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The Definitive Business Journal for the Greater Minnesota River Valley October 2020

Realtor Jason Beal. Photo by Pat Christman

Hot market After slowdown, home sales are soaring

Also in this issue • CHEAP CHICS DESIGN IN NICOLLET • COMPUTER PLUS SOLUTIONS IN ST. PETER • CAREER DEVELOPMENT CENTER AT MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY

The Free Press MEDIA


GREENER DAYS AHEAD Great golf happens on great courses. And courses don’t get better than the ones on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. With 11 locations, 26 courses and more than 400 championship holes, the toughest challenge may be deciding which one to play first. Our golf courses and staff are ready to welcome you back to the legendary RTJ Golf Trail. Summer and fall golf packages available. We are open and will be here waiting for you. Visit rtjgolf.com.


Passion. Purpose. Drive. 300+

E M P LOY E E S

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YEARS OF EXPERIENCE

100%

E M P LOY E E OWNED

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BUSINESS UNITS

These words embody the spirit of ISG and its 300+ employee owners. With a Passion for growth, ISG has grown from a small business originating in a Mankato, Minnesota basement 47 years ago, to a regional firm that spans 10 Midwest offices and four states. With licensed professionals in 43 states, ISG casts a wide net to deliver innovative project solutions with lasting value to clients throughout the United States. Providing Purpose through opportunity, ISG is an industry leader in female employment; 31 percent of the firm’s employees are women—providing clients with a diverse knowledge base, high level of creativity, and broad perspective. Samantha Boeck, Director of Talent Engagement, exudes enthusiasm about her role and ISG’s team,

I am energized to be part of an incredibly impressive team of women and men employee owners, where immense opportunities are presented and hard work is celebrated— regardless of background, experience, height, hometown, or Starbucks order. Talented people are talented people, and I am unbelievably proud to be amongst these professionals. Over the years, ISG has maintained its founding principles while expanding its small-town roots into a nationwide firm with 12 business units—similarly, there is a large cross-section of the firm’s female leadership that also originated from small Midwest towns. With Drive as a leading attribute, these women have expounded on their local familiarity to grow their respective disciplines on a broader spectrum bringing unmatched value to ISG and clients alike. “ISG provides its employees the opportunity to utilize and engage their passions for the best outcome for our clients,” states Julie Sievers, Senior Water Solutions Specialist. “Being passionate about our work and understanding the purpose of a project leads to the drive that provides the best results possible. Working with skilled and talented individuals who share that focus with passion is a joy and is celebrated. ISG employee owners bring a diverse and broad background—learning from each other comes naturally and helps us to connect and build strong relationship with our clients.” From talent engagement to design solutions, ISG professionals continue to bring unmatched ingenuity, responsiveness, and accountability that resonates in small and large communities alike—with the guidance of many female figureheads leading the charge with passion, purpose, and drive. ISGInc.com

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F E A T U R E S October 2020 • Volume 13, Issue 1

8

The sale of existing homes locally slowed during the start of the pandemic, but it looks like the year will be the best ever.

12

Tavish Satrom and Matt Baker repair and upgrade computers at their Computer Plus Solutions business in St. Peter.

16

Since 2017 Amy Stearns and Kati Mulvihill have offered monthly sales events at their Cheap Chics Designs store in Nicollet.

20

Pam Weller of the Career Development Center at Minnesota State University has tips for pandemic job searching.

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 3


OCTOBER 2020 • VOLUME 13, ISSUE 11

By Joe Spear

PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Kent Thiesse Dan Greenwood Grace Brandt Tim Penny Katie Leibel PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman COVER PHOTO Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Danny Creel Sales Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Marianne Carlson Theresa Haefner 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 ■ Business Commentary.........................7 ■ Business and Industry trends..........22 ■ Retail trends.....................................23 ■ Agriculture Outlook..........................24 ■ Agribusiness trends..........................25 ■ Construction, real estate trends.....26 ■ Gas trends........................................27 ■ Stocks...............................................27 ■ Minnesota Business updates............28 ■ Job trends.........................................28 ■ Schmidt Foundation.........................30 ■ Greater Mankato Growth..................32 ■ Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities ............................33

From the editor

Can the COVID pandemic create a new boss – employee model?

P

opular media has been riddled of late with stories about the value of “essential workers” and the new knowledge and appreciation customers are gaining about them. Some of us tip at 30 percent now for the burger and beer, or even just the beer. We consider adding a tip where we wouldn’t before, at Subway or elsewhere. And why not? We’ve come to realize that through no fault of their own, employees have had their legs cut out from under them with the pandemic 50 percent model, whereby businesses can only be operating at 50 percent capacity. Fifty percent capacity translates to 50 percent employees and 50 percent wages. It seems many businesses were not set up to operate at 50 percent capacity. When Surly brewpub in the Twin Cities cannot make it in its 350-person capacity drinking, dining and enter tainment establishment, you have to wonder what can. But we hope the business owners also have a new appreciation for the employees who are the lifeblood that makes their business possible. Let’s face it, the IPad order is just not going to replace the human touch of a waiter or waitress, the smile, the “thanks for being here” look. The restaurant industr y is expected to lose $240 billion by the end of the year and lost six million workers in March and April. A haircut with a mask on is still a haircut. Many a person who endured long, sometimes ugly, locks during the pandemic would argue that hair stylists and cosmetologists were indeed essential workers, but regrettably not classified as such. The unfairness of where and who the pandemic hits has created a little charity in the workplace where maybe before there was

4 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

little or none. There’s got to be some kind of strategic advantage or opportunities in the current business environment which we have never seen before. Consumer behavior will change dramatically, but it also will be more engaged with what people buy, who they patronize and what new things they might need for a “less congested” world. Bikes and outdoor equipment sales have already soared as has business at golf courses and other outdoor venues. Can new loyalties be built with extraordinary efforts to keep customers safe in a newly emerging COVID world that is likely to continue with the health threats even after vaccines become widely available? Will there be opportunities for small companies and entrepreneurs to help large slow-moving companies navigate the new landscape? Can we envision new partnerships between health “monitors” and business and their customers? What about social structures? We’ve seen the federal deficit triple from $1 trillion to $3 trillion in less than the time it took to approve the CARES Act that sent, in a way, “guaranteed income” to those who were laid off. Andrew Yang had something there and we’ve tried it sooner than later. But as those $600 and $1,200 checks rolled in, savings soared. Economists have long argued the U.S. economy is based too much on spending and not enough on savings and investments. What kind of investments could we make if it were savings and not debt that we used? Would we take care of our business, projects and infrastructure better if we financed it with our own savings rather than someone else’s debt? Already, the city of St. Paul is


experimenting with a $500 a month stipend to selected local families for whatever social and economic needs they might have. Might that stipend pay for a car repair or a medical deductible and in the end save the government spending and infrastructure that would normally go to cure huge social problems created by smaller issues we could solve with $500 a month? On entrepreneurial idea emerged in Alaska where a man with friends in the restaurant industry started an online pitch for developing a fund to give restaurant workers bigger tips. The fund grew to $7,000 and he started handing out $500 tips above and beyond his own tip for what he bought. What social ills might we cure with a simple pitch for donations? A little charity can go a long way if we figure out how to leverage the spirit of kindness and compassion that has been with us, along with the virus, since March.

