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The Definitive Business Journal for the Greater Minnesota River Valley Februar y 2021

Becky Vosburg, supply chain manager of Condux. Photo by Pat Christman.

Optimism for ‘21 Manufacturers rebounding after tough year Also in this issue • ZINNIAS BOUTIQUE IN WASECA • TIN CAN VALLEY PRINTING COMPANY • NATURALLY FUNKY DESIGN

The Free Press MEDIA


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F E A T U R E S Februar y 2021 • Volume 13, Issue 5

8

Area manufacturers were all hit to varying degrees during the pandemic but many are starting to see strong growth and optimism for 2021.

12

Tamie Collins moved her Zinnias Boutique business three times, settling in a building in downtown Waseca that draws a stream of loyal customers.

14

Brittany Collins went from working as a welder to starting Naturally Funky Design where she creates unique pieces of jewelry.

16

Artist Craig Kotasek became fascinated with antique printing presses and uses them to create unique prints at his Tin Can Valley Printing Company.

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 3


FEBRUARY 2021 • VOLUME 13, ISSUE 5

By Joe Spear

PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Kent Thiesse Dan Greenwood Katie Roiger PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman COVER PHOTO Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Danny Creel Sales Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Theresa Haefner Tim Keech ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Christina Sankey DESIGNERS CIRCULATION Justin Niles DIRECTOR For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail advertising@mankatofreepress.com. MN Valley Business is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South 2nd Street Mankato MN 56001.

■ Local Business memos/ Company news.....................................5 ■ MRCI....................................................6 ■ Business Commentary.........................7 ■ Business and Industry trends..........20 ■ Retail trends.....................................21 ■ Agriculture Outlook..........................22 ■ Agribusiness trends..........................23 ■ Construction, real estate trends.....24 ■ Gas trends........................................25 ■ Stocks...............................................25 ■ Minnesota Business updates............26 ■ Job trends.........................................27 ■ Schmidt Foundation.........................28 ■ Greater Mankato Growth..................30 ■ Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities ............................31

From the editor

Cultural wars have fueled anti-business atmosphere

W

e’ve had four years to listen to pundits and others talk about the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency and its impact on the country by and large, but there have been fewer analyses, it seems, on just what his presidency meant for business and the economy. The most intriguing analyses were not necessarily that his 70 plus million voters like his economic policies, but they found a friend in him as a cultural warrior. Unfortunately, the warriors were directed by Trump on Jan. 6, creating havoc, threatening public safety and desecrating American institutions when they stormed and vandalized the Capitol. In fact, it seems economic indicators on the surface would have been an easy argument had the president and his campaign staff chosen to follow the strategy of touting his economic record. Of course, the pandemic put a damper on all that. Still, people could look to the stock market hitting records and interest rates and inflation at zero. Business regulation was, by many measures, drastically reduced. Of course, reduction in regulations doesn’t make a sexy campaign speech. But his following as a cultural warrior seemed to resonate with a lot of folks who turned out for his rallies, bought flags (an unusual campaign tool) and even set up bars that were “Trump friendly.” But you’re not going to be successful in business if you can’t capture a significant market. In this case, the market was the population of voters in the United States. President-elect Joe Biden was a better “product” to the majority of that market. Trump’s success as a cultural warrior had an undercurrent of

4 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

what people were thinking but often couldn’t say. He allowed them to say it: “There are too many immigrants. They use too many of our resources. Black people should show respect to our flag by not kneeling. The torch bearers are simply another point of view and very nice people.” His name calling had appeal as well. His followers were tired of mealy mouthed politicians. Time after time, you heard his followers say “he did what he said he was going to do.” Again, a cultural shift from what people had come to realize as political doublespeak under the guise of “decorum.” And Trump, a formidable marketer, also made great strides in developing his 72 million market by telling them he was ready to deliver money, jobs and free speech, religious freedom, among other things. The money promises were partly true, but the 2017 tax cuts favored the wealthy and those who could write off things. The corporate rate was drastically reduced as well as taxes for limited partnerships and the like. There was a smaller tax reduction for middle class people. But most impressive perhaps is how he changed the culture of the Republican Party from pro-free trade to anti-free trade, from antitariffs to pro-tariffs, from proNATO to anti-NATO and from antideficit to pro-deficit. There was nary a Republican to be seen when the annual budget deficit tripled to $3 trillion in the matter of a couple of years, first with the tax cuts of 2017 and then the pandemic stimulus. There was a time when Democrats and Republicans spent a great deal of time blaming each other’s party for huge budget deficits. (It’s scary that they don’t seem to matter much to anyone anymore outside


the Concord Coalition.) But is changing the cultural narrative for half of Americans good for business? It is if you’re only interested in half of the market. A number of cultural missives borne by a Trump presidency, like anti-immigration, are opposed by businesses. They realize how much of the economy is driven by immigrants willing to take jobs Americans won’t take. Consider personal care attendants in nursing homes, some manufacturing jobs and service jobs. Immigrants bring with them an entrepreneurial culture and start shops, restaurants and family businesses. Their culture doesn’t have a 40-hour work week built into their brain. What business wouldn’t mind workers like that? Cultural wars are good for the Trump memorabilia stores but not much else.

Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at jspear@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear.

Local Business People/Company News ■

Schell’s takes top honor

S c h e l l ’ s B r e w e r y ’ s Firebrick took the gold medal at the 2020 European Beer Star competition, held in Nuremberg, Germany. The 72 judges from around Europe spent 60 hours taste-testing thousands of beers in search of the best Vienna-Style Lager. Firebrick was selected over 2,036 beers from 42 countries. Three weeks later Firebrick took home another gold medal in the Vienna-Style lager category at the 2020 US Open Beer Championship, beating out beers from 140 breweries. Brewed since 1998, Firebrick gets its name from the bricks that lined the old boilers at Schell‘s and is characterized by its amberred hue. ■■■

Widman joins Widseth

Read us online!

Duncan Widman has joined Widseth as an environmental technician. He holds a bachelor of science in geology and anthropology, along with a GIS certificate and geoarchaeology certificate from Minnesota State University.

Widman’s responsibilities include conducting soil and groundwater sampling, submitting samples for laboratory analysis, gathering field data for environmental investigations, and drafting site maps, soil boring logs, and data tables for reports. Widseth is a multi-discipline firm of more than 200 employees providing engineering, architecture, land surveying, and environmental services. ■■■

Wells acquires manufacturer

Wells Concrete, the fifth largest precaster in the U.S., has acquired Waukesha, Wisconsin-based precaster, and machiner y manufacturer, Spancrete. Sam Nesius is chairman of Wells Concrete. ■■■

Anderson joins Blethan Berens

Macy Anderson has joined Blethan Berens, practicing in the areas of state planning and business formation. She grew up in Eagle Lake. Prior to coming to Blethen Berens, Anderson worked in corporate compliance and health care administration and has been involved with a variety of organizations. ■■■

Pioneer Bank donates to Foundation

Pioneer Bank donated $10,000 to Mankato Area Foundation to assist them in providing grants grants and aid to regional projects. One of these projects has been the Community Response Fund, a partnership with the Greater Mankato Area United Way, to address emerging needs in the region and provide instant funds to local nonprofits—providing food, shelter and educational assistance. David Krause is CEO of Pioneer Bank. MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 5


