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John Finke, President and CEO of Enventis

New focus

Enventis aims at business services, telecom and broadband. Also in this issue Frandsen Bank turns 50 Artisans Ron Boelter Window & Siding

The Free Press MEDIA

Mankato Motors

Member FDIC

We always put you FIRST!

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providing customized service for your business!

Professional resources to help grow your business AUTOMOTIVE Jerry’s Body Shop, Inc. 1671 Madison Avenue Mankato, MN 56001 507-388-4895 www.asashop.org/member/jerrys

MEDIA The Free Press Media 418 S 2nd Street Mankato, MN 56001 507-625-4451 www.mankatofreepress.com

Equal Housing LENDER

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Mankato 507.625.1121

St. Peter 507.931.4000

Gaylord 507.237.5521

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MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 1

1750 Northway Drive North Mankato, MN 56003 800-729-7575 www.corpgraph.com

2 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 3

occupational medicine on-site services

507-625-4606 Mankato Clinic Urgent Care @ Adams Street is your provider of on-site and in-clinic Occupational Medicine Services. Our staff is committed to keeping your workers healthy and getting them back to work quickly and safely after an injury or illness. Services provided by our Occupational Health Nurse at your site: • Designated contact person for companies • Ergonomic worksite evaluations • Vaccines • Health and Wellness fairs • Educational seminars • Company site visits To schedule an on-site appointment, call 507-625-7684. For more information on additional occupational medicine services visit, www.mankatoclinic.com.

121 E. Main St. Ste 311 Mankato, MN 56001

F E A T U R E S January 2014 • Volume 6, Issue 4

12

Enventis sees growth in business services and its expansive fiber networks.

16

Artisans offers customers everything from roofing, and siding to flooring and cabinets.

18

Jerry Michaletz recalls start of Valley (now Frandsen) Bank 50 years ago.

22

Ron and Jodie Boelter of Boelter Window & Siding in Madison Lake.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 5

■ January 2014 • VOLUME 6, ISSUE 4 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Pete Steiner Kent Thiesse Heidi Sampson Julia Ketcham Corbett PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman John Cross COVER PHOTO John Cross PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Ginny Bergerson MANAGER ADVERTISING sales Danny Creel ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey CIRCULATION Denise Zernechel DIRECTOR

For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail mankatomag@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................................7 ■ Business and Industry trends.........9 ■ Minnesota Business updates....... 10 ■ Business Commentary................. 11 ■ Construction, real estate trends.. 25 ■ Agriculture Outlook...................... 26 ■ Agribusiness trends..................... 27 ■ Job trends..................................... 28 ■ Retail trends................................. 29 ■ Greater Mankato Growth.............. 30 ■ Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities ....................... 31

From the editor

By Joe Spear

Only change can be predicted

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s another year ends and a new one begins, taking stock of changes in the Mankato business scene always proves to be an interesting exercise. As we grow older, we find ourselves measuring our age in the evolution of institutions. I’ve now lived through three names for Minnesota State University, Mankato. In 1975, it was changed from Mankato State College to Mankato State University. Some 15 years later, they changed the name to Minnesota State University, Mankato. Though, there was a nuance even to that name. At first it was simply referred to a lot as Minnesota State University. The “Mankato” seems like it was added a few years later to clarify it wasn’t the Minnesota State University in Moorhead. I’ve also lived through three names for what is now called Enventis, one of Mankato’s oldest companies. It started out as Mankato Citizens Telephone Co., and that was the name of the firm when I wrote one of my first stories about it in the 1990s. It was big news when the name of the company was changed to HickoryTech. I remember CEO at the time Bob Alton explaining the new name reflected all of the new technology businesses the company was getting into, including something new called the Internet and cell phone service. The Hickory part of its name came from its location on Hickory Street, but also Alton suggested at the time, the hickory tree, a solid, long-lasting sturdy tree that reflected the strength and endurance of the company. And the company has endured. Not surprisingly, the name was changed again to Enventis and again it reflected the numerous technology businesses the firm is now involved in. It was actually the name of one of the company’s divisions and what most of their customers knew them by. So it made sense to change the name. Enventis is a technology-sounding word that suggests invention, innovation and future looking. It

6 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

seems to work as a name reflecting the essence of the company. Enventis has gone from a company that did most of its business with consumer markets through phones and Internet service and cable TV to one that brings in much more revenue now from its business customers. In the last seven years, Enventis business has gone from about half business and broadband service and half telecom to about 80 percent business and broadband service. We, in the newspaper and magazine business are, of course, not immune to technological change. The Internet has turned our business model upside down in some ways and acted like steroids for our traditional business model in other ways. The demand for news and information has never been greater. The Internet has done that for us. But the tricks now become cornering markets that are very much more segmented. The mass media has become the niche media. There’s plenty of challenges for all of us. And while we still serve mainly a consumer market, we find the need to provide new and different product to those markets. We also have our niche markets – this business magazine you’re holding being one of them. There’s plenty of change on the Mankato area business horizon as well. Next year will bring an explosion of industrial and commercial development. Construction will begin on the Walmart distribution center that will bring an estimated 500 jobs. Major road construction will begin on Highway 14 as part of a $50 million project. There’s talk of a major commercial development across from Menards. All of those developments are sure to bring change, the only thing in business that is predictable. MV Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com

Local Business People/Company News

Peterson promoted at Enventis Enventis announced the promotion of Darren Peterson to vice president of product marketing. Peterson will lead the product marketing strategy and development functions for the company and oversee the product marketing team. Peterson will report to Carol Wirsbinski, chief operating officer. Peterson, who previously served as Darren Peterson senior manager of product management at Enventis, joined the company in 2010 and has 13 years of experience in the communications industry. ■■■ Paulsen elected president of state board I&S Group Director of Architecture, Bryan Paulsen, has been elected as president for the board of directors of the American Institute of Architects Minnesota Minneapolis Chapter. Paulsen is the first Greater Minnesota architect to serve as president of the board. He was originally elected to the board in 2007, served as secretary from 2009-2010 and president-elect from 2012-2013. Paulsen founded Paulsen Architects in 1995 and lead the firm until its recent acquisition by I&S Group in Mankato, where he now manages the architecture service line and the state organization currently has a 2,384 member roster with AIA Minnesota Minneapolis being the largest chapter representing 1,663 of the total members. ■■■ Jacobson, Dustice join Eide Bailly Eide Bailly, regional certified public accounting and business advisory firm, announced two additions to the Eide Bailly team: Michelle Jacobson joined the tax department as a tax manager. She graduated from Minnesota State University with a degree in accounting. Maureen Eustice joined the accounting services department. She has an extensive background in accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll. ■■■ Pioneer Bank acquires Madelia bank Pioneer Bank has acquired the Farmers State Bank of Madelia and their Madelia, Lewisville and Lake Crystal branches. Pioneer Bank has offices in Mankato, North Mankato, Mapleton, St. James and Elmore. Wayne Finnern, president and CEO of Farmers State Bank retired after the acquisition was complete. Finnern has led the bank since 1983. Existing staff of Farmers State Bank stayed with the

bank after the acquisition. ■■■ Zabel passes CPA exam Eide Bailly announced that Brandon Zabel has passed the Certified Public Accounting exam. He was an intern in the audit department last winter before accepting a full time position as an audit associate in April. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a degree in public accounting. Brandon Zabel ■■■ LeCocq of AgStar honored Bob LeCocq, senior financial services executive at AgStar, was recognized by the Minnesota Milk Producers Association with the 2013 Bruce Cottington Friend of Dairy award. LeCocq was presented with the award for his lifelong passion and dedication to helping the dairy industry succeed. This award is given to individuals who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to develop the goals and ideals of Minnesota Milk. Additional criteria for the award include their involvement in Minnesota’s dairy industry, display of leadership and community involvement. LeCocq was raised on a 40-cow dairy in east-central Minnesota. He served three years as a member and cochair to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture dairy profitability team, working with several industry people to improve dairies profits & sustainability. ■■■ Hinzmann joins CliftonLarsonAllen Amy Hinzmann has joined CliftonLarsonAllen as an engagement director. She brings with her over 13 years of experience assisting in a variety of different roles in both the private sector and also in public accounting. Hinzmann is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in accounting. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Amy Hinzmann Accountants and Certified Public Accountants of Minnesota. She is also involved in a number of community organizations.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 7

Local Business People/Company News

Modern Woodmen donate to Habitat Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial presented a check for $10,350 to Habitat for Humanity for their matching grant sponsorship of the Habitat annual holiday dinner in November. Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial was the title sponsor of the event and contributed $2,500 to Habitat. Julie Schmillen, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota, said the group raised more than $22,000 at the event. Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial was founded in 1883 to care for widows and orphans. Today, they continue to serve the financial security needs of their members and their families.