Local Business People/Company News ■

Lieffring joins GreenSeam

Garrett Lieffring, a Fellow with Lead for Minnesota will be hosted for two years alongside the GreenSeam staff, serving as a program manager. The fellowship is a service program, supported by ServeMN, the state’s federal AmeriCorps commission. Lieffring will be serving full-time, advancing the community and business development goals of GreenSeam. He will mainly focus on deployment of programs that strengthen rural and agricultural economies. Lieffring is originally from Truman and received his business degree from Winona State University. Since then, he has been working in the medical supply business.

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

BANKING THE WAY IT SHOULD BE

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Pratt honored

Pratt Wealth Management, an independent financial planning and investment management firm in North Mankato, announced that Bryan Pratt has been named to Forbes’ Top Next-Gen Wealth Advisors list for 2020. The list is determined based on a proprietar y algorithm of qualitative and quantitative criteria. It recognizes advisors born in 1981 or later with a minimum of four years of experience. ■■■

Crystal Valley buys Shell Rock

Crystal Valley cooperative has acquired Shell Rock Ag Inc., located in Hayward. Shell Rock Ag has provided area growers with agronomic products and services since 2004. The purchase fits into Crystal Valley’s strategy of continued growth in southern Minnesota. With this acquisition, Crystal Valley will have a local presence in Hayward and its surrounding areas. Along with the Hayward purchase, Crystal Valley will lease the Glenville location which will provide anhydrous ammonia fertilizer for area producers. ■■■

Steiert promoted at Consolidated

Mankato | Amboy | Eagle Lake | Vernon Center | cbfg.net

Consolidated Communications has promoted Jim Steiert to commercial sales director for the Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa region. Steiert joined Consolidated in 2015 and brings 23 years of sales and telecommunications experience to his new role. Joining Consolidated as the new southern Minnesota commercial sales manager is Doug Dittbenner. A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, Dittbenner has worked and been involved in the Greater Mankato region for more than 20 years.

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 5


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Business Commentary

By Tim Penny

I

The role of foundations during crises

n times of crises, life as we know it quickly unravels, but we immediately start to pick up the pieces and do our best to navigate new terrain. It helps to have organizations that are already positioned to help pick up those pieces. The current health and economic crisis has highlighted the important role that foundations and other nonprofits can play during a time like this. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), our total impact in COVID-19 response efforts in our 20-county region is already nearing $11 million. To put this in perspective, SMIF typically invests $5 million each year in the region through our standard programming and grantmaking which fall under the areas of Economic Development, Early Childhood and Community Vitality. Not only have we largely continued our normal work, but we have become a major partner in recover y efforts in those same areas, tripling the impact we typically have on the region in a normal year. Since April, we have worked closely with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to funnel relief dollars to our region’s entrepreneurs. We dispersed 50 Small Business Emergency Loans from DEED for a total of $1.2 million to restaurants, bars, hair salons and other public accommodations impacted by the emergency shutdown. Most recently we have partnered with DEED once again to verify, administer and distribute more than 900 Small Business Relief Grants to southern Minnesota businesses that are dealing with financial hardship for a total of $9 million. We have also supported food entrepreneurs through our Grow a Farmer Assistance Grants, awarding three organizations a total of $30,000 to support at least 120 farmers in southern Minnesota. They have created a microgrant program to help producers respond to new challenges brought on by the crisis, like building an online presence and implementing new cleaning and sanitizing measures. They have also built handwashing stations to distribute to farmers and are developing marketing campaigns to create more awareness about farmers

in the region. In the Early Childhood space, we created the Emergency Child Care Grant Program to provide immediate financial support to licensed child care providers. We were able to award $254,950 in immediate funds to 491 family providers and 34 centers, serving approximately 1,800 children. Most recently we have been awarded funding from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief to support organizations that provide early care and education wrap around programming for children birth to age eight, more details of which will be made available in late September. Under our Community Vitality umbrella, we offered a matching grant to our 30 community foundations to support their localized relief efforts. By leveraging this opportunity, so far 18 community foundations have provided a total of $121,050 to their communities to support their local food shelves, meal programs and other groups that need immediate support. We were also able to shift our Small Town Grant focus to specifically suppor t communities under 10,000 as they recover from the crisis, and anticipate awarding close to $193,000 once the review process is complete. We have been able to support our region to this extent because of the strength of our partnerships and the generosity of our donors. We are honored to be in a position to help people in our 20-county region during this time of great need. As I have said before, we will get through this by working together. More information about our COVID-19 response and the partners we work with can be found at smifoundation.org/covid-19. To support our Love Where You Live campaign, which supports our COVID-19 response efforts, visit smifoundation.org/ lovewhereyoulive.

“We are honored to be in a position to help people in our 20-county region during this time of great need.”

Tim Penny is president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative. timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 7


Lynn Gudgeon is a New Ulm Realtor and president of the Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota.

Hot properties Existing home sales soar after brief slowdown By Tim Krohn | Photos by Pat Christman

T

he pandemic has been a tale of two business worlds: those struggling to stay afloat and those soaring. After a brief downturn, homes sales have been soaring. “It’s amazing. Interest rates

obviously went down and they stayed down this year,” said David Krause, president of Pioneer Bank. All their branches are seeing a flurry of refinancing and home sales loans. “Our (home) sales activity is way up over last year.”

Cover Story

8 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business


David Krause of Pioneer Bank says the low interest rates are keeping them busier than ever doing home loans and refinancing.

Lynn Gudgeon, president of the Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota, said there is pent-up demand. “Things are moving at a fast pace. We’re experiencing multiple offers on properties and the interest rate is fabulous. It changes day to day, but the last quote I had was 2.75%. Who’d of thought? Even a VA (loan) is at 3%,” said Gudgeon, a Realtor in New Ulm. Mankato Realtor Jason Beal said January and February were very strong months, then activity all but halted for nearly three months. “June and July and August were just monster months.” He said his Realtor wife, Shannon, has been in the business 10 years and he’s been in it for two decades. “As far as the summer season, this is the busiest we’ve ever been.

“I think the whole spring market got delayed and then people got more comfortable with what’s going on and weren’t going to put their lives on hold,” Beal said. He expects this year will likely finish as their biggest year ever. Gudgeon said members of the association from all over southcentral Minnesota are reporting brisk business. “Agents are working nights and trying to wrap things up quickly for people.”

Numbers rebound

By the end of July, the year-todate sales of existing homes in south-central Minnesota stood at 1,227, up 7.5% over 2019’s 1,141 home sales regionally. The value of all sold homes through July was $264 million, up more than 11% compared to the same time last year. The median sales price of homes also has gone up in recent years: $173,000 in 2018, $184,700 last year to $194,950 this year. The 5.5% increase in median prices this year locally is higher

than the state average of 4.8%. Statewide, home prices have climbed for eight straight years. Krause said the historically low interest rates help boost the median sales price because people are able to buy more house while staying in their monthly mortgage payment targets. And he said those who already own a home are flocking to refinance. “They may be shortening the term of their loan, consolidating debt or just looking for a lower (monthly) payment with the same term,” Krause said. “We’re writing loans that start with a 2 and a lot that start with a 3. That’s historically great rates.” He said the rule of thumb is that if people can get a refinance rate that is .75% to 1% lower than their existing rate, it is worth exploring.

