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The Definitive Business Journal for the Greater Minnesota River Valley

Tim Johnson, owner of High Spirits. Photo by John Cross

Where’s the workers? Employee shortage intensifies

May 2021

Also in this issue • MANKATO ACUPUNCTURE CLINIC • BECKY BAKES IN WASECA • APOTHACOFFEE ROASTERY

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F E A T U R E S May 2021 • Volume 13, Issue 8

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A shortage of workers, both skilled and for entry level jobs, has been a challenge for businesses for years and shows no sign of easing.

14

Philip Compart of ApothAcoffee Roastery, chose not to build a brick and mortar shop, instead opting for a mobile unit he travels with across the U.S.

16

Becky Waibel and Emily Atnip, the mother and daughter duo behind Becky Bakes in New Ulm, had to pivot their business thanks to the pandemic.

18

Christian Jovanovic and Stephanie Hylla focus on both the physical and the emotional sides of wellness at the Mankato Acupuncture Clinic.

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 3


MAY 2021 • VOLUME 13, ISSUE 8

By Joe Spear

PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn COPY EDITOR Kathy Vos CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Kent Thiesse Dan Greenwood Katie Roiger Dean Swanson PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman John Cross COVER PHOTO John Cross 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....................................................8 ■ Business Commentary........................9 ■ 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 ...........................34

From the editor

Change in national economic strategy will filter down

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hen the direction of national economic policy dramatically shifts as it likely will moving from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, communities far and wide will feel the effects. How will that look in the Mankato/Nor th Mankato metropolitan statistical area? There’s no question business and particularly “small business” benefited from the Trump tax cuts of 2017, with a 40 percent cut in the corporate rate from 35% to 21% and a general 20% tax cut for other companies formed as S Corporations, LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships. The deductions for writing off new equipment were greatly expanded. So it would be hard for any business to say it did not benefit from rate reductions. Average workers benefited also with a higher standard deduction and a smaller cut in rates. Of course, there was only about a year in and a half to measure the economic change from the tax cuts of 2017 as the pandemic took full hold of the economy and slammed it to the ground in March 2020. But it seems the large cut in corporate taxes was aimed at Fortune 500 and bigger public companies, and there were provisions for creating incentives for them to keep their jobs and intellectual property in the U.S. So, most local companies set up as the other business legal frameworks were mostly likely in the boat of benefitting through the 20% cut in pass through and lower rates on other income as well. Writing off deductions right away in many expanded categories also likely allowed local companies to retool for competitive reasons without paying as much to Uncle Sam. Farmers too benefitted in much

4 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business

the same way as did partnerships and sole proprietorships. Individuals had rate reductions of between 5% and 12%. The big caveat, of course, is that the tax rate reductions expire in 2026. A couple filing jointly in Mankato making about $150,000 a year, would have saved an estimated $5,000 or $6,000, depending on dependents under the 2017 tax bill. The recently approved stimulus from last fall and this year would have garnered the same family with an independent college student about $9,600 (stimulus checks of $1,200 in 2020, another $600, and then $1,400 in 2021) to each person. The tax stimulus packages, approved in part by both Republicans and Democrats in 2020, and the 2021 stimulus, approved only by Democrats, have found their way into the Mankato economy already. People working from home also save money on gas and going out, so they put on additions, got new siding, bought a new car, furniture or other larger ticket items. Even though they stopped going out, they bought take out in droves. Auto sales jumped 10% to 20% in Mankato mid-year when people started getting their stimulus checks with the promise for more. Mankato building permits came in at $107 million in 2020, slightly ahead of the $106.5 million figure of 2019. While the local food and beverage business was down 20% and lodging down 50%, local sales tax collections were only down 2%. So what might a Biden tax stimulus and economic policies do to the Mankato economy? Biden’s latest $2 trillion American Jobs Plan calls for raising the corporate tax back to 28 percent from the current 21%, though it will remain below the 35% of just a few years ago.


Some of the other increases don’t get as much publicity, but the plan calls for imposing a 15% corporate minimum tax as a way to eliminate those zero tax bills a number of corporations have every year due to big write offs for deductions and other provisions. There seems to be little about changing the 20% tax cuts for the smaller businesses and partnerships, and Biden has been on record vowing not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. The infrastructure plan would

also be like no other in decades, and is roughly three times the economic stimulus plan Biden and former President Barack Obama passed in reaction to the financial crisis of 2008. Conservative think tanks like the Tax Foundation can make strong arguments that corporations facing higher taxes will simply pass it on to workers, investors and consumers. That theor y works better when businesses have monopolies and can impose pricing of labor and products at their will.

But that world may be fading fast with new congressional attention to big tech monopolies and others. Just look at how rogue day traders in GameStop caused hedge funds to lose billions. And there’s no talk of changing back any of the tax changes on individual taxpayers, and in that case, what was good for Trump might be good for Biden. And it all might be good for Mankato 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

Behrens retires from Securian

Securian Advisors MidAmerica, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, announced the retirement of John T. Behrens, Jr., who was in their Mankato office. Before his affiliation with SAMA, he was the managing partner of Minnesota Financial Services in Mankato from 1985 to 2019. Before moving to Mankato in 1985, he was a superintendent of agencies for Minnesota Life in St. Paul, from 1983 to 1985. From 1973 to 1983, he was affiliated with New York Life. Prior to entering the insurance business, he was a teacher and wrestling coach. ■■■

White elected to academy

Kenneth R. White has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, one of the few in Minnesota and the only selected attorney in Greater Minnesota. Membership is reserved for experienced appellate advocates who have demonstrated the highest skill level and integrity. Nominations to the organization can only be made by current Fellows. White handles appeals in all areas of the law. Much of this work comes from referrals from other attorneys. In addition, White advises area businesses on employment and other issues. From April 1, 2005 through Dec.

31, 2010, White served as an assistant Nicollet County Attorney. ■■■

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Weichert agents honored

Local agents were honored by the national franchise organization, Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, based on their achieving specified production requirements in gross commission income or units closed in 2020. Jackie Dawald, Stephanie Jacobson, and Carrie Ehlers were honored. ■■■

Volz tops in corn yield

bushels per acre – greater than the projected 2020 U.S. average of 175 bushels per acre.

Roger Volz, a Minnesota Lake farmer, was honored in the National Corn Yield Contest, sponsored annually by the National Corn Growers Association. Volz placed first in the state in the B:Conventional Non Irrigated Class with a yield of 313.8995 bushels per acre. The hybrid used in the winning field was Pioneer P1366AM. Volz was one of 506 state winners nationwide. The 2020 contest participation included 7,844 entries from 48 states. Of the state winners, 27 growers – three from each of nine classes – were named national winners, representing 12 states. The average yield among national winners was more than 346

Wiederhoeft honored by APH

Automotive Parts Headquarters (APH), a Minnesota-based aftermarket auto parts distributor and store group, named Tony Wiederhoeft as the recipient of the 2020 Auto Value Salesperson of the Year award. Wiederhoeft is an outside salesperson for the Auto Value parts stores located in Mankato and Waseca. Each year Auto Value store managers and regional managers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Montana, Michigan and Wyoming have the opportunity to nominate a salesperson they believe deserves the award. Wiederhoeft was nominated by Dan Hopkins, regional manager for the Mankato and Waseca stores. ■■■

Pioneer Bank sponsors EVERFI

Pioneer Bank helped sponsor the EVERFI Financial Literacy Bee, which took place in April. It is a nationwide financial literacy challenge and provides an opportunity for students to have some fun and learn critical financial concepts during Financial Literacy Month. The

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 5


virtual challenge was created by social impact education innovator EVERFI, and supported by financial institutions nationwide. Winners receive a total of $20,000 in college scholarships.

We Build Projects and Partnerships That Last

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Glenda Jewison honored

We work as a dedicated partner with each and every client. You have our promise to be here long after the job is done to ensure and maintain the integrity of our work. Perhaps that’s why many of our clients call on us again and again to expand their facilities and build new ones.

Glenda Jewison, an American Family Insurance agency owner in Mankato and Janesville, has been recognized with the American Star Excellence in Customer Experience certification. Jewison has been with American Family since 1998.

Do you have an upcoming building or development project you’d like to discuss? We would be happy to sit down with you and learn more about your business.