MRCI moves into a new year, by moving away from facility-based disability services. The concept has been discussed for several years, but COVID-19 nudged us from concept to reality. The change impacts about 1,400 program participants. In March, when the pandemic forced MRCI to close its doors effectively ending programming, MRCI leadership got to work innovating. And what may have seemed like a barrier turned out to be a blessing. MRCI made the decision to move its employment and life enrichment supports entirely to the communities where it operates. It was originally a two-year plan but Brian Benshoof, CEO COVID pushed up the timeline. So MRCI has closed “With COVID, we kind buildings in Chaska, Shakopee, Rosemount, Fairmont and consolidated two buildings into one at both its of got the plane on the Mankato headquarters and in New Ulm. ground, in the hangar and MRCI CEO Brian Benshoof used to tell people that rebuilt it. It’s a lot easier changes like these are like rebuilding an airplane while to do it that way.” it’s flying. “With COVID, we kind of got the plane on the ground, in the hangar and rebuilt it. It’s a lot easier to do it that way.” The move to community-based programming takes a lot of partnerships and community support. Employers that utilized MRCI in the past were asked to hire the individuals directly. Responses were positive. Staff took the summer to reach out to families, who were receptive. MRCI made over a thousand phone calls in three months to develop new plans for each participant. We are proud to be an employment-first organization; however, for individuals who are unable to work a full day our new day service program is very exciting. MRCI is transitioning its bus fleet to minivan transport. The smaller vehicles are cheaper to operate and safer for clients. Volunteers will also be key to our new day service programming. If you have a talent you want to share for an hour or more, call us! MRCI was one of the first providers in the industry to implement the community-based model. So innovative, Benshoof was invited to speak to two national industry organizations about the model. For more information on this new model of programming, or the new direction of MRCI, please call 507-386-5600.

About MRCI

MRCI provides genuine opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages at home, at work and in the community. Please help us with that mission by volunteering of your time and talents! Please call 507-386-5600 to make a difference today!

6 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Business Commentary

By Dean Swanson

O

How much Is my business worth?

ver the course of my last twelve columns, I have focused on several topics to help a new CEO start a new business. Recently, I have gotten questions from CEOs who are looking into some major transitions for their existing business and they are wanting me to do an article about how best to come up with a value on their small business. There are several pivotal times during the life of your business at which you will want to know the true or fair market value of your own company, or the value of another entity. These circumstances may include buying an existing business, selling a business, merging with another business, going public, taking on private investors or passing on a business to any heir in an estate or as a gift. When you are in one of these situations, you will want to determine exactly how much the business in question is worth. Essentially, how much can it command on the open market. The fair market value of an entity is typically defined as the amount at which the property would change hands between a buyer and a seller when neither of them is under the compulsion to buy and when they both have reasonable knowledge of relevant facts concerning the business. But what are those relevant facts and how can you go about assessing them to achieve the fair market value. I will use several sources that SCORE provides on this topic to write this article. For the purpose of illustration, let’s start from a blank slate and assume you are trying to value your existing business. How do you begin to know what the company is worth? Even if you know your key figures, such as sales, gross revenue, and profitability, and you can estimate its growth potential, you still may have many missing blanks to fill in when it comes to knowing that business’ true value. Generally, there are three methods for valuing a business. The income approach to valuation is used to determine potential future income and is typically appropriate when evaluating small closely held businesses that are not asset intensive. Basically, this method is based on the premise that a business’ value is intrinsically tied to the present value of income it can generate in the future. It estimates future cash flow then discounts it using a capitalization rate which is a percentage used to convert income into present value. The key to using this approach correctly is finding the proper capitalization rate that will reflect both the riskiness associated with your business or industry and the uncertainty of its future cash flow. You can research the internet and trade publications for those that are appropriate for your industry and business size.

For this illustration, I will use a conservative rate of 25%. Let’s assume you own a small retail operation. We will say that the business has projected sales of $500,000. To find the fair market value, it is then necessary to divide that figure by the capitalization rate. Therefore, the income approach would reveal the following calculations. Projected sales are $500,000, capitalization rate is 25%, so the fair market value is $125,000. The asset approach to valuation may be the most straightforward method because it is based directly on the value of a company’s assets less any liabilities it has incurred. It takes into consideration, not only tangible assets, meaning equipment, furniture, inventory and so on, but also intangible assets that constitute good will and provide economic returns to the company, including name, reputation, customer patronage, location and the like. It’s appropriate to use this method when the business’ profits are small in comparison to the assets used to generate them. Let’s use the same example of a small retail shop and conduct an asset evaluation to make sure that the value arrived at using the income approach is greater than the value of the assets owned by the business. If it is not, the asset approach would be more appropriate in determining the value of this company and its profits would not justify the business’ investment in the assets it owns. The market approach is a way to determine the value of a business by comparing the business to similar public companies that have been recently sold. If you decide to use this approach, you can start by consulting the following sources for comparative information: the internet, SIC numbers, trade associations, and trade journals. Once you find similar companies, be sure to check out how they compare with your business in terms of how long being in business, how similar is the customer base, how similar are the risk factors, and how similar is the level of profitability. Now that you have become familiar with the various approaches to valuation, you can decide whether it is a task you and your team feel comfortable tackling on your own, or whether you would rather enlist the help of a professional. You can find appraisers who specialize in your geographic area and industry by doing a simple web search or speaking to your current financial or legal advisors for recommendations.

Dean L. Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director, and regional vice president for the north west region. For information on the local Mankato area SCORE chapter: scmnscore.org MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 7


Sarah Richards, president and CEO of Jones Metal, says customers are becoming more optimistic about the future.

Hopeful signs Manufacturers see a 2021 rebound By Tim Krohn | Photos by Pat Christman

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he financial hurt from the pandemic hit all area manufacturers. But while some saw relatively minor declines, others were cut more deeply. Yet as 2021 begins, manufacturers are seeing orders increasing and are more optimistic about the economy and future. “For 2021 we see strong growth, about 30%,” said Sarah Richards, president and CEO of Jones Metal in Mankato. “That gets us growth of about 5% over 2019 because we took a big hit in 2020.” Becky Vosburg, supply chain manager at Condux

International, which makes a variety of tools and pullers for the installation of underground and overhead communication cables and for other applications, said they fared pretty well through 2020. “We’ve been pretty lucky. People need communications, and there’s still projects going on,” she said. Bob Kill, president and CEO of Enterprise Minnesota, which assists small- and mid-size manufacturers, said different sectors were hit differently.

Cover Story

8 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business


“What’s so different is past downturns were general economic downturns, and this is an industry specific downturn,” he said. “It’s uneven. Some in the right industries are doing great, others are doing terrible and there’s a bunch in between,” Kill said, citing findings from Enterprise Minnesota’s annual survey. In south-central and southeastern Minnesota, 65% of manufacturers said they saw a major or modest impact to their business in 2020 because of the pandemic. That’s better than the metro area where 69% reported an impact and 84% of manufacturers in northeastern Minnesota. Manufacturers across western Minnesota were faring a bit better with about 60% reporting a major or modest impact on their business. While many manufacturers have been pushing through the pandemic, it’s taken a final toll on some. Richards said she was personally jolted by the closing of two longtime manufacturers she was very familiar with. “There was a metal fabrication company in Waseca, Corchran, that closed. And we had a company that we’d partnered with over the years, Moorhead Machinery in the Twin Cities, we saw close. “That really hit home how this has affected people. We see a lot about restaurants and health care, but we may not hear about a big manufacturer closing after maybe a hundred years in business. For us as a company and me personally, that was a gut check. We really have to pay attention and fight for the future,” Richards said.

More optimism

Jones Metal does work for a wide variety of customers around the globe, including the military. They specialize in complex enclosures, large and small, made out of sheet metal. “We do a lot of military work, work for electrical companies,” Richards said. She said the abilities of their welders brings them big and interesting jobs, such as a recent

Jones Metal’s Adam Wobbrock watches as a router cuts holes in a part for one of Condux’s cable pulling machines.