Fewer listings

While demand is big, fewer homes continue to be listed. In 2018 there were 1,692 new home listings through the end of July. Last year that number fell to

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 9


Sold signs have been going up quickly after mid-range priced homes are listed.

10 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business


1,646 and this year it was down to 1,462. “The inventory has been a little light,” Beal said. “But there are still a fair amount of listings hitting the market every day. This week our small office put four new listings up.”

High-end slower

Gudgeon said real estate agents are seeing both clients who are moving up to a bigger house and those who are at a stage where they want to move to a smaller home. “In the mid-range homes there’s a lot of demand. The high-end range is down, though.” She said rural properties are especially hot. “There’s always a lot of people who want to live in the country, but there’s some sticker shock. But with the interest rates now people can afford more.” Beal said any home listed under $200,000 is snapped up quickly. “If it’s a quality property at a fair price, they go fast. Under $200,000 you have 10 to 15 showings in 24 hours or so. If people see it as a

fair price, it goes fast. “The $200,000 to $400,000 range is strong. But if you get into the $500,000 to $800,000 range it’s slower,” he said. Beal said that’s likely due to wealthier potential buyers being cautious as much of their money is in the stock market, which remains shaky. Gudgeon said the pandemic has changed the way homes are viewed and shown. “If someone calls for a showing, they’ve already viewed videos and pictures of it and researched it online,” Gudgeon said. “But they still need to see it for themselves.” She said that because of COVID-19, real estate agents are trying to limit how many people come to a viewing. “You try to limit it to just the buyers and not a lot of family members coming along.” Beal said supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic are also showing up for home buyers. “I’m hearing that appliances and new furniture are harder to get.” MV

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MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 11


Matt Baker of Computer Plus Solutions.

Finding solutions

St. Peter business fixes, upgrades computers By Dan Greenwood Photos by Pat Christman

W

hen Tavish Satrom and Matt Baker allowing them to get more mileage from a opened Computer Plus Solutions laptop or desktop than before. in 2008, a computer repair business “People that have computers from six or in St. Peter, computers seven years ago are able were larger and slower to get new life out of but getting significantly them because not much faster each year. While has changed with computers themselves technology for the last COMPUTER PLUS have gotten smaller and 10 years,” he said. SOLUTIONS more diversified in size Another benefit is the 209 W. Nassau St., St Peter and shape in the past 10 declining cost of hard 507-931-5776 years, the technology drives, which has made has slowed down. it more affordable to stpetercomputers.com That, Satrom said, is replace a hard drive Facebook: good for customers with rather than buying a new Computer Plus Solutions older computers — computer.

Spotlight

12 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business


“These parts we used to not recommend because thing in my own town,” Satrom said. “We both had the they were $500 to get a new hard drive,” Satrom said. technology background, and there was really no “Those have come down so much that you can get one computer repair place at all in St. Peter.” for $60 to $100; it will make your computer feel like it’s Baker said when they first opened, they did some brand-new because it’s that much faster than those radio and newspaper advertisements to attract standard hard drives.” customers, but lately they’ve been relying more on Satrom compares those noisier social media. and more fragile standard hard “I get a lot more people responding drives to a record player with to those social media ads on “Some people don’t know the spinning parts. Today most higher Facebook mostly,” Baker said. “It quality computers have a solid hard just seems we get more people in difference between a fake drive that can help those older doing that than the other media computers have a longer life when advertisement and something stuff I’ve tried before.” replaced. “The hard drives are so much real,” Baker said. “They get pop- Hard drive improvements faster now,” Satrom said. “There are Baker said some of the common ups that say, ‘This is Microsoft, no spinning parts at all. It’s basically issues customers deal with usually like a flash drive where it just goes. pertain to pop-up viruses and you need to give us a call or People that have those standard phishing emails, often disguising something is wrong with your drives, all you’ve got to do is put one themselves as a legitimate company, of these in there. It’s just so much like Microsoft. computer,’ or they get fake faster.” “Some people don’t know the Satrom and Baker met as students dif ference between a fake emails thinking it’s Microsoft at Cleveland High School when advertisement and something real,” Satrom transferred there from St. again. That’s never going to Baker said. “They get pop-ups that Peter. Both had an interest in say, ‘This is Microsoft, you need to happen from Microsoft.” computers from a young age. That give us a call or something is wrong interest would lead both of them to with your computer,’ or they get pursue degrees in computer technology at South fake emails thinking it’s Microsoft again. That’s never Central College in North Mankato, and later they going to happen from Microsoft.” worked together for Best Buy Geek Squad. While that can be remedied by removing the virus When Satrom later took a job at a computer repair from the computer, other issues involve replacing or business in Waseca, the idea of starting up a business fixing physical parts of a computer. with Baker started to take hold. “If a hard drive goes bad, you have to open it up and “That gave me the idea that I could do the same put a new hard drive in it,” Baker said. “For laptops, I

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 13


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fix a lot of hinges on the screens when they open up. Those little hinges on the bottom break off. Sometimes where you plug the power adapters in laptops breaks, I’ve got to open it up and replace the DC jack where you plug the power adapter into.” With hard drives becoming more affordable in recent years, Baker said they’ve expanded the business from simply doing repairs to selling refurbished computers. It’s an option he prefers over just recycling on old model, which can be just like new with an updated hard drive. Many of those refurbished computers come from a Microsoft reseller, but occasionally customers will want to make a trade with an old computer. “I try to fix them and resell them to people that possibly just can’t afford a brand new one,” Baker said. “Especially if you upgrade the hard drive to these new solid states, that just brings new life into these older machines. They work even better than when they were first purchased.” A shift toward cloud computing in recent years, where data are stored for the internet, has allowed Baker and Satrom to fix potential problems remotely. They attribute their longevity and repeat customers to the fact that the nature of owning a small business with two employees means customers know who is working on their computer, as opposed to a place such as Geek Squad with dozens of employees. That also means a faster turnaround in service and a more direct line of communication. “It’s always been Matt and I, so people know who they’re going to deal with when they come in — they’re going to deal with us,” Satrom said. “We go out of our way to try to keep customers happy, putting ourselves in their shoes.” It’s that reputation for service that Satrom said has led to the best advertising money can’t buy — word of mouth. “You get people to talk about you and that goes a long way because their opinion means a lot to other people,” Satrom said. MV


Did you know? We are here for you during these challenging times. Many of us are feeling a lack of control and unease about the current situation. We value you and what you bring to the community and want to help you in any way we can.

However, there is one thing we can control and that is our loyalty to you. We will get through this together and emerge stronger than ever.

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MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 15


Kati Mulvihill, left, and Amy Stearns opened their own shop in Nicollet in 2017.