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Blethen acquires Nierengarten

Blethen Berens, located in Mankato and New Ulm, has acquired Nierengarten & Hippert of New Ulm. Attorney Roger Hippert joined Blethen Berens in April. Hippert practices primarily in the areas of real estate and probate, business, family and elder law and is also the New Ulm City Attorney. Blethen Berens, with 19 attorneys, is a full-service law firm celebrating 125 years of service to southern Minnesota with offices in Mankato, New Ulm and Morgan.

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Kijenski, Greiner join True

Carrie Kijenski and Liz Greiner have joined True Real Estate as the newest real estate agents. For more than seven years, Greiner has been a professional wedding photographer and owner of 507 Photography. Kijenski started her career in sales and marketing with Taylor Corporation where she traveled the world. She eventually relocated to the Twin Cities, before moving back to Mankato 14 years ago. Before getting her real estate license, Kijenski worked at Visit Mankato in the travel and tourism industry.

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.

www.fnbmn.bank

6 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


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.

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 7


Rewarding Work Produces Smiles “Yesterday was a super exciting day!” beams Macy Lohman. As an employment specialist for MRCI, Macy never gets tired of the joy of seeing someone we serve succeed. Happily, she gets to experience that feeling a lot while working for our Employment Exploration Program. “I look forward to my job every day because every day is different,” she explains. “For instance, I had been working with John Hunter for a few months to explore if working in the community would be best for him now. He shared his dream job has always been to work at Hy-Vee. I took him there for a tour and informational interview. Well, they offered him a position on the spot!” Macy’s enthusiasm for her work can be found throughout the organization as staff daily strive to meet our mission of providing innovative and genuine opportunities for individuals with disabilities at home, at work and in the community. One such innovative program is the one John Hunter went through: Employment Exploration. “The staff really listened and got to know who I am. I had so much fun and, oh boy, am I excited about my new job!” says John. “I know I am going to do a really great job because MRCI has been teaching me and I am going to make them proud!” You may see John next time you are at Hilltop Hy-Vee, where he works as a courtesy clerk. John and Macy aren’t the only ones beaming about the accomplishment. “He would work 24-7 if he could,” says John’s mom Susan Hunter. “Since March of 2020 he has been out of a job due to the pandemic. He has coped by creating a schedule of long walks, household chores, shoveling and now yard work. Now he has been given the opportunity he’s been waiting for: to be a Hy-Vee employee. He’s also very proud of his Hy-Vee uniform.” Anyone that knows John is not surprised by his success. “He continues to exceed every expectation we had for him,” says Susan. “He has always been a social person who values his family and friends. He has an amazing memory and we refer to him as our family historian. He can name the date for almost every event. He also memorized our church hymn book- if you want to know a hymn he can tell you the hymn number. He has an awesome, enviable work ethic.” John will remain an MRCI client, but has transitioned to employment support with MRCI, so if either he or his employer need assistance MRCI staff are available to help him learn and develop in his job. “He has been working extremely hard these past months so it’s great to see all of this unfold!” says Macy. For more information on our Employment Exploration program or any of the exciting employment programs at MRCI, call Nate Lotton at (507) 386-5636. To find out about employment opportunities in a rewarding field, contact Lindsey Ferguson at (507) 386-5710.

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!

8 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Business Commentary

By Dean Swanson

Engaging your customers online more vital than ever

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eeping your customers engaged online is so vital for another company they forget about after the contest is over. ongoing business operation, especially now as small This is also a great chance to add extra value by sharing businesses are struggling to keep customers during educational content or a smaller prize for simply entering. these pandemic times. Here are some examples of how to keep the conversations with your customers going during and after Share Your “Secret Sauce” the pandemic and keep the sales coming in. Several food brands, from McDonald’s to IKEA, have released the secret recipes to their top items during the Update Your Website Content pandemic, allowing home-bound customers to try recreating Never underestimate the power of great website content to the flavors for themselves. You can do the same by sharing connect with customers. If you haven’t given your web copy an what makes your food taste amazing, what your top products update in a while, or haven’t published any blog posts in recent are made of, or how customers can recreate your brand months, now is the time to dive in. Give your customers experience at home. They will shop with you once the something to connect with when they land on your website. pandemic is over because really, the secret sauce to doing it When updating, focus on telling a story that’s engaging, well is you! that’s on-brand, educational, and entertaining. You can even spin this into a new product line or service Build the Connection: Ask customers for feedback on your offering. For example, perhaps you develop a DIY kit that new content. They’ll appreciate you asking, and your website customers can buy to make their favorite dishes at home. This conversions may improve when you create copy based on what leads to long-term revenue and gives your business something you know customers want to hear and see on your website. to offer that sets you apart. Build the Connection: Share your secret sauce from your Send Out Customer Surveys own kitchen. Bring customers into your space, where you cook If you aren’t sure what your customers want, listen to them. for your closest family and friends so it feels like a conversation Several theme parks, theaters, restaurants, and school systems between friends. sent out surveys during Covid-19 to understand the concerns of their customers. Answer Questions from Customers They could then implement changes to ensure customers Put customer care at the forefront of what you do by felt safe and comfortable when they returned after lockdown. answering questions quickly and thoroughly when you can. Will your customers feel safe visiting your business? What Great customer service can be the difference between keeping steps do they expect your staff to take? Getting answers to a loyal patron and losing customers for life. In fact, Zendesk’s these questions can help you plan for your re-opening and 2020 report found that 57 percent of customers say customer attracting as many customers as possible. service is an important factor in customer loyalty. When sending surveys, consider the many platforms Don’t forget to field questions on social media, in addition to available to you, including Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, through phone calls, contact forms, and email. Unanswered Typeform and Survey on Facebook. questions on social media are public and can hurt you if other You may also have polling features built into your CRM customers see that. system. For example, Zoho offers Zoho surveys, which makes To make this easier, integrate your social media platforms it easier to analyze the data alongside customer information. with your customer support tool—most now allow you to do Build the Connection: Make calls to your top customers and this easily—so you’re sure to see every message that comes in. clients instead of sending a survey. Show them that you care Build the Connection: Get personal with customer service. If deeply about their insights and want to have a genuine and talking online, have the customer service representative sign authentic conversation. the message with their name, i.e.: “Great question, you can find that resource here: Brian.” On calls, encourage employees to genuinely inquire about how the customer is doing and remind Offer Giveaways and Host Contests Host contests and giveaways to engage your customers. them to be open to sharing about their experience to deepen These can be immediate giveaways (i.e. a favorite product the relationship. delivered in a contactless manner) or contests for events held once you re-open. The key to driving engagement is offering something Dean L. Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE customers really want. To do so, consider your top- rated mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district products, most popular dishes, or most-requested services— director, and regional vice president for the north west this will guide what you choose to give away. region. For information on the local Mankato area Build the Connection: Personally, thank everyone who SCORE chapter: scmnscore.org entered the contest (if possible) so you don’t end up being just

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 9


Jane Goettl, of Volk Transfer, says finding truck drivers remains a battle.

Not letting up Labor shortage often dire for businesses By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross

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ust 10 years ago, Tim Johnson would order a big box of job applications for his High Spirits Liquor store and Hooligans pub and restaurant. “We’d get 300 to 400 applications a year. We’d get flooded with interviews when college started.” In recent years, the jobs at his businesses have gone begging. “Now we get maybe a dozen (applications) a year. The enrollment at the colleges hasn’t stopped growing, so what happened?” Johnson said. The worker or “talent” shortage that began

several years ago shows no sign of easing, even as employers grew more creative and expanded incentives. Ashley Leivermann, chief human resources officer at Crystal Valley, said they’ve been trying everything they can think of to boost the application pool and retain employees. “Upping our training and development, employee referrals and looking in every nook and cranny. Everyone is doing that.” Leivermann said being an agribusiness also has

Cover Story

10 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


John Harrington checks out the label of a bottle of Champagne. its challenges as it’s tough to convince young people that careers in ag are varied and rewarding. Randy Dinsmore, project coordinator for Goodrich Construction, said the ongoing labor shortage means they’re constantly backed up with work and it prevents them from being able to grow more. “We’re behind because we can’t find enough workers” Dinsmore said. “For several years we’ve been struggling to put enough skilled labor in front of the work. We can find people but not enough with the skills that we need.” Jane Goettl, human resources manager at Volk Transfer, said they’ve recently had some luck filling a couple of office positions. “On the driver side it’s a little slow. We just recently added a sign-on bonus for (over-theroad) positions. We increased our driver referral program for current employees who bring us employees.” Goettl said they’ve been focusing more on highlighting

their company culture on social media and looking for drives who maybe aren’t seriously looking for a different job but may be interested if they see Volk as a good place to work. She said their potential pool is also smaller than some firms because they do not hire drivers right out of truck driving school. Minnesota T r ucking Association President John Hausladen said while there were more drivers available during the pandemic last year as some trucking firms saw business drop, the yearslong shortage of drivers isn’t going away. “As things ramp back up, the driver issue will ramp back up again. There was a structural driver shor tage before COVID-19 and that structural shortage hasn’t changed.”