Jeff Westphal welds a frame for an automated packaging machine at Jones Metal. project in which they built massive catwalks with a conveyor next to it for a fertilizer company. “It was pretty cool.” Richards said Jones Metal began feeling the impact of the pandemic even before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order was instituted in March as their foreign customers began pulling back early in the year as they began dealing with the novel virus. “It hit us in February in power generation because of our foreign customers. And big commercial and infrastructure projects got put on hold. Transportation is a

big sector for us, and that obviously took a big hit on the airline level and trains, too,” she said. “We were affected pretty fast and that stayed pretty steady. A lot of it was our customers hitting the panic button and not knowing what to expect.” While different sectors they serve are at various stages of comebacks, Richards said she’s seeing optimism and investments being made. “One area of an industry that has shown rapid growth and innovation because of the shifting economy and shopping online is

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 9


Ben Adams, left, and Jamie Putz measure parts at Condux.

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the automation surrounding consumer products for handlers like Amazon and Walmart. Also automation for consumer packaging for products themselves,” she said. “Agriculture is starting to make a little noise that recovery may be starting to happen. It hasn’t equated to a lot of more activity for us, but we’ve heard more positivity from our ag customers.” Richards said big infrastructure projects like building bridges are still moving forward and the alternative energy market remains strong. “Solar, wind, even nuclear is starting to see activity again and more demand. That’s encouraging because usually when the price of oil and gas is low, those sectors go quiet.”

10 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

The automotive sector, she said, also has been very busy. Richards said she knows a manufacturer in another state who is seeing a big boost from people buying home fitness machines during the pandemic. “Fitness is off the charts. I have a friend in fitness manufacturing, he’s grown 300% this year. People were in their homes and people wanted their own equipment at home.” She said even some things that add cost and time for her company are good signs. “Since August of 2020 (steel) prices have increased 67% and there are shortages in the supply. This is not new to us, however it requires more hours spent on sourcing material and tracking


costs. It is also another indication that the markets are waking up.” Jones Metal also has a manufacturing company in Owatonna called Advanced Coil Technology that Richards said is seeing new growth. One of the things they make are big airexchange systems for grain elevators and other applications in harsh environments. “They are really coming to life now, which means some companies are starting to do some capital improvement programs.” She said Jones Metal is also expanding their work with companies that supply the military, mostly making panels and enclosures for them. “Government contracts have slowed but not stopped. We won a big project that’s ultimately for submarines, but the process has slowed.”

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. We recognize that every project and client are unique and we treat them that way.

Supply hiccups

Vosburg said that while Condux has stayed relatively busy through the pandemic, she has seen some issues with the supply chain “We do a lot of our own manufacturing here in our facility. We’re not having issues with steel and raw materials we use in our shop.” But she said they also need to purchase components from other domestic and foreign sources. “We have had some difficulties there. Some of the products we’ve tried to purchase, some of the companies have had problems (keeping up) because of their people being off from COVID or other things,” Vosburg said. “We buy some things offshore. We’re from the Midwest and buy a lot from the Midwest, but you can’t buy everything here. The logistics of getting it here has been a problem. There is less moving by plane and ship because of COVID.” Condux was started by the Radichel family, which owned North Star Concrete. The company is run by Brad Radichel. “We make a lot of equipment that pulls stuff,” Vosburg said. “From hand-held to up to 8,500-pound pullers that do things in the air or on ground.” MV

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Tamie Collins, founder and owner of Waseca’s Zinnias Boutique.

Blooming business

Zinnias Boutique flourishes in Waseca By Katie Roiger Photos by Pat Christman

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decision to open her own storefront was no aving a step-by-step business model slapdash choice. After determining where can certainly come in handy when her talents lay, she pushed forward with starting a self-owned company, but grit and a grin. sometimes hard work and sheer enjoyment is “It’s got to be a the best kind of passion,” Collins said substitute. about being a small “I went into this with business owner. “People ZINNIAS BOUTIQUE absolutely no business on the outside looking in 231 E. Elm Ave, Waseca. plan,” said Tamie think it’s pretty 507-833-5822 Collins, founder and glamorous, but it’s a lot Facebook: Zinnias Boutique owner of Waseca’s of work. It takes a lot of Zinnias Boutique. “I hours to make it a think that’s part of my personality: I’m success.” pretty random, and I think that’s part of the Collins got her feet wet in the small creative mind.” Nevertheless, Collins’ business world while she was working

Spotlight

12 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business


fulltime as an elementary school teacher in the 1990s. At the time, she and her family lived in Blue Earth, where there was a small boutique called Homefront that needed some extra hands. Collins was hired to work part-time at the store, and found herself loving the experience. When she and her husband moved to Waseca, Collins realized that she had an itch to try the boutique business for herself. She had an eye for fun products and a self-taught talent for floral arrangements. Her three daughters and their friends all asked their mother to create their corsages for their respective proms, and word spread among her acquaintances. A friend whose wedding florist had cancelled last-minute asked Collins if she would consider creating the floral arrangements. “It’s kind of been word of mouth,” Collins said. Once the requests started piling up, she thought it would be fun to try to combine her interest in boutiques with her passion for floral design. In June 2007, Collins and her husband purchased the old train depot in Waseca for Zinnias Boutique’s first storefront. The building had been empty for several years and was in dire need of a facelift. The revamping process included new flooring, new windows, and judicious remodeling, but Zinnias was open for business in October of the same year. It was a hit and quickly gained a following. Unfortunately for Zinnias, the initial course of running a business didn’t run smoothly. The economy plunged in 2008 and customer traffic declined. After serious thought, Collins opted to sell her building to a local hairdresser. It was a difficult choice, but Collins wasn’t at a standstill for long. “I wasn’t quite ready to be done,” said Collins. She decided to rent a smaller building in Waseca’s north end and sold clothes and floral arrangements on a smaller scale for a few years. As the economy began to improve, her space became too small for the returning traffic flow. Collins and her husband found an older building in downtown Waseca and

Tamie Collins combines her love of flowers, decore and clothing at Zinnias Boutique began renovating it in July of 2020. Renovations are slated for completion in the spring of 2021, but Zinnias’ new location has been open to customers since Nov. 13.

Family affair

From the beginning, Zinnias Boutique has been a family enterprise. Collins said that her husband’s suppor t and encouragement over the years has been a huge factor in the Zinnias Boutique in downtown Waseca is in its business’s success. Her daughters third location since first opening in 2007. also continually lend helping box full of the vibrant flowers hands, working the store for big over the head table. events, assisting with seasonal “It was just beautiful!” Collins decorating, and accompanying said. Collins to apparel shows in Las Collins credits her love for her Vegas and Atlanta. store with her loyal customer “They all have their own style following. Visitors can expect a and their own taste and that’s friendly greeting thanks to her nice, because it’s hard to know warm personality, and Collins what different age groups like,” said she is well aware of the Collins said. “It really works well blessing of having such steady for me.” success overall. Even the Collins said she has a lot of fun coronavirus pandemic has not with ordering inventor y. She unduly slowed her business, prefers to stock items that she although it has required new herself enjoys, and especially methods of sanitizing, spacing, likes quality candles, sassy Blue and event hours. Collins said that Q fashion socks, and home such changes are all part of the accessories. The floral side of business process. business is very active, but she “It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun still has time for family projects. challenge,” she said. “It’s been For one daughter’s wedding in wonderful.” MV June of 2019, she harvested over 500 peonies and kept them in a cooler until just before the special day so that they wouldn’t bloom too early. All of the centerpieces and bouquets featured peonies, and Collins hung a twelve-foot

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 13


Brittany Collins with some of her Naturally Funky Design creations at Union Market in downtown Mankato.