Kuhlmann joins I&S Group I&S Group hired David Kuhlmann as an environmental scientist based out of the Mankato office. He will be assisting with environmental permitting, preparation of environmental review documents, avian studies, phase I Environmental Assessments, geographic information system creation and mapping, and field sampling and data collection. He is a graduate of Cornell College David Kuhlmann with a degree in biology. Following graduation, David was a lead avian field biologist in Texas at Natural Resource Group.

■■■ ■■■ Holm elected to CHS board Brown County farmer Alan Holm has been elected to a three-year term on the board of CHS Inc., the nation’s top producer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company. Holm, 53, brings to the CHS Board nearly two decades experience in cooperative and agricultural leadership. He has served 19 years on the board of what is now River Region Co-op, Alan Holm Sleepy Eye. In addition, he has served as chairman of the Southern Minnesota Co-op Directors’ Association and secretary of the Minnesota State Co-op Directors’ Association. Holm raises corn, soybeans sweet corn, peas and hay on 1,400 acres near Sleepy Eye, a farm that has been in his family since 1870. ■■■ Dunker joins Crysteel Crysteel Manufacturing hired Greg Dunker as the new manufacturing manager at its Lake Crystal facility. Dunker brings more than 20 years of management experience, most recently with Poet Bio-Refinery. “I’m very pleased with the production team we have in place. Plus we have a lot of long-term employees here as well. The longevity of the employees speaks Greg Dunker volumes about the company,” he said. Crysteel was founded in 1969, and has become one of the world’s leading hoist, platform and dump body producers.

AgStart retires 2004 patronage allocations AgStar Financial Services’ Board of Directors is happy to announce the retirement of its 2004 patronage allocations. With this retirement, AgStar distributed $24.7 million in earnings to more than 10,400 eligible stockholders. The patronage program was implemented in 1998 and targets a seven- to 10-year retirement timeframe of nonqualified dividends. Yearly allocations are based on company earnings and the amount of patronage eligible products or services a stockholder purchases from AgStar during the year. AgStar has allocated $391 million in patronage dividends and paid out over $106 million to qualified client stockholders. ■■■ McCabe joins MinnStar Ryan McCabe has been hired by MinnStar as a credit analyst. He is in the Lake Crystal office. He is a graduate of Minnesota State University and a licensed CPA. He brings several years of bank auditing experience. Pioneer Bank acquires Madelia bank Pioneer Bank has acquired the Farmers State Bank of Madelia and their Madelia, Lewisville and Lake Crystal branches. Pioneer Bank has offices in Mankato, North Mankato, Mapleton, St. James and Elmore. Wayne Finnern, president and CEO of Farmers State Bank retired after the acquisition was complete. Finnern has led the bank since 1983. Existing staff of Farmers State Bank stayed with the bank after the acquisition.

To submit your company or employee news. e-mail to tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com Put “Business memo” in the subject line. Call or e-mail Associate Editor Tim Krohn at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383 for questions. 8 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

Business and Industry Trends

Manufacturing

Manufacturing on the rise

According to the Institute for Supply Management, activity in the nation’s manufacturing sector expanded in November for the sixth consecutive month. The report showed that “of the 18 manufacturing industries, 15 are reporting growth in November.” Plastics and rubber companies are leading the way. In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported that manufacturing companies showed a big jump in employment in November. “We are having a good year and we are seeing some growth,” Pete Ollmann, president of Meier Tool & Engineering in Anoka, told the paper. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said that over a two month period, 5,300 manufacturing jobs were added in the state.

■■■

Legislature

Chamber wants B2B taxes cut

If the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has their way, business-to-business sales tax in Minnesota will be eliminated this year. In a statement released Dec. 5, the Chamber renewed its request for the 2014 Legislature to repeal the three sales taxes on business-to-business services. The taxes are applicable to repairs of business equipment and machines, and purchases of telecommunications equipment by telecommunications providers. A tax on warehouse and storage services will take effect in April 2014. “We continue to hear from businesses that are thinking twice about whether it’s in their best interests to stay and/ or expand in Minnesota,” David Olson, Chamber president, said in the statement. After releasing his budget forecast, Gov. Mark Dayton showed that the state’s $1.1 billion budget surplus should allow for the repeal of the three taxes. But Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben said it’s too early to say if the cuts would be backed by the Senate.

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Energy

Crude production jump

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2014 shows that recent growth in domestic crude oil and natural gas production is expected to continue for many years. In 2016, crude oil production is expected to be close to the historical high of 9.6 million barrels per day, a record set in 1970.

While domestic crude oil production is projected to level off and then slowly decline after 2020, natural gas production grows steadily, with a 56 percjent increase between 2012 and 2040, when production reaches 37.6 trillion cubic feet. Some other key findings: Low natural gas prices boost natural gas-intensive industries. Industrial shipments are expected to grow at 3 percent per year over the first 10 years of the projection and then slow to 1.6% annual growth through 2040. Bulk chemicals and metals-based durables account for much of the increased growth in industrial shipments. Industrial shipments of bulk chemicals, which benefit from an increased supply of natural gas liquids, grow by 3.4 percent per year from 2012 to 2025. Natural gas overtakes coal as the largest fuel for electricity. Projected low prices for natural gas make it a very attractive fuel for new generating capacity. In some areas, natural gas-fired generation replaces power formerly supplied by coal and nuclear plants. In 2040, natural gas accounts for 35 percent of total electricity generation, while coal accounts for 32 percent. Car and light truck fuel use declines sharply. A new, detailed demographic profile of driving behavior by age and gender as well as new, lower population growth rates based on updated Census Bureau projections show annual increases in vehicle miles traveled in light-duty vehicles average just 0.9 percent from 2012 to 2040. The rising vehicle fuel economy more than offsets the modest growth in miles traveled, resulting in a 25 percent decline in lightduty vehicle energy consumption between 2012 and 2040.

Gas pump prices inch up

After falling by more than 40 cents per gallon from the beginning of September through mid-November, weekly U.S. average regular gasoline retail prices increased by 8 cents per gallon to reach $3.27 per gallon in early December, due in part to unplanned refinery maintenance and higher crude oil prices. The annual average regular gasoline retail price, which was $3.63 per gallon in 2012, is expected to average $3.50 per gallon in 2013 and $3.43 per gallon in 2014.

Oil nears $110 a barrel

The North Sea Brent crude oil spot price averaged near $110 per barrel for the fifth consecutive month in November. EIA expects the Brent crude oil price to average $108 per barrel in December and decline gradually to $104 per barrel in 2014. Projected West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices average $95 per barrel during 2014.

Oil production up

Estimated U.S. crude oil production averaged 8 million barrels per day in November, the highest monthly level since November 1988. EIA expects U.S. crude oil production will average 7.5 million barrels a day in 2013 and 8.5 million in 2014.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 9

Minnesota Business Updates

■ ADM takeover bid blocked Archer Daniels Midland’s $2 billion takeover of GrainCorp was blocked by the Australian government, prompting a record drop in shares of the country’s biggest crop handler. “This proposal has attracted a high level of concern from stakeholders and the broader community,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said, ruling U.S.-based ADM’s bid isn’t in the national interest. “Now is not the right time for a 100 percent foreign acquisition of this key Australian business.” It was the first time a U.S. company has been blocked from buying Australian assets by the Treasurer, according to law firm Minter Ellison. ADM, which holds a 19.9 percent stake in GrainCorp, is likely to wait for a change in political climate that would allow it to take full control. “It’s a long-term game being in grain trading and making these strategic acquisitions,” Dennis Hulme, a Sydneybased analyst told Bloombergs. GrainCorp may make further acquisitions, with Ridley Corp., a Melbournebased maker of agricultural feedstock, a possible target, he said. The company dropped a bid for Ridley in 2008.

■ General Growth on S&P 500 General Growth Properties Inc. has raeplaced Molex Inc. in the S&P 500. Privately held Koch Industries is acquiring Molex. General Growth Properties is a real estate investment trust that owns, manages, leases, and redevelops regional malls, including River Hills Mall in Mankato. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, the company will be added to the S&P 500 GICS (Global Industry Classification Standard) Retail REITs Sub-Industry index.

■ Xcel rate increase approved State regulators approved Xcel Energy Inc.’s request for another rate increase for Minnesota

electrical customers. The state Public Utilities Commission approved the Minneapolis-based utility’s request for a 4.6 percent interim rate hike increase in January, the sixth rate hike in eight years. The action comes just a month after regulators finalized Xcel Energy’s 2013 rate hike, a 3.8 percent increase that was significantly less than what the company had sought. The PUC unanimously approved the temporary rate hike, rejecting a request from the state attorney general’s office for no interim rate hike, the Star Tribune reported. “We have back to back to back rate cases,” said Assistant Attorney General Ian Dobson, whose office represents consumer interests. Before 2006, Xcel Energy’s customers in Minnesota

10 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

went 12 years without seeing their rates go up. By law, utilities have a right to charge interim rates while the utilities commission decides on permanent rates. If the final rates are less, Xcel Energy must refund the difference with interest. For the average residential customer using 675 kilowatthours per month, the average monthly bill will go up $4, to $84.39 in January. The company says the increases will help pay for new wind investments and upgrades to Xcel Energy’s Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants, which supply 30 percent of Xcel Energy’s power.