Agribusiness challenges

Leivermann said Cr ystal Valley and other ag-related companies face headwinds in attracting skilled and unskilled workers.

Ashley Leivermann of Crystal Valley Coop “In farming businesses we can’t pay the salaries other larger companies can because our margins are tight.” When fully staffed, the co-op has 260 full-time and an additional 100 seasonal employees. Right now they have up to 30 openings. “The entr y-level operation jobs are the toughest. Those entry-level jobs aren’t always the most attractive to people.”

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 11


Shayne Johnson, Tim Johnson’s daughter, hands change to a customer.

We’re Growing! Blethen Berens is pleased to announce Roger H. Hippert will join Blethen Berens based in their New Ulm office. Roger’s firm, Nierengarten & Hippert, Ltd. will merge with Blethen Berens effective April 1, 2021. Roger brings 44 years of experience to Blethen Berens, and he focuses his practice in the areas of real estate and probate, business, family and elder law. In addition to his private practice, Roger will continue in his role as the New Ulm City Attorney, supported by the Blethen Berens team. “Working with the team of experienced and respected attorneys at Blethen Berens will help me to ensure that my clients continue to receive the quality legal services they deserve,” said Roger Hippert. Blethen Berens is excited to assist, connect and build relationships with Roger Hippert’s current and past clients and looks forward to further cultivating their relationship with the City of New Ulm team. “Roger and his firm have provided outstanding legal representation to New Ulm and the surrounding area for many decades,” said Blethen Berens Managing Partner Jeremy Berg. “We are honored to have him join our firm. Together with Roger, we look forward to providing his clients with the pragmatic, seasoned and wellversed legal counsel they know and expect.” Roger is an active member in the New Ulm community. His involvement has included serving as a Board Member with New Ulm Turnverein, New Ulm United Way, Brown County Historical Society, serving as a volunteer attorney for SMRLS, and serving on the Board of Governors of the MSBA. Roger and his wife have lived in New Ulm since 1976 and raised their two children there. Blethen Berens is a full-service law firm celebrating 125 years of service to Southern Minnesota with offices in Mankato, New Ulm and Morgan. The Blethen Berens team of nineteen attorneys provides a broad spectrum of legal services to meet the needs of their business, farm and individual clients. Blethen Berens clients benefit from the breadth of the firm’s combined knowledge, and the dedicated practice areas of each attorney. Blethen Berens incorporates a team approach to achieve its mission of providing legal excellence and personal commitment to its clients.

blethenberens.com • Mankato 507-345-1166 | New Ulm 507-233-3900 12 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Tim Johnson says it’s nearly impossible to find employees for his High Spirits liquor store and Hooligans pub & restaurant. She said the co-op and many other ag businesses are also seasonal and weather dependent, making hiring even more challenging. Leivermann is on Greater Mankato Growth’s GreenSeam talent committee and advisory groups at Minnesota State University and South Central College that work to get students interested in ag careers. “We have such a shortage in agriculture across the board, and we’re not getting the candidates we need. And a (high) number of upcoming retirements is a challenge,” she said. “We fight this battle every single day. No one can figure it out alone. We have to work together.”

Student workforce

Johnson said the worker shortage has been around for years but increasingly gets worse. And the pandemic made things even more dire. “For the first time in 23 years,

we did not get one application at Hooligans.” High Spirits didn’t fare any better. Johnson said that even if he were allowed to open at full capacity at Hooligans, he wouldn’t have the staff to serve that many customers. He has had up to six full-time and up to 40 part-time employees between his two business. “We could hire 12 people today. That’s how dire the situation is.” He said the $600 unemployment benefit last summer and the federal stimulus checks meant people didn’t want to work. “The part-time temporar y jobs, they’d gotten so much stimulus benefit that they weren’t in the workforce anymore. “It’s demoralizing. Our staff that is working is overwhelmed, and they were demoralized knowing their friends were getting paid more on unemployment than they get working.” But Johnson suspects the

difficulty filling positions boils down to fewer students choosing to work part time. “I’ve had plenty of conversations with students — I don’t understand why they’re not looking for part-time work. “We have a town full of students and all businesses have the same problem. On everyone’s window is a ‘now hiring’ sign,” he said. Johnson said that as he talks to many students about working part time during the school year or over summer he hears they can’t work while they are taking classes or that they don’t need to earn money. “Some of it has to do with parenting. If I wanted to go to spring break or a ball game, you better earn your own money for it. I delivered papers, raked, shoveled snow, washed dishes. “Now, they don’t have to work to get money.” MV

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 13


Philip Compart decided to make his ApothAcoffee business mobile rather than having a brick and mortar store. Bottom: Philip Compart installed a coffee roaster and other equipment in a 28-foot trailer.

Coffee to go ApothAcoffee an Itinerant roastery By Katie Roiger Submitted Photos

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he thrill of the open road has called still remains a faction of happy-footed souls to adventurous souls for centuries. whose business requires a little jaunting History is full of famous wanderers: about. Food trucks are one example. Odysseus on a 10-year Itinerant coffee roasters journey homeward, are another. roving bards bringing Yes, you read that song and stor y to right – although Philip castles and keeps, and Compar t of APOTHACOFFEE even traveling salesmen ApothAcoffee Roastery Philip Compart meeting new faces and may have a lock on that apothacoffee.com exploring new places par ticular business Facebook: with ever y passing category for now. ApothAcoffee Roastery week. “I am fully mobile not Nowadays, with cars only with my home and to do our journeying, my life but also my society has grown more roots, but there business,” said Compart about his small-

Spotlight

14 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Philip Compart makes the Renaissance Fair circuit to sell his coffee beans. batch coffee roastery. A traveling coffee business might seem unexpected to some people, but thanks to Compart’s skill set and experience, it was a natural choice for the Mankato coffee enthusiast. Compart began roasting coffee beans for himself several years ago while considering the idea of starting a small wholesale coffee business. In an attempt to better understand the product he would be selling, he bought a bag of green coffee beans and fell in love with the delicious, rich flavors he could produce with just a small cast-iron skillet. “The whole process is fascinating to me,” Compart said. “Many people who drink coffee don’t have any idea that it starts out as just a small seed growing in a cherry on a tree, and before it becomes drinkable you have to roast it, which is essentially burning it to a degree.” Compart’s first attempts yielded only a quarter pound per batch, but his trial and error were paying big flavor dividends. He tried beans from several different sources and settled on Vournas, a small family-run importer based in California. After much experimenting, he discovered how to keep his roasts consistent and yield coffees that had complex flavors and good drinkability.

Hitting the road

In 2018, Compart was ready to make his passion a career. Rather than tie himself to a brick-andmortar storefront, he pulled from his experience of being a traveling garlic salesman in Renaissance faire circuits. He purchased a 28-foot trailer installed with a roaster capable of cooking a pound of beans at a time, a destoning machine that removes twigs and other debris from newly roasted coffee, and a grinder in case his customers want their purchases ready-to-brew. In the front end, he installed his living space. Compart returned to the faire circuit, this time peddling beans rather than bulbs. He said that he especially loves getting to see and hear his customers reviews of his coffee, and to help them find the types of coffee that they would most enjoy. “In my experience, a lot of people believe that they like a dark roast, but I believe more people actually like medium roasts,” said Compart. “With a lot of medium roasts, you’re still going to have a complexity to the flavor profile: For instance, you can get chocolates and caramel and nutty flavors, but none of them will be overwhelming, and it’ll just be smooth. You’re not going to get this bitter, super high-acidic taste where it leaves a

bad flavor in your mouth.” When the recent COVID-19 pandemic brought Renaissance faires to a grinding halt, it also drastically cut down on Compart’s customer base. Faced with almost nonexistent traffic, Compart decided to see his circumstance as an opportunity for growth. Currently, he is in the middle of rebranding his enterprise to accommodate a much higher rate of online sales so that no matter where he is in the world, his customers can still find him. “[COVID] forced me to build my website and build a social media presence, which has been a really good learning experience,” Compart said. “My goal within the next couple of years here is to have my website built up to the point where it is supporting me and potentially a few employees.” Regardless of where his online business takes him, Compart has no current plan to open a permanent location in the near future. The ability to be fully mobile has unique perks, and he said he hopes to utilize his business setup as long as is practical. “I enjoy the freedom of my lifestyle and choices,” said Compart. “I really do have a passion for the actual roasting of the coffee and teaching people what good coffee can be.” MV

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 15


Emily Atnip, left, and Becky Waibel are co-owners of Becky Bakes in New Ulm.