Naturally Funky Collins creates unique jewelry By Katie Roiger Photos by Pat Christman

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rittany Collins’ Naturally Funky cars in their home garage. Her interest in Design isn’t just a business name. vehicle repair led her to an eight-year It’s also a personal philosophy. career in welding. It wasn’t until she was “I’ve always been badly injured in a drawn to vintage, funky, workplace accident that one-of-a-kind pieces,” she began wondering if Collins said. “I wanted to she should consider a share that love of being new field. NATURALLY dif ferent with “A weld broke on a FUNKY DESIGN everybody.” truck frame for a fire On Etsy “Naturally funky” also truck and the box flexed Pieces sold at Union Market describes Collins’ and broke the other in Mankato roundabout journey to welds, and I got hit by it,” becoming a seasoned said Collins. The blow jeweler. As a child growing up in threw her across the room and left her Wausaukee, Wisconsin, she preferred with two slipped spinal discs. After months pistons and transmissions to rings and in physical therapy trying to win back her bling and loved to help her father work on original mobility, she realized that her time

Feature

14 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Brittany Collins enjoys working with natural stones, and often creates one-of-a-kind jewelry. as a welder was ending. Shortly after a move to Spirit Lake, Iowa, Collins saw a jewelry store’s ad in the local paper asking for job applicants who were creative and unafraid of getting their hands dirty. Deciding that those words described her ideal job, Collins applied and was given the position of jeweler on the spot. She had no prior experience working with precious metals and gemstones, so her new co-workers helped train her and coach her through her trial by fire. The first year’s learning curve was a test of her perseverance. “I had to start from scratch,” Collins said. “I thought I was going to be this amazing jeweler and blow everyone out of the water, and that fell apart on me. Fortunately, you can only screw up so many times before you do it right.”

On her own

Collins’ natural sense of style and attention to detail helped carr y her through her training process. After another eight years of working as a bench jeweler for two different companies, she had gained a vast store of knowledge but was beginning to become restless. “It was starting to lose its joy for me,” said Collins. “I was always doing what someone else wanted.” She also realized that she was particularly drawn to materials that her employers used infrequently, such as raw or lightly polished semi precious stones. The uniqueness of these natural materials fascinated her and brought back memories of a rock collection that she had prized as a young girl. “I use stones that are real but in more of their natural state, or in a lightly polished state,” said Collins. “They’re not fully-cut gemstones. These are natural stones in their element just being shown off in these amazing pieces of jewelry.” One benefit of using raw stones is that each piece of jewelry is guaranteed to be unique. “I can make two necklaces with the exact same elements, and they’re going to look different because every stone is different,” Collins said. Collins started fashioning jewelry for friends and family using rocks she ordered for her personal stock, setting them in gold-plated metals and sterling silver. She realized that she got more

satisfaction from crafting her own creations than from soldering someone else’s designs. She sat down with her husband and asked what he would think if she started her own jewelr y-making company. His response was wholeheartedly enthusiastic. “He said, ‘You love this. Go for it.’” Collins said. Together, they rearranged their home office to create a workspace and found a secondhand jeweler’s bench. Shortly afterward, Collins launched an Etsy shop dedicated to quirky and custom-made pieces. As an independent creator, Collins’ favorite designs are always the ones that test her mettle as an artist. “It got me out of my shell for what I normally like to wear and create,” Collins said about starting Naturally Funky Design. “Every time I question myself, ‘Is this too weird?’ when I’m making something, that’s usually the first piece that sells. Sometimes it’s good to push your own boundaries, because you really get to learn from it.” Collins’ first sales were transacted mainly through Etsy and Instagram, but she has recently branched out to a storefront in Mankato’s Union Market. Currently, she specializes in premade designs as well as custom-requested pieces. One recent project for a friend’s wedding led her to create bracelets for the bride’s wedding party. She even designed a leather and black-beaded bracelet for the one “bridesman” to echo the bridesmaids’ jewelry. Plans to further expand Collins self-run business are in the works. She said that she is working toward including 14 and 18 karat gold as an option for stone settings, as well as other work that would require additional skills that she picked up during her time in Spirit Lake. Meanwhile, the possibilities of jewelry creation are endless to a creative mind that enjoys experimentation and appreciates beauty in all its forms. “I’ve always been drawn to the unique, the one of a kind, the vintage – the funky, essentially,” Collins said. “I wanted to share that love of being different with everybody.” MV

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 15


Craig Kotasek, owner of Tin Can Valley Printing Company, looks at a card he printed in his shop near his Le Sueur home. The shop used to be a soybean granary on his family’s farm.

The old way Artist uses antique printing presses By Dan Greenwood | Photos by Pat Christman

W

hen artist Craig Kotasek saw an antique Kotasek would spend the next 15 years working printing press firsthand at an exhibit in as the newspaper’s printer, doubling as a reporter Minneapolis two decades ago, he noticed a and photographer when needed. In exchange, they resemblance to the agriculture let him use their equipment after equipment he’d grown up around hours to create his own prints. as a kid living on a farm near Le “I got into carving and would Sueur. transfer the images to a printing “I walked in there and thought, block,” he said. TIN CAN VALLEY ‘I know how that works,’” said He made his first posters by PRINTING COMPANY Kotasek. pressing car ved images of a Le Sueur A visual artist since childhood, guitar, banjo and type onto ink tincanvalley.com people had been asking him for and paper to promote gigs for his prints of his drawings. own band, the Oxbow Boys. “By serendipity, a couple weeks later there was an “I was determined to make a new poster for every ad in the Free Press that the Gaylord Hub was show we did,” Kotasek said. “I probably did 200 looking for a printer,” he said. different versions of that for gigs over the years.” He brought his artwork to the Gaylord Hub office; When word got around, other bands and musicians explaining he wanted to learn how to print his own started asking him to print posters for their own drawings. That intrigued the outgoing printer, who shows around southern Minnesota. He later named later trained him on how to use the equipment. his business Tin Can Valley Printing Company, a 16 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

Profile


nod to the Minnesota Valley Canning Company, founded in Le Sueur in 1903 and later renamed Green Giant.

Collecting presses

Kotasek spent the next year researching and reading everything he could find on the art of printmaking, eventually driving down to Missouri to pick up an antique printing press that had been sitting idle on a farm. It was over 100 years old and would be the first of many that Kotasek would acquire over the years. “All these small newspapers began to close down, and the little print shops were disappearing,” he said. “My name got passed around as this guy who would come with his trailer and save all this equipment from the junkyard.” He and his family later moved to the family farm from his childhood, on a bluff overlooking the Minnesota River Valley just west of Le Sueur. That allowed him to spread out and accumulate more equipment – renovating an old granary on the property for his home studio. “Until 2010, my father was still storing soybeans in here,” he said. He’s acquired cabinets full of wooden and brass blocks from the Hanska Herald and the Arlington Enterprise, and a press and cutter from the Silver Lake Leader in McLeod County. It’s the newest printer that he has, a motorized machine built in 1923. “The oldest one is probably from the late 1800s,” Kotasek said. “Most of the newspapers would use these as their little jobbers, printing business forms for local businesses.” They come in various conditions. Kotasek points to a refurbished mini press in his studio. “This one came from the Henderson Independent; and before that it was at a funeral home in Le Sueur where it printed obituary memorial cards for the funerals,” he said. “They would put in the little type and print the memorials on this little

Some of the letterpress posters Kotasek has made at Tin Can Valley Printing.

The first woodcuts Kotasek carved were a guitar and a banjo, which he used on music posters.

Letters wait to be used in one of Tin Can Valley Printing’s posters.