Cheap Chics Designs Affordable style in Nicollet By Grace Brandt | Photos by Pat Christman

W

Besides scouring consignment store clothing hen Amy Stearns and Kati Mulvihill met racks, the women also enjoyed looking for furniture while both working as graphic designers that they could take home and “upcycle,” for Taylor Corp., they quickly discovered transforming it with a fresh that they shared a love for coat of paint or some other thrifting. The women would creative twist. They looked at it spend their lunch breaks as another way to be both visiting second-hand stores and frugal and imaginative. trying to find the best deals out CHEAP CHICS DESIGNS From this shared love of there. 704 3rd Street in Nicollet thrifting and upcycling, an idea “We liked hunting for those Email: slowly started to grow in the things and trying to find good www.cheapchicsdesigns@gmail.com two friends’ minds: What if they deals,” Mulvihill said. “That was Website: www.cheapchicsdesigns.com opened their own boutique, our main goal—to always try to find a good deal and keep things one that could be both trendy really affordable and cheap for ourselves.” and affordable? Soon, Cheap Chics Designs was “We’d have a little celebration when we found born. something cheap and cool,” Stearns added. “Our main goal in why we came together, and why

Profile

16 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business


Cheap Chics Designs has been in Nicollet since 2017. we continue, is to offer affordable pieces that are still trendy and stylish and appealing,” Stearns said. “The ‘cheap’ part of our name is No.1 our most important goal and why we do what we do.”

Original designs

Mulvihill and Stearns officially began Cheap Chics Designs in 2015, continuing with the theme of vintage clothing that they found at consignment stores, along with upcycled furniture. But as time went on, they decided to get even more creative and put their graphic design skills to use. “That’s one of the pieces that we added throughout this journey,” Mulvihill said. “When we started, we were just doing strictly vintage pieces, like found items. And now we’re doing a lot of apparel that we are designing.” “Since we were designers, we were always thinking about, ‘How can we expand from our vintage finds?’” Stearns added. “So that’s when we started using our skills as graphic designers to create the apparel and found that it was well received. And we just kept going with it.” The women describe their style as a little sassy and very real life (or “what you can’t find at Target,” as Stearns puts it).

Their custom “Piss and Vinegar” collection doesn’t shy away from sarcasm or just a little profanity. This collection includes cards, candles, stickers and more, often with a snarky swear word or two included somewhere. “A lot of people like our Piss and Vinegar collection,” Stearns said. “It’s real life (and) not so starchy.”

Always affordable

Cheap Chics’ inventory also includes custom designed apparel such as shirts and sweatshirts, accessories such as hats and jewelry, décor and even stationery. When it comes to choosing what to offer, Stearns and Mulvihill said they’re still committed to keeping their merchandise both stylish and affordable — just like when they were hunting for items for themselves. “We loved the style and the feel of upcycled things and the trendy clothing, but we didn’t feel comfortable spending that price,” Mulvihill recalled about their earlier days of bargain hunting. “(Now) we pick apparel pieces that we know we can sell at a retail cost that’s traditionally lower than other boutiques, because that’s important to us — to find cool, trendy things that don’t cost us an arm and a

leg.” The owners continue to upcycle furniture as well, finding the pieces at garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores and even from people who just drop it off because they don’t want it anymore. “We’re always on the search for new types of products and things we can print on, or things we can create,” Mulvihill said. “We have a lot of flexibility, because we do it all ourselves. When we’re designing apparel, we’re also looking at things like, ‘Can we make a new hat, or a new bag, or a new stationery card?’ And when we’re looking at furniture pieces or things that can be upcycled, we’re always thinking outside the box and trying to think of new ways that we can bring those pieces to life, whether it be paint or a little wood glue, or handwriting something on a piece that might bring it a little character.” Mulvihill added that some of their most popular merchandise right now includes tie-dye clothing, camo prints and face masks. “I think we try to stay up with the trends, but at the same time it’s really important for us to stay unique and be ver y inclusive,” she said, adding that the boutique carries plus sizes up to 3X to ensure everyone has something there. “It’s really important to us that we include all sizes and we’re appealing to all ages, genders, everything.”

Moving on over

When Stearns and Mulvihill first started Cheap Chics Designs, they worked out of their garages. But since Stearns lives in Gaylord and Mulvihill lives in North Mankato, it was difficult to collaborate. Instead, the women would usually bring back pieces of furniture and work on them individually, coming together to sell the finished products. They first sold pieces at the Whiskey River Flea Market in St. Peter, before branching out to other local retail establishments. Eventually, the business partners decided their setup wasn’t sustainable, so they

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 17


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decided to find their own studio. “We got kicked out of our houses by our husbands,” Mulvihill said with a laugh. “It just got to be too overwhelming to do it at home, and we knew that we needed somewhere where we could grow and that we could work together to be able to collaborate a little more, instead of working separately and then coming together.” After looking at potential spaces for some time, they came across a vacant storefront in Nicollet. The historic space, located at 704 North Third Street, had been used as everything from a thrift store to a grocery store throughout the last 100 years. Cheap Chics became its latest occupant in 2017. “The building is really beautiful,” Stearns said. “It has some flaws, but those all add to the beauty of the building. And I think it represents our furniture pieces. Some have character flaws, but they’re still beautiful, and I think that just adds to our pieces that we’re selling.”

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18 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

Est. 1975

Right now, Cheap Chics Designs is only open about once a month for a weekend-long shopping event. This is partly because Stearns and Mulvihill are the only employees, and it takes them quite a long time to design their inventory, find and upcycle furniture, prepare for events and clean up afterwards. In between monthly events, there’s ordering, book-keeping, cleaning and more to be done. “It’s just us two, so we’re doing all the work behind the scenes to get everything ready for our once-a-month opening,” Mulvihill said. “So right now, we’ll just stick with that.” The boutique is also available by request, while the inventory is always offered on the Cheap Chics website as well. The women also occasionally work on custom requests, usually for hand-painted signs, but that’s only if they have time in between all of their other work. “We’re pretty tapped for time,” Mulvihill said. “We wish we could do more, but it’s hard


Katie Mulvihill says they aim for stylish fashions at affordable prices. when we have to fill up the studio in time for a certain sale date.” Despite all the work, though, the women said they can’t imagine doing anything else. “We haven’t looked back,” Mulvihill said. “We’re loving every second. It’s messy, and it’s time consuming, but it’s fun at the same time. It’s so rewarding to see it when it’s all done.” “Yeah,” Stearns agreed. “We’re pretty dang lucky.” MV

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MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 19


Karina Clennon, center, in the “career library” at the CDC office, prior to the pandemic.

Crash course Finding a job in a pandemic By Katie Leibel Photos courtesy of MSU

I

t’s not a secret. The economy is bad and somewhat scary right now. People who are just graduating from college or high school can’t find jobs, and even worse people who have been working for years are getting laid off, furloughed or their positions are being eliminated. Things are stressful, but help is available. Being a college town, Mankato has a lot of resources, including the Career Development Center at Minnesota State University. Although the number of students and alumni they work with has remained about the same, the topics they’re addressing have been impacted by the state of the economy

and the pandemic.

