest independent broker-dealer in the U.S. Brad recently finished authoring his first book, Fish Don’t Clap: Planning For A Purposeful Retirement. His reasoning behind writing the book, was to “give away the information for everyone to have more purpose going into retirement.”

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Profile for Connect Business Magazine

March-April 2019  

Connect Business Magazine 25th Anniversary issue.

March-April 2019  

Connect Business Magazine 25th Anniversary issue.