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 17


Craig Kotasek, owner of Tin Can Valley Printing Company, prints cards on his 1923 press in a shop near his Le Sueur home. The press is the newest one he owns. press. I was excited to have that set up for fairs and let people come and make little prints with it.” Kotasek said that little hand operated press functions like a slot machine – users feed the paper into it and pull a lever to transfer the ink from a block

carving onto the paper. The size and simplicity of that machine make it a hit at art fairs and music festivals, where curious people could tr y it out themselves. “Some fairs I’d show up and not sell a single thing and for others I’d sell all sorts of stuff,”

18 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

he said. “I got into commissions that way too. Of course, this year there are no art fairs, so I decided it’s probably time to start selling stuff online.” Kotasek describes traditional printing methods as a layered process, especially when using multiple colors or intricately detailed carved images. They range from old farm equipment and landscapes to food, animals and a pair of his dad’s old work boots, carved from a drawing he had made years before. “There’s a lot of planning for each layer, each color and how all the composition is going to go together,” he said. “Being an artist, I like the impulsive and abstract stuff. But I also like the engineering that’s involved and having to think about how everything is going to stack up.” He sells business cards, posters and printed drawings. In recent years, Kotasek delved into greetings cards – a top seller. “It’s a rewarding thing because cards are always gifts,” he said. “They’re generally positive. I


like the idea when people buy a card and send it out rather than just sitting in a drawer. I found that if people buy 20 of my cards, they are more likely to send them out, so I tr y to discount them if they buy a bunch.” His cards are for sale at the St. Peter Food Co-op and the gift shop at the Arts Center of St. Peter. “I received a card he had made from a friend and loved it,” said Stephanie Thull, general merchandise buyer for the St. Peter Food Co-op, who also works at the Art Center’s gift shop. “It was just a really good fit being that he’s local and has these cool vintage-style designs,” Thull said. Kotasek’s cards and posters are also available through the Twig Case Company, a Wasecabased artisan iPhone case manufacturer. He hopes to expand his prints to other stores. Over the years, Kotasek said he’s witnessed a growing

interest in traditional printmaking among the younger generation. “When I started this, I was the only young guy out there; it was all these old timers,” Kotasek said. “Over the last 20 years I’ve noticed more young people; a lot of students go to art school and they get to try it – it’s very addicting – the art and being able to be hands on. It’s so tactile.” Even after printing thousands of cards, posters and images,

Kotasek still gets a rush when the ink meets the paper. “You go through all this work and preparation, getting ever ything lined up and measured so the thickness, the ink density and ink colors are just right,” he said. “When you lift that sheet up for the first time and see the print, that euphoria is still there. I still get that rush every time, even if it’s just a business card.” MV

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 19


Business and Industry Trends ■

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Energy

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Jeff Grace is grateful to become a member of the partnership of attorneys at Blethen Berens. Jeff is a trial lawyer who has successfully litigated cases all over Minnesota. He uses a practical approach to help his clients in areas of general civil litigation, insurance, personal injury and wrongful death, and criminal law. Outside of his practice, Jeff is active with Educare and enjoys spending time outside and with friends and family.

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Visit a business banker at First National Bank Minnesota to talk about your goals and how we can help. Your community banking partner since 1857.

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20 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

Gas prices fell to multiyear lows

U.S. regular retail gasoline prices averaged $2.17 per gallon in 2020, 44 cents (17%) lower than in 2019 and the lowest annual average since 2016. Gasoline prices at the beginning of the year were more than $2.50/gal; however, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in widespread reductions in passenger travel and gasoline demand, contributing to lower gasoline prices across the United States. U.S. gasoline prices averaged $2.38/gal in mid-March, just before a national emergency was declared. Gasoline prices fell for several consecutive weeks, ultimately reaching $1.77/gal on April 27, the lowest average price since early 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update. Vehicle travel in April fell to its lowest monthly level on record, according to a Bureau of Transportation Statistics data series that dates back to 2000. Vehicle travel and gasoline demand (measured as product supplied) began to increase in May, relative to April levels. From May through the end of the summer, U.S. gasoline inventories remained high because of sustained lower demand, even as refiners reduced gasoline production because of lower


margins. In most years, U.S. gasoline prices tend to be highest in the summer, when gasoline demand is usually higher. However, in 2020, U.S. gasoline prices were highest at the beginning of the year.

Retail/Consumer Spending Vehicle Sales Mankato — Number of vehicles sold - 2019 - 2020 1500

912 1,033

1200 900 600 300 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato Includes restaurants, bars, telecommunications and general merchandise store sales. Excludes most clothing, grocery store sales. $350,000

Sales tax collections Mankato (In thousands)

Coal production down from 2019

n U.S. coal production during the third quarter of 2020 totaled 135.8 million short tons, which was 17.9% higher than the previous quarter and 25.2% lower than the third quarter of 2019. Production in the Western region, which represented about 58% of total U.S. coal production in the third quarter of 2020, totaled about 78.8 MMst (22.9% lower than the third quarter of 2019). n U.S. coal exports for the third quarter of 2020 (15.3 MMst) increased 3.2% from the second quarter of 2020. The average price of U.S. coal exports during the third quarter of 2020 was $89.18 per short ton. n The United States continued to import coal primarily from Colombia (74.8%), Indonesia (10.3%), and Canada (9.2%). No imports from Australia were recorded for the third quarter of 2020. U.S. coal imports in the third quarter of 2020 totaled 1.3 MMst. The average price of U.S. coal imports during the third quarter of 2020 was $69.34 per short ton. n Steam coal exports totaled 5.1 MMst (12.2% lower than the second quarter of 2020). Metallurgical coal exports totaled 10.2 MMst (13.1% higher than the second quarter of 2020). n U.S. coal consumption totaled 148.4 MMst in the third quarter of 2020, which was 54% higher than the 96.4 MMst reported in the second quarter of 2020 and 11.3% lower than the 167.2 MMst reported in the third quarter of 2019. The electric power sector accounted for about 93.8% of the total U.S. coal consumption in the third quarter of 2020.

- 2019 - 2020

600

$468,804

500 400 300 200 100 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Lodging tax collections Mankato/North Mankato

- 2019 - 2020 $67,724 $26,656

70000 52500 35000 17500 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

Mankato food and beverage tax - 2019 - 2020 175000 140000

$64,329 $59,202

105000 70000 35000 0

J

F

M

Source: City of Mankato

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 21


Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

A

Ag provisions in the COVID aid package

fter months of debate, Congress passed a nearly $900 billion COVID-19 Relief Package in late December of 2020, which was later signed into law. The COVID aid package provided a stimulus payment of $600 to any individual that earned less than $75,000, based on the adjusted gross income (AGI) on their 2019 federal tax return. Married couples with an AGI of less than $150,000 would receive a total payment of $1,200. Individuals with an AGI exceeding $99,000 or married couples with an AGI exceeding $198,000 are not eligible for the stimulus payments. The legislation also extended supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week for 11 weeks through March 14, 2021. A big portion of the latest COVID relief package, approximately $284.5 billion, was directed to assist small businesses through another round of funding to reopen and strengthen the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The PPP loans will be reserved for businesses with less than 300 employees, as well as for businesses that incurred at least a 25% loss of revenue due to COVID-19 in a specific quarter of the year in 2020, compared to the similar quarter in 2019. The PPP provisions allow for forgivable loans up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs for the year. The maximum level for PPP loans will be $2 million, and PPP loans of less than $150,000 will have a simplified application process. As of this writing, SBA has not released specific details on the application process for the next round of PPP loans; however, the previous round of PPP loan applications was handled through local financial institutions. Just as with the previous PPP loans, farm business will again qualify for this new round of PPP loans, including farm operations that file taxes as a sole proprietorship. There were some clarifications in the latest legislation regarding farm-related PPP loan applications: Clarification on Round #1 of PPP loans - Self• employed farmers (sole proprietorships) that did not qualify for the first round of PPP loan payments due to having a negative net farm profit on Schedule F of their 2019 Federal tax return may now apply for the first round of PPP loan payments. Approximately 37 percent of the farm operations, including many farmers in Southern Minnesota, did not qualify for the first round of PPP loan payments due to negative 2019 farm profits following the poor crop year in 2019. The revised PPP loan application for sole proprietorships is based on the gross farm income on the 2019 tax return, up to a maximum of $100,000. Based on the PPP loan calculation formula, a farm operation could qualify for a maximum round #1 PPP loan payment of $20,833 ($100,000 divided by 12 times 2.5). Farmers that filed for