Jobs in demand

When the going gets tough, sometimes people need to move into a different field to find suitable work. While industries such as travel, leisure and hospitality are suffering, others are doing well. Pam Weller, the director of the MSU placement center, said it is most helpful to look at the best job prospects from the perspective of industries. “An industry typically includes many different types and levels of jobs. For example, the grocery/food industry hires

Feature

20 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business


ever ything from cashiers to accountants to managers to human resources. Other industries that are hiring for a variety of roles during this time are health care, medical, pharmaceutical, research, community and social services, technology and shipping and delivery,” Weller said. The Career Development Center has been adjusting to She says some specific job titles the different needs for students and others during the in demand include IT specialists, pandemic. social and human ser vices assistants, deliver y drivers, consider using a professional or grocery managers, warehouse skills summary at the top of your workers, product managers, sales resume. Include your years of positions, data scientists and experience, what makes you personal shoppers. stand out as a candidate, and your most relevant skills for the Set yourself apart position. Weller said job seekers need to Weller recommends using a make sure their resume and Google search for sample cover letter contain no errors, are resumes that match the job you up to date and tailored to the job are applying to. You can gain being applied for. But also make some inspiration from them. sure it is tailored to the current As for ordering your resume, situation. simplicity is key. “Include skills and experiences “Your experience should be that highlight your ability to work ordered starting with your most remotely — the fact that you are a recent and working backwards,” self-starter, can take initiative, are Weller said. able to learn quickly, are Weller says it’s best to send a adaptable, etc.,” Weller said. cover letter, even if it is not Now is also the time to network requested. and connect with people to find a job as in-person options are less Inter view tips available. More interviews are now being “Let family, friends, previous done over the phone or with video supervisors, former colleagues chat. and other contacts know what Weller suggests practicing. you are looking for and how they “Chances are good that you will can help. Make sure that your be interviewing remotely using a LinkedIn profile is up to date, and video format. Try your technology join and contribute to professional out in advance. Make sure that and alumni groups,” Weller said. you have a quiet space with good LinkedIn also has an option for lighting and a neutral users to post that they are background.” #OpenToWork to help prospective Weller said it’s important to talk employers recognize potential to the camera and to practice with candidates. a friend. “Dress professionally as you Resume tips would for an in-person interview. Resumes need to be as clean as You’ll want to appear professional, possible and one to two pages in serious and ready to get to work, length. Proofread it and have a even if it’s from your basement,” friend or two proofread it as well. Weller said. “Your resume should be simple and straightforward. Recruiters Job search advice have minimal time and multiple “Now, more than ever it is candidates to consider,” Weller important to be patient and said. “Review the qualifications flexible. Most employers are that the employer is looking for attempting to keep up with their and make sure that your resume usual business, deal with the highlights these.” impact of the pandemic on their One idea she offered was to organization and search for new

Pam Weller heads the Career Development Center at Minnesota State University. employees. Your job search will probably take longer and may be more mentally and emotionally challenging than usual,” Weller said. She said this may not be the time to hold out for the dream job. “Know that it’s OK to take a job that helps to pay the bills for now. Every experience will teach you something and help you build your skill set. Future employers will see the transferable skills you learned and your ability to adapt during challenging times as a positive.”

Career Development Center

Most of the MSU’s career center’s services and programs for current students and alumni have been transitioned to an online format. There are also a number of resources available on their website that anyone in the community can use, including their Job Search Handbook. They also added a page to their website called “Career Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic” that includes tips, tools and helpful links. MV

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 21


Business and Industry Trends ■

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and greater use of existing natural gas-fired capacity have contributed to increased natural gas consumption in the electric power sector.

U.S. sets record for gas burn

In the United States, natural gas consumed by electric power plants (power burn) set a daily record high of 47.2 billion cubic feet on Monday, July 27, according to S&P Global Platts estimates. Consequently, on the same day, natural gas-fired generation in the Lower 48 states also reached an all-time high of 316 gigawatts in the late afternoon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The previous record was 45.4 Bcf, and it was set on August 6, 2019. Electricity demand in response to high temperatures throughout much of the country, relatively low natural gas prices, the start of new natural gas-fired capacity,

CO2 emissions lowest in decades

Monthly U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell to 307 million metric tons in April, the lowest value since records were first kept in 1973. Travel restrictions and other measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in April resulted in sudden and significant changes in energy consumption, resulting in lower energy-related emissions. Changes in U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions largely mirror the changes in energy consumption: a drop in petroleum consumption, shifts in electricity consumption from the commercial and

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22 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

SAUK RAPIDS

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industrial sectors to the residential sector (and lower overall electricity use), and relatively smaller changes in natural gas consumption across sectors. More than 99% of energy-related CO2 emissions come from the consumption of fossil fuels.

Biodiesel production stable

U.S. biodiesel production has seen smaller reductions in recent months compared with other transportation fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As a result of mitigation efforts for the 2019 novel coronavirus disease motor gasoline demand has declined significantly. The decline also reduced ethanol demand. Biodiesel production through May, on the other hand, was largely unchanged from year-ago levels because biodiesel is not constrained by the same blending limits as ethanol Biodiesel is the second-most consumed biofuel in the U.S. behind ethanol. The lack of significant blending restraints and the presence of incentives for producing and blending biodiesel have helped support biodiesel demand. From March to May, when COVID-19 mitigation efforts were at their peak, biodiesel production averaged 114,000 barrels per day, compared with 116,000 during the same period in 2019.

N.D. crude output plummets

Between December 2019 and May 2020, crude oil output in North Dakota fell from an average of 1.5 million barrels per day to 0.9 million b/d, a decline of nearly 42%. This production decline is greater than it would have been if producers solely halted new drilling and allowed production from current wells to naturally decline.

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

1,262 1,168

1200 900 600 300 0

J

F

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A

M

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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.

Sales tax collections Mankato (In thousands)

- 2019 - 2020

600

$451,079 $429,123

500 400 300 200 100 0

J

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A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Lodging tax collections Mankato/North Mankato $66,100

70000

- 2019 - 2020

$22,479

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

An oil well just south of Watford City, North Dakota. MPR News . The principal driver of North Dakota’s production decline was low crude oil prices. After averaging $55.70 per barrel throughout 2019, monthly prices in North Dakota averaged $29.82 in May 2020. Second, many producers elected to stop or reduce drilling new crude oil wells, which is normally required to offset the natural decline in production from mature wells.

175000 140000

$65,684 $39,428

105000 70000 35000 0

J

F

M

Source: City of Mankato

A

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C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 23


Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

Assistance from CFAP payments varies

T

he Caronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) was initiated earlier this year to provide direct relief to farmers and ranchers that faced price declines and loss of profitability due to the COVID-19 outbreak that occurred last Spring. Eligible producers of field crops, livestock, dairy and specialty crops received CFAP payments of varying amounts, which were calculated using a fairly complex formula. The CFAP program and payments were administered through local offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). There were over 160 commodities eligible for CFA payments, including non-specialty crops (field crops), livestock, and specialty crops. Following is a summary of the commodities that are eligible for CFA payments: Field Crops: Corn, soybeans, spring wheat, durum wheat, sorghum, oats, malting barley, canola, upland cotton, millet, and sunflowers. Livestock: Cattle, hogs, sheep (including wool), and dairy. Specialty Crops: Numerous fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other specialty crops are eligible. For a complete list of commodities that were eligible for CFAP payments and for other details on the CFAP program, go to: www.farmers.gov/CFAP. Even though there was a long list of eligible commodities for the first round of CFAP payments, there were questions regarding the exclusion of some commodities from those payments. There was also some concern that the CFAP calculation formula created some inequities, especially for field crops. For example, producers that sold their 2019 corn and soybeans that were in storage before 1-15-20 were not eligible for CFAP payments on those bushels; however, bushels of grain sold after that date were eligible for CFAP, even though the sharp drop in grain prices did not occur until after March 1. In addition, the drop in the local basis level for corn due to the struggles in the ethanol industry was not factored into the CFAP formula. The CFAP program also did not take into account the livestock that had to be euthanized in April and May due to disruptions in the meat processing industry. It is hoped that any new rounds of CFAP payments or other assistance programs will account for losses incurred as a result of the reductions in demand for renewable energy and the impacts to the meat industry.