■ Xcel to build powerlines Xcel Energy plans to create a transmission subsidiary to build some new high-voltage lines, executives told analysts at an investor conference investor in New York. Stand-alone transmission companies are becoming more common in the electric utility industry because the federal government has encouraged them as a way to boost competition and reduce costs on big multistate power line projects, the Star Tribune reported. “The main purpose is to give us some financial flexibility,” said Teresa Mogensen, Xcel’s vice president for transmission. Xcel traditionally has built power lines on its own or in partnership with other utilities. But it plans to create a stand-alone transmission company in 2014 as a potential vehicle to develop $650 million in power lines in and near its Texas and New Mexico service areas. Xcel projected overall 2014 capital expenditures of $2.9 billion and five-year capital expenditures of $14.1 billion. Transmission investments are expected to be nearly $1 billion in each of the next three years, Mogensen said. Electric utilities like Xcel that deliver power to homes and businesses are local monopolies whose investments and rates are closely regulated by state utility commissions. But a new class of utility — focused solely on transmission lines — has emerged to compete for multistate transmission projects. The financial terms of these projects typically are regulated by a federal agency rather than state utility commissions.

■ Gander Mtn. targets Cabella’s in suit Gander Mountain is honking over the online tactics of its top competitor. The Pioneer Press reports the St. Paul-based company has filed a lawsuit accusing Cabela’s of cybersquatting. Typing GanderMountainCatalog.com or GanderCatalog.com into a web browser will lead you to Cabela’s home page. That prompted the lawsuit, in which Gander Mountain claims its rival in the retailing of outdoors gear is deliberately trying to confuse the public and divert Web traffic from Gander. Cabela’s did not immediately comment.

Business Commentary

By Julia Ketcham Corbett

Changes in criminal background checks

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s the New Year begins it is a great time to review and evaluate your business’ employment policies and practices to ensure that you are following current laws and protecting your business from employment related legal issues. One of the most important issues that employers need to be aware of in 2014 is a change in the law which may significantly affect an employer’s hiring practices. Effective January 1, 2014, employers are now barred from obtaining or asking for an applicant’s criminal history before the applicant has either been selected for an interview or, if there is no interview, until the applicant has received a conditional job offer. Additionally, the new law prohibits job application forms from asking for an applicant’s criminal background. This new law means that during the application process, your application form can no longer ask an applicant if they have been convicted of a felony or other criminal charges. The form also cannot ask an employee to disclose arrest information. Criminal history can be inquired about during the interview process. Additionally, an employer can make its job offer conditioned on an applicant satisfactorily completing a criminal history check. When a conditional offer is made, the applicant should be informed, in writing, that the job offer is conditioned upon complete and satisfactory findings of all applicable background checks. That conditional offer should specifically inform the applicant, in writing, that the employer intends to complete a criminal history check on the applicant. There are additional requirements for the notice to the applicant, in order to be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and to be Minnesota credit reporting law compliant. Those requirements are outside the scope of the information included in this article and thus, are not discussed within this article. Please check with

your legal counsel to make sure your notices are fully compliant with state and federal law. For a “public” criminal history record check, the employer will need the applicant’s first and last name and date of birth. Public information is free through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s (MN BCA) website and includes information from Minnesota offenses: offense, court of conviction, date of the conviction and sentence information. For a “full” criminal history check, more complete public and “private” information is available through the MN BCA for a fee of $15.00 ($8.00 for a 501(c)(3) organization), which the employer must pay, not the applicant. Information in a full criminal history record check would include the public information listed above and private information including arrest data, juvenile data, criminal history data from other states, federal data, data on convictions where 15 years or more have elapsed since the completion of the sentence, and other data deemed private or confidential. To obtain a full criminal history record, an employer may request it via U.S. Mail from the MN BCA. The request must include a notarized informed consent signed by the applicant and the applicable fee. The informed consent document and full instructions are available on the MN BCA’s website. An employer can also bring the notarized Informed Consent Form and the fee to the MN BCA directly and pick the report up three working days later. Once a criminal history report is received, or based upon answers in an employment interview, an employer may still refuse to hire an applicant with a criminal history if the employer can demonstrate that the need to do so is job related and of business necessity or required by law or regulation. However, employers cannot consider arrests, only convictions. If an employer is going to rescind a conditional offer or

refuse to hire an applicant based on criminal history received from a criminal history record check or disclosed in an interview, the employer should be prepared to demonstrate that the type of conviction relates to concerns about the employee being able to fulfill the duties of the job, or that there are other job-related or business necessity reasons for ruling out a candidate based on his/her criminal history record. Employers and HR managers should be sure to examine their company’s hiring materials and practices to ensure they comply with the new law. We hope that this information will be helpful to you in ensuring that you are compliant with the new law and that you are prepared with employment policies which you can effectively enforce. This information is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions about whether or not your hiring practices and other policies and procedures are compliant with applicable Federal and State laws, please consult your legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. MV Julia Ketcham Corbett is a partner at Blethen, Gage & Krause, PLLP, whose primary practice is in the area of employment law (employer/ management-side). For almost twenty years, she has been representing small, mid-sized and large companies in all aspects of employment law, including human resource consultation, handbook, policy and other employment document review and drafting, employee and supervisor training and employment related litigation. If you have any questions about hiring practices, employment law compliance, employee handbooks, policies, and agreements, employee training, dealing with under-performing employees or other employment law issues, she can be reached at 507-345-1166 or jcorbett@bgklaw.com

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 11

John Finke, president and CEO of Enventis, formerly HickoryTech, based in Mankato.

Shooting for the clouds

Enventis sees growth through cloud-based business services By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross and Pat Christman

I

n 1898 a group of investors launched Mankato Citizens Telephone Company, erecting the first telephone poles and launching phone service in Mankato. In 2000, the company was expanding rapidly into digital TV, Internet and business services and changed its name to HickoryTech. A few months ago it merged all its brands under the Enventis name. Through it all, the company has remained independent and based in Mankato. Of their 500 employees, 290 work in the Mankato area. “We’re still very committed to this community,” said

John Finke, president and CEO of Enventis. “The rate and pace of change accelerates in our industry. We think our local service, with the employees we have, is something we bring to the table,” Finke said. “We have the capabilities of the big companies, but we have the local support they can’t or won’t always provide.” While technology and growth came steadily during the first 100 years of the company, its basic mission as a telephone company was mostly unchanged. That began to change rapidly in 1999 when they launched high-speed Internet service and began a rapid

Cover Story

12 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

Universal broadband service tied up in Washington

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Enventis has dramatically increased its fiber corridors in the five-state area in recent years. expansion into digital TV, acquiring other businesses and dramatically expanding their fiber networks – mostly in Minnesota but also into the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin. Their fiber network now reaches a potential customer base representing some 85 percent of Minnesota’s population. And today, the land-line telephone is a rapidly dwindling part of the company. Residential Internet and TV service remains strong, but the company’s growth strategy is aimed squarely at selling more services to businesses. In 2006, about half of Enventis’ revenue came from business and broadband and half from telecom. Now, about 80 percent comes from business and broadband. Going after business services The Enventis SingleLink service is a cloud-based centrally managed and hosted VoIP communications service. With SingleLink, Enventis provides all of a business’ voice, data, messaging and call center services. Finke said the service means businesses don’t have to work with multiple vendors and equipment and eliminates big capital costs for the business. “Hosted and managed (cloud-based) services are really where we see our focus and growth.” Those services range from taking care of a business’ network to various storage options, disaster recovery and leasing server space. Enventis has two server farms in the Twin Cities, as well as one each in Mankato, Duluth, Fargo and Des Moines. Enventis also sells and manages Cisco equipment to business customers. Enventis has been a Cisco partner since 1999 and a Cisco Gold Certified Partner since 2002. The equipment ranges from video conferencing equipment and servers to routers and switches. “We can serve businesses of all sizes on a broad geographical area,” Finke said. And those business customers don’t necessarily have to be connected to the Enventis fiber network. “We can lease networks for a company in Illinois or anywhere.” Still, a large part of the company’s strategic growth into business services is aided by a dramatic increase in fiber routes. Enventis has “super routes” leading to large cities, including Sioux Falls, Fargo, Des Moines, Eau Claire, Duluth and the Twin Cities. In 2011, Enventis had $21 million in capital expenses, rising to