22 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

round #1 PPP loans as sole proprietorship and received less than the maximum of $20,833 could be eligible to file for an additional round #1 PPP loan up to the maximum amount. The previous dollar amounts of round #1 PPP loans that were received and forgiven would be deducted from the maximum PPP loan amount that these farmers are eligible for. Farm operations with employees that filed as a partnership or corporation will likely not be affected by this change. n Details for the new Round #2 of PPP loans - Selfemployed farmers could again potentially be eligible for round #2 PPP loans. The same $100,000 maximum gross income level and maximum PPP loan payment that existed in round #1 of PPP loans for farm operators filing as sole proprietorships will exist for the round #2 PPP loan applications. However, farm operations will need to show at least a 25 percent decline in revenue for one quarter in 2020, compared to a similar quarter in 2019. For some farmers that were impacted by the poor crop year in 2019 and had less grain inventory to sell in early 2020, meeting the 25 percent reduction threshold will not be an issue. Farmers that had higher yields in 2019 could have a bit more difficulty meeting qualifications for round #2 PPP loans, depending on the timing of their grain sales and on government program income. It is likely that many livestock producers will be able to qualify for the latest PPP loan payments, due to the large mid-year losses in 2020. Approximately $13 billion in the COVID aid package was allocated toward other agriculture related provisions, including about $11.2 billion allocated to USDA to support agriculture producers, processors, and contract growers that were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. This legislation was more specific than previous COVID relief bills as to how the funding linked to agriculture related programs is to be spent. Following are the provisions in the latest COVID bill that relate to farmers and agriculture: n Supplemental payments to row crop producers that were paid under the CFAP2 program earlier in 2020. While no specific details have yet been announced, it is likely that the additional payments will be $20 per acre for eligible “price-trigger crops”, which include corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, sorghum and cotton, as well as for the long list of “flat-rate crops” such as alfalfa, sugar beets, oats and flax. n Additional direct payments to cattle producers for both market and breeding livestock that specifies payment rates for animals marketed or sold before April 15 and after that date. Payment rates vary depending on the type of cattle and weight for market cattle. There were no provisions for additional payments to hog producers


or producers of livestock other than cattle. n Directs the USDA Ag Secretary to provide additional assistance to some producers of livestock, dairy and specialty crops that had payments reduced by certain provisions in the CFAP1 and CFAP2 program. n Payments to livestock and poultry producers that had to depopulate their herds or flocks, or had to euthanize market animals, due to COVID-related disruptions in processing and the supply chain in 2020. n Payments to contract growers of livestock or poultry that had grower contracts cancelled or reduced due to the impacts of COVID-19. n Additional payments to specialty crop producers that had processing and marketing access reduced due to the pandemic. n Provides the USDA Ag Secretary the authority to extend the repayment deadline for CCC marketing loans an additional 3 months, which would extend the maturity date from 9 months after the loan is initiated to a 12-month loan period. n Specifies that the producers of ethanol and biofuels are eligible for the COVID-related assistance payments, as well as extending certain tax credits for the producers of biofuels. 8 for an additional $1.5 billion for food purchases n Provides under the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program and6similar food aid programs. n Provides for a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Food 4 Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to eligible individuals and families for the next six months. n Allocates funding to provide grants for small meat and 2 poultry processing plants to upgrade and expand existing processing facilities. 0 J F also M provisions A M in J theJ legislation A S and O funds N D n There were allocated to further assist small dairy producers, to expand rural broadband access, and for farm stress programs. n In a non-related item, the legislation also fully funds all 20188 and 2019 WHIP+ disaster payments, which many Midwest crop operators qualified for due to crop losses in 100 the 2018 and 2019 crop years. Previously only 50 percent 6 of the 85 funding had been allocated for the 2019 WHIP+ payments. The legislation did not address any provisions 4 for 70 crop losses in the 2020 crop year. In the coming weeks, there will likely be many more 2 55 specific details released regarding the provisions and programs in the COVID relief package related to farm 40 0 processors, and others in the ag industry. The operators, J F M A M J J A S O N D coronavirus pandemic caused much personal and economic 25 F MandA businesses M J Jacross A the S U.S. O inN 2020, D hardship toJ families including to many family farm operations. As we begin 2021, COVID continues to strain the rural economy in many areas of the U.S., including in Southern Minnesota. Just as with the CARES 100legislation earlier in 2020, the previous PPP payments, and the CFAP payments, it appears that the latest COVID aid 85 will provide some needed additional financial package assistance 70 to many farm operations and other rural businesses. Farm operators and small business owners should check 55 with their local lender for details on the new and revised PPP loan program. The agriculture related CFAP3 40 to crop and livestock producers and other programs payments for farmers will be delivered through the USDA Farm Service 25 J local F Moffices. A M J J A S O N D Agency (FSA) Kent Thiesse is farm management analyst and senior vice president, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal. 507-381-7960); kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com

Agriculture/ Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2020 — 2021

20

8 6

16

$4.57

12

4

8

2 0

$3.74

J

F

4

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

0

J

Source: USDA

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2020 — 2021 8 20 100 16 6 $12.88 85 12 4 70

(dollars per bushel)

8 55 2 $8.25 4 40 0 0 J F M A M J J A S O N D 25 J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D Source: USDA

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

— 2020 — 2021

20 100 25 16 85 22 12 $52.02 70 19 8 55 16 4 40 $48.71 13 0 J F M A M J 25 10 J F M A M J J F M A M J Source: USDA

Milk prices

25 22 19 16 13

J A S O N D J A S O N D J A S O N D Minimum prices, class 1 milk Dollars per hundredweight

— 2020 — 2021 25 22

$17.05

19 16 13 10

$14.01 J

F

M

A

M

J

20 25 16 22 12 19 8 16 4 13 0 J 10

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA. Based on federal milk orders. Corn and soybean prices are for rail delivery points in Southern Minnesota. Milk prices are for Upper Midwest points.

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 23

10

J

J


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato - 2019 - 2020 (in millions)

8000000 7000000 6000000 5000000 4000000 3000000 2000000 1000000 0

Commercial building permits Mankato - 2019 - 2020 (in millions)

$1,684,958 $1,867.2

10000000 5000000 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

0

D

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato Information based on Multiple Listing Service and may not reflect all sales

Existing home sales: Mankato region - 2019 - 2020 (in thousands)

166

300

262

Median home sale price: Mankato region - 2019 - 2020 (in thousands)

$212,475 $177,500

250 200

240

150

180

100

120

50

60

0 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Realtor Association of Southern Minnesota

Interest Rates: 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

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

Housing starts: Mankato/North Mankato

— 2019 — 2020

- 2019 - 2020

5.5

40

4.9

10

32

3.6%

4.3

2

24

3.7

16

2.7%

3.1 2.5

$5,824

15000000

Source: City of Mankato

0

$1,416,247

20000000

8 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

Source: Freddie Mac

D

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Real Knowledge. Real Experience. Real Dedication. Real Results.