24 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

As of late August, USDA had paid out over $9.4 billion in CFAP payments to producers of various agricultural commodities, which represents approximately 58 percent of the $16 billion in funds that were allocated by USDA earlier this year for CFAP payments. There should be adequate funds to cover all eligible CFAP payments. As of late August, USDA had approved 576,378 CFAP applications. Following is the breakdown of the total CFAP payment amounts for some of the major commodities (as well as the % of the total payments), as of late August: • Beef Cattle: Just over $4 billion (43.1%) • Dair y (Milk): Approx. $1.71 billion (18.1%) • Hogs: Nearly $583 million (6.2%) • Corn: Just over $1.63 billion (17.7%) • Soybeans: Nearly 478 million (5.1%) • All Other commodities: Approx. $1 billion (9.8%) The following table shows a breakdown of the total CFAP payments (in millions of dollars) and CFAP payments for field crops, livestock (cattle, hogs & sheep), dairy, and specialty crops in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, including the (average CFAP payment per eligible producer):

CFAP PAYMENTS AS OF LATE AUGUST CFAP Payments

MN

IA

NE

ND

SD

WI

$934.7 M. ($19,088)

$678.8 M. ($20,386)

$263.5 M. ($16,887)

$456.6 M. ($24,093)

$509.6 M. ($30,224)

$233.3 M. ($9,387)

$421.9 M ($9,972)

$262.1 M. ($11,205)

$120.0 M. ($9,894)

$117.1 M. ($9,726)

$82.8 M. ($6,259)

Livestock $243.8 M. ($18,341)

$460.9 M. ($20,816)

$405.5 M. ($22,015)

$131.6 M. ($15,604)

$324.0 M. ($22,418)

$85.5 M. ($6,911)

$105.8 M. ($43,456)

$52.2 M. ($53,080)

$10.5 M. ($80,032)

$4.5 M. ($67,682)

$15.8 M. ($90,692)

$335.1 M. ($57,253)

$256,618 ($14,258)

$64,017 ($4,780)

762,495 $7.5 M. ($127,082) ($135,031)

$725 ($362.50)

$6.2 M. ($90,569)

Total $583.7 M. Payments ($20,046) (Per Producer)

Field Crops (Per Producer)

(Per Producer)

Dair y (Per Producer)

Spec. Crops (Per Producer)


The Upper Midwest States listed on the table were some of the highest States in the U.S. for total CFAP payments as of 8-24-20. Iowa had the highest total CFAP payments followed by Nebraska and Minnesota, with Texas and California in fourth and fifth and Wisconsin in sixth. However, the payment per producer was much higher in some other areas of the U.S. due to the mix of crops and livestock and the type of specialty crops that were eligible, as well as the average farm business size. For example, the average payment per producer in California was $69,131, which was considerably higher than Minnesota at $20,046 per producer, or in other Upper Midwest States. The CFAP payments did not make farmers and ranchers “financially whole” for the financial losses that resulted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As was pointed out earlier, the first round of CFAP payments also did not cover financial losses in some commodities or losses that occurred later in 2020. However, the CFAP payments have provided some much-needed short-term financial relief, particularly to livestock producers that were especially hard-hit by a sudden price-drop, as well as reduced capacity 8 processing plants this Spring. Cattle and hog at meat producers typically do not qualify for most other farm 6 programs that are available to crop producers and dairy producers. There was a $250,000 payment limit, which4limited CFAP payments to the very large livestock operations. 2

Future CFAP Payments

Most 0 likely, USDA will be issuing another round of J F M J J a Aportion S Oof the N D CFAP payments this AFall,M utilizing $14 billion that was made available to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) in July. The negative financial impacts to agricultural producers from COVID-19 has continued well beyond the losses that 8 were incurred earlier in the year. As of this writing, it 100 known if a second round of CFAP payments was not 6 would85utilize a similar formula to the first round of payments, or if there would be additional 4 commodities eligible for CFAP payments in the next 70 round of payments. There is also potential for 2 55 additional assistance to agriculture producers in the coronavirus aid package that has been debated in 40 0 in recent months. Congress J F M A M J J A S O N D 25 Kent Thiesse J F is M farm A management M J J Aanalyst S OandN D senior vice president, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal. 507-381-7960); kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com

AMAZED

100 85 70

Call 507.344.6364

55

advertising@mankatofreepress.com

40 25

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Agriculture/ Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2019 — 2020

20

8

16

6

$3.74

8

2 0

4

$3.16

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

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0

J

Source: USDA

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2019 — 2020 8 20 100 16 6 85 12 4 70

(dollars per bushel)

$8.74

8 55 2 $8.36 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 20 100 25 16 85 22 12 70 19 8 55 16 4 40 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

$50.86

16

$42.62 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

— 2019 — 2020 25 22

$16.93

19 16

10

$13.74 J

F

M

A

M

J

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

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

— 2019 — 2020

13

D

12

4

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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 • OCTOBER 2020 • 25

13 10

J

J


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato - 2019 - 2020 (in millions) $4,368,482

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

$3,038,490

6000000

20000000

5000000

15000000

4000000 3000000

10000000

2000000

5000000

1000000 0

J

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A

M

J

J

A

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O

N

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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) 268 300

263

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

250

$190,000 $190,000

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

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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

32

3.5%

4.3

24

3.7

12 6

16

2.9%

3.1 2.5

0

D

Source: City of Mankato

0

$4,673,843 $10,296,543

8 J

F

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A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

Source: Freddie Mac

Read us online! 26 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

D

0

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A

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J

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

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D


M A S C H K A , R I E D Y, R I E S & F R E N T Z L A W F I R M Abbie Olson and Joe Bromeland are experienced lawyers who are here to help with all your business and personal needs. Business Formations Business Disputes Estate Planning Probate Real Estate Matters Land Use/Zoning Issues

Business Transactions Municipal Law Trusts & Trust Litigation Estate Litigation Real Estate Litigation Construction Litigation

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Mankato, MN I mrr-law.com Complex problems. Resolved.

Gas Prices 5

Gas prices-Mankato

— 2019 — 2020

54 43

$2.39

32 21 10 0

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Gas prices-Minnesota

$1.99

$44.76

+0.6%

Ameriprise

$160.83

$157.46

-2.1%

Best Buy

$104.22

$111.11

+6.6%

Brookfield Property

$11.97

$11.60

-3.1%

Crown Cork & Seal

$73.82

$76.80

+4.0%

$7.80

-7.8%

O

N

D

Fastenal

$47.93

$49.00

+2.2%

General Mills

$63.75

$63.82

+0.1%

Itron

$66.47

$59.98

-9.8%

Johnson Outdoors

$88.10

$83.98

-4.7%

3M

$161.44

$162.48

+0.6%

Target

$132.94

$151.43

+13.9%

U.S. Bancorp

$37.47

$36.44

-2.7%

Winland

$1.10

$1.01

-8.2%

Xcel

$72.45

$69.39

-4.2%

$2.18

M

$44.49

$8.46

32

F

Archer Daniels

Consolidated Comm.