Decadent treats Becky Bakes a hit in New Ulm By Katie Roiger

| Photos by Pat Christman

R

aspberry Filled White Chocolate. Irish Whiskey Saturdays, usually around a holiday, to open their Fudge. Texas Toffee Crunch. Funfetti Sandwich. bakery to foot traffic. The line to purchase cookies, This might sound like a description of the cupcakes, cake pops, muffins, scones, and bars often shelves of Willy Wonka’s famous snakes past the big glass display factory, but it’s really just another cooler and out the door. day in the life of bakery co-owners Waibel had been cooking for Becky Waibel and Emily Atnip. years before she first thought to The mother and daughter duo open her own bakery in her BECKY BAKES opened Becky Bakes, a catering 213 S Minnesota St., New Ulm hometown of New Ulm. As one of ser vice and pop-up baker y, in eight kids growing up on the family 507-217-3947 downtown New Ulm in September farm, she had plenty of experience beckybakesmn.com 2020. While COVID-19 did its best baking almost nonstop for her Facebook: Becky Bakes to throw roadblocks in their way, appreciative brothers and sisters the power of sugar – and the love before becoming a longtime people have for a decadent treat – is strong. employee of Pioneer Catering, with which she served “We didn’t anticipate it going over so well!” said the students of Martin Luther College. Emily Atnip. “It’s kind of a novelty, and people really “I just loved what I did,” Waibel said about her time seem to love it.” She and her mother choose specific at MLC. “I wanted everything I made to be so good

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16 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


and tasty, and I wanted people to love it.” Even while cooking full-time, Waibel found opportunities to bake for her loved ones. Family and friends came to rely on her for birthday cakes and treats for special celebrations. Word of Waibel’s talent spread and she had more requests each week. Many New Ulm residents hoped that she would become the area’s resident baker. “People kept telling me what a need there was for [a bakery],” said Waibel. The more she considered the idea, the better it sounded, especially as the commissions continued to double. She talked it over with Atnip, who had just moved back from Texas. Seeing how excited her mother was, Atnip offered her services in bringing Becky Bakes to life. Together, the mother-daughter team purchased a location in one of New Ulm’s oldest buildings. The brick storefront is listed on the National Register of Historic places and had been converted into a bakery in 1871 by the Melges family. Because building code has changed considerably since the late 19th century, Waibel and Atnip had the floors and walls renovated and installed commercial kitchen appliances as well as the refrigerated display case in the shopping area.

COVID pivot

At first, the two said they planned a traditional brick-andmortar store that produced cakes, cupcakes, and other goodies for parties and celebrations of all kinds. When COVID-19 caused widespread cancellations and rescheduling of events, the team took the creativity they used to make their treats and applied it to their business model. Pop-up events, advertised via Facebook, proved to be outrageously popular. “So many people think it’s the neatest thing,” Atnip said. “It’s a way for people to get out of the house during COVID.” It’s also an ideal opportunity for the Becky Bakes duo to try out new recipes on an eager customer base and to serve up fun holiday-only specials such as “reindeer poop” cake bites or hot cocoa cupcakes with

Emily Atnip, left, and Becky Waibel finish some treats at their Becky Bakes shop in New Ulm. whipped marshmallow filling. Waibel and Atnip’s close partnership is most evident in their fun and unique flavor combinations. They described themselves as best friends whose talents and skills complement each other in the best possible way. For her part, Waibel said she loves Atnip’s ingenuity in finding new flavor combinations to try. “She is constantly googling things and saying ‘Mom, we should try this!” Waibel said, laughing. Together, they browse supermarket aisles looking for inspiration. Their most recent addition to Becky Bakes’ regular cupcake options is a Biscoffinspired confection. Perfect for cookie butter lovers, the cupcake has a creamy speculoos filling and is topped by a swirl of Biscoffflavored frosting. Other family members are also happy to weigh in. “We can’t eat everything we make – we’d weigh 400 pounds!” said Waibel. “We have a lot of people who are our taste-testers who try stuff and give us their feedback.” When it comes to day-to-day operations, the pair have their duties down to a science. Waibel handles the technical aspects of recipe creation and baking. Atnip takes charge of social media and marketing, and also contributes to creating and decorating. The two generally tag-team their duties on baking days: Waibel might mix and frost a cake while

Atnip fills and decorates it. “It’s a good rhythm we have,” Atnip said. Waibel and Atnip said that they anticipate the return of celebrations once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Their hope is to be the first choice for retirement parties, graduations, weddings, and more – and to continue making holidays and random weekends extra special with popup treat sales. Their motivation, besides the fun of creation, is the happiness they see on their customers’ faces. “Our customers are just super supportive and excited to see the new things we come up with,” said Atnip. MV

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 17


Christian Jovanovic (left) and Stephanie Hylla practice traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture at Mankato Acupuncture Clinic in Mankato.

Mind and body Mankato Acupuncture eases chronic pain By Dan Greenwood Photos by John Cross

S

tephanie Hylla always had a natural 30 weeks along.” curiosity about acupuncture, but it Getting two treatments a week, her pain wasn’t until she tried it herself that began to dissipate. she learned just how “As long as I did that, effective it could be in it cut my pain enough to treating chronic pain. where I thought, ‘this is “I didn’t start getting it very cool. I should do until I was pregnant with this,’” she recalled. MANKATO my fourth baby,” said The more she ACUPUNCTURE researched acupuncture, Hylla. “I was having CLINIC the more fascinated she really bad low-back and 709 South Front Street, became by its potential, tailbone pain. I did Mankato eventually enrolling in a chiropractic and physical 507-388-6829 graduate acupuncture therapy, but it didn’t do mankatoacupuncture.com program at Northwestern anything for the pain, so Health Sciences I star ted getting Facebook: University in acupuncture when I was Mankato Acupuncture Clinic

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18 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Bloomington in 2008. During her last year of classes there, she met Christian Jovanovic, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine. Jovanovic was an instructor there, and the two became friends. Jovanovic wanted to return to treating patients directly, as he had done previously for several years at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, so when Hylla proposed he come to work at her own practice, established in 2011, he jumped at the opportunity. Jovanovic joined the business in 2019, located at 709 South Front Street, in downtown Mankato. The ancient Chinese practice involves the use of needles placed into the surface of the skin, and all acupuncturists are trained to locate and identify 406 acupuncture points on the body, all with specific anatomical landmarks, said Jovanovic. Each point serves a specific function. “We’re also discovering from our Western research that certain points also affect the ner vous system, the cardiovascular system or the endocrine system in different ways and in repeatable and predictable ways,” Jovanovic said, adding that part of the science behind acupuncture is understanding how to stimulate those points to get the outcome the patient is looking for. It can be used to treat everything from infertility to mental health issues like anxiety and depression and primarily, physical pain. “Most of the insurance only covers chronic pain, so that’s predominantly what we see here,” Hylla said. Rheumatoid ar thritis, a condition that causes excruciating pain in the joints, is one specific ailment that they treat by managing the pain over time. “I’ve got some patients who I’ve been treating for 5-6 years and they still come every month, or every two months, just for maintenance, to manage it,” she said. Hylla said acupuncture is treated holistically, considering

Stephanie Hylla, owner of Mankato Acupuncture Clinic and a licensed acupuncturist, inserts a needle into the skin. There are 406 acupuncture points on the body, and needles are placed strategically to stimulate the central nervous system. the web of mind, body and spirit. When she sees a new patient, she explains how it works using diagrams to help the patient understand the basic process. “It’s a nice way for patients to see and understand that I’m looking at them from a holistic perspective and not just a frozen shoulder or not just the low back pain,” she said. “I want to know about your digestive health, I want to know how you’re sleeping, your energy levels – all those things play a huge role in our health. We’re looking at the whole person.”