We Know Commercial Real Estate.

Read us online!

Tim Lidstrom CCIM/Broker

100 Warren Street, Suite 708, Mankato, MN 56001

507-625-4606

www.lidcomm.com Karla Jo Olson Broker

24 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Focused on equipment + operations integration backed by designs that support employee retention and future growth.

Dotson Iron Castings Mankato, MN

Creation Technologies St. Peter, MN

Johnson Outdoors Mankato, MN

Architecture + Engineering + Environmental + Planning

ISGInc.com

Gas Prices 5

Gas prices-Mankato

— 2020 — 2021

54 43

$2.40

32 21 10 0

J J

2.09

Archer Daniels

$50.04

$53.02

+6.0%

Ameriprise

$194.44

$200.59

+3.2%

Best Buy

$102.73

$107.66

+4.8%

Brookfield Property

$14.85

$9.20

-38.0%

Crown Cork & Seal

$98.26

$100.11

+1.8%

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Consolidated Comm.

$5.36

$5.28

-1.5%

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Fastenal

$48.68

$48.73

0%

General Mills

$59.74

$58.40

-2.2%

Itron

$89.93

$107.50

+19.5%

Johnson Outdoors

$88.69

$115.17

+28.9%

3M

$170.15

$167.41

-1.6%

Target

$172.91

$190.80

+10.3%

U.S. Bancorp

$44.80

$50.45

+12.6%

Winland

$2.45

$3.20

+30.6%

Xcel

$66.61

$65.95

-1.0%

— 2020 — 2021

2.42

32 $2.19

J

Percent change

A

54

10

Jan. 6

M

5

21

Dec. 7

F

Gas prices-Minnesota

43

Stocks of local interest

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

0Source: GasBuddy.com J F M A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

C. Sankey

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 25


Minnesota Business Updates

■ Johnson earnings soar

■ Brookfield may go private

Johnson Outdoors reported earnings rose nearly four-fold in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Octo. 2. Revenues grew 58.3% led again by significant gains in its fishing, camping and watercraft recreation segments. Johnson Outdoors said during the company’s fourth quarter, the outdoor recreation industry is typically in ramp-down mode and sales are historically lower. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the company experienced increased demand during the final months of fiscal 2020 as consumers continued to look for ways to recreate outdoors. Total company net sales in the quarter increased 58% year-over-year to $164.7 million from $104.0 million. By segment, sales in Fishing grew 70.3% to $113.9 million from $66.9 million. The segment includes Minn Kota fishing motors, batteries and anchors; Cannon downriggers; and Humminbird marine electronics and charts. Camping segment sales climbed 51.1% to $15.6 million from $10.3 million. In the Watercraft Recreation segment, revenues jumped 149% to $15.7 million from $6.3 million.

Brookfield Asset Management said it has made an offer to take its commercial real estate armBrookfield Property Partners private in a $5.9 billion deal. Brookfield Property owns River Hills Mall in Mankato. The Canadian asset-management firm is offering $16.50 for each Brookfield Property share it does not already own, according to CNBC. “The privatization will allow us to have greater flexibility in operating the portfolio and realizing the intrinsic value of BPY’s high-quality assets,” Brookfield Asset Management CFO Nick Goodman said in a statement. Brookfield Property has roughly $88 billion in assets, including office buildings, malls, self-storage facilities and logistics hubs. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the value of many of its properties has fallen. Retail and office spaces are seen as especially risky bets as vacancies rise and more people are adjusting to shopping and working from home. In September Brookfield Property’s retail arm arm cut 20% of its workforce across its corporate headquarters and leasing agents in the field. It became one of the largest mall owners in the country when Brookfield Property Partners acquired the Chicago-based mall owner GGP for $9.25 billion in 2018. But now, it is looking to hand back the keys to lenders on a number of struggling retail assets.

Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims Nine-county Mankato region Major November Industry 2019 2020 Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

976 253 66 441 1,736

Local non-farm jobs Percent change ‘19-’20

1,299 570 430 2,912 5,211

+33.1% +125.3% +551.5% +560.3% +200.2%

Construction

126000 126000 Manufacturing

Retail 113000 Services 113000 Total*

12,350 2,905 1,033 5,025 21,313

14,949 6,385 5,295 37,602 64,231

1400

113000

700 100000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

12000 3500 3500 10000

+21.0% +119.8% +412.6% +648.3% +201.4%

8000 2800 2800 6000 2100 2100 4000 1400 1400 2000

700 D

N

D

0

J

N

D

0

J

300000

2,917 3,041

240000 180000 120000 60000

700 0 0

O

- 2019 - 2020

(in thousands)

Percent change ‘19-’20

26 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

2800 2100

Minnesota Local non-farm jobs

Services consist of administration, educational, health care and social 100000 assistance, food andJ otherF miscellaneous services. M A M J J A S O 100000 J don’t F equal M total A because M Jsome Jcategories A not S listed. O N *Categories

3500

133,238

126000

Minnesota initial unemployment claims November 2019 2020

129,293

139000

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

Major Industry 139000 139000

- 2019 - 2020

Nine-county Mankato region

J

F

J

F

F M

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

M A A M

M J

J J

J A

A S

S O

O N

N D

D

0

J

F


O

O

■ Fake 3M masks to be destroyed

■ Consolidated accelerates buildout

The state of Minnesota and 3M have partnered to prevent 500,000 counterfeit N95 respirators from being distributed to state health care facilities. The counterfeit respirators will be turned over to 3M for destruction. The fake respirators are valued at $2.1 million. Amid increasing reports of counterfeiting and fraud, 3M has been working with the state and other states across the country in verifying the authenticity of offers of what are claimed to be 3M respirators. 3M says it has seized more than 7 million counterfeit respirators.

Consolidated Communications announced plans to accelerate its fiber builds and enable gigabit-capable services to an additional 300,000 homes and small businesses in 2021. This plan coupled with Consolidated’s recent announcement and strategic partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners will upgrade a total of 1.6 million additional passings to fiber-gigabit services over a five-year period.

139000

■ Fastenal to pay fine

3500

■ Xcel closing plants early

2800

A California court has approved a stipulated judgment 126000 Xcel Energy2100 with Minnesota-based Fastenal Company regarding Colorado and its allegations that it charged walk-in retail customers 1400 partners in the 113000 undisclosed “shipping and handling” fees. Hayden Generating Station will close the coal-fired 700 The company will pay a $625,000 fine. plant’s two units by 2028, years earlier than planned. Fastenal sells industrial and construction supplies at Xcel Energy, which owns the northwest Colorado 100000 0 its 138 retail facilities in California. Many of these stores J F M A M J J A S O N D J plant with PacifiCorp and the Salt River Project, said in are open to the public for walk-in sales, including at its a statement that Unit 2 of the plant will be retired by the branch stores in Seaside, Salinas and Soledad. end of 2027 and Unit 1 will be retired in 2028. Since at least 2015, prosecutors alleged, Fastenal sold The original retirement dates for Unit 1 and Unit 2 certain in-stock goods to customers at these stores were 2030 and 2036, respectively. 3500 without139000 disclosing that it was adding “shipping and The plant’s early closure is part of Xcel’s plan to 300000 12000 139000 handling” surcharges for these products, in violation of 3500 reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030 and deliver 2800 10000 California’s Unfair Competition Law and False 2800 carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050, utility 240000 126000 Advertising Law. 2100 8000 said. 126000 officials 2100