or the dozens of independent telecom companies in Minnesota, regulatory issues currently being drawn by the federal government are of key concern. “Most of it revolves around universal service,” said Brent Christenson, president/CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance. The alliance represents the 50 or so independent telecom companies in the state. Most of those, like Enventis in Mankato, grew from local phone companies into telecom companies offering broadband services. Many of those are family owned, others, like Enventis, are publicly traded. “Universal service” was a concept from the early 1900s when the federal government decided every citizen should have access to telephone service. A fee was put on everyone’s phone bill with the money going into a pot that was used to build phone networks in rural areas that wouldn’t otherwise get it. Over the decades, states provided much of the regulatory oversight of those funds and over telephone companies. Now, said Christenson, the Federal Communications Commission is taking more control as it moves to provide universal service for broadband services. But how money is collected and distributed to provide that universal broadband Internet service is caught up in a complex rules writing exercise in Washington. “It should be easy – just take out the word ‘telephone’ and put in ‘broadband Internet.’ But that’s not what they did,” said Christenson, who was formerly general manager of Madelia’s Christenson Communications. There have been federal grants to larger telecom companies to provide broadband infrastructure in rural areas and smaller companies like Enventis got some federal stimulus money to expand fiber networks in rural areas. But there is currently no fees on people’s Internet services going into a pot to provide ongoing funding for adding high-speed broadband services in areas that don’t have them. “What I would do is put a fee on the pipe coming into your home – for whatever you’re using it for, phone, Internet, whatever – and allow companies to draw on that and deploy more broadband services,” Christenson said.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 13

Enventis has several server farms, including at its Mankato headquartes. $30 million in 2012 and slowing a bit to $28 million in 2013. “We’re positioning ourselves to flatten that (capital expenses) and then maybe reduce them,” Finke said. “We can continue to grow and expand organically without quite as much capital outlay.” With the main fiber lines in place, Finke uses highway metaphors to describe the company’s strategy to gaining new customers. “We have the super highways to Sioux Falls and other places. Now we’re building the off ramps in between.” Enventis, for example, went off its main route into Detroit Lakes and is running off their route on the west side of the Twin Cities and moving into Plymouth. Those new “off ramp” routes are focused entirely on getting new business customers, not pursuing new residential customers. Trying to break into new residential areas runs up against existing competition, regulatory obstacles and the fact there are better returns from business customers. Need for speed One thing Finke and his company have seen is an insatiable desire for a bigger, faster and better Internet by both residential and business customers. “We have a fascination for more and more bandwith. I think customers will always want and think they need more,” Finke said. “Bandwith speed and the amount of data, especially — will continue to grow.” He said the bandwith — the size of the “pipes” carrying data — is really the key as more and more video, audio and other data are transmitted. “Consumption just keeps growing with smartphones and tablets and everything else.” Finke said staying ahead of trends in necessary. The way people get and watch TV, for example, is evolving quickly. “Netflix comes in over our lines, people can get any NFL game at any time. It’s over the top. Now they’re watching TV everywhere, PCs, iPads, TV screens. “TV will continue to change. Just like (phone) land lines are going away, TV will keep changing.” Stock undervalued? In the past couple of years, Enventis has been buying back shares of its stock. Since 2011, the company spent $1.6 million buying back 160,000 shares. The company isn’t holding the shares for

14 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

later resale but retiring them. That effort reduces the number of outstanding shares on the open market with the aim of increasing the value of shares investors hold. “We think it’s a good investment. If we think (shares) are undervalued, we buy them,” Finke said. Finke won’t say where he believes the value of Enventis shares should be, but he thinks the marketplace will see the value in the company’s strategy. The 52-week low for Enventis (still traded as HickoryTech - HTCO) was $9.20 with the high being $13.95. In December it was selling for around $13 a share. “We think with the strategic things we’re doing the message will get out there and people will recognize the value,” Finke said. “We’re trying to show consistent, steady growth over time, not worry about big jumps in growth.” While Enventis isn’t large enough to be closely tracked by a lot of Wall Street analysts, TheStreet last fall had this to say about the company: “(Enventis) has been upgraded by TheStreet Ratings from hold to buy. The company’s strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, reasonable valuation levels, increase in net income, good cash flow from operations and increase in stock price during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.” Whether or not the stock is undervalued, shareholders have — for 65 years — always gotten dividend payments. For the third quarter of last year, the company declared a quarterly dividend of $0.15 per share, a 3 percent increase from the previous dividend. There are 13.5 million shares of stock held by about 3,000 shareholders. Sixty institutions hold 25 percent of the stock with the rest held by individuals. About 20,000 Enventis shares are traded daily. Finke said there is always the potential for a large telecom business to launch a buyout attempt of Enventis. “It’s something that could happen. As a board we’d have to evaluate what’s best for shareholders. There’s been a lot of consolidation, but we’ve always remained independent and focused on a plan and on our customers,” he said. “We’re not the biggest, but we’re more nimble,” said Jennifer Spaude, director of investor relations at Enventis

MV

Keeping people connected since 1898

A

fter getting electricity in the mid-1800s, Mankato got phone service in 1898 when a group of businessmen formed Mankato Citizens Telephone Company. Founders were Lorin Cray, Henry E. Hance, William A. Funk, J.H. Jones, Ed Staede, F. Kron, W.N. Plymat, H.A. Patterson, John C. Wise Jr., A.G. Bierbauer, Nic. Peterson, John Klein, John B. Meagher, and O.W. Schmidt. According to the book “Our Family Album, A Company History From 1898,” the phone company, in 1921, became the third business in Minnesota to provide group life insurance to all employees. In 1969 the company formed Mid-Communications Inc. and bought the small telephone exchanges for Blue Earth County, giving private-line dial service to more than 7,700 subscribers on farms and area towns. In 1972 the phone company laid a fiber optic cable from MCTC offices to Minnesota State University, allowing for 672 conversations to take place on one fiber pair. In the late 1980s there were more than 25,000 subscribers in the Mankato-North Mankato area and Mid Communications was one of the few independent telephone companies left in Minnesota. For the first 100 years of operation, the company’s operators gave the time of day, forwarded emergency messages and provide other assistance to callers. The last operators worked until 1998. In the mid ’90s the company, now called HickoryTech, was listed on the stock exchange and they began buying other telephone exchanges, introduced Internet access and moved into providing cable TV services. In recent years the company rapidly expanded fiber networks around Minnesota and in neighboring states and focused more on providing services to businesses. In 2013 the company aligned all of its products and services under one name - Enventis.

A Mankato Citizens Telephone Company switchboard, around 1900. | Blue Earth County Historical Society

Workers install lines to recently erected telephone poles in Mankato in 1898. | Blue Earth County Historical Society

Enventis 1898 to 2014

Mankato Citizen’s Telephone Company founded in Mankato. Investors purchased shares at $25. Eagle Lake, Minn. exchange forms. Federal government seizes control of large telephone companies and divides Minnesota: Northwestern Bell and Tri-State. MCTC is the largest of 1,719 independent telephone companies in Minnesota, outside of the Twin Goliaths. First telephone call ever from England to Mankato, Minn. Mankato exchange converts to 7-digit dialing, allowing U.S. callers with Direct Distance Dialing to dial without assistance; DDD expanded to 19 communities in 1965; Company Foundation established.

Four-for-one stock split. Two-for-one stock split. Hickory Tech Corporation launches as a holding company, parent to five subsidiaries: MCTC, Mid-Comm, Computoservice Inc., Information and Communication Service Inc., and Mid-Communications Cablevision Inc. Two-for-one stock split ICIS is dissolved and merged into MCTC. HTCO is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Three-for-one stock split; Crystal Communications becomes Minnesota first facilities-based CLEC, competing in Nicollet, Minn; Enventis celebrates 100 years of business. HickoryTech becomes the new name for MCTC, Mid-Com, Crystal Communications and Heartland Telecommunications. Company purchases Internet Connections, adding nearly 5,000 additional Internet customers.

Wireless business sold to Western Wireless. Company acquires Enventis Telecom, a transport and enterprise Internet Protocol Telephony sales business with 75 employees and offices in Plymouth, Duluth and Rochester, Minn.

1898 1901 1905 1907 1918

1927 1945 1949

1963

1964 1966 1971 1972 1984 1985

1987 1988 1990

1993 1995 1997

1998 1999 2000

2001 2002

2003 2005

2008 2009

Company completes fiber network expansion to the Dakotas and constructs a fiber network in Des Moines, Iowa.

2010

Fargo, No. Dakota, a fiber and data service provider in the greater Fargo area.

2012

All services and products are aligned under one brand - Enventis.

2011

2013

Mapleton and Garden City, Minn. franchises acquired. Saulpaugh Hotel in Mankato buys first private branch exchange.