Restoring balance

In Chinese medicine, the concept of pain can be caused by a number of factors. Jovanovic incorporates traditional Chinese herbs into his treatment when needed. “When it comes to pain management with herbs, we’re not talking about herbs that are narcotic or opioids or anything of that sor t,” Jovanovic explained. “But the goal is to help restore balance back within the system itself.” The herbs can be taken

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 19


Along with being a licensed acupuncturist, Christian Jovanovic has a doctoral degree in traditional Chinese medicine, which incorporates the use of herbs to treat patients.

20 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


“This is really a healing art and it’s not going to be the same treatment for everybody,” Hylla said. “Sometimes I look at it like the body is the canvas, the point is the paint, and my needles are the brushes.” internally though pill form, a powder or a tea and they also use topical applications – analgesic oils, lotions and patches made from herbal substances. Hylla said all of the points used in acupuncture are categorized to help her determine what type of needle to use, where to place it and the direction and depth of the needles. “This is really a healing art and it’s not going to be the same treatment for everybody,” Hylla said. “Sometimes I look at it like the body is the canvas, the point is the paint, and my needles are the brushes.” It’s a field that has become more widely accepted in recent years compared to 2005, when Jovanovic first entered the field. Acupuncture, he said, can play a complementar y role among other treatments, like physical therapy, massage and chiropractic visits. “When I entered into the field you would still get patients who were like, ‘I can’t tell my doctor I’m getting acupuncture,’ because they felt they might be shamed,” Jovanovic said. “Then on the flipside, they wouldn’t tell their acupuncturist what they

were getting treated for by the doctor or what medications they were on.” “We’re all here together to help you, so let’s all be part of the conversation,” Jovanovic stressed to his patients. It’s part of the increasing focus over the past 20 years emphasizing patient-centered care, he said. “These days, patients have more flexibility to make choices for themselves, so it’s really cool to see the patients advocating for what works for them; and being able to realize that it’s not an ‘us versus them’ mentality,’” Jovanovic said. Oftentimes, treating patients will reveal multiple ailments that are interconnected. Hylla recalls one patient who broke down in tears after years of selfmedicating with alcohol to cope with severe neck pain. On her third treatment, the pain level was literally cut in half. “The most rewarding part is when I have a patient who has tried everything, has been on all these medications or doctors can’t figure out what to do with them,” she said. “They come here as a last resort and after a couple weeks they say, ‘I haven’t felt this great in years.’” MV

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MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 21


Business and Industry Trends

Energy Propane prices jumped 30% last season

According to the Energy Information Administration, the average residential price of propane in the United States averaged $2.30 per gallon as of March 29, which was nearly 43 cents/gal higher than at the same time last year. U.S. average residential propane prices increased by more than 52 cents/gal, or 30%, during the 2020– 2021 heating season, which began Oct. 1 and ended March 31. The increase in prices can be attributed primarily to higher crude oil prices, seasonal withdrawals from propane inventory, and increased global demand. This price change was the largest within-season increase in residential propane prices since the 2013–2014 season. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, propane is the primary home heating fuel and tends to be more common in the Northeast and Midwest.

U.S. propane inventories declined more than last year during the 2020–2021 winter heating season because of increases in seasonal exports. As of March 26, total U.S. propane inventory levels were 39.2 million barrels, 34% less than at the same time last year, while inventories in the Midwest were 14% less than at the same time last year.

Higher gas prices

For the 2021 summer driving season (April– September), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts U.S. regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.78 per gallon, up from an average of $2.07/gal last summer.

22 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


Higher forecast gasoline prices reflect higher forecast crude oil prices, higher wholesale gasoline refining margins, and higher U.S. consumption of motor gasoline. For all of 2021, we expect U.S. retail prices of regular-grade gasoline to average $2.66/gal and retail prices for all grades to average $2.78/gal, which would result in the average U.S. household spending about $480 (31%) more on motor fuel in 2021 compared with 2020.

Brent crude up

Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $65 per barrel (b) in March, up $3 from February and up $33 per barrel from March 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Rising Brent prices in March continued to reflect expectations of rising oil demand as both COVID-19 vaccination rates and global economic activity have increased, combined with ongoing crude oil production limits from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+). EIA forecasts that Brent prices will average $65/b in the second quarter of 2021, $61/barrel during the second half of 2021, and $60 in 2022.

CO2 emissions fell

EIA estimates that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions decreased by 11% in 2020. This decline in emissions was the result of less energy consumption related to the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, we forecast energy-related CO2 emissions will increase by about 5% from the 2020 level as economic activity increases and leads to rising energy use. We also expect energy-related CO2 emissions to rise in 2022, but by a slower rate of 2%.

Oil inventories fall

EIA expects global oil inventories to fall by 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of 2021. Forecast increases in global oil supply will contribute to a mostly balanced market during the second half of 2021. However, the forecast depends heavily on future production decisions by OPEC+, the responsiveness of U.S. tight oil production to oil prices, and the pace of oil demand growth, among other factors.

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

860 1,219

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. $460,124

Sales tax collections Mankato (In thousands)

- 2019 - 2020

600

$459,114

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 $14,232 $42,501

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

$68,883 $46,325

105000 70000 35000 0

J

F

M

Source: City of Mankato

A

M

J

J

A

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O

N

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 23


Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

T

2020 Farm income levels increase

he University of Minnesota recently reported that the median net farm income for Southern Minnesota farmers in 2020 was $102,848, which was at the highest level since 2012. The 2020 net farm income level followed seven years (2013-2019) in a row of sup-par net farm income levels in the region. The 2020 net farm income levels in Southern and West Central Minnesota were enhanced by robust crop profits that resulted from above average crop yields, improved grain market prices, and significant levels of government program payments. Livestock profit margins were also improved compared to recent years; however, at much more modest levels than crop profits. The Farm Business Management (FBM) Summary for Southern and West Central Minnesota is prepared by the Farm Business Management Instructors. This summary includes an analysis of the farm business records from farm businesses of all types and sizes in Southern and Western Minnesota. This annual farm business summary is probably one of the “best gauges” of the profitability and financial health of farm businesses in the region on an annual basis. Following are some of the key points and data that were in the 2020 FBM Summary:

Background data

• The “Net Farm Income” is the return to labor and management, after crop and livestock inventory adjustments, capital adjustments, depreciation, etc. have been accounted for. This is the amount that remains for family living, non-farm capital purchases, income tax payments, and for principal payments on farm real estate and term loans. • The “median” net farm income is the midpoint net farm income of all farm operations included in the FBM Summary, meaning that half of the farms have a higher net farm income and half have a lower net income. • A total of 1,543 farms from throughout South Central, Southwest, Southeast, and West Central Minnesota were included in the 2020 FBM Summary. • The average farm size was 671 acres. The top 20 percent net income farms averaged 975 acres, while the bottom 20 percent net income farms had 278 acres. • 56 percent of the farm operations were cash crop farms, 16 percent were single entity livestock operations, with the balance being various combinations of crop, livestock, and other enterprises.

24 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business

• 465 farms (30%) were under $250,000 in gross farm sales in 2020; 352 farms (23%) were between $250,000 and $500,000 in gross sales; 366 farms (24%) were between $500,000 and $1 million in gross sales; and 360 farms (23%) were above $1 million in gross sales. • In 2020, the average farm business received $110,244 in government program payments, which included two rounds of CFAP payments for crop and livestock producers, WHIP+ crop disaster payments for 2018 and 2019, PLC and ARC-CO payments, CRP payments and other government payments. In addition, the average farm operation received $16,707 in crop insurance payments, primarily to offset reduced 2019 yield reductions. The combination of one-time Covid relief payments and crop disaster payments, together with regular farm program payments and crop insurance payments, accounted for approximately 74 percent of the 2020 net farm income. • The average family living expense in 2020 was $60,814, which has declined in recent years, with medical expenses and health insurance costs accounting for 16 percent of the total expenses. The average non-farm income in 2020 was $45,717, which represents over half of total annual nonfarm expenses by families. • In 2020, the average farm business spent $959,834 for farm business operating expenses, capital purchases, and family living expenses. Most of these dollars were spent in local communities across the region, helping support the area’s overall economy.