113000

113000

1400 700

100000 100000 J F

J M

M J

J A

J S

D

A O

S N

O D

240000

120000 60000 J F M A M M A M J J M A M J J

J A A

J S S

A S O N O N D O N D

117,017 89,398

180000 120000 60000 J

F

M

60000

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

M MJ

J JA

J JS

A AO

S N S

O D O

N N

D D

D

0

(includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) 300000 240000

November 180000 Unemployment rate 120000 Number of non-farm jobs Number of unemployed

60000 J

0 F

J M

F M A A M J

M J

J A

2019

2020

2.0% 62,708 1,301

3.0% 60,556 1,896

J S

A O

S N

O D

N

D

Unemployment rates Counties, state, nation County/area

- 2019 - 2020

240000

0

120000

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

180000

300000

D

D 0

300000

4,579 3,693

Minnesota number of unemployed

N

N

- 2019 - 2020

Nine-county Mankato region

N

4000 700 2000 0 0 J F M A J F JM FA M M AJ

Employment/Unemployment

F M A A M J

Local number of unemployed 12000 12000 3500 10000 10000 8000 2800 8000 6000 6000 2100 4000 4000 1400 2000 2000 700 0 0 J F 0 J F

180000

6000 1400

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

November 2019

November 2020

2.1% 2.8% 4.1% 3.6% 2.7% 1.9% 3.1% 3.6% 3.5% 2.7% 2.8% 3.3%

3.2% 3.3% 4.5% 4.6% 3.1% 2.8% 3.8% 3.7% 2.8% 3.9% 3.9% 6.4%

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 27

0

J


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

With Ultra-low Rates, Should You Still Invest in Bonds? By Edward Jones

I

f you’ve been investing for many years and you’ve owned bonds, you’ve seen some pretty big changes on your financial statements. In 2000, the average yield on a 10-year U.S. Treasury security was about 6%; in 2010, it had dropped to slightly over 3%, and for most of 2020, it was less than 1%. That’s an enormous difference, and it may lead you to this question: With yields so low on bonds, why should you even consider them? Of course, while the 10-year Treasury note is an important benchmark, it doesn’t represent the returns on any bonds you could purchase. Typically, longerterm bonds, such as those that mature in 20 or 30 years, pay higher rates to account for inflation and to reward you for locking up your money for many years. But the same downward trend can be seen in these longer-term bonds, too – in 2020, the average 30-year Treasury bond yield was only slightly above 1.5%. Among other things, these numbers mean that investors of 10 or 20 years ago could have gotten some reasonably good income from investment-grade bonds. But today, the picture is different. (Higheryield bonds, sometimes known as “junk” bonds, can offer more income but carry a higher risk of default.) Nonetheless, while rates are low now, you may be able to employ a strategy that can help you in any interest-rate environment. You can build a bond “ladder” of individual bonds that mature on different dates. When market interest rates are low, you’ll still have your longer-term bonds earning higher yields (and long-term yields, while fluctuating, are expected to rise in the future). When interest rates rise, your maturing bonds can be reinvested at these new, higher levels. Be sure you evaluate whether a bond ladder and the securities held within it are consistent with your investment objectives, risk tolerance and financial circumstances.

28 • FEBRUARY 2021 • MN Valley Business

Furthermore, bonds can provide you with other benefits. For one thing, they can help diversify your portfolio, especially if it’s heavily weighted toward stocks. Also, stock and bond prices often (although not always) move in opposite directions, so if the stock market goes through a down period, the value of your bonds may rise. And bonds are usually less volatile than stocks, so they can have a “calming” effect on your portfolio. Plus, if you hold your bonds until maturity, you will get your entire principal back (providing the bond issuer doesn’t default, which is generally unlikely if you own investment-grade bonds), so bond ownership gives you a chance to preserve capital while still investing. But if the primary reason you have owned bonds is because of the income they offer, you may have to look elsewhere during periods of ultra-low interest rates. For example, you could invest in dividendpaying stocks. Some stocks have long track records of increasing dividends, year after year, giving you a potential source of rising income. (Keep in mind, though, that dividends can be increased, decreased or eliminated at any time.) Be aware, though, that stocks are subject to greater risks and market movements than bonds. Ultimately, while bonds may not provide the income they did a few years ago, they can have a place in a long-term investment strategy. Consider how they might fit into yours. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC. Submitted by Kaylee M. Phelps. Before investing in bonds, you should understand the risks involved, including credit risk and market risk. Bond investments are also subject to interest rate risk such that when interest rates rise, the prices of bonds can decrease, and the investor can lose principal value if the investment is sold prior to maturity. MV


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

Take these cards out of your wallet right now By Bev O’Shea | NerdWallet

D

ecluttering your wallet can give you a quick sense of accomplishment in the new year. You can check a task off your list and feel more organized and safer. A lost or stolen wallet holding too much personal and financial information puts you at risk of identity theft and fraud. Experts don’t always agree on what you absolutely must keep in your wallet, but there’s wide agreement on cards that do not belong there. It might be simplest to start the task by taking everything out and returning only those things you actually need.

What to take out

Focus on minimizing the danger that a stolen or lost wallet would put you at risk of identity theft. Here’s what definitely should come out: n Social Security card. This represents a high risk because the number can be used by scammers to file a tax return to hijack your refund, to collect benefits and to access or open new accounts. n Debit card attached to a bank account (plus checks and deposit slips). Unlike with credit cards, where the cardholder is not out any money while fraud is being investigated, debit cards take the money from your account immediately. n Gift or prepaid debit cards you do not plan to use today. A lost gift card may be impossible to cancel and replace. n ATM and gas station receipts. These may contain up to five digits of your credit card number and the expiration date. For identity thieves, those can be puzzle pieces. n Any paper with PINs or passwords. It’s especially risky to carry them with the associated cards. And yes, people discover they have these things in their wallets, even if they know better. Identity theft consultant and author Carrie Kerskie says Social Security cards can end up in wallets because they were put in for a specific purpose — say, when starting a new job — and just never removed. Receipts, passwords and other items may have gone in your wallet “temporarily.” In addition, the AARP recommends you take out: n Medicare and health insurance cards. Scammers may be able to use the info to get benefits using your data. n Employee badge when not needed for workplace access. n Birth certificate.

What to keep in your wallet

There are some things that belong in your wallet or car all the time. Those are the first things that you return to it when doing your clean-out: n Driver’s license or some other form of governmentissued identification. n Student ID, if applicable. n Proof of auto insurance (could also be kept in your car’s glove box). n At least two general-use credit cards if you have them. n A medical alert card, if applicable.

What to carr y only occasionally

Some cards you need only sometimes, such as: n Medical debit card for a flexible spending account. n Credit cards for specific retailers. n Health, dental or prescription insurance cards. n Membership cards. n Gift cards. There’s no time like a new year to establish new habits. Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, recommends relying on tools you already use — phone alarms, calendars, journals or refrigerator notes — to remind you to add cards when needed and remove them afterward. For example, add a note saying “take insurance and prescription cards” to the reminder about your doctor appointment. Set a reminder to remove them, too.

Should your phone be your wallet?

Even identity theft experts differ on exactly which cards they carry, and in what format — physical or virtual wallet in a smartphone. “I prefer tangible over digital any day,” Kerskie says. “You have a better chance of getting your phone stolen than your wallet. You could also leave your phone behind, or drop it or it malfunctions and stops working. Now, what do you do?” Velasquez tends to favor digital, but that comes with a lot of habits to increase cybersecurity, including treating your phone as the small computer that it is: n Having a phone passcode of at least six digits. n Updating and backing up the device regularly. n Using antivirus software. n Signing out of every app after use. n Not using “remember me” when signing into apps and websites. n Using unique, complex passwords. n Having a remote “wiping” program in case it is lost or stolen. MV

MN Valley Business • FEBRUARY 2021 • 29


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