Operators no longer needed for local calls; Trans-Atlantic telephone service now available. The Company is Minnesota’s largest independent telephone company, with exchanges in Mankato/North Mankato, Mapleton, Good Thunder, Madison Lake, Eagle Lake, St. Clair and Garden City. National Independent Billing Inc. was founded as a mainframe-based billing service for independent telephone companies. Company’s first-ever television ads air. Fiber optic cable between MCTC and Minnesota State University Mankato can carry 672 conversations on one fiber pair. Two-for-one stock split Three-for-one stock split; ICSI acquires Digital Techniques Inc. in Texas and Collins Communications Systems Co. in Minnesota. Computoservice begins National Independent Billing. Enventis is the nation’s 30th largest telephone company after $35.2 million acquisition of 11 Iowa exchanges; Heartland Telecommunications. Internet Services and 56K Internet access introduced. Company launches DSL high-speed Internet services in Mankato, Minn. The Company overbuilds four CLEC communities: St. Peter, Waseca and Faribault, Minn. and Waukee, Iowa. Information Solutions Division offers SuiteSolution, a billing and customer management system; Company receives a four-year contract to provide regional highspeed wide area network to 73 schools and libraries in Minnesota served by Project SOCRATES. Data center and colocation facility opens in Mankato, Minn. Company acquires CP Telecom, a telecom provider serving Minneapolis, St. Paul and northern Minnesota with voice, data and Internet services. Enventis breaks ground on the Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project with the construction of a fiber route from Duluth, Minn. to the Twin Cities.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 15

Rich Amundson (left) and Karl Wendland, part owners of Artisans distinctive home products in Mankato.

The artisans

Business covers interior and exterior home projects By Heidi Sampson | Photos by John Cross

W

ithin the Mankato Design Center on Madison Avenue, is a collaborative effort to bring all aspects of the home building experience into one location for the ease of the homeowner or potential homebuilder. Among the different businesses in the Design Center, is Artisans, formerly known as Mankato CabinetCraft and Artisan Exteriors. This past fall, the two businesses combined into one. Artisans is owned by Karl Wendland, Rich Amundson and Tony Wagner, however only Karl and Rich are at the Artisans location, which specializes in design, sales and retail of both interior and exterior building products. Tony heads up Blue Lion Cabinetry of Madison Lake, a company that is also owned by Karl. Blue Lion Cabinetry manufactures custom cabinetry and mill work exclusively for Artisans. “Karl was a partner in Artisan Exteriors but he also owned Mankato CabinetCraft and Blue Lion Cabinetry as well,” said Rich. “As far as this site was concerned, it just made more sense for us to work under a company with only one name.”

Blue Lion Cabinetry Fifteen years ago, Karl started Blue Lion Cabinetry after attending Hennepin Technical College’s two year cabinet program. At the time Karl started the business, a building boom was in full swing. “When I started Blue Lion Cabinetry, it was almost all referrals and word of mouth that brought business into the company,” said Karl. “I still think your best customers are those who are referred to your business and that was a lot of what we relied on to get people in the door.” Karl operated Blue Lion Cabinetry for 12 years. Around 2009, a group of investors bought the Mankato Design Center building with the concept of bringing in different building elements into one location. Blue Lion Cabinetry was selected for the cabinet and countertop component, while lighting, flooring, and interior designers would also occupy the open collaborative concept. The Mankato Design Center’s invitation launched Mankato CabinetCraft as a central retail location for Blue Lion Cabinetry, as well as several other cabinet lines and

Profile

16 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

other kitchen related items. Two years later, Artisan Exteriors was created for the purpose of specializing in windows and siding. Artisan Exteriors Rich began his career with Andersen Windows. As an Andersen employee, he learned about window installation, window manufacturing, window service, as well as how to be a sales representative. Karl and Rich met when United Building Centers had a small Andersen Windows display located in the Mankato Design Center. The two became friends and when Karl considered starting Artisan Exteriors, he brought Rich into the plan as a partner. “The whole exterior portion of this business appealed to me,” said Rich. “Originally, Artisan Exteriors was only going to focus on siding but as a partner, I kind of brought the window piece into the mix.” Artisans strives to have “distinctive home products” available at one location as they cater to the feminine element, or softer side of decision making. Karl believes women make 90 percent of the decisions regarding remodels and designs when a couple enters their store. With this in mind, Artisans assists with all aspects of the homebuilding experience to help ease the homeowner’s mind. Whereas in a different situation, a homeowner might find themselves traveling to the lumber yard, the builder, a lighting store, and somewhere else for flooring. “We are trying to facilitate the whole process in one place,” said Karl. “They should be able to select everything from roofing, to shingles, to siding color, to trim details, windows and interior work, like flooring, cabinets and countertops all within our location. “So if somebody wants a full service package, we can accommodate that. If you only want to buy product, we’ll sell them product. We cater to whatever they are looking for. We work with independent licensed contractors who can install everything that we have here. Karl and Rich believe a hands-on approach to the coordination of colors and textures is essential, as this is often the biggest obstacle customer’s face when they come into their store. The most common question posed is ‘how do you put all this stuff together?’ To assist with putting it together, Artisans has a 3-D rendering service available, in which a 3-D model of the house or project is created to allow for visual approval of the colors to be used. “Our motto is basically ‘see a project before you start,’ ” Rich said. “Our 3-D rendering service allows us to spin a house. Our customers are able to change the color of the

house, the color of the trim or even the color of the doors, all while sitting in our office. Customers can literally see exactly what it is they want before we even start the project.” To help with the intricate details of interior design, Artisans offers the services of The Design Element, owned by Margot Weyhe. The interior design services are available free of charge, to anyone who buys product from Artisans. For customers who may be wondering what to do with the items about to be torn out of their home, Artisans suggests donation of the items to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, located in Mankato. “ReStore is a great asset to the community,” said Karl. “They keep a lot of items out of the landfill by repurposing the household item and then making it available to someone else who could use it.” While the majority of Artisans customers tend to be within a 20 mile radius of Mankato. Karl and Rich find they can extend that to a 100 mile radius through walk-in customers, who may be in town for shopping or sports related events but may end up cruising their store for new ideas. “I think as a business you have to have a unique business plan,” said Rich. “And we have that. Our strength is in being able to change with time. We can recommend new products, as well as bringing in new services to cater to the market, whatever that market may be.” “I’d agree,” said Karl. “We are a fluid business. In the end, it’s all having a consumer that is happy with the product they receive. I enjoy being a part of the bigger picture, of putting the whole package of a house together.”

MV

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 17

Jerry Michaletz (left) helped found the bank now led by Keith Boleen.

Half a Century: A Bank on Belgrade By Pete Steiner Photos by John Cross

T

here it was, somewhat inauspicious, a trailer house tucked between the original Nakato bar and a small vacant lot. It was the first incarnation of Valley National Bank, North Mankato’s first bank in the three decades following the Great Depression. With just four employees, about all that could fit inside the 440-square-foot space, the little bank that WOULD, opened for business in August of 1963. When JFK was still president for a few

more months, and before the Great Flood of ‘65, before Fun Days, before Taylor Corp, in a time when North Mankato’s hilltop was still dominated by cornfields. Jerry Michaletz had just moved to town, to earn a living selling insurance. He would live in one of the first residential homes on that hilltop, but he would also loan a lot of passion to that little bank down in the valley.

Spotlight

18 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

The current Frandsen Bank in North Mankato started out humbly in a trailer ••••

••••

Michaletz first got involved in banking, you could say, at the ground level: as a teenager, he got a job scrubbing floors at the bank in Green Isle where his father worked. By the time he arrived in Mankato in 1960, the 31-year-old Michaletz and his wife, Faye, had four children and just $400 to their name. He started selling group health and life insurance: “The only way I survived was working seven days a week. I knocked on every door in town.” That, and attending service club meetings and church groups helped him meet a lot of locals. Among them was prominent businessman, Dan Coughlan. Jerry and Dan hit it off, and in their discussions, it came up that North Mankato had no bank of its own – the last one had closed in 1932, during the “bank holiday” declared by the federal government in the Depression. Jerry jokes today, maybe no other bank had opened since, because no one could get across the Main Street Bridge to get a loan or make a deposit: the old at-grade-level bridge was notorious for long vehicle backups as drivers waited for freight trains to move through. Michaletz and Coughlan eventually decided to seek local investors to open a bank on Belgrade Avenue. Several prominent businessmen each invested $2,000, and the Coughlan family took a major stake. Valley National Bank was incorporated for a mere $200,000 in equity. (By contrast, the bank, now owned by Frandsen Bank and Trust, is part of a group of more than three dozen banks with nearly $200 million in equity as well as $1.5 billion in assets.) The bank opened for business on August first, 1963.