Farm financial analysis

• The average net farm income for Southern and West Central Minnesota for 2020 was $175,216. The median net farm income for the region in 2020 was $102,848, which compares to median net farm income levels of $36,547 in 2019, $20,655 in 2018, $25,377 in 2017, $33,071 in 2016, and $22,434 in 2015. • As usual, there was large variation in net farm income in 2020, with top 20 percent profitability farms averaging a net farm income of +$560,317, and the low 20 percent profitability farms with an average net farm income of negative ($18,372). Less than 10 percent of the farm operations showed a negative average net farm income for 2020, which is at lowest level in several years.


• The average farm business in 2020 had very favorable profit margins (21.2%), a decreasing debt-to-asset ratio (44%), and an increasing current ratio (198%). The current ratio measures the “working capital” for the farm operation, which is the current assets minus the current liabilities in a farm business. The working capital had declined significantly for many farm operations in recent years. The improved working capital has put many farm operations in a much healthier financial position going into 2021. • Another measure of the “financial health” of a farm operation is the “term debt coverage ratio”, which measures the ability of farm operations to generate adequate net farm income to cover the principal and interest payments on existing real estate and term loans. If that ratio falls below 100%, it results in farm operators having to use working capital or non-farm income sources to cover the difference. The average term debt coverage ratio for 2020 was at the healthy level of 274%, which was significantly improved from the average ratios 148% in 2019, 91% in 2018, 102% in 2017, and 90% in 8 However, the low 20 percent profitability 2016. farms had a term debt coverage ratio of only 72% 6 in 2020. • Any4 additional cash flow dollars over and above the term debt principal and interest payments that are2earned by farm operation are available for machinery replacement or other capital improvements. In 2020, the average farm had 0 J available F M Afor M J purposes, J A Swhile O the N D $116,287 those top 20% profitability farms had over $400,000 available. This helps explain the strong demand for new and used farm machinery, plans for grain system improvements, and other farm upgrades 8 that have occurred in recent months. 125 6 Bottom line 105 Overall, net returns from both crop and livestock 4 operations were much improved for most farm 85

operators in 2020; however, as usual there was a wide 2 65 variation in farm profit levels from the top one-third of net farm income operations as compared to other 45 farms.0The J overall F M average A M financial J J health A S ofO many N D farm businesses improved significantly in 2020, after 25 F M years A M due J toJlowAprofit S levels. O N D declining Jfor several Farm profit levels remain favorable for 2021; however, there are some “caution flags” on the horizon. These include likely lower levels of government payments, rapidly increasing input 125 expenses and land costs, and potential future declines 105 and livestock market prices. Complete farm in grain management results are available through the 85 University of Minnesota Center for Farm Management FINBIN Program at: 65 http://www.finbin.umn.edu/ 45 25

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Kent Thiesse is farm management analyst and senior vice president, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal. 507-381-7960); kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com

D

Agriculture/ Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2020 — 2021

20

8

$5.41

6

16 12

4

8

2 0

4

$2.87

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

0

J

Source: USDA

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2020 — 2021 8 20 125 16 6 105 12 4 85

(dollars per bushel)

$13.89

8 65 2 $8.14 4 45 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

20 125 25 16 $99.51 105 22 12 85 19 8 $51.22 65 16 4 45 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

$15.65

19 16 13 10

$13.95 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 • MAY 2021 • 25

10

J

J


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato

Commercial building permits Mankato

- 2020 - 2021 (in millions) $720,422 8000000 $1,247,769 7000000 6000000 5000000 4000000 3000000 2000000 1000000 0

- 2020 - 2021 (in millions) $16,434,204

20000000

10000000 5000000 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

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

- 2020 - 2021 (in thousands) 300

87 109

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Median home sale price: Mankato region - 2020 - 2021 (in thousands) $187,500 300 $257,800 240

120 60

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

— 2020 — 2021

- 2020 - 2021

5.5

40

4.9

3.3%

1

32

4.3

1

24

3.7

16

3.1 2.5

F

180

120

0

J

Source: City of Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region

180

0

D

Source: City of Mankato

240

$367,626

15000000

2.8% J

F

M

8 A

M

J

J

A

S

Source: Freddie Mac

O

N

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

507-625 507 625--4606 625

www.lidcomm.com Karla Jo Olson Broker

26 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


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Gas Prices 5

Gas prices-Mankato

— 2020 — 2021

54 43

$2.65

32 21 10 0

J

F

M

A

J

F

M

A

1.85

Percent change

Archer Daniels

$50.94

$57.76

+13.4%

Ameriprise

$205.09

$224.07

+9.3%

Best Buy

$108.78

$106.57

-2.0%

Brookfield Property

$11.30

$17.30

+53.0%

Crown Cork & Seal

$92.61

$96.29

+4.0%

O

N

D

Consolidated Comm.

$5.46

$6.81

+24.7%

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Fastenal

$46.47

$44.66

-4.0%

General Mills

$57.62

$57.76

+0.2%

Itron

$94.16

$110.96

+17.8%

Johnson Outdoors

$112.64

$140.64

+24.9%

3M

$175.02

$183.77

+5.0%

Target

$185.59

$176.87

-4.7%

U.S. Bancorp

$44.25

$54.05

+22.1%

Winland

$3.40

$4.70

+38.2%

Xcel

$64.20

$61.96

-3.5%

— 2020 — 2021

$1.59

M

March 8

S

32

F

Feb. 3

A

2.79

J

Stocks of local interest

J

54

10

Est. 1975

J

5

21

Widseth.com

SURVEYORS

M

Gas prices-Minnesota

43

SCIENTISTS

A

M

J

J

A

S

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N

0Source: GasBuddy.com J F M A

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C. Sankey

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C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 27


Minnesota Business Updates

■ Ameriprise earns J.D. Power award

need to evolve to meet the evolving needs of customers while providing more flexible opportunities for our people.” Best Buy’s third-quarter comps jumped 23%, driven by a 174% spike in e-commerce. Online sales doubled to 35% up from 16% a year ago. Corie Barry, CEO, said that with the accelerated digital shift, the chain is piloting numerous labor and store initiatives. This includes positioning about a quarter of its U.S. stores as hubs to support significantly more online order volume.

For the second consecutive year, J.D. Power has awarded Ameriprise Financial with certification for providing its financial advisors with an “outstanding customer service experience” when they contact the company by phone for assistance. The Ameriprise Advice & Wealth Management and RiverSource call centers earned the certification following an evaluation and survey of advisors’ recent servicing interactions. Ameriprise earned the certification by exceeding the performance requirements that J.D. Power sets on phone navigation experiences and contact center interactions.

■ General Mills targets growth areas

■ Best Buy shuffles employee focus

General Mills is looking to five global platforms — cereal, pet food, ice cream, snack bars and Mexican food — to drive organic net sales growth of 2% to 3%, CEO Jeff Harmening said during a virtual presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference. Investments in the five platforms are part of General Mills’ Accelerate strategy, which also includes higher investments in fast-growing local brands like Pillsbury, Annie’s, Yoplait and Totino’s. The company will prioritize investments in eight core markets, including France, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Brazil and India, with a focus on North America.

RetailWire.com Best Buy recently laid off some in-store workers and told others their weekly hours would be reduced as digital increasingly drives the chain’s sales growth, according to RetailWire.com “Customer shopping behavior will be permanently changed in a way that is even more digital and puts customers entirely in control to shop how they want,” Best Buy said in a media statement. “Our workforce will

Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims Nine-county Mankato region Major February Industry 2020 2021 Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

225 165 43 79 512

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

405 297 178 554 1,434

Construction

126000 126000 Manufacturing

Retail 113000 Services 113000 Total*

5,025 1,626 979 3,311 10,941

126000

1400 700

100000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

Minnesota Local non-farm jobs

+80.0% +198.0% +330.0% +307.0% +188.0%

8000 2800 2800 6000 2100 2100 4000 1400 1400 2000

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

700 D

N

D

0

J

N

D

0

J

300000

2,993 2,857

240000 180000 120000 60000

700 0 0

O

- 2020 - 2021

(in thousands)

12000 3500 3500 10000

28 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business

2100

113000

Percent change ‘19-’20

9,036 4,840 4,205 13,472 31,553

3500

122,480

2800

+80.0% +80.0% +314.0% +601.0% +180.0%

Minnesota initial unemployment claims February 2020 2021

128,477

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

- 2020 - 2021

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

■ Target names growth officer

■ 3M expands partnership

Target Corp. named its first chief growth officer and a new marketing chief in a C-suite shuffle, the Star Tribune reports. Christina Hennington, who was one of two chief merchants, is the executive vice president and chief growth officer, a new position for the Minneapolis-based retailer. Cara Sylvester was promoted to executive vice president and chief marketing and digital officer, replacing Rick Gomez, who will become executive vice president and chief food and beverage officer.