2.49

J

Percent change

D

54

10

Sept. 1

N

5

21

Aug. 10

O

— 2019 — 2020

43

Stocks of local interest

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

0Source: GasBuddy.com J F M A

M

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C. Sankey

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 27


Minnesota Business Updates

■ Consolidated honored Consolidated Communications has been named the winner of a Silver Stevie Award for its COVID-19 response in the fifth annual Stevie Awards for Great Employers. “Transitioning approximately 90 percent of 3,400 employees to work from home in 23 states is a remarkable feat,” noted judges in reviewing the nomination. “Consolidated supported employees working remotely, measured and managed employee cases to reduce risk and established an innovative grass roots program. A great effort by an employer during the pandemic. Truly amazing.”

■ Cargill razes Still Pond mansion

Cargill has owned Still Pond and its 275-acre property since 1944 when the Rand family moved out. For a while, the mansion served as the company’s headquarters, even receiving a 15,000-square-foot expansion in 1977. When a new office building was built on the campus in 1975, Still Pond became a space for about the top 40 executives. Then, in 2016, even the executives moved out of it to be closer to the rest of the team.

Cargill’s Lake Office, also known as the Still Pond mansion, has been demolished. Select artifacts and memorabilia have been removed by the company’s archive teams, but the house that was built in 1931 for Rufus Rand Jr.—Wayzata’s first mayor and the namesake of Rand Tower in downtown Minneapolis—is no longer standing.

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

132 163 36 120 451

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

286 780 251 1,229 2,546

Construction

126000 126000 Manufacturing

Retail 113000 Services 113000 Total*

July 2,711 2,310 869 3,650 9,540

2020 6,598 13,575 6,061 31,082 57,316

126000

2100 1400

113000

700 100000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

Minnesota Local non-farm jobs 12000 3500 3500 10000

+143.4% +487.7% +597.5% +751.6% +500.8%

8000 2800 2800 6000 2100 2100 4000 1400 1400 2000

28 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

700 D

N

D

0

J

N

D

0

J

300000

3,051 2,890

240000 180000 120000 60000

700 0 0

O

- 2019 - 2020

(in thousands)

Percent change ‘19-’20

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

1238,017

2800

+166.7% +378.5% +597.2% +942.2% +464.5%

Minnesota initial unemployment claims 2019

130,830

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

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M A A M

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O

O

■ Xcel unveils plan for EVs

■ Fastenal partners with NHL

Xcel Energy unveiled a plan to serve 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2030, an anticipated 30-fold increase in plug-in vehicles across its eight-state service territory. Xcel is planning to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, and says its cleaner mix of generation paired with expanded EV adoption will result in significant customer savings and carbon reductions. By 2030, the utility expects customers will pay $700 less per year to drive an EV than to fuel a gas-powered car. The plan will result in $1 billion in annual customer fuel savings, through a mix of residential charging, increased access to public electric transportation and charging, and faster fleet electrification, according to the utility. The company says EVs charged on its system will have 80% lower carbon emissions than gas-powered cars by 2030. Along with enabling greater EV use by its customers, Xcel plans to make changes in its own operations: the utility will electrify all of its sedans by 2023 and lightduty vehicles 139000 by 2030, and 30% of its medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will be electrified by 2030. 139000 3500

Fastenal Co. and the National Hockey League are going into business together. The NHL named Fastenal its official Maintenance, Repair and Operations partner of the NHL through the 2023-24 season. The deal encompasses a slew of services and products, including mechanical, electrical and plumbing products used on ice rinks, sanitation and janitorial supplies required to keep facilities clean, and power tools used by players and equipment managers for actual play. The 139000 Winona-based distributor of a wide range of industrial and construction products, will also supply personal protective equipment, sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. 126000 Fastenal CEO Dan Florness said in a statement that the deal is a good fit s.” This is Fastenal’s first partnership with a major sports 113000 league.

126000 113000

113000

700

J M

M J

J A

J S

D

4,574

A O

S N

O D

8,122

180000 120000 60000 J F M A M M A M J J M A M J J

J A A

J S S

104,236

A S O N O N D O N D

232,475

240000 180000 120000 60000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

J JA

2100 1400 700 0

D

240000 180000 120000 60000

J JS

A AO

S N S

O D O

N N

D D

D

0

240000

July 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

2.9% 59,362 1,785

6.2% 58,998 3,888

J S

A O

S N

O D

N

D

Unemployment rates Counties, state, nation Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota U.S.

J

300000

(includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) 300000

County/area - 2019 - 2020

M MJ

2800

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

240000

300000

D

D 0

300000

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

N

Best Buy reported strong second-quarter sales growth, helped by its biggest quarterly increase in online sales ever, but cast a cautious eye toward the future as it said everything from stimulus to the unemployment rate 3500 could 12000change how much customers spend. Online 2800 sales shot up 242% in the U.S. compared with 10000 2800 the prior year, as the website drew higher traffic and 2100 8000people converted from browsing to buying. more 2100 Sales 6000 at stores open at least a year grew by 5.8%, 1400 1400 higher than the 2.3% that Wall Street expected.

126000

100000 100000 J F

100000 J Buy F M online A M J sales J A soar S O ■ Best

3500

July 2019

July 2020

3.0% 3.2% 4.0% 3.3% 5.4% 2.8% 3.1% 3.7% 3.9% 3.3% 3.2% 3.8%

6.4% 4.7% 6.2% 6.4% 6.2% 5.8% 5.3% 6.6% 5.0% 9.2% 8.5% 11.2%

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

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 29

0

J


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

Great Recession lessons that still apply By Melissa Lambarena | NerdWallet

T

he Great Recession demolished jobs across the U.S., and it eventually came for mine, too. After graduating in 2009, I worked four months as an entry-level executive assistant at a nonprofit before being laid off. I had limited financial knowledge, a short work history and a lot to prove to break into the field of journalism, my ultimate goal. Along the way, I picked up valuable lessons that might help you manage your finances during the coronavirus-related recession.

Save what you can

My short work history disqualified me from receiving unemployment benefits, so I relied on my savings account. Even a small emergency fund of $500 can prevent you from falling into debt, and I had socked away enough to cover a few months of expenses. If you’re still employed, “pay yourself first,” said Samuel Deane, a financial planner at Deane Financial in New York. “Even if it’s $20 every time you get paid, make sure you put that $20 away first and then live your lifestyle with the remainder.” Automate it with direct deposit if you can.

Think twice before rejecting job offers

After many interviews and dead ends, I applied for an administrative role at an accounting firm and got hired in December 2009. It paid about $7,000 less than my previous salary. I knew it wouldn’t put my career on track, but it would cover most of my bills, so I took it. Amanda Grossman, now a certified financial education instructor in El Paso, Texas, made similar compromises after being laid off as a market researcher in Florida in 2008. She took a career counselor’s advice and relocated to Texas for a lower-paying job in the environmental industry. “(The counselor) said, ‘Look, the economy is not doing well. You need to take that job, it’s going to keep going down; you’re not going to be able to find work,’” Grossman sai

Get smart about money

You’ll find a myriad of financial resources online and at your local library, assuming it is open and safe to visit during the pandemic. I struggled to save money on a lower salary. Credit cards became my emergency fund. I don’t recommend this approach, but times were tough. Had I learned about financial hardship programs, student loan repayment options or balance transfer credit cards, I would have saved heaps on interest and ditched debt faster.