North Mankato didn’t have much of a business district at the time – several bars, Mutch hardware, a bowling alley, a barbershop, Brennan’s gas station at Belgrade and Range, and of course, the old Marigold Dairy complex at the east end of Belgrade. Now they had added a bank, tiny though it was. With a number of major, well-established banks across the river, the question was obvious: how would that new bank in a trailer attract clients? Then-bank-President, John N. Maiers, offered a solution: “Ask [people you know] what interest rate they’re paying for their car loan, for their mortgage. Then, if you lower your interest rate by one-half percent,” Maiers said, “you’ll get customers!” •••• In May of 1964, Valley National moved east, just across the parking lot into a portion of a big two-story building built of Coughlan stone. The bank remains there to this day. An artist’s rendering in an ad for the grand opening even shows, they now had one of those new-fangled driveby tellers. A Free Press ad for the grand opening calls it “Minnesota’s newest and growingest bank,” adding that they would be giving away eight $30 GE radios as door prizes! By 1966, the bank was successful enough that they needed new capital. A group of new investor/directors was added that included a young man who had just become president of Carlson Craft, Glen Taylor.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 19

Advertisements on the 10th anniversary of the bank. •••• The Coughlan family retained controlling interest in the bank for 15 years, until Twin Cities’ investor and entrepreneur Irwin Jacobs bought them out. Just two-anda-half years later, in January, 1981, Jacobs would sell the bank to the man who, 15 years earlier, had been brought in as an investor/director, and whose own business empire was mushrooming, Glen Taylor. Taylor would eventually buy out Jerry Michaletz’ share, after he had served as a director for nearly a quarter of a century. •••• Keith Boleen had been working at Mankato’s Bank of Commerce when Glen Taylor decided to bring him over as President of Valley National. Boleen notes that today, the bank has expanded to fill most of the stone building it had moved into in 1964. In contrast to the original four employees in the trailer, now there are 34. Boleen remained president when Dennis Frandsen bought the bank from Taylor in 1998, changing the name to Frandsen Bank and Trust. The bank underwent major remodeling in 2002, and then again in 2013 prior to celebrating its 50th anniversary. It remains the only bank in lower North Mankato. •••• Boleen notes, there have been lots of changes in banking in the nearly quarter-century that he’s been bank president. For one, “There’s three times more banks now.” But even

20 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

more, “Technology has changed banking considerably. You can even bank with your smart phone now, from anywhere. And regulations! More and more complex all the time.” Is it harder for normal folks to get a loan? “Yes and no. All the new regulations make consumer real estate tougher. In the ‘70’s, we needed three pieces of paper. Today, a mortgage might require you to sign 30 pieces of paper. Still, he adds, “a good credit history and reliable income will get you a loan. It’s just more complicated.” •••• Michaletz still remembers the first loan he got: “Fourhundred dollars, from Ferd Buscher [then at Bank of Commerce] just for living expenses.” Jerry says he got the loan simply on the basis that “Ferd knew my Dad was a banker!” Boleen quickly notes, today, you’d do that sort of financing with a credit card. Beyond Valley National, Michaletz would go on to help start several other banks around the state. But his business remained insurance, and despite an obvious passion for banking, he served only as a director – “I didn’t want to own the bank!” In fact, he notes, the only time he was ever involved in day-to-day banking operations “was when I mopped the floors in Green Isle.” MV

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MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 21

Ron Boelter’s expertise in siding and window installation and his wife Jodie’s accounting background have served them well over the years in their Ron Boelter Window & Siding business.

Siding with their clients Boelters focus on quality and customer service By Heidi Sampson Photos by Pat Christman

22 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

Sean Baggott machines pieces in the shop at Boelter’s shop in Madison Lake.

R

on Boelter, owner of Ron Boelter Window & Siding Inc. of Madison Lake, started work in the siding trade, in the 1970’s. Throughout the years he developed his craft in siding and windows and in 1990 decided to start subcontracting under his own name. By 1994, Ron’s wife Jodie, a recent graduate of the accounting program at South Central College, was also eager to begin a career in her chosen field. So when the opportunity presented itself to purchase the United States Seamless franchise, Ron and Jodie, craftsmen and accountant, were ready to begin. “I was kind of her guinea pig,” said Ron as he chuckled. “Yeah, he was,” said Jodie. “But it all worked out in the end.”

or upgrading, they aren’t fixing up their current home. So when the building market slowed down, people went back to fixing up their homes and making them their homes to stay in for a while, which is where we come in. I’m not into the new construction as much. Our newest home is five years old but we get a lot of eight to twelve year old homes too.

All In The Family

MVB: Describe how you divide up your time and duties? Ron: We have approximately 16 fulltime employees. Jodie does all of our books and accounting. Jodie: Yeah, I pretty much do everything he doesn’t do. Ron: I do sales and the ordering of materials, which is actually also spread out amongst three production managers, too. I guess the rest is delegated out from there. MVB: How has business been for you throughout the years? Ron: Business has gone up and down but it has been fairly steady. When the building industry really boomed, that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for us because we do mostly older retro homes. If homeowners are buying new

MVB: What areas are your clients generally from? Ron: On average, we work within a 45 mile radius of Madison Lake. However, we also complete jobs as far away as 85 or 100 miles, too. MVB: Is there a drawback to working out of your own home? Ron: I’ve been working out of here for 32 years. Well, 33 years come this spring. I guess a drawback of working out of your place of residence is that you are always here. Jodie: I don’t have to drive into work when the weather is bad but then I don’t get out of work either if it snows. MVB: Is there a time of year when you are unable to work due to weather? Ron: We try to work year around. Unless its gets really cold or it is really snowy, then there isn’t much we can do. Sometimes people believe they don’t get as good of a job done in the winter. I tell them you get just as good a job in the winter. It just takes us longer because of the cold weather. But we do try to keep the crew’s busy year

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 23

around. These guys have families, they want to work. MVB: What’s unique about your showroom? Ron: Our customers enjoy coming out here and seeing all of our products in a real setting. All of our steel roofs, the siding, windows, and patio doors are available for them to see and touch in a real setting, rather than in someone’s show room. Jodie: I guess you could say we have a live showroom. MVB: What is the best part about owning your own business? Ron: I would say the best part is in being able to work with the guys you want to work with. In particular, I’m fairly fussy. I want to make sure that I have guys like that on my crew, guys who care about the quality of their work. I feel it is very pleasing to go and look at a job my company has done, to be able to take pride in the finished product. MVB: How do you handle the competition of this market? Ron: I think this goes back to quality and name recognition. When I first started, there was only one other company doing seamless siding, now there are numerous companies out there. I’ve also seen a lot of bad work done over the years. It seemed like during the building boom everyone who had a tool belt or hammer, was a carpenter, roofer or a contractor. Some of those guys shouldn’t have ever been in business. In today’s market, it’s not easy becoming known and the other thing is becoming known for good quality.

24 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

Jodie: And doing what you believe in. Ron: Yes, that too. Our customers also speak for us through referrals. MVB: How do you give back to the community? Ron: Well we are members of the Minnesota River Builders Association. We donate to be a sponsor of Partners for Affordable Housing. We’ve also donated to the American Cancer Society. Jodie: We try to do as much as we can for a small business. MVB: What are your future plans? Ron: In April, I’m going to be 65. But people are working longer now days, hopefully not because they have too but because they want too. I really enjoy what I am doing. I love meeting the people. If I had a choice, I would only do sales and not be in the office at all. I really enjoy going out and talking with the people, helping them find what it is they are looking for. We’ve gotten to be real good friends with many of our customers over the years and that’s good, too. Jodie: For us, it’s all about treating your customers well, knowing your products and being known for quality work.

MV

Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato 8000

(in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

- 2012 - 2013 (in thousands) $1,263

3000

$6,872 $5,385

6000

Residential building permits North Mankato

$1,840

2000

4000

1000

2000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

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

- 2012 - 2013 250

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

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

Housing starts: Mankato/North Mankato - 2012 - 2013

30 30

170

14

150

20

100

10

50 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

(in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

$1,474

$543

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

500 N

D

Source: City of Mankato

— 2012 — 2013

5.5 5.0

4.5%

4.5 4.0

3.3%

3.5 F

M

Source: Freddie Mac

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of North Mankato

Interest Rates: 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

J

$0

1000

$1,321

M

D

- 2012 - 2013 (in thousands)

1500

F

N

Commercial building permits North Mankato 2000

J

O

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Commercial building permits Mankato

3.0

F

40

144

200

20000 18000 16000 14000 12000 10000 8000 6000 4000 2000 0

J

Source: City of North Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region

0

0

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Foreclosures: Third Quarter of 2013 County Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan

2012

2013

Percent change

24 11 14 23 12 13 13 11 6

19 6 7 22 6 18 8 7 4

-21% -45% -50% -4% -50% +38% -38% -36% -33%

Source: Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 25

Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

Ethanol production not likely to decline

T

he announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency in late November to reduce the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) targets for renewable fuel created quite a stir among the agriculture and renewable energy industry. The EPA is proposing to reduce the total required volume of renewable fuels for 2014 from the previous requirement of 18.2 billion gallons to 15.2 billion gallons. The EPA proposal represents a reduction of approximately 16 percent from the original RFS fuel volume for 2014, which was established by the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The overall goal of that legislation was to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil to meet our energy needs, and to expand the production of renewable fuels domestically. The revisions in the 2014 standards proposed by the EPA are as follow: Total renewable fuel: 15.1 billion gallons. Advanced biofuels: 2.2 billion gallons Corn-based ethanol: 13 billion gallons The total renewable fuel requirement for 2014 established by the 2007 law was 18.2 billion gallons of total renewable fuel, with an estimated 14.4 billion gallons to be derived from corn-based ethanol. The RFS, as it was originally designed in 2007, was supposed to continue to increase in volume through 2022, eventually reaching a total 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel. The volume of corn-based ethanol was set to increase to 15 billion gallons by 2015, and then be held steady. Most of the increases beyond 2015 were slated to occur from development of the production of advanced biofuels, primarily from cellulosic ethanol. Thus far, the production of most advanced biofuels, other than soybean-based biodiesel, have lagged far behind the

expectations that were established in 2007. EPA seems to be using the socalled ethanol “blend wall” to justify the proposed revisions in the RFS requirements for 2014. In simplistic terms, the ethanol “blend wall” is the point at which the required volume of ethanol for gasoline blending matches the expected production of ethanol. In 2007, total gasoline consumption in the U.S. was at about 142 billion gallons per year, and had previously increased every year. Since 2007, estimated annual U.S. gasoline consumption has been declining, and is now estimated to be approximately 132 billion gallons for 2014, which translates to a “blend wall” of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol at a 10 percent blend. Back in 2007, EPA had estimated total gasoline consumption today would be about 150 billion gallons. If enacted in 2014, the EPA decision to adjust the RFS requirements for 2014, primarily based on the so-called “blend-wall,” is likely to face a court challenge from ethanol and agriculture groups. They will likely question the criteria that EPA is allowed to use to make the adjustments in the RFS requirements. If there is a court battle against the EPA decision, it could possibly delay the implementation of the revised RFS requirements. A potential court decision regarding EPA’s authority for setting RFS requirements could also impact how these decisions are made in future years. Assuming that U.S. gasoline consumption levels are going to remain fairly level in the coming years, about the only way to increase the amount of renewable fuel being used is to blend higher amounts beyond “E10” (10 percent) into the gasoline mixtures. Even though EPA has allowed the use of “E15” gasoline blends for automobiles that are 2001 and newer, the adoption of “E15” blends by states has been very slow. There has also been considerable backlash to adopting “E15” blends by oil companies, auto and equipment

26 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

manufacturers, and others. Regardless of what ethanol opponents are hoping for, production and use of corn-based ethanol, soybean-based biodiesel, and other forms of renewable energy are not likely disappear anytime soon. The corn-based ethanol industry is well established, with many well managed and profitable ethanol plants in operation. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, there are expected to be 210 ethanol production facilities operating in the U.S. in 2014, including several in Minnesota, with a total production capacity exceeding 14.7 billion gallons. One question that often comes up is what happens to the excess ethanol fuel that is produced beyond the RFS requirements? A couple of things could occur in the next few years to help stabilize ethanol usage. One would focus on increased ethanol use through more acceptance of “E15” gasoline blends, greater acceptability and engineering advancements of “flex-fuel” vehicles, as well as more availability of “E85” and other higher ethanol gasoline blends at retail gas pumps. The other likely occurrence from added U.S. ethanol production beyond domestic fuel needs will likely be increased ethanol exports to Canada, South America, and Asia, in the future. The biggest loser in the scaling back of future RFS requirements may be the development and advancement of renewable fuels from cellulosic sources, biomass, and other new technologies. Many of these “next-generation” forms of renewable energy are still in the research and development stages, and may be years from commercial development. Federal government policy and resources will likely dictate how fast the commercial development of these advanced biofuels occurs. MV Kent Thiesse is farm management analyst and vice president, MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal. 507- 381-7960; kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com

Agriculture/Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2012 — 2013 8

$14.21

12

4

$13.00

8

$4.00

2

4

J

F

Source: USDA

M

A

M

J

J

A

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices

S

O

N

D

20

80

18

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Minimum prices, class 1 milk Dollars per hundredweight

$22.00

$22.50

16

$75.50

Source: USDA

F

22

90

70

J

Source: USDA

— 2012 — 2013 24

$85.65

100

0

Milk prices

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

— 2012 — 2013 110

60

(dollars per bushel)

16

6

0

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2012 — 2013 20

$7.40

D

14

J

F

M

A

M

J

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

there for

you

Tom Evensvold

Steve Olson

Mark David Thompson Monson

Many have trusted MinnStar Bank’s personal service to help them build and grow their businesses—and we can do the same for you.

Downtown Mankato 507-625-6816 Lake Crystal 507-726-2137

BUSINESS BANKING www.minnstarbank.com Member FDIC

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 27

Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims

Minnesota initial unemployment claims

Nine-county Mankato region Major September Industry ‘12 ‘13 Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

78 203 42 148 471

Percent change ‘12-’13

74 141 45 165 425

-5.1% -30.5% +7.1% +11.5% -9.8%

Major Industry

September ‘12 ‘13

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

2,695 2,340 1,112 4,642 10,786

Percent change ‘12-’13

2,289 1,964 1,141 4,758 10,149

-15.1% -16.1% +2.6% +2.5% -6%

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.

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.

Local non-farm jobs

Minnesota Local non-farm jobs

- 2012 - 2013

Nine-county Mankato region

126,284 126,429

30000

2000

10000

1000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

Local number of unemployed

O

N

D

- 2012 - 2013

Nine-county Mankato region

7,051 5,872

0000

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

Minnesota number of unemployed

S

O

N

D

- 2012 - 2013 168,343 152,473

200000

8000

150000

6000

100000

4000

50000

2000 0

2,823.0 2,818.3

3000

20000

00000

- 2012 - 2013

(in thousands)

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

Unemployment rate Number of non-farm jobs Number of unemployed

2012

2013

5.4% 54,622 3,120

4.5% 54,786 2,565

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

28 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Unemployment rates Counties, state, nation

(includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) August

0

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

August 2012 5.5% 5.4% 6.1% 6.6% 5.6% 5.3% 4.6% 5.7% 7.1% 5.8% 5.8% 8.6%

August 2013 4.7% 4.6% 5.0% 5.8% 4.9% 4.0% 4.3% 5.3% 6.5% 4.9% 5.1% 7.7% C. Sankey

Retail/Consumer Spending Vehicle Sales Mankato — Number of vehicles sold 781

1200

- 2012 - 2013

(In thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

500

1000

$387.5 $406.1

400

767

800

300

600

200

400

100

200 0

Includes restaurants, bars, telecommunications and general merchandise store sales. Excludes most clothing, grocery store sales.

Sales tax collections Mankato

J

F

M

A

M

J

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

J

A

S

O

N

D

Lodging tax collections Mankato/North Mankato $41,556

60000

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

N

D

Mankato food and beverage tax

- 2012 - 2013

- 2012 - 2013

75000

$62,041

$47,073

50000

O

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

$55,085

50000

40000 30000

25000

20000 10000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

Source: City of Mankato

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

Gas prices-Mankato — 2012 — 2013

5

0

D

Stocks of local interest

Nov. 19

Dec. 16

Percent change

Archer Daniels

$40.97

$40.66

-0.8

4

Ameriprise

$105.20

$109

+3.6

3

Best Buy

$38.78

$41.73

+7.6

Crown Cork & Seal

$43.66

$43.26

-1

Fastenal

$46.45

$47.01

+1.2

General Growth

$20.56

$20.21

-1.7

General Mills

$50.38

$49.91

-1

HickoryTech

$12.45

$13.03

+4.7

Hutchinson Technology

$2.98

$2.99

+0.3

Itron

$42.19

$39.02

-7.5

Johnson Outdoors

$28.14

$27

-4.1

3M

$130.05

$127.66

-1.8

Target

$66.63

$62.17

-6.7

U.S. Bancorp

$38.66

$39.38

+1.9

Wells Financial

$23.40

$22.25

-5

$.45

$.60

+33

$28.49

$27.99

-1.8

$3.19

2

$2.99

1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Gas prices-Minnesota — 2012 — 2013

5

$3.17

4 3 2

$2.92

1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Winland Xcel

Source: GasBuddy.com C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 29

Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

2013

Greater Mankato’s Year 2013 was a strong year for Greater Mankato. With exponential growth and numerous signs of economic recovery seen throughout our marketplace, our region stood out at the state and national level this year.