Palantir Technologies announced a multi-million dollar expansion of its relationship with 3M. 3M has chosen to expand its use of Palantir’s Foundry platform to support its digital transformation, assisting in the build out of a dynamic supply chain that enables the global manufacturer to respond nimbly to changes in demand across tens of thousands of products. 139000 The expanded relationship builds on the work Palantir already supports across 3M’s efforts in supply chain alerting, demand forecasting and business planning.

■ Johnson has strong 1st quarter

113000

M J

J A

J S

Itron Q4 results show 700 earnings per share fell 9.72% year over year to 100000 0 J F M A M J J A S O N D J $0.65, which beat the estimate of $0.30. Revenue of $525,157,000 declined by 16.43% year over year, which missed the estimate of $569,750,000. Itron sees FY 2021 revenue of $2.23 billion-$2.33 3500 12000 300000 3500 billion. 2800 2100 1400

S N

O D

120005,423 12000 6,215 3500 10000 10000 8000 2800 8000 6000 6000 2100 4000 4000 1400 2000 2000 700 0 J F M A M 0 J F M A M J J 0 J F M A M J J

180000 120000 60000 J A A

J S S

A S O N O N D O N D

113,334 139,024

120000 60000 0

J

F

M

240000

2100 8000

180000

6000 1400 4000 700 2000 0 0 J F M A J F JM FA M M AJ

120000 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

December 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

2020

2021

2.8% 61,419 1,788

3.8% 57,580 2,360

J S

A O

S N

O D

N

D

Unemployment rates Counties, state, nation County/area

- 2020 - 2021

180000

D

2800 10000

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

240000

240000

N

D 0

300000

Minnesota number of unemployed 300000

N

- 2020 - 2021

Nine-county Mankato region

D

A O

1400

113000

Employment/Unemployment

F M A A M J

Local number of unemployed

N

2100

■ Itron reports results

700

J M

2800

126000

Johnson Outdoors announced higher sales and earnings during the company’s first fiscal quarter ending Jan. 1. “Strong demand in the company’s fishing, camping and watercraft recreation businesses delivered an unprecedented first fiscal quarter,” Helen JohnsonLeipold, Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Indications are that people’s eagerness to get outdoors will continue through the season, but the COVID-19 pandemic still brings uncertainty. 139000 Total company net sales in the first quarter rose 29% 139000 year over year to $165.7 million, versus $128.1 million in the prior year fiscal quarter. 126000 126000 Total company operating profit was $23.6 million for the first fiscal quarter versus $6.8 million in the prior 113000 year first quarter. 100000 100000 J F

3500

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

Febraury 2020

Febraury 2021

2.9% 4.8% 5.4% 6.4% 3.9% 2.6% 4.9% 5.1% 4.6% 3.1% 4.6% 3.8%

4.0% 5.0% 5.7% 6.1% 4.0% 3.8% 5.6% 6.0% 4.5% 4.4% 3.6% 6.6%

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

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 29

0

J


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

Startup cards can help build credit W

By Melissa Lambarena | Nerdwallet

hile major credit card issuers tightened lending standards and slashed credit limits amid COVID-19, some financial technology startups took a different tack. In 2020, young companies like Grow Credit, TomoCredit and Chime launched or expanded credit cards that are available to those with less-than-ideal credit — because they don’t run a credit check at all. Instead of relying on the traditional FICO credit scoring model, these “fintech” products can evaluate alternative factors like bank accounts and money management to determine eligibility. What’s more, these cards don’t feature annual fees or even APRs. It’s literally not possible to carry a balance on them. Here’s how this new breed of credit cards differs from traditional cards and why they’re easier to get, even in tough times.

Chime Spending Account with an eligible direct deposit. You can use it to add money to your Credit Builder secured account, which determines your credit limit on the card. “The direct deposit definitely does help us understand members’ income and spending habits in a way that makes this product safer for us to offer,” says Zachary Smith, head of product at Chime. TomoCredit offers the Tomo Card. The startup’s technology allows its issuer, Community Federal Savings Bank, to determine eligibility for the card based on multiple factors, including income and account balances. The card also earns rewards. Linking a qualifying account through a third-party service is required.

Applicants evaluated differently

Benefits both ways

Traditional credit card issuers typically conduct a hard inquiry on your credit report to evaluate your creditworthiness. Hence, even before the pandemic, card options were slim for those with no credit or poor credit (FICO scores of 629 or lower). But some new products on the market aren’t as concerned with your credit report as they are with other facets of your financial life. Grow Credit, for example, offers the Grow Credit Mastercard, issued by Sutton Bank. The company has proprietar y technology that evaluates income, according to Joe Bayen, CEO and founder of Grow Credit. Applicants must provide access to their bank account information. The card allows you to build credit as you pay for qualifying monthly subscriptions like Netflix or Hulu. Subscription services traditionally aren’t factors in your credit reports, but Grow essentially gives cardholders an installment loan that can only be used to charge eligible subscriptions to the card. Cardholders pay off the bill in full each month and build credit along the way. Cell phone bill payments can also be handled this way, if you’re willing to pay a monthly Grow membership fee. “The combination of a small loan that can only be used toward a product of necessity makes our platform very resilient to recessions,” Bayen said in an email. Or consider the Chime Credit Builder Visa Secured credit card, issued by Stride Bank, which also does not require a credit check. To get it, you’ll have to open a

30 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business

These kinds of cards come with guardrails that can minimize risks for both the consumer and the issuer. For one, you can’t carry a balance with these products and, as such, they don’t charge interest. The companies behind these cards make money at least in part through interchange fees, which are assessed to merchants when they accept a credit card as payment. Since you’re required to pay on time and in full, overspending is difficult to impossible. Both you and the card company can be less worried about a potential default. Plus, payments are reported to all three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. (The Grow Mastercard is reported to credit bureaus as an installment loan.) These bureaus record the information used to calculate your credit scores. Good scores of 690 or higher can save you money on interest rates for a car, a home or other credit cards. And no-fee credit cards make it easier to keep the accounts open and active, which preserves the length of your credit history, another factor in your credit scores. For LaToya Wilson, a 46-year-old Minnesota resident, the Chime Credit Builder Visa Secured credit card allows her to rebuild credit without the risk of credit card debt and to get closer to buying a house. She got the card in 2020. “This time I’m more cautious about what I’m doing and (where) I’m spending,” Wilson says. “I see my credit score going up every month by using it.” MV


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

How to choose investment fund By Erin El Issa | Nerdwallet

M

ore than half of Americans (53%) say they’re currently invested in exchange-traded funds, mutual funds or index funds, according to a new NerdWallet survey. This same group of respondents shared what factors they consider when choosing investments, and while some are important considerations, others probably shouldn’t be a primary concern. Here’s a look at some practices you may want to adopt in your own decisions.

Keep growth in mind, but don’t tr y to predict the future

Consider social impact if that’s a priority for you

Minimize costs so they don’t eat up returns

What not to consider: Word of mouth

According to NerdWallet’s survey, 44% of Americans who are invested in ETFs, index funds or mutual funds say they choose funds based on future growth potential and 32% choose them based on historical growth. You might compare funds’ past trajectories, but it’s important to understand that past performance isn’t a guarantee of future growth. And rather than try to identify which narrow sector will thrive in the future and invest there, you may want to choose a broad index fund that mirrors the performance of a market index — like the S&P 500 — shown to produce returns over a longer time horizon. Passively-managed index funds and ETFs tend to be low-cost options for those who want a hands-off way to diversify their portfolios.

The survey shows that close to 3 in 10 Americans who are invested in ETFs, index funds or mutual funds (28%) say they choose funds based on which ones have low fees. Again, passively managed funds tend to carry lower costs, while actively managed mutual funds might be more expensive since a human advisor is choosing the investments. When evaluating costs, a major factor to consider is the fund’s expense ratio. This is an annual fee expressed as a percentage of your investment. You should compare the expense ratio of the fund you’re considering to that of other similar funds to make sure you’re evaluating it in context. While 1% might seem like a low fee, it could cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars more over time than a fund with an expense ratio of 0.25%.

About a quarter of Americans who are invested in ETFs, index funds or mutual funds (24%) say they choose funds comprising companies or industries that align with their beliefs, according to the survey. Socially responsible investing, or SRI, is gaining in popularity and allows investors to choose funds composed of companies doing good in the world, such as promoting racial equality or having sustainable practices. “Doing good” means different things to different people, but you can start by screening for funds based on factors that matter to you. Remember to check out expense ratios for any SRI funds you’re interested in, as you may find that some have higher fees than traditional funds. According to the survey, among Americans who are invested in ETFs, index funds or mutual funds, 19% say they choose funds recommended by loved ones and 13% say they choose funds discussed in the media. Even if your loved one is a financial professional or otherwise financially savvy, it may not be a great idea to get investing information from friends and family. Instead, do your own research. Likewise, investments discussed in the media might not be the best suited to your needs. And consider your personal financial goals, risk tolerance and the amount of time you have to invest when choosing your investments. MV

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 31


NEW in 2021 GREATER MANKATO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Series

In 2021, Greater Mankato Growth is offering a new opportunity for organizations to participate in leadership training series. Each series brings in an energetic speaker who will provide a wealth of knowledge and information for professionals seeking to boost their career to a new level. Greater Mankato Growth members save $100 per Professional Development Series. Thank you to Pioneer Bank for providing the space for these workshops.

PRESENTED BY:

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Todd Thiewes Sandler Training:

Scott Morrell Rebar Leadership: July 14, 21, 28; Aug 4

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Sep 22, 29; Oct 6, 13

"It's How You Frame Things"

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G R E AT E R M A N K ATO L E A D E R S H I P I N S T I T U T E

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Application deadline for 2021/2022 class: June 15, 2021

Sadaka's Deli #624 1400 Madison Ave, Mankato, MN 56001

VINE Faith in Action 421 E Hickory St, Mankato, MN 56001

32 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business

VINE Home Thrift Store 77 Star St, Mankato, MN 56001

TRUE Transit 421 E Hickory St, Mankato, MN 56001

Join today!

greatermankato.com/join


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Board of Directors Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. (GMG) is governed by stakeholders who represent the diverse mix of businesses within the regional marketplace. The GMG Board of Directors volunteer their time and talent to help grow Greater Mankato.

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Charlie Whitaker Board Chair Taylor Corporation

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Gain access cces to Member Exclusive Content to help grow your business.

TALENT RETENTION

Keep your employees

Susan ArntzengagedJO Guck Bailey with and retained City of Mankato SignPro/ access to our member only JGBailey Media & events and programs. Communications

James Hebl, MD At-Large Mayo Clinic Health System

GREATER MANKATO GROWTH?

NETWORKING TW WORKING ORKING It’s not just st WHO WHO you ou know, it’s who knows k YOU. Networking IS Powerful. David Kim At-Large Gislason & Hunter LLP

MEMBER EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS Lisa Cownie KEYC News Now/ Connect Business Magazine

BE IN THE KNOW Najwa Massad At-Large Massad Group

Jennifer Spaude At-Large Consolidated Communications

Receive our member only emails making you the first to know the latest news.

REFERRALS

We only refer member businesses. Word of mouth direct Dr. Richard Davenport andDr. Markreferrals Dehen comeStephanie Drago Chair of REDA/City of from being a valued Taylor Corporation Minnesota State North Mankato/Back University, Mankato member of GMG. to Wellness Clinic

SHAPE YOUR CREDIBILITY Raise your reputation by COMMUNITY belonging. Research shows

Your investment helps us continue to build the best environment for your business and its employees. Brian Fowler SPX Sports/Quality 1-Hr Foto

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Dr. Cuong Huynh Discover Chiropractic

that businesses who belong to a chamber of commerce are more successful. Gary Koch Chair of GreenSeam/ Christensen Farms

Jack Kolars Vice Chair of REDA/ Nicollet County

Wesley Otto OMG - Otto Media Group

greatermankato.com/join April 2018

Dr. Annette Parker South Central College

Paul Peterson Mankato Area Public Schools

Geoff Roise Lindsay Windows

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Liz Ulman Dotson Iron Castings

Andy Wilke Chair of Visit Mankato/ River Hills Mall

MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 33 greatermankato.com/join


NEW BUSINESS

Habib Sadaka Team - Cross Country Mortgage, LLC 100 Warren St, Ste 309, Mankato, MN 56001

NEW LOCATION

NEW BUSINESS

Old National Bank 111 S 2nd St, Ste 100, Mankato, MN 56001

Unique Hair And Ink 826 S Front St, Mankato, MN 56001

NEW BUSINESS

Massad Real Estate 100 Warren St, Ste 308, Mankato, MN 56001

NEW LEADERSHIP

VINE Faith in Action 421 E Hickory St, Mankato, MN 56001

Stay tuned to our social media and website for up-to-date Business After Hours events, including those rescheduled due to COVID-19. Check out our website to learn more about additional programming and events offered. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

greatermankato.com

In partnership with Greater Mankato Growth, Energy Smart, a Saint Paul based nonprofit program of the Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation, is providing resources to Greater Mankato area. As a state-approved utility funded program, Energy Smart offers all services at no cost for Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy commercial customers. Members of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce can also receive services at no cost. Connect with Energy Smart in-person or virtually to identify your goals and prioritize energy cost saving opportunities. Among these measures, the program provides utility bill analysis to better understand how your building uses energy. A site assessment is completed to review the utility bill analysis with you and complete a walk-through of the space to collect data plate information, understand space use, and operational behaviors. Following the site assessment, our staff serves as a liaison among stakeholders, contractors, and utility representatives to assemble a report with recommendations and next steps on specific utility rebate programs and incentives. In 2019, Energy Smart completed 382 site assessments and provided rebate assistance on 153 high efficiency upgrades resulting in $277,758 in first year cost savings. mnchamber.com/your-opportunity/energy-smart

34 • MAY 2021 • MN Valley Business


F

or biking enthusiasts, Mankato features some of the best trails in the state, as well as scenic roadways with wide shoulders and little to moderate traffic. The beautiful trail system offers a spectacular view of areas that may not always be explored as it follows streams and crosses upland and wetland EXPOSURE areas, showcasing all kinds of wildlife.

WHY JOIN Build your Brand;

More than 50 miles of paved trails in your a scenic grow business. river valley and dirt trails perfect Stand for a fatter tire out and get noticed! make Greater Mankato an amazing place for year-round biking adventures.

GREATER MANKATO GROWTH? NETWORKING TW WORKING ORKING

Celebrating It’s not just st WHO WHO you ou

know, it’s who knows k NATIONAL YOU. Networking IS BIKE MONTH Powerful.

May is National Bike Month, promoted by the League of American BicyclistsBE and IN celebrated in communities throughout the United States. Established in 1956, THE KNOW NationalLEARNING Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling Gain access cces to Member Receive our member only and encourage more people to give biking a try.

Exclusive Content to help emails making you the first to grow your business. Hop on your bicycle on Bike to Work Day on Friday, May know21 the latest news.

MEMBER EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS

and enjoy Mankato and North Mankato, bronze Bike Friendly Communities!

TALENT RETENTION

Keep your employees engaged and retained with access to our member only events and programs.

REFERRALS

We only refer member businesses. Word of mouth and direct referrals come from being a valued member of GMG.

SHAPE YOUR CREDIBILITY Raise your reputation by COMMUNITY belonging. Research shows

Your investment helps us businesses who belong continue tobbuild i k ethembest a n k athat taochamber m n . cofocommerce m to environment for your business and its employees. are more successful.

MAY: NATIONAL PRESERVATION MONTH

M

ay is National Preservation Month, encouraging preservation, promotion of historic places and heritage tourism, and demonstration of the social and economic benefits of historic preservation. Greater Mankato has a rich history celebrated in many ways, including events, self-guided tours, podcasts, commemoration of historic sites, and more. Visit Mankato invites you to dive into our community's history by discovering Deep Valley with Betsy-Tacy, taking a Veterans Memorial Tour or City Center History walking tour, learning about the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862, and much more.

greatermankato.com/join April 2018

visitgreatermankato.com/explore/history MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 35 greatermankato.com/join


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MN Valley Business • MAY 2021 • 38

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