30 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

Multiple streams of income

I still wanted journalism experience and extra income, so on top of my new full-time job, I learned to shoot and edit video. I began freelancing in 2010. A year later, I also launched a small social media consulting business. Grossman, too, had other goals. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I love, love, love talking about money,” she said. While she was unemployed in Florida, she launched the blog “Frugal Confessions.” She learned new writing skills from books and sought feedback from editors at newspapers. In 2013, she left her environmental job in Texas to run her blog full time.

Protect your credit and yourself

In a crisis like COVID-19, many normal financial rules don’t apply. You may need to carry a credit card balance to buy groceries or address an emergency. You may need to make only the minimum payment to cover rent. You may even need to contact your card issuer and ask for relief options like payment deferrals. Even with three jobs, I struggled at times to make the minimum payments on my credit cards due to high balances and interest rates. In times of emergency, prioritize getting back on your feet first. Once you do, you’ll have time to address your credit scores.

Make calculated money moves

Eventually, I left my apartment and moved in with roommates. I also read the post-recession climate and, in successive jobs, learned how to ask for a raise. Every year that my workload and responsibilities increased, I made a case for a higher salary. Asking is uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier. The extra money eventually paid off my debts. A recession’s impact is largely out of your control, but your reaction isn’t. With strategic steps, you can insulate yourself and create new opportunities. MV


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

The 2 costs that can make or break your nest egg By Liz Weston | NerdWallet

I

f you earn a decent income but have trouble saving, the culprits could be the roof over your head and the car in your driveway. Retirement savers who contribute more to their 401(k)s often spend less on housing and transportation than their peers, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Better savers also spend less on food and drink, but housing and transportation are bigger expenses that tend to be less flexible. Once you commit to a place to live and a car payment, you’re typically stuck with those expenses for a while. “It may be decisions that you’re making as you are building your life that will ultimately crowd out saving for retirement, ” says Katherine Roy, chief retirement strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The researchers divided 10,000 households into three groups: the 25% who contributed the least to their retirement plans, the 25% who contributed the most, and the “middle savers” whose contributions landed them in the middle 50%. High savers, not surprisingly, had higher incomes than the other two groups. Middle and low savers had similar incomes, but middle savers contributed about 5% at the start of their careers while the low savers contributed about 2%. That 3 percentage-point difference in contributions is largely attributable to the lower savers spending more on housing, transportation, and food and beverage, the researchers found. By retirement age, middle savers had accumulated savings equal to twice their salaries. Low savers had accumulated about half as much.

A ‘beater truck’ and a fat 401(k)

Driving older vehicles and owning a modest home are the top two sacrifices cited in a study of Principal Financial Group customers ages 20 to 54 who contribute big chunks of their income to retirement accounts. One of those savers is Erryn Ross, 30, of Tigard, Oregon. For several years after college, the accounts receivable coordinator lived at home and drove a “beater” truck, a hand-me-down from his dad. By the time he was ready to replace the truck, he had saved enough to pay cash for a new one while also

maxing out his 401(k) contribution. Ross credits his mother — who drives a 2002 Honda Accord, previously owned by her father — with getting him started. “She said, ‘OK, you can either pay me $1,000 for rent, or you can put $1,000 in index funds every month,’” Ross says. He put the money into his retirement account. Ross recently bought a house with his fiancee, and they chose a home that cost about half of what their lender said they could afford.

It’s not all about choice

Both studies have their limitations. Perhaps the biggest one is that the researchers studied only people who had access to workplace retirement plans. Before the pandemic, 55 million working Americans lacked such access, according to Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives. Access makes a huge difference: AARP found that people are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they have access to a payroll deduction plan at work. The researchers also didn’t factor in the cost of living, which varies widely across the country. Living expenses are 46% higher in San Francisco and 86% higher in Manhattan than in Portland, Oregon, for example. People’s personal costs of living matter hugely as well. Someone with health problems and lousy insurance likely will have more of their income eaten up by medical bills than someone in excellent health who has good coverage. The number of people you have to support — children, elderly parents, for example — affects how much you can save. People with student loan debt have less discretionary income than those whose parents paid for college. And so on. Income matters, of course. Some people save on small incomes, while others don’t on large ones. But the more money you make, the easier it is to save. In other words, any number of factors — such as, say, losing a job during a pandemic — can affect someone’s ability to save. When you do have choice, though, choose wisely.

MV

MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 31


GROUNDBREAKING

NEW LOCATION

Frandsen Bank & Trust 240 Belgrade Avenue, North Mankato

Marine & Auto Custom Interiors, LLC 511 East Industrial Street, Kasota

NEW NON-PROFIT STATUS

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Culver's Frozen Custard

Spotlight Dance Company 360 Saint Andrews Drive, Mankato

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COVID Party Supplies covidpartysupplies.com

North Kato Magazine 18501 587th Lane, Mankato

North Mankato Farmer's Market 1920 Lee Blvd, North Mankato

NEW LOCATION

NEW LEADERSHIP

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Unique and Specialty Classics 2015 Bassett Drive, Mankato

Visiting Angels

Workspace on 3 100 Warren Street Suite 300, Mankato

1680 Commerce Drive, North Mankato 1856 Madison Avenue, Mankato

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At greatermankatoblog.com find... • • • • •

32 • OCTOBER 2020 • MN Valley Business

COVID-19 resources & updates GMG & community efforts Guest blogs by members Business insights & inspiration Public affairs affecting our community, and more...


IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, we will not be holding Business After Hours through the rest of 2020. The originally scheduled dates will move to 2021. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this challenging time.

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Greater Mankato Growth serves as a non-partisan information intermediary between candidates and the EXPOSURE voters on issues impacting not only business, but the overall vitality of the region at large. As part of this effort, Build your Brand; NETWORKING TW WORKING ORKING Greater Mankato Growth providesgrow information about upcoming elections and hosts candidate forums, some in your business. Stand out and of getSt. PeterIt’s partnership with the League of Women Voters Area, events throughout the election season: not and just st WHO W HO you ou noticed!

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YOU.audience Networking IS ALL 2020 candidate forums will be closed to in-person public attendance due to current COVID-19 Powerful. health and safety recommendations. Greater Mankato Growth will record the event and post it online in addition to the event being replayed on KTV programming schedules. Election and candidate BE IN information including links to forums are available greatermankatoelections.com. Additionally, all media partners have THE KNOW LEARNING been invited to cover these forums. Gain access cces to Member Exclusive Content to help grow your business. ELECTION RACE

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CARE WHEN YOU NEED IT.

During this time of uncertainty, Mayo Clinic Health System remains committed to providing the care you and your family need. Whether it’s through a virtual or an in-person appointment, we offer convenient and safe options to receive care, when you need it.

For more information, visit mayoclinichealthsystem.org. MN Valley Business • OCTOBER 2020 • 38

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