Greater Mankato Growth

The Greater Mankato Marketplace includes the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the city of Le Sueur. In many cases the economic data available is limited to the Mankato-North Mankato MSA which includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties. Achievments that speak to the marketplace’s vast success in 2013 include:

10th in the nation on Forbes 2013 list of “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” Forbes ranked the Mankato-North Mankato MSA 10th in the nation of all places in the U.S. with populations less than 250,000, up from 11th in 2012 and 25th in 2011. Forbes based the ranking on the entire MSA’s performance in a variety of areas, including job growth, costs (business and living), income growth, educational attainment, projected economic growth and quality of life. Job Numbers Hit Six Year High Job numbers reached a six year high in October for the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). With 55,029 jobs, the MSA is only 7 jobs shy of the highest-ever

October job number of 55,036 in 2007. Personal Income Sees Top Growth in State According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) the Mankato–North Mankato MSA has seen a rise in per capita personal income from 2010-11 of 7.46% and from 2011–12 of 5.25%. From 2010–12 our MSA has also the seen the highest growth rate of per capita personal income among all Minnesota based MSA’s at 13.10%. 5th Lowest Cost of Doing Business among all MSAs in the Upper Midwest According to Moody’s Analytics

30 January 2013 2014 •• MN MNValley ValleyBusiness Business 1 •• JANUARY

2012 North American Business Cost Review, the Mankato-North Mankato MSA has an overall Cost of Doing Business index of 81, which means it is 81% of the national average (or 19% below the national average). This gives the region the 64th Lowest Cost of Doing Business among all 384 MSAs in the U.S., putting it in the top 17% nationally and 5th in the midwest among it’s 29 MSAs. Highest GDP Growth in State between 2011 - 12 In September, the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) made an announcement on the state’s high growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2011 and

grea

2012, along with the performance of Minnesota’s five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), DEED reported that the MSA with the highest GDP growth in the state was the Mankato-North Mankato MSA. 122 new building and renovation projects Of the 122 new projects initiated or completed in 2013, square footage was available on 67 projects and totaled more than 1.8 million square feet. Total construction costs were available for 97 of the projects, which totaled more than $182 million. This follows three strong years, with a total of 249 building and renovation projects initiated or completed from the beginning of 2011 through the end of 2013. Average Number of Establishments up 1.1% The average number of establishments in the MSA at the end of 2013 was at 2,717, compared to 2,687 at the end of 2012, a 1.1% increase.

GREATER MANKATO LEADERCAST

Greater Mankato Growth is proud to bring Leadercast to Greater Mankato on May 9. This one-day event is broadcast live from Atlanta Georgia to over 100,000 leaders around the globe. This leadership conference is perfect for current and emerging leaders alike. The event will feature 11 of the world’s most well-known influential and charismatic leaders including Laura Bush, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jack Welch. See the full line-up of speakers, find out more information and register online today!

For more details and data sources for the above statistics, visit greatermankato.com/ economy.

For information on the benefits of becoming a member of Greater Mankato Growth, visit our website or contact Karen Toft, Member Relations Director, at 507.385.6643 or ktoft@greatermankato.com.

greatermankato.com/membership

The Greater Mankato Young Professionals program gives individuals age 21 - 39 an opportunity to engage with one another while focusing on learning, socializing and community engagement. Contact Shannon Gullickson at 507.385.6656 to find out more about joining. greatermankato.com/young-professionals MN MNValley Valley Business Business •• January January 2014 • 31

Greater Mankato Growth

MEMBERSHIP

greatermankato.com/leadercast

Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

2014 Business After & Before Hours Business After and Business Before Hours gives representatives from GMG member businesses at the Engaged Level or higher an opportunity to get together with one another to exchange ideas and learn about each other’s businesses. For more information on these and other member events, visit greatermankato.com/events.

Greater Mankato Growth

January 7 February 4 March 4 April 1 May 6 June 3 July 1 August 5 September 2 October 7 November 4 December 2

Brunton Architects & Engineers Wow! Zone Snell Motors The Loose Moose Saloon & Conference Center MRCI WorkSource Bolton & Menk, Inc. Pioneer Bank Thomas Tree & Landscape Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery Schwickert’s Tecta America of Mankato Mankato Clinic Country Inn & Suites Hotel & Conference Center By Carlson

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. 2014 Business Before Hours Sponsored by:

32 January 2013 2014 •• MN MNValley ValleyBusiness Business 1 •• JANUARY

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. 2014 Business After Hours Sponsored by:

January 15 February 19 March 19 April 16 May 21 June 18 July 16 August 20 September 17 October 15 November 19 December 17

Lifeworks Services Old Main Village Sam’s Club Enventis Hilton Garden Inn Willow Brook Senior Cooperative Mayo Clinic Health System Jake’s Stadium Pizza Primrose Retirement Community Old Country Buffet Kids Against Hunger The Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic

Cavalier Calls on the Newest Members

B. Stark & Co. 1621 Adams Street, Mankato bstark.com

Kids Against Hunger 77 Pine Street, Mankato kidsagainsthunger.org

Bonfire 1910 Premier Drive, Mankato axelsbonfire.com

Jake Bennett Agency, American Family 1710 Commerce Drive, Suite 130, North Mankato - amfam.com

Flexion Inc. flexion.us

Damsel in Defense/Independent Distributor mydamselpro.net/PRO2524

Realife Cooperative of Mankato 50 Teton Lane, Mankato realifemanagement.com

DayBreak Internet Café LLC 251 Bunting Lane, Suite 101, Mankato facebook.com/DayBreakInternetCafe

MN MNValley Valley Business Business •• January January 2014 • 33

Greater Mankato Growth

Becky’s Floral & Gift Shoppe 719 South Front Street, Mankato beckysfloral.com

Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

Growth in Greater Mankato NEW BUSINESSES

CENTURY 21 Landmark Realtors 931 Madison Avenue, Suite 200, Mankato

Ne

NEW LOCATION

Survey Services, Inc. 151 St. Andrews Court, Suite 400, Mankato

NEW BUSINESSES Berger Floorcoverings 1701 Madison Avenue, Mankato

Greater Mankato Growth

Bid Kato 777 South Victory Drive, Mankato

Farmers Insurance - Michael J. Oliver Agency 500 Holly Lane, Suite 101, Mankato GRAND REOPENING

Pink Bubble Studio 201 North Broad Street, Suite 104, Mankato

Sam’s Club 1831 Madison Avenue, Mankato

34 december January 2014 2013 •MN MN Valley Valley Business Business 1 •• JANUARY 2013 •• MN Valley Business

New Visit Mankato Website offers opportunity for business promotion

By Christine Nessler, Director of Marketing and Leisure Sales Visit Mankato leads the development of the visitor economy in greater Mankato by actively promoting greater Mankato as a premier destination for conventions, tournaments and tourism. These activities bring a steady flow of visitors and business activity to greater Mankato that benefits local residents and future visitors. The work of Visit Mankato helps strengthen the hospitality industry which provides jobs, a diverse tax base and amenities for everyone to enjoy.

Visit Mankato is an affiliate of Greater Mankato Growth (GMG), operated as an LLC under GMG.Visit Mankato is dedicated to the important work of attracting and servicing visitors, conventions, events and tournaments in Greater Mankato.

MN Valley Business • January 2014 • 35

Greater Mankato Growth

Last month Visit Mankato launched a new website, www. visitmankatomn.com. The new website offers hospitality Visit Mankato has launched a new website that is aimed at a more user-friendly experience for visitors and meeting and event planners. businesses opportunities to promote themselves through the website. Directory Listing partners to work together to create The new website has a directory packages that will entice visitors feature for a number of areas including to come to Mankato. We will help lodging, dining, shopping, arts and promote those packages for the NEW BUSINESSES culture and more for visitors. Each businesses on our website, through of our hospitality partners in these social media, the Explore Minnesota areas have the opportunity to update website and through our visitor newsletter, the Mankato Insider. their own information online so the website visitor has the most up-to-date We want to promote you and offer the information available. most comprehensive website possible The Directories of the new website give visitors Map it for our visitors. a chance to search by category, accomodations, location or keyword. Once a business has entered its Simply visit our website at www. information into the WebLink system, visitmankatomn.com and click on we have the ability to include it in our the “Partners” link at the bottom of “Map it” feature of the website.Visitors the page to get started. You can also can find any participating business on contact us directly for more information our interactive map. They can search about how you can make your business by categories, amenities, location and more visible to potential visitors, keyword. meeting planners and tournament planners. The Directory and the Map It features allow visitors to build/plan their trip Visit Mankato is located in the Mankato with the Suitcase feature of our website. Place Mall in Mankato’s City Center. Packages Call us at 507.385.6660 or email us at The Map It feature of the new website allows visitors to easily find what they are looking The new website also offers a packages visitor@greatermankato.com. for in relationship to their hotel, attraction page to promote overnight visits for of choice or even the neighborhood they are visiting. visitors. We encourage hospitality

36 • January 2014 • MN Valley Business


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