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Brandon Scheel of Scheels in Mankato.

Great Outdoors

Great for Business

Also in this issue Plato’s Closet Blue Earth Consulting Wayne Veroeven, CHS

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F E A T U R E S August 2013 • Volume 5, Issue 11

14

Minnesotans’ love of the outdoors spurs business.

20

CHS soy processing plant

Wayne Veroeven, senior merchandiser at CHS, says some 100 million bushels of soybeans are processed at the Mankato and Fairmont facilities.

24

Blue Earth Consulting

28

Bruce Nowlin spends a lot of time in area farm fields testing soils and providing nutrient and pest management information to farmers.

Plato’s Closet of Mankato

Shelley Martini and Chellsea Petersen work side by side buying recent, name brand clothing from people and reselling it at Plato’s Closet

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 5


■ August 2013 • VOLUME 5, ISSUE 11 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Pete Steiner Alex Troschinetz Kent Thiesse Marie Wood PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman John Cross COVER PHOTO Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey 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................. 12 ■ Agriculture Outlook...................... 32 ■ Agribusiness trends..................... 33 ■ Job trends..................................... 34 ■ Construction, real estate trends.. 35 ■ Retail trends................................. 36 ■ Greater Mankato Growth.............. 38 ■ Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities ....................... 40

From the editor

By Joe Spear

Outdoor market grows business

T

he signs of the Mankato region’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors show up in parking ramps and bike trails and you can gauge this enthusiasm in commerce and in community. For every sedan you can find in a public parking ramp, you’ll find four or five pickup trucks or SUVs. Pickup trucks and SUVs have utility beyond the sedan and that usually relates to outdoors – hunting, fishing and bike riding. Mankato used to have one primary outdoors store about 20 years ago. Today, that store (Scheels) has expanded exponentially, another has planted roots (Gander Mountain), and another 30 miles down the road has continued to grow (Cabelas). But the big box stores joined in too. Target, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club have all expanded their outdoor lines it seems. You can find basic camping and fishing gear almost anywhere. Then there are the stores that cater to people who work outdoors, mainly farmers and others. C & S Supply has been a longtime provider of things that make working outdoors easier, more comfortable. Tractor Supply runs in the same vein. Even some auto dealers have tapped into the outdoors market, with companies like Snell Motors going full into the power sports line and others like Mankato Honda selling motorcycles. There are boat dealers, camper dealers and the complimentary repair shops. The Mankato area has great demographics for outdoors retailers, says Brandon Scheel in our cover story this month. That demographic is interested in hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, camping, skiing and biking. Scheel notes many of the cities in the Upper Midwest are prime for outdoors, but the Mankato area offers a little different niche. The proximity of regional lakes allows people to run out to a lake for a quick morning or night fishing expedition. People who operate outdoor goods and services businesses point to the economy and technology as trends

6 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

that drive their business from year to year. During recessions, people are not buying a lot of new boats, but when the market comes back as it is now, there is some demand for $100,000 rigs that can do everything. Boat technology advances just like auto technology. There are buttons and electronics and pontoons that can go 54 miles per hour to pull a water skier. It’s no different in hunting and fishing and running. Hot new technology includes GoPro cameras, according to Scheel. They’re small cameras you can attach to your bike, you gun or your chest. Runners like GPS devices that can track the stats and location of their running as it happens. Entrepreneurs also have caught on to the trend. Bent River Outfitters started up as a small business about three years ago, renting kayaks to people wanting to experience the hundreds of miles of rivers in Blue Earth County. The company has about doubled its business in each of the last two years and expanded its services. Outdoor activities are so big in the Mankato region that the local convention and visitors bureau chose to use the outdoors as a branded message with its new “Now Playing” theme for the Mankato region. The logo includes an image of a bicycle, alluding to all the trails and outdoor recreational opportunities. The vendors of outdoor gear should find nice ties to that marketing effort. And the existence of solid outdoor opportunities like great trails, parks, lakes and rivers can’t hurt the expansion of the market. People tend to become more outdoor oriented the closer to the outdoors they might be. That trend should hold well into the future as Mankato develops its outdoor amenities. MV Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com


Local Business People/Company News

Steven Helget earns sales award Northwestern Mutual Mankato announced that Steven Helget reached his Pacesetter Second 60, an honor given to a small number of agents for the number of life policies written in their first year. Helget earned his Bachelor degree from Minnesota State University in 2011. Helget was also a member of the Mavericks Baseball team. While Steven Helget attending college, he was an intern at Northwestern Mutual before converting to full time. ■■■ Frundt & Johnson buy Wells law office The law firm of Frundt & Johnson has recently purchased the Bichler Law Office in Wells. Randel Bichler came to Wells in 1978, employed as an associate attorney of the late Joseph R. Gadola. Since 1998, he has been sole practitioner at Bichler Law Office. Bichler will continue to work with the firm. Frundt & Johnson has offices in Blue Earth, Winnebago, Minnesota Lake, Amboy, and Wells.

HickoryTech donates $4,000 to VINE HickoryTech Foundation recently presented a $4,000 check to VINE Faith in Action in Mankato. The funding will be used to purchase a utility trailer, along with help to develop a new home modification service. ■■■ Willaert named VP at U.S. Bank U.S. Bank in Mankato has named Suzanne Willaert a commercial relationship manager and vice president. Willaert is responsible for managing existing and developing new commercial client relationships in Mankato. Willaert was a CPA for the past 17 years, most recently as a senior audit Suzanne Willaert manager. Willaert grew up in Mankato. She has been active as a board member of Habitat for Humanity and the March of Dimes, and participated in Junior Achievement, the Big Brother Big Sisters program at the YMCA, a United Way campaign and acted as treasurer for other programs in the community.

■■■ ■■■ Farrish Johnson launches new web site Farrish Johnson Law Office of Mankato recently launched a new website. The firm is celebrating 120 years in business this year. The site (farrishlaw.com) includes extensive attorney biographies including areas of practice, experience and education. Visitors are also able to access legal resources including links to legal associations; law directories; court decisions; local, state, and federal laws and information; government resources; medical links; and legal search engines. ■■■ Upper Midwest Management purchases Faribault firm Upper Midwest Management has purchased Hoysler Associates in Faribault. The acquisition allows Upper Midwest to expand its appraisal department. Upper Midwest Management, which offers appraisals, farm management and real estate services, has offices in New Ulm, Faribault, Olivia, New Hope and Jamestown, OH. ■■■ Thermo Dynamics hires operations coordinator S&S Thermo Dynamics of Mankato has hired Keith Swanson as operations coordinator, and Katie Peterson as receptionist/administrative assistant.

Arrow Ace Hardware opens fourth store in Rochester St. Peter-based Arrow Ace Hardware has opened a fourth store in Rochester. It is the 11th store for the Arrow Ace chain which also has stores in Mankato, St. Peter, Shakopee, Chaska, Northfield, Owatonna, and Byron. ■■■ Country Inn & Suites hires new director of sales Country Inn and Suites Mankato has named Anita R Steinbach as the director of sales. Steinbach brings 15 years of sales and leadership experience to the position. Prior to joining the hotel she served as area sales manager at Spherion Staffing. ■■■ Minnesota Valley Funeral Homes pays dividends Minnesota Valley Funeral Homes & Cremation Services has paid $16,5000 in dividends to those families that had funeral services with the association in 2012. It brings the total to almost $75,000 which has been paid to members so far this year. Minnesota Valley Funeral Homes is a coop funeral home established in 1924. They have two funeral homes in New Ulm, and homes in Nicollet, Gibbon and Hanska. ■■■

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 7


Wells Fargo names Van Engen as manager Wells Fargo announced that Shane Van Engen has been named as manager for Wells Fargo’s business banking team in Mankato. In his new role, Van Engen will lead a team of eight business relationship managers serving business customers in southwest/south central Minnesota. An 11-year veteran with the financial services industry, Van Engen has served Shane Van Engen in a variety of roles with Wells Fargo.

Bauer named Director of Continuing Education Jan Bauer has been chosen to serve as the Director of Continuing Education at Minnesota State University. Bauer comes from the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Ill., where she served as director of the Small Business Development and International Trade Center. Previously, she had served as an executive director of a Chamber of Jan Bauer Commerce and was an owner/executive of a family business.

■■■ ■■■ Foix joins RE/MAX Vickie Foix has joined RE/MAX Dynamic Agents in Mankato. She has 13 years of real estate experience and is a long-time resident of the Mankato/North Mankato area. ■■■ Thompson earns degree at Graduate School of Banking Clay Thompson, chief lending officer of Pioneer Bank, graduated from the SW Graduate School of Banking, Southern Methodist University, being one of only two graduates to earn both leadership and distinction honors. The 2013 graduates represent more than 59 financial institutions in 8 states. They each have at least five years of Clay Thompson banking experience. Thompson joined Pioneer Bank in April and has his office in the bank’s North Mankato location. Pioneer Bank also has offices in Mankato, St. James, Mapleton, Elmore and Delavan. ■■■

8 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

Gengler joinst First National Bank Thomas Gengler has joined First National Bank Minnesota as retail services manager. He brings 17 years of retail financial experience. He will manage the retail customer service functions at the bank’s three locations in Mankato, St. Peter and Gaylord. ■■■ AgStar named top place to work AgStar Financial Services has been named one of the Top 100 Workplaces in Minnesota based on an employee survey project from the Star Tribune. For the second year, AgStar Financial Services was ranked in the top 10, taking the seventh spot on the large employer list this year. This year marks AgStar’s third time being recognized as a top employer in the state. ■■■

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.


Business and Industry Trends

Economy

Housing most positive

Current economic indicators continue to send mixed signals about the state of the U.S. economy, according to analysis by the federal Energy Information Administration. The most positive news is in the housing sector, where the National Association of Home Builders reported that new home sales in May reached their highest level in nearly five years. The pending home sales index from the National Association of Realtors also reached its highest level since December 2006.

Disposable income up, GDP slips

On the income side, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that real disposable income increased by 0.5 percent in May, up from growth of 0.1 percent in April. However, the BEA revised down real GDP growth in the first quarter of 2013 from 2.4 to 1.8 percent, primarily due to lower consumer spending on services and exports. Forecast real disposable income increases 0.5 percent in 2013 and 3.3 percent in 2014. U.S. real GDP growth is expected to be 1.7 percent in 2013, rising to 2.9 percent in 2014. Year-on-year real GDP growth begins to accelerate in 2014, eventually rising to 3.4 percent in its final quarter. Total industrial production grows at a faster rate than real GDP in 2013 and 2014, at 2.6 and 3.6 percent respectively. Industrial production growth in the manufacturing sector is 2.6 percent in 2013, but accelerates to 3.7 percent in 2014. U.S. Income and Expenditures.

■■■

Energy

Crude to average $102 barrel

The Energy Information Administration expects that the Brent crude oil spot price will average $102 per barrel over the second half of 2013, and $100 per barrel in 2014. This forecast assumes there are no disruptions to energy markets arising from the recent unrest in Egypt. After increasing to $119 per barrel in early February 2013, the Brent crude oil spot price fell to a low of $97 per barrel in mid-April and then recovered to an average of $103 per barrel in May and June, about the same as its average over the same two-month period last year. The discount of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil to Brent crude oil, which averaged $18 per barrel in 2012 and increased to a monthly average of more than $20 per barrel in February 2013, fell to less than $5 per barrel in early July 2013. The narrowing of the WTIBrent price spread is supported by several factors that have depressed Brent prices or raised WTI prices. EIA expects the WTI discount to widen to $8 per barrel by the end of 2013 as crude oil production in Alberta, Canada, recovers following the heavy June flooding and as Midcontinent production continues to grow.

Gas prices to decline in ’14

Regular-grade gasoline prices have fallen from an average of $3.66 per gallon on June 10, 2013, to $3.49 per gallon on July 8, 2013. Midwest gasoline prices have recently returned to normal levels relative to the U.S. average price, helped by the resumption of regional refining activity after planned and unplanned outages, and the movement of gasoline from other parts of the nation. EIA expects the annual average regular gasoline retail price to decline from $3.63 per gallon in 2012 to $3.48 per gallon in 2013 and to $3.37 per gallon in 2014.

Oil consumption up slightly

Consumption in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries average 45.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2013 compared with 44.5 million bbl/d for non-OECD countries. EIA forecasts annual average non-OECD total liquids consumption to surpass OECD levels in 2014, averaging 45.9 million bbl/d and 45.4 million bbl/d, respectively. EIA projects non-OPEC liquid fuels production will increase by 1.2 million bbl/d in 2013 and by 1.6 million bbl/d in 2014. North America accounts for most of the projected growth in non-OPEC supply over the next two years because of continued production growth from U.S. tight oil formations and Canadian oil sands.

Nonhydropower renewables growing

EIA projects renewable energy consumption for electricity and heat generation to increase by 3.6 percent in 2013. While hydropower declines by 3.0 percent, nonhydropower renewables used for electricity and heat grow by an average of 7.8 percent in 2013. In 2014, the growth in renewables consumption for electric power and heat generation is projected to continue at a rate of 4.2 percent, as a 2.4-percent increase in hydropower is combined with a 5.2-percent increase in nonhydropower renewables. EIA currently estimates that wind capacity will increase by 6 percent this year to about 62.6 gigawatts, and reach almost 73 gigawatts in 2014. However, electricity generation from wind is projected to increase by 19 percent in 2013, as capacity that came on line at the end of 2012 is available for the entire year in 2013. Wind-powered generation is projected to grow by 8 percent in 2014. EIA expects continued robust growth in the generation of solar energy, both from centralstation and distributed capacity, although the amount of utility-scale generation remains a small

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 9


Minnesota Business Updates

■ State gets high marks in manufacturing A study on Minnesota’s manufacturing climate gives the state high marks for innovation and productivity but low marks for its tax climate. The analysis was conducted by Michael Hicks, an economics professor at Ball State University. Minnesota ranked near the top in the nation in terms of manufacturing patents and spending on research and development per capita. The study also concluded that Minnesota’s high-quality labor force is a competitive advantage that could encourage companies to relocate in the state. The manufacturing industry is 9.9 percent of Minnesota’s economy. It accounted for earnings of $23.8 billion in 2011. The analysis also pointed out that Minnesota was sixthworst in the nation for corporate and individual taxes and 35th in the U.S. for sales taxes. It was near the middle, or 26th, in property taxes. Hicks said high taxes can obviously make the state a less attractive destination for companies looking to relocate. But it’s important to consider how the state spends its tax revenue, he added.

■ U.S. Bank celebrates 150th

During the Civil War, investors in Cincinnati opened the First National Bank of Cincinnati on July 13, 1863, under a charter signed by the Lincoln administration. That lender would survive wars, recessions and other calamites to become a cornerstone of U.S. Bank. The Minneapolis-based megabank, which still runs under the Lincoln charter, is marking its 150th anniversary, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Chief executive Richard Davis, along with two of the company’s longestserving employees and four who serve in the military, rang the closing bell recently on the New York Stock Exchange. Decades of mergers and acquisitions have transformed U.S. Bank into the country’s fifth largest bank. It earned a record $5.6 billion profit last year. Locally, it’s remained an important player in the state economy. “Many banks have come and gone. They’ve weathered an awful lot and come out a shining star in my view,” said Art Rolnick, former research director at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

■ Target expanding in Canada Target Corp. announced its further expansion into the Canadian retail market after the planned addition of 20 stores that are slated to open in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario by the end of this month. The company is investing heavily in Canada, as it already opened 48 stores in the country earlier this year. This recent spike in Canadian operation includes the company’s first entry into Saskatchewan. By the end of this year, the firm plans to open

10 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

approximately another 55 locations. Target already has 1,784 locations in the United States. Many stores throughout the U.S. indicate Target likely sees nearly full saturation, but opportunity still exists in Canada.

■ Xcel warns of billing scams Xcel Energy is warning customers of increased incidences of scams targeting residential and business customers. Since January, more than 120 scams have been reported in the utility’s Upper Midwest territory. The scams typically involve attempts to illegally obtain payments for fictitious utility bills. Individuals impersonating Xcel Energy employees or collection agency personnel are using a variety of techniques to gain access to customers’ funds, usually by indicating a customer has an outstanding debt and is about to lose service: • The impersonator directs the customer to go to a local retailer and purchase a pre-paid cash card. The impersonator then persuades the customer to provide the card number over the phone. • Impersonator requests payments over the phone by credit card or personal check. • Impersonator provides a fake employee name and/or a fake ID number, and offers to come to the customer’s residence to pick up the payment. Xcel Energy reminds customers to only use authorized methods to pay their bills. Credit card numbers and any personal information should not be provided to suspicious callers. Affected customers should call Xcel Energy customer services at 1-800-895-4999.

■ State’s lawyers kicked off 3M case

Minnesota’s lawyers in an environmental lawsuit against the 3M Co. have been kicked off the case. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that Covington & Burling LLP may not represent the state because it previously represented 3M and it can’t switch sides. The ruling strikes a blow to the state’s legal case, which could become one of the biggest environmental lawsuits in state history. 3M is being sued for “damage to the environment” because chemicals made by 3M have been found in lakes and rivers. Traces of the chemicals, called perfluorochemicals or PFCs, have been found in the drinking water of about 60,000 residents of Washington County. In a prepared statement, the state attorney general’s office said the ruling concerned only the lawyers in the case - not the merits of the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Covington said the firm had no comment about the ruling. 3M’s attorneys hailed the decision. “It’s a good decision,” said Bill Brewer, a partner with Bickle & Brewer, which has offices in Dallas and New York. No amount has been specified in the lawsuit - but damages could potentially be enormous. In 2005, a similar case in Ohio involving the same 3M chemicals resulted in a $300 million judgment, paid by the DuPont Corp.


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Business Commentary

By Alex Troschinetz

Restaurants, commercial kitchens can cut water bills easily

R

estaurants and others with commercial kitchens use more energy per square foot than any other commercial business. Some of that energy is used to heat water for cleaning dishes and washing hands in busy kitchens. Not a restaurant owner? Be a good patron to your favorite restaurants and let them know about this easy opportunity to make their business even more successful. Most commercial kitchens use a pre-rinse spray valve to clean off the food waste before the dishes go into the washing machine. The problem? A lot of these units use three times more water and energy than newer, more efficient models. Do this simple test to see what kind of pre-rinse spray valve you have: Get a onegallon jug or bucket. If you can fill a one-gallon container in thirty seconds or less, you should probably invest in a new pre-rinse spray valve. Why? Because the older units typically use three gallons or more each minute, versus the newer models that use 1.28 gallons a minute or less. Depending on how often and how long you are using the sprayer, this difference can result in big energy and water savings. The Clean Energy Resource Teams - or CERTs - is a statewide partnership with a shared mission to connect individuals and their communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community-based clean energy projects. As the staff person responsible for delivering action-oriented programs that help to achieve this mission, I wanted to share information with the Mankato community about an exciting program we’re currently offering. CERTs has created the “Make A

Splash” campaign to make it more affordable to replace older models of pre-rinse spray valves and draw attention to this often over-looked and simple retrofit. We’re always looking for smart and easy ways for folks to save on their energy bills. We’ve estimated that a commercial kitchen switching to an

efficient sprayer could save around $400 year after year once they make the upgrade. This is a not-for-profit program anyone can order these units for $28 (typically $68 retail) through an easy online ordering form available at the CERTs Make A Splash website: http://splash.mncerts.org The Make A Splash website also provides a list of all utility rebates around the state that can further lower the cost of each spray valve to about $15. Any organization with a commercial kitchen can benefit from this program. Centenary United Methodist Church in Mankato participated in the Make A Splash program by installing one spray valve and 16 faucet aerators, also available at discounted prices through this program. We estimate that Centenary UMC is saving about $1,000 on their

12 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

water and energy utility bills year after year. Program participants are pleased with their new spray valves. Many folks see a noticeable decrease in water use and have realized that they didn’t need a lot of water to get the job done - all they need is good water pressure. We have a great series of YouTube videos during which you can learn about testing your current spray valve, how this program can help restaurants and many other businesses and organizations in your community, and how to replace your spray valve. Visit: http://splash.mncerts. org Our goal is simply to get these water- and energyefficient spray valves in use in commercial kitchens all across Minnesota. Join Centenary United Methodist Church and others in the Mankato area participating in Make A Splash to reduce your utility bills right away! To learn more, visit http://splash.mncerts.org or call me at 612.626.0455 MV Alex Troschinetz is the Behavior Change and Metrics Coordinator with the Clean Energy Resource Teams The Clean Energy Resource Teams is a partnership of the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships & Extension, Great Plains Institute, Southwest Regional Development Commission, The Minnesota Project, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.


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Tom and Sandy “Sam” Langhoff have for decades operated JB Lures in Winthrop.

We love it outside Outdoor recreation fuels local economy By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross and Pat Christman

14 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business


L

ike many people in south-central Minnesota, Tom Langhoff loves the outdoors. But unlike most, he’s melded his pastime with his career. The owner of JB Lures in Winthrop manufactures a wide variety of fishing lures sold across the Midwest and in several other states and Canada. “It’s nice if you can live your dream. It’s important if you do what you enjoy and are happy.” Still, Langhoff is similar to many working people who can never wedge in enough time for leisure. “Every year I tell my wife I’m going to fish every week, but that never works out.” Langhoff’s successful business is one of many in the region that thrive from a demographic that is among the biggest fans of heading outdoors, be it for hunting and fishing, or four-wheeling, camping, skiing or biking. “The Upper Midwest and our area especially is great,” said Brandon Scheel, manager of the Scheels store in River Hills Mall. “There’s a lot of people interested in the outdoors. I was in Fargo-Moorhead for a few years, people liked going to the lake there, too, but there weren’t a lot of lakes close like there are here where you can run out to a lake for the morning or at night.” That passion has spurred many success stories in the region. Alumacraft in St. Peter has long built boats. Johnson Outdoors in Mankato has a long history that’s included building and repairing Johnson fishing reels and Minn Kota electric trolling motors. Then there are the myriad bait shops, four-wheeler and motorcycle dealers, a ski hill, bike shops, skateboard shops, and even the dealers selling pickups and SUVs to pull the big toys around.

up with something new to wow the person who already has two tackle boxes full of lures or a perfectly good fishing boat in the garage. Jim Schull, owner of Mapleton Marine, has seen a lot of changes during his nearly 25 years in business. “You’ll keep seeing more technology, power steering, digital shifting, digital throttles. There’s more consumerfriendly technology,” Schull said. “Our new boats, you just turn the key and go.” Keeping up with the “wow” factor is particularly strong in the fishing industry. “People always want something new and different when you go to the shows,” Langhoff said. “Bells and whistles and technology.” Langhoff ’s company develops plenty of new lure designs to feed that need, but he admits he’s a bit old school about fishing. “I don’t have a lot of fancy gear. It kind of takes away from the ambiance of fishing.” Being a massive retailer serving everyone from the runner and swimmer to hunter and angler, Scheels is constantly looking for the right mix of old standards and the hot new trends. “A huge thing right now is the GoPro cameras,” Scheel said. “They’re little video cameras with all kinds of attachments. You can attach them to your gun, your bike, your chest, whatever. There’s a lot of appeal.” Succeeding in a volatile business When Schull started Mapleton Marine in 1985, there were five marine dealers in nearby Mankato. As they faded away, he survived with lower overhead and by catering to customers. “With the marine industry, you have certain years when people don’t have expendable dollars. In Mankato with the rents and taxes higher, it’s tough in the lean years. I own my land. If there’s a downturn in the economy, I can hunker down and get through it,” said Schull, whose son Josh also helps run the business. “During the recession, our service pulled us through.” But with an improved economy, a resurgence in boat sales is following. “We hired more people this year because it’s getting busier. We sold a boat in March and the manufacturer hasn’t built it yet because the upturn was faster than they were ready for. Our customer’s not happy, but there’s nothing we can do about it other than keep them up to

Cover Story

“Every year I tell my wife I’m going to fish every week, but that never works out.” Tom Langhoff

Mainstays and trends While wetting a fishing line or swinging a golf club remain fundamentally the same, the equipment constantly changes. And while some activities remain steadily popular, others rise and fall. Take in-line skating, for example, an activity that more than 32 million people took part in in the late 1990s. The number of people skating has fallen steadily as the pastime has lost about two-thirds of its enthusiasts. Keeping up with the vagaries of the consumer is always on the minds of retailers and manufacturers, as is coming

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 15


Jim Schull and his son Josh operate Mapleton Marine in Mapleton. date. The boat manufacturers are back to pre-recession hiring.” Schull, who used to farm land he now rents, got into the boat business after going to vocational school and then working for Mankato Service doing lawnmower and boat repairs. He later bought a filling station in Mapleton and many of his Mankato customers followed him, having him do small engine and boat motor repairs. He later turned the station into a convenience store and went to a banker with his plan to start Mapleton Marine. “I needed a prayer and a pillow because I was on my knees the whole time.” He started with one employee and now has 10, plus some part-time workers in the summer. Other than the technology, Schull said the big change has been more luxury in boats and a big interest in large and expensive pontoons, some of which are close to $100,000. “In boating, people are getting more of a family-oriented boat where they can have one boat to do everything. We’re really seeing a lot of interest in pontoons that do everything. More of the tri-toon and a large motor. There are pontoons that run 54 miles per hour, so they can water ski with them.” With more tricked-out, high-tech boats comes a bigger learning curve. Every winter Schull’s mechanics take online training and then go to the Mercury training school to keep up with new technology. For Schull, he has an affinity for the classic motors and collects old ones.

16 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

Employee Jeremiah Underland in one of the luxury pontoons at Mapleton Marine. “I like old outboards. Basically with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, you can fix it. I just picked up a 1938 Evinrude light twin used by the Army Corp of Engineers to push a barge. I have a Bendix air-cooled, which is hard to find. I’ll fiddle with them when I retire.” Hunting, shooting sports big at Scheels Hunting gear, guns and ammunition have always been a mainstay for Scheels, but the market for firearms and especially ammunition has been particularly strong in recent months, fueled in part by a reaction to national discussions of tightening gun laws and to rumors spread on the Internet about ammunition shortages. “There’s still an ammunition shortage. As soon as we


Raif Swanson prepares sights on a gun at Scheels. get it, we sell it,” Scheel said. “There are the people who buy as much as they can for their personal use and there’s some who buy more and know they can sell it at a profit.” The most in-demand cartridges are the .22 and 9 mm ammo. “Gun sales went up for a while but are probably back to about normal. The supply there is good.” During the summer, exercise equipment sales drop off as people focus on the outdoors, Scheel said. What they are selling plenty of are GPS watches for runners and bikers who use them to watch the pace and distance of their run or bike ride. Disc golf, water skiing and golf also stay as strong sellers through the summer. “The big thing with bikes is the fat tire bikes. We’re selling a lot more of those, especially in the winter. They go through sand, snow, mud.” Scheels has stores mostly in the Upper Midwest but opened a large one in Reno, Nevada, a few years ago and is building one in Kansas City in 2015. The allure of lures Langhoff’s career path to manufacturing and selling fishing lures was born of tragedy when he was young. “I was injured badly in high school and was in the

hospital a long time. I got a book from Herter’s and ordered stuff and worked on tying flies and making jigs in the hospital. I put some on consignment in bait shops and just kind of kept doing it.” (Herter’s was another famed area sporting goods business based in Waseca. In 1937 George Herter took his father’s dry goods store and converted it into a mail order outdoor good business and later opened a retail store, growing the Herter’s name into a national powerhouse. Herter was also a renowned author of outdoor books, including a game cooking book praised by The New York Times. The business closed in the 1980s.) Langhoff worked as a hospital lab technician but his entrepreneurial urges led him to buy into a small lure business, which he eventually took over. “It was tough those first years. It was like, ‘Doesn’t anyone know us?’ Now everyone knows us. “I like to manufacture stuff and sales. But now I have national sales reps that meet with the big accounts.” Langhoff said the recession and bouts of high gas prices hurt business, but things have picked up the last couple of years. Langhoff’s ice fishing lures are a big part of his business, accounting for up to 40 percent of sales. “It’s huge for us. We sell at lot out east and the Midwest and in Canada.”

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 17


Longtime employee Lynette Sondag assembles lures at JB Lures.

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Vehicle Graphics For fleets of 1 to 100+ Fishing gear is a mainstay seller at Scheels in River Hills Mall.

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JB Lures are in major stores such as Cabela’s and big-box retailers as well as bait shops and sold online. (www.jblures.com). “In the summer everybody is going after walleyes and we have a big assortment of spinners and rigs. We got into spoons and have a lot of panfish lures. I’ve tried to broaden the selection in case one thing isn’t working so well.” JB Lures are all American made, with most being made in Winthrop, with some made at Kasota Tackle in Kasota and Mac Manufacturing in Brainerd. “We have pressure all the time to get things from China, Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, Haiti.” But Langhoff said he likes having his products American made with American materials, even if it costs more. “If I sell something for $2 or $3, my competitors will sell it for a buck-and-a-half.” Langhoff and his wife, Sandy “Sam,” do a lot for charity, including giving away gear for Take a Kid Fishing events all across the country. Sometime, Langhoff will make good on that promise to fish every week. But not yet. “I’m 65 and I’m still excited to go to work every day.” MV

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MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 19


Wayne Veroeven is senior merchandiser at CHS

Soybean central

Mankato a national hub for soybean processing By Marie Wood | Photos by John Cross

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he deals go down in a modest stone building on the edge of the imposing CHS soybean processing plant in Mankato. That’s where Wayne Veroeven, senior merchandiser, leads a team of five merchandisers, to buy the soybeans and sell the soy products that are a valuable ingredient in the world food supply. When Veroeven woke up to soybeans priced at $14 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade recently, he knew he’d be paying $1 over, or $15 a bushel when he got to work that day. “I’ve seen $5 beans and I’ve seen $15 beans today. And it has to do with us consuming the products,” said Veroeven. “It’s supply and demand driven.” Since beginning his career with CHS in 1998, Veroeven has gained a wealth of knowledge. He has met with farmers, grain elevator managers and feed mill managers. He has experienced double the production and volatile markets. “I think it’s exciting to lead and train a group of guys with the knowledge I’ve acquired in 15 years,” said Veroeven of Mankato.

CHS, a Fortune 100 company, is among the top five soybean processors in the United States. In the Mankato plant, soybeans are crushed and refined to produce soy protein products for global and domestic use. There are 200 people employed here. “Mankato is a hub, one of the largest soy crushing towns in the U.S.,” said Veroeven. In Fairmont, CHS operates a soybean crushing plant that employs 50 people. While the Mankato site is landlocked, there is room to grow in Fairmont. With the global demand for soybean products – oil, feed, food and bio-fuel – growth is likely.

Profile

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Demand for beans CHS is the link between the farmer and consumer. Veroeven and his team of merchandisers buy all the soybeans and sell the soy protein products too. Another team trades the soybean oil. “The future looks bright. When people prosper, the first thing they do is spend money on food. That creates demand for our product,” said Veroeven. The largest farmer-owned cooperative in the country, CHS made its biggest payout to farmers in 2012 – $600


elevators. Minnesota has a lot of on-farm storage. Farms are getting larger and they’re getting more storage,” said Veroeven. From an environmental standpoint, soybeans are a beneficial and sustainable crop that feeds the world, can be used in the bio-diesel industry, and replenishes the soil. Plus farmers have a stake in taking care of the land. “The producers we buy beans from are the best stewards of our land. You need to really be a good steward to produce at the level we need,” said Veroeven.

The CHS plants in Mankato and Fairmont process up to 100 million bushels of soybeans annually. million. Minnesota farmers and co-ops received the largest share at $116.3 million. “Agriculture and CHS are booming today, because of the opening of markets through worldwide trade agreements made in the 1980s and 1990s, which create prosperity and jobs, which creates a demand for food and energy. That’s right in our wheelhouse,” said Veroeven. A versatile protein, soy meal is a major ingredient in feed for chicken, turkeys, hogs and cows. Soy flour is used in commercial baked products while the oil is used for deep fat frying, margarine and processed foods from salad dressing to potato chips. Soy milk has also become a popular alternative to dairy milk. And these are just some of the uses. The majority of soy meal used in animal feed stays in the region. For instance, Hubbard Feeds in Mankato buys soy meal from CHS. Soy meal is also shipped by truck throughout Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin. A portion of soy meal and other soy products go by rail to the Western United States, Canada and points East and South too. “Soy offers a better nutritional value that can be put into the food chain. Protein is the number one meat building compound in animals,” said Veroeven. Supply of beans The Mankato and Fairmont facilities crushed between 90 and 100 million bushels of soybeans in 2012, contributing to CHS’s $1.26 billion net profit, which was the best year ever, explained Veroeven. “In 2012, we bought 100 million bushels of beans and paid on average $13 per bushel. That’s $1.3 billion that goes out to farmers in the local area. That goes into the local economy,” said Veroeven. Minnesota is the third largest producer of beans after Illinois and Iowa. Usually CHS draws soybeans from a 50 to 100 mile radius, but the radius can expand when the supply is low, noted Veroeven. “When the crop is plentiful, we draw from a smaller area,” said Veroeven. Veroeven and his team are busiest during late September and October. While they buy millions of bushels during Minnesota’s harvest, they still buy beans every day. “We crush the same amount of beans every day. We’re constantly buying beans all the time from farmers or

Mankato pride Veroeven, who graduated from Mankato West High School in 1987 and Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 1993, is proud to be part of a company that gives back to his hometown. A sponsor of the Kiwanis Holiday Lights, CHS also enjoys a strong partnership with Sibley Park, where it recently funded a pergola and rock garden. CHS and its employees support Greater Mankato Area United Way, ECHO Food Shelf and other efforts. “CHS and us as individuals in this company want to support our local community. We do it through fund raising and volunteering,” said Veroeven. For Veroeven, teamwork in the company and community are all in a day’s work. “I love my job. You know it’s rewarding when you come to work and look forward to it,” said Veroeven. MV

CHS Timeline 1947 Lowell and Dwayne Andreas bought a soybean processing plant that became Honeymead. 1960 Farmer’s Union Grain Terminal Association (GTA) purchases Honeymead. Lowell Andreas runs the plant until 1968 when he joins ADM. 1997 Honeymead division is renamed Harvest States Oilseed Processing & Refining. 1998 Cenex and Harvest States unite to become Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives. 2000 CHS Cooperatives is adopted as the company name. 2003 CHS Inc. becomes its legal name. MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 21


Special Focus: Focus on the building Building trade suppliers, contractors fuel job growth locally ■

By Marie Wood | Photos by Pat Christman

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ince the 1990s, Mankato has experienced tremendous growth with national retail chains, housing developments and River Hills Mall cropping up where soybeans and corn once grew. Rehabbed buildings played a role in the comeback of the City Center. And 2013 is bringing a $15-16 million development on South Front Street by Tailwind Group. The plan includes a seven-story glass office tower. Madison Avenue businesses have been refaced and renovated, such as the Mankato Design Center, a retail center that caters to residential and commercial contractors and their clients. Residential and commercial builders, architects, and subcontractors from cabinet makers to plumbers make a major impact on our community, economy and the growth of Mankato into a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) that can retain and attract people and businesses. During the recession from 2008 to 2009, construction in the Mankato area slowed but never stopped. Construction has gained traction in 2012 and continues to gather speed in 2013. “There’s definitely been an uptick in activity in new construction and remodels, projects that were put on hold during the lean times are back on, and there’s a fair amount of pent-up demand. In addition, there’s been commercial work,” said Mike Bertrand, president and CEO of Lloyd’s Lumber in North Mankato. Lloyd’s Lumber serves local contractors and supplies wholesale tress systems to lumberyards in southern Minnesota and Iowa. Lloyd’s was able to retain all its employees and has recently brought on more staff, noted Bertrand.

22 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

Home construction According to Ryan Weier of RW Homes in Mankato and New Ulm, Mankato area’s construction hit the bottom in home building in 2008 and 2009. Construction has been steadily rising since 2010. “Being in Mankato, you aren’t as apt to hit as big of lows or highs as in the metro market. It forced the construction industry to get tighter and more efficient. You saw builders cut crews. Customers benefited because they got a lot of attention. You couldn’t afford any negative feedback,” said Weier, president of the Minnesota River Builders Association. While home builders stayed in business, employees and work crews took a hit, explained Weier. The result is a need for carpenters today, noted Weier. Another possible shortage in the next couple years could be land. “Land could be a hindrance in the near future, because nobody ’s done developing in the last six to eight years,” said Weier. Weier is most encouraged by “consumer confidence” that seems to be based on job security. “Customers are more positive, not the doom and gloom economy. Instead of ‘I hope I can afford this,’ more people are saying ‘we’re going to do this,’” said Weier. Rehabbing Mankato’s City Center Since 2003, Tony Frentz of Frentz Construction has been buying and rehabbing buildings in Mankato’s City Center. Frentz has helped implement the Envision 2020 community plan adopted in 2006 and other builders, developers and architects have joined the effort.


trade Minnesota River Builders Association

Since its inception in 1994, Minnesota River Builders Association has been an association of builder and associate members. Associate members are professionals who provide construction services: plumbers, electricians, lumberyards, appliance stores, landscapers and more. Contractors make up 40 percent of the membership while associate members make up 60 percent of the 150 members, noted Amy Kolb, MRBA executive officer. “The city center of any city has to be vibrant, a cool place to go. It wasn’t looking great down here. The buildings were rundown. It was also a time when people were leaving the city center. That affects the whole community,” said Frentz. With a partner, Frentz Construction has bought and renovated the Erbert & Gerbert’s Building, Frentz Construction Building, Graif Building, U.S. Bank Building, Tandem Bagels and Emy Frentz Arts Guild. The U.S. Bank Building includes upscale, modern apartments with balconies; all are rented. The building also houses the headquarters of I&S Group, the architecture, engineering and design firm that led the project. Frentz isn’t done yet. He recently bought the Lincoln Park Rowhouses, historical brownstone apartments, which he plans to restore. MV

Construction sector fuels 5 percent of local economy The construction industry accounts for 5 percent of the Greater Mankato MSA’s economy as reported in the 2012 Greater Mankato Talent Supply & Demand Report. While that might not seem like a lot, the highly visible retail trade is 8 percent of the area’s economy. The number of home builders has hovered around 50 since 2005 in Blue Earth County. Employment by the builders sank in 2007, but rebounded to pre-recession numbers in 2012. The average weekly wage rose slightly from $500 in 2005 to $533 in 2012. Residential Construction Annual Average Employment County Blue Earth

2012 173

2011 171

2010 143

2007 149

2005 172

Nonresidential Construction employers rose from 8 companies in 2005 to 14 companies in 2012 in Blue Earth County. In 2010, average weekly wages declined to $735, a 10-year low. The good news is the average weekly wage spiked to $985 in 2012. Nonresidential Construction Annual Average Employment County Blue Earth

2012 142

2011 120

2010 107

2007 146

2005 113

Note: Nicollet County data is suppressed due to three or fewer employers or one employer that comprises 80 percent of an industry in the region. Specialty Trade Contractors gained employers from 182 in 2005 to 189 in 2012 in the Greater Mankato MSA. Unfortunately, 268 jobs were lost in the sector between 2005 and 2012. There is good news on wages. “Specialty trade contractors have seen average weekly wages rise steadily from 2001, including during the recession,” said Brent Pearson, regional analyst for Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Specialty Trade Contractors Annual Average Employment County Blue Earth Nicollet MSA Total

2012 1121 137 1258

2011 1133 164 1297

2010 1119 148 1267

2007 1283 160 1443

2005 1374 152 1526

2007 $784.00 $571.00

2005 $734.00 $497.00

Specialty Trade Contractors Average Weekly Wages County Blue Earth Nicollet

2012 $926.00 $552.00

2011 $899.00 $559.00

2010 $841.00 $572.00

Architects During the recession, architectural, engineering and related services lost jobs in Blue Earth County. In 2007, there were 286 jobs in this sector compared to 219 jobs in 2011. The average weekly wage has remained steady at about $1,300. Then in 2012, this sector added 29 jobs with a total of 248 jobs and an average weekly wage of $1457.

MV

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 23


Bruce Nowlin, of Blue Earth Consulting, inspects soybean plants for pests in a field south of Mankato.

A quest for yields Nowlin helps farmers boost production, lower costs By Peter Steiner Photos by John Cross

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ome might think of a successful businessman as the guy who occupies the corner office on the top floor of the tallest building in town. But for Bruce Nowlin of Blue Earth Consulting, on most summer days that it’s not raining, his office is his big white pickup that trails two four wheelers. As long as crop stands are small enough to allow him into the fields, he’s busy doing soil sampling for his farmer clients. Nowlin is a certified professional crop consultant. He ranges over a 60-mile radius from his rural home, advising farmers what their fields might – or might NOT – need, to

produce the most efficient yields possible. Farming is big business. Farming is a gamble. The truth of such clichés helps explain the rise of crop consultants over the last three decades. In 1980, the average price of corn was about $2.50 a bushel. Even adjusting for inflation, recent prices in the $7 range represent about twice what that 1980 bushel was worth. And yields have skyrocketed. In 1980, 110 bushels an acre was acceptable. Today, yields of 170 bushels an acre are not uncommon. Some of Nowlin’s clients have fields that in 2011 came in at 230 or more bushels an acre. The numbers start to

Spotlight

24 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business


get very large, very fast. Say you average 180 bushels an acre over 400 acres. Even at around $5 a bushel, there’s $360,000 on the line. And input costs – seed, chemicals, fuel – can run $450 an acre, excluding land and machinery costs. So if a crop consultant can save you, say, $20 an acre over 400 acres, that’s $8,000 to a farmer’s bottom line.

that survived, then replanting is not recommended. These fields, however, are at just 40,000 to 50,000, so a decision has to be made. “I hate hail calls,” Bruce shakes his head. “Usually you’re hurried, pressed for time on the decision. It gets emotional.”

••••

Nowlin had never intended to work with corn and soybeans. In fact, it was a simple twist of fate that landed him in Minnesota. Having graduated from Oklahoma State, he had quickly become a crop expert. He “knew everything” – about peanuts, potatoes, and cotton. Then the simple twist of fate. At a conference for crop analysts, he met a young Minnesota woman – Maggie. She had been going farm to farm in Blue Earth County in 1980 trying to convince farmers she could help them improve their bottom line. “They thought I was the Avon lady,” Maggie jokes. The first few times she walked up a driveway in her leather coat and platform shoes, the farmer would say, “”My wife is in the house.” She ended up having a confrontation with one chemicals dealer upset that she might potentially curtail his business. But ultimately one client showed results, and through the grapevine, others heard about it. Suddenly she needed extra help. Before long, she was offering the peanut consultant work in Minnesota. Nowlin arrived knowing little about soils and climate here, except that winters were cold. Farmers in Oklahoma never used manure on their fragile red soil. But Bruce liked what he found: “Farming is much more profitable here than in Oklahoma. The soil is so forgiving here. It holds so much water. There’s so much nutrient matter already there. The soil is so beautiful here.” Thus the pair developed a mantra: Only put on what you have to. “You can grow fantastic crops with the least amount of input.” That philosophy still can produce a testy relationship with chemicals suppliers. But when farmers see bottom-line results, those “clients trust you. They call before they spend.”

The fact that we’ve had two years demonstrating both ends of the weather spectrum doesn’t change Nowlin’s routine much. From the 15th of May until the Fourth of July, he’s out in his clients’ fields. Each field is given a name or designation, and is then divided into sections. Each section of up to 20 acres will be drilled with 15 different probes. The probe is a 16-inch-long, one-inch diameter hollow cylinder. Each probe collects a soil sample and is keyed to a GPS grid. The samples are sent to a laboratory in Nebraska for analysis. The analysis includes soil type, pH balance, manure and organic matter content, and amounts of phosphorus, potassium, zinc and other minerals. The lab returns an electronic report by August, in time for Nowlin and his client to plan for any necessary fall or spring applications of nutrients. Nowlin makes a specific recommendation for each field. ••••

••••

Nowlin arrived knowing little about soils and climate here, except that winters were cold. Farmers in Oklahoma never used manure on their fragile red soil. But Bruce liked what he found.

Memphis, the golden retriever, bounds up to greet a visitor. Bruce comes out, too, fresh from the shower. He’s been out in the fields most of this day, having arrived home covered in brown dust and flecks of mud. Bruce and his wife, Maggie Jones, live on a lovely old farmstead plunked down amid rolling corn and bean fields eight miles north of Lake Crystal. The corn in the field they call “Maggie’s field,” a quarter-mile southeast of the house, is knee-high by the Fourth of July. That old standard is not really that impressive anymore in the 21st century. But in a year of May snowfall and heavy spring rains that delayed planting, a nice, knee-high stand is satisfying this year. Many fields, especially to the east of Mankato, still had standing water and weak crop emergence. A thunderstorm early this day had left the Nicollet County fields Nowlin had intended to sample too wet, so he had headed west to a client in the Springfield area. Another client in Brown County had suffered hail damage. It was getting late to replant beans, and the farmer wanted an opinion. Nowlin uses University of Minnesota guidelines: if there’s still 75,000 soybean plants per acre

•••• In mid-July and August, Nowlin’s focus shifts to visual observation of soybean fields. He checks plant quality and looks for insects. Soybean aphids are a persistent problem. If he finds more than 250 per plant, he recommends spraying. Even if there are only 150 aphids per plant, he might look at a forecast that’s favorable for aphid

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 25


Nowlin closely inspects the leaves and stems of a soybean plant for pests. reproduction and return to that field three days later to update his recommendation. That’s where his independence can make a difference. With no stake in whether a farmer does or does not buy chemicals, he can make a non-biased recommendation. One client, a corn grower, got a call from a dealer to spray his hail-damaged crop with fungicide. The farmer called Nowlin, who asked, “What disease do they intend to control?” Realizing the answer, the farmer saved $20 an acre by not spraying.

He pulls out a half-inch-thick folder filled with field maps indicating where soil probes were inserted, as well as color-coded charts indicating each field’s pH balance as well as its levels of potassium, phosphorus and other nutrients. Past chemical inputs, manure applications, and crop-yield histories are also shown. That folder represents just two years’ worth of analysis and results.

••••

Hummingbirds whir at feeders just outside the big picture window as Bruce and Maggie prepare for a late dinner at the end of a summer day. They’ve streamlined their operation. Maggie is now mostly retired from crop consulting, dealing more in real estate. Bruce still gladly accepts input from his former boss. They say they have an optimal group of customers – not that they wouldn’t add new ones. “I have a group I really like,” Bruce smiles, “and they seem to like me.” MV

“If I can’t save you twice what you pay me, fire me,” Bruce tells potential clients. The promised savings often amount to $20,000 to $30,000 a year, depending on the size of the farm. He meets with each client between February and April, presenting his fee-for-service proposal. Some long-time clients pay him in full in advance. While much of the information for each client is now stored electronically, Nowlin still retains hard-copy files.

26 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business

••••


MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 27


Plato’s Closet in Mankato is run by sisters Shelley Martini (left) and Chellsea Petersen.

The fashionistas Sisters run Plato’s Closet By Marie Wood Photos by Pat Christman

28 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business


Running a popular resale shop is a great fit for these thrifty fashionistas who grew up on a family farm west of St. Peter. Energetic and outgoing, Martini and Petersen make the hard work of buying, tagging, hanging, selling and serving customers look like fun. “We come from a happy, giggly family. There are four girls. We laugh all the time,” said Petersen of St. Peter. They greet each customer with a smile and explain their buying process. They tell customers they’re looking for gently worn name brands that have been in the stores in the past year and a half and encourage them to shop while they wait for their cash. High school and college girls, as well as mothers and daughters come in two-by-two to shop. Back to school is the busiest time of year as students stock up, but clearance and bag sales are crazy too. And Martini and Petersen love it. MVB: Why did you open a Plato’s Closet franchise in Mankato in 2010? Martini: We’re both from the area. I heard the concept of Plato’s Closet while I was living in St. Cloud. I thought what a great idea. I wish they had that when I was younger. MVB: How do you decide what to buy? Petersen: We look at labels, how current it is, the styles. Then we enter it into the computer. We don’t set any of the prices. We type in the brand. It will ask what it is and the condition. Martini: The computer generates a quote. Petersen: We’re going with more trendy versions rather than just the basics. MVB: What has been the response from customers? Petersen: Every day, we always hear that they are new customers. Word’s still spreading. Martini: We do do a lot of advertising. It’s surprising when people haven’t been here yet. Petersen: Most of it is word of mouth. A friend tells you that you have to check this place out. When our corporate representative gave us a set goal for sales in our first year, we ended up doubling it. MVB: How do you divide the duties? Petersen: She’s the owner. Whatever’s on the rack, she’s paid for it. It’s out of her pocket. Martini: I handle administration, books, advertising, all social media. She schedules employees, payroll. She runs the store. I come down (from St. Cloud) a few days a week and just like everybody else I work the store. This is her full-time job.

A

t Plato’s Closet in Mankato, sisters Shelley Martini and Chellsea Petersen work side by side as they efficiently inspect laundry baskets and garbage bags of hoodies, dark denim, bejeweled jeans and trendy tops and T-shirts. There are purses, belts, jewelry, platforms and ballet flats too. Plato’s Closet works like this. Teens and 20-something girls and guys clean out their closets, bring in their namebrand clothes, and get cash to buy the latest trends and styles at up to 70 percent less than mall prices. Moms of teen daughters have called the store a godsend.

MVB: Do you enjoy working together? Why? Martini: Yes, I would say definitely. It’s been fun. Petersen: It’s been a good time. It’s also been fun watching it grow together. Being able to talk to each other about things, we are on the same page. We have the same personality. Martini: And then trust. We definitely trust each other. Petersen: It’s comfortable. Martini: She knows she can tell me anything. And she already knows what my reaction’s going to be.

All In The Family

MN Valley Business • August 2013 • 29


Plato’s Closet focuses on recent, name-brand clothing. MVB: Tell us about your experience in fashion and retail? Martini: I was a store manager for a little over 10 years. (Gadzooks and Aeropostale in River Hills Mall) I worked in an office doing loss prevention for gas stations. It was good experience, because I know what to look for if there are any situations here. I have a degree in business management and sales and marketing. I went to Bethany College here and Rasmussen in St. Cloud. Petersen: I used to work at Aeropostale also. I was an assistant manager there. I graduated from college – Bethany also. Right after graduation, we opened this up. I majored in sociology and minored in psychology and health communications. It’s not business related, but it involves people. Martini: People. That’s a big part of what we do here. MVB: Have you always loved clothes? Petersen: I love clothes. I can’t say that enough. Working here makes you really see how much style changes for girls, guys not so much, but girls every season. Martini: Oh yeah. I’ve always liked clothes. I always needed to be in style. My mom said I’ve been like that my whole life. My friends used to come over and we’d go in my room and do dress up. I’d always make them up. Petersen: Even I was like that with my roommates.

30 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business

MVB: What’s the best part about owning and running a Plato’s Closet? Petersen: The clothes. Martini: I don’t mind dealing with people. I like to be on the move when I’m working. Petersen: Plato’s Closet helps out teens who want to wear cute clothes and can’t afford it. Martini: Some people just want a lot of clothes and to save money. MVB: Finish the sentence: My sister is... Petersen: My sister is a good sister. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have such an awesome job I love. Martini: My sister is outstanding. She’s very reliable and trustworthy. If it wasn’t for you, there’s a lot of things I’d have to do, because she runs the store. I wouldn’t be able to live up there and have this store. It would be really stressful. I’d never sleep. MVB: What’s next for you two? Martini: We have talked about doing another store, but there are no territories available in Minnesota. Expanding the store would be the next step, but not for a few years.

MV


Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

Profit margins for crops tighter ahead

T

he USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service recently released the latest updated baseline projections for U.S. crop production for the next decade. While projections this far into the future may seem insignificant, they do become important in the longrange planning process for farm operators, ag lenders, policy makers and others. In the short term, the U.S. crop sector continues to be impacted by relatively high grain prices and strong profitability in crop production. Total crop acreage in 2013 is projected to be among the largest ever, exceeding 325 million acres. As of June 30, total U.S. corn acreage in 2013 was estimated at 97.4 million acres, which is the largest amount of planted corn acres in the U.S. since 1936. NASS has estimated 2013 planted soybean acreage in the U.S. at the record-level of 77.7 million acres. Those numbers may be adjusted downward later this year, due to the large amount of prevented planted crop acres from the extremely wet spring. The 2012 drought greatly reduced total corn production in the U.S., which lead to very strong corn prices for the 2012-13 corn marketing year. New-crop corn prices for 2013 corn have been running $1.50-2 per bushel lower than the comparable cash price for 2012 corn. The lower corn supply and continued higher corn price levels lead to lower domestic corn use for livestock feed and ethanol production, and resulted in lower corn export levels. The supply of corn stocks is expected to more than double by the end of the 201314 marketing year, as compared to the current year. If this becomes reality, it likely will lead to more moderate corn prices later in the 2013-14 marketing year. Following are some NASS baseline projections for U.S. corn production, usage, and prices in the next decade: • Planted corn acreage is expected to moderate back to 88-92 million acres after the next couple of years, with annual production levels between 13.5 to near 15

billion bushels, which will be fairly close to expected total corn usage. • Growth of the U.S. ethanol industry is expected to be small over the next decade, as compared to the 2005-2010 time period. NASS does expect corn-based ethanol production to continue to utilize about 35 percent of the annual U.S. corn production. • Corn use for livestock feed and residual use is also expected to be fairly steady in the short-term, with some slight growth later in the decade, with anticipated livestock production increases. Food and industrial use for corn is also expected to rise slightly over the next decade, with increased demand for high fructose corn syrup and corn starches. • Corn exports are expected to recover nicely from the weatherreduced 2012-13 export levels, with global demand for feed grains expected to remain strong, and with the greatest export growth expected in shipments to China. The U.S. remains the largest corn exporter in the world, accounting for about 45 percent of the global corn trade; however, that is well below the 70 percent U.S. corn export share, prior to 2000 and the ethanol boom. • 12-month average on-farm corn prices, which were at $7.60 per bushel for 2012-13 and were at $6.22 for 2011-12, are expected to decline to $5.40 per bushel for 2013-14 and $4.10 per bushel in 2013-14, before stabilizing in the $4.40-$4.80 per bushel range later in the decade.

On the short-term, soybean production is expected to increase more quickly than soybean demand, which could lead to lower farm-level soybean prices. However, NASS expects both domestic soybean use and global soybean demand to increase in the coming years, which will help soybean prices rebound somewhat later in the decade: • Planted U.S. soybean acreage is projected to stay near 75-76 million acres over the next decade,

32 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business

leading to annual soybean production around 3.4-3.6 billion bushels, which is fairly close to anticipated total soybean usage • Since 2008, lower livestock feed demand, combined with alternative feed sources such as distillers grains and canola meal, lead to slower domestic demand for soybean meal. As livestock production increases over the next decade, demand for soybean meal is expected to follow. • Demand for soybean oil is also expected to grow over the next decade, primarily due to increased usage of soybean oil for production of biodiesel; however, alternatives such as other vegetable oils and corn oil may limit this future growth. • Export demand for U.S. soybeans is anticipated to remain strong over the next decade; however export competition from South America is also likely to increase. The U.S. share of world soybean exports is expected to decline from 39 percent in 2013-14 to near 30 percent by the end of the decade. • The 12-month average on-farm soybean prices, which are projected at $14.50 per bushel for 2012-13, are expected to decline to $10.35 per bushel for 2014-15, and then to stabilize in the $10.65$11.35 per bushel range for the rest of the decade.

Based on the NASS projections for U.S. corn and soybean production, usage, ending stocks, and farm-level prices for the next decade, it appears that corn and soybean producers could be in for some much tighter profit margins over the next decade, compared to recent years. The anticipated tighter profit margins in crop production in the coming years are likely to lead to moderations in crop input costs, which have been steadily rising in recent years 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 — 2012 — 2013

(dollars per bushel)

8 6

20

$6.76

$16.83 $15.38

12 8

2

4

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA

0

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

— 2012 — 2013

110

$97.81

100

Milk prices

Minimum prices, class 1 milk Dollars per hundredweight

— 2012 — 2013

24

$20.73

22

90

20

$94.67

80

18

70

16

60

(dollars per bushel)

16

4

0

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2012 — 2013

$7.81

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

Source: USDA

N

D

14

$17.04 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

Read us online!

KEITH BOLEEN. HELPING YOU REACH YOUR BUSINESS GOALS. 245 Belgrade Ave. NORTH MANKATO MEMBER FDIC

1661 Commerce Drive NORTH MANKATO

1580 Madison Ave. MANKATO

104 Main Street MINNESOTA LAKE

www.frandsenbank.com MN Valley Business • August 2013 • 33


Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims

Minnesota initial unemployment claims

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

158 273 46 200 677

Percent change ‘12-’13

226 206 55 194 681

+4.3% -24.5% +19.6% -3% +.6%

Major Industry

April

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

‘12

‘13

Percent change ‘12-’13

3,313 2,919 1,563 5,572 13,367

3,773 2,982 1,438 5,729 13,922

+13.9% +2.2% -8% +2.8% +4.2%

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

125,921 125,458

30000

(in thousands) 3000

20000

2000

10000

1000

00000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

Local number of unemployed

O

N

D

- 2012 - 2013

Nine-county Mankato region 6,631 7,088

0000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

Minnesota number of unemployed

O

N

D

- 2012 - 2013

154,766 159,773

200000

8000

150000

6000

100000

4000

50000

2000 0

0

- 2012 - 2013

2,950.6 2,818.6

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

4.4% 55,625 2,533

4.3% 55,888 2,481

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

34 • August 2013 • 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) April

0

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

April 2012 4.3% 5.4% 6.2% 6.8% 5.0% 4.4% 4.9% 5.4% 5.8% 5.2% 5.3% 7.7%

April 2013 4.4% 5.7% 6.4% 8.0% 5.2% 4.0% 5.4% 6.2% 6.2% 4.9% 5.4% 7.1% C. Sankey


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato

(in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

$4,764.5 $5,087.1

8000

Residential building permits North Mankato $2,392.8 $1,812.1

3000

6000

- 2012 - 2013 (in thousands)

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 11 22

30

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

O

N

D

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Commercial building permits Mankato

(in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

$4,195.1

Commercial building permits North Mankato

$2,674

- 2012 - 2013 (in thousands)

$29.8 2000

$258.5

1500 1000 500 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

— 2012 — 2013

5.5 5.0

4.4%

4.5

3.6%

4.0 3.5 J

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

3.0

F

40

172 177

200

7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0

J

Source: City of North Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region

0

0

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Foreclosures: Year End report County

2011

2012

Percent change

Blue Earth Brown Faribault Le Sueur Martin Nicollet Sibley Waseca Watonwan

174 67 32 129 43 59 57 50 24

126 37 46 98 42 49 58 57 17

-28% -45% -44% -24% -2% -17% +2% +14% -29%

Source: Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • August 2013 • 35


Retail/Consumer Spending Vehicle Sales Mankato — Number of vehicles sold 958 836

1200

- 2012 - 2013

(In thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

500

1000

400

800

300

600

$379.4 $364.0

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

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Mankato food and beverage tax

$53,493 $56,816

- 2012 - 2013

$37,519 $32,184

50000

0

75000

- 2012 - 2013

40000 50000

30000 20000

25000

10000 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

0

D

Source: City of Mankato

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

Stocks of local interest

June 13

July 15

Percent change

5

Archer Daniels

$33.40

$35.81

+7.2

4

Ameriprise

$82.66

$85.59

+3.5

Best Buy

$27.12

$29.14

+7.4

Crown Cork & Seal

$42.37

$42.26

-0.3

Fastenal

$48.29

$47.01

-2.7

General Growth

$20.84

$21.28

+2.1

General Mills

$49.26

$51.21

+4

HickoryTech

$10.40

$10.65

+2.4

Hutchinson Technology

$6.20

$5.40

-13

Itron

$42.23

$42.60

+0.9

Johnson Outdoors

$24.77

$25.30

+2.1

3M

$111.28

$114.40

+2.8

Target

$69.15

$72.18

+4.4

U.S. Bancorp

$35.12

$37.26

+6.1

Wells Financial

$19.16

$20.97

+9.5

Winland

$0.78

$0.70

-10.2

Xcel

$29.39

$29.69

+1

Gas prices-Mankato — 2012 — 2013

3

$3.55

2 $3.69

1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Gas prices-Minnesota — 2012 — 2013 5

$3.65

4 3

$3.58

2 1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: GasBuddy.com C. Sankey

36 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business


Professional resources to help grow your business

there for

you

Tom Evensvold

Steve Olson

AUTOMOTIVE Jerry’s Body Shop, Inc. 1671 Madison Avenue Mankato, MN 56001 507-388-4895 www.asashop.org/member/jerrys

MEDIA

Mark David Thompson Monson

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

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

For information on including your service to this directory, please contact

507-344-6390

MN Valley Business • August 2013 • 37


Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

Greater Mankato’s Education Economy Based on payroll, education is the third largest sector in Greater Mankato’s diverse economy, just behind manufacturing and health care. But looking at the expenditures made by our five higher education institutions and their students, the economic impact is even more significant. According to a study released this past spring by Minnesota State University, Mankato, the university contributes $452 million to the local economy ($310 million of that direct spending and $142 indirect/induced spending). In addition to what the higher education institutions spend themselves, students infuse millions of dollars into the economy on their own. This consumer spending extends beyond the students themselves to visiting family and friends. See the article on page 43 by Visit Mankato for details on the student impact on the visitor economy. Greater Mankato’s five higher education institutions bring more than just consumers to the area. One of their greatest contributions is the talent students provide, even before they graduate – as interns and employees for area businesses.

One event coming up that enables businesses to reach out to students as potential “consumers” and “workers” is the Greater Mankato Campus & Community Fair on September 4. Greater Mankato Growth and Minnesota State University, Mankato team up to welcome more than 2,000 college students to the community and connect them to local businesses for products, services, jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. At $75 to $250, exhibiting at the Campus & Community Fair provides businesses with an economical option to reach students. For more information and to sign up, visit greatermankato.com/campuscommunity-fair.

Health Care Reform Implementation Seminar

August 16, 2013 | 9:00 am – 3:00 pm | Verizon Wireless Center, Mankato

Greater Mankato Growth

The Affordable Care Act has changed the landscape for health insurance for every employer in Minnesota. While some parts of the law have been delayed, others are moving forward as scheduled. To bring businesses up to speed on the law’s requirements, Greater Mankato Growth is bringing in top experts on health care reform. This full day seminar will provide you with the tools you need to make critical decisions to comply with the law while managing costs and providing sound benefits to employees. Businesses small and large will get Agenda 9:00 am 9:20 am 9:30 am 10:30 am 11:30 am 12:00 pm 1:30 pm 3:00 pm

complete information and advice on the legal requirements of the law, the various purchasing options available to employers, the role of the new state health insurance exchange (MNsure), the ways that coverage premiums will be determined, as well as analytics tools to help businesses make the most fiscally prudent choices. For more details see the agenda below and visit greatermankato.com/events. Sign up on this site by August 14.

Registration, Networking, Exhibitor Booths Open Welcome and Introductions | Jonathan Zierdt, President & CEO, Greater Mankato Growth The Basics | Ross Manson, Principal, Eide Bailly Understanding the Exchange | April Todd-Malmlov, Executive Director, MNsure Break, Networking, Exhibitor Booths Open Lunch and Panel Discussion | Ross Manson, Principal, Eide Bailly; April Todd-Malmlov, Executive Director, MNsure; Senator Tony Lourey, Chair, Committee on Finance - Health and Human Services Division; Scott Keefer, Vice President of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MN Breakout Roundtables Conclusion

Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development

507.385.6640 • greatermankato.com 38 • august January2013 2013• •MN MNValley ValleyBusiness Business


growth

in Greater Mankato

New Business Decadent Desserts 530 North Riverfront Drive, Suite 150, Mankato

New Business PrimeLending 1400 Madison Avenue, Suite 616, Mankato

New Business - Devin Krienke Agency, American Family Insurance 820 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato

New Location Kuch Chiropractic 1704 North Riverfront Drive, Suite 101, Mankato

Groundbreaking - Mankato Clinic Children’s Health Center 1421 Premier Drive, Mankato

Groundbreaking Open Door Health Center 309 Holly Lane, Mankato

If you have a milestone moment such as a groundbreaking or ribbon cutting, the Ambassadors are here to help you celebrate! Call 507.385.6640 to schedule. MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 39

Greater Mankato Growth

New Business Charleys Philly Steaks River Hills Mall, Mankato


Member Events Business After & Before Hours

5:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Greater Mankato Growth

August 6 September 3 October 1

I&S Group Courtyard by Marriott Hotel & Event Center Spherion Staffing & Recruiting

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. August 21 Laurels Edge Assisted Living September 18 South Central College October 16 First National Bank Minnesota

2013 Business After Hours Sponsored by

2013 Business Before Hours Sponsored by

June Business After Hours at Mayo Clinic Health System

June Business Before Hours at Corporate Graphics Commercial

Business After and Business Before Hours events give 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.

40 • august 2013 • MN Valley Business


Cavalier Calls on our

Newest Members

Fall Series Goodwill – Mankato 2024 Adams Street, Mankato goodwilleasterseals.org

The dates are set for the Fall Lunch & Learn Series: September 12, October 10, November 14 and December 12. Each session runs from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., with attendees able to sign up for just those sessions that interest them. Brought to you by the South Central College Center for Business & Industry and Greater Mankato Growth, the Lunch and Learn series offers short, timely professional training sessions, which enable busy business professionals to stay current, learn new skills, and connect with other business professionals in the area. The cost per session ranges from $20 for GMG Engaged and higher members to $50 for non-members. Registration includes a lunch provided by Buffalo Wild Wings! For more information, topics and sign-up, visit greatermankato.com/ lunch-learn.

Homestead Realty LLC - Mankato 1600 Madison Avenue, Suite 112, Mankato homestead4sale.com

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 41

Greater Mankato Growth

Minnesota Valley Action Council 706 North Victory Drive, Mankato mnvac.org

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


Serious Work and Serious Fun At Greater Mankato Growth a majority of our time is spent providing businesses with the important information and resources they need to be successful. But each summer our serious business development work takes on a fun flavor with two events our staff and members look forward to every year. The events below benefit businesses by giving them an opportunity to showcase their products and services and connect with their fellow businesses and consumers.

Songs on the Lawn

presented by Xcel Energy

Greater Mankato on the Green

Greater Mankato Growth

presented by Spherion Staffing and Recruiting

42 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business


Affiliate Activities

Visit Mankato and the City Center Partnership are Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) of Greater Mankato Growth, Inc. Visit Mankato (visitmankatomn.com) leads the development of the visitor economy in Mankato by actively promoting Mankato as a premier destination. City Center Partnership focuses on development in the City Center.

Student Invasion Can Lead To New Customers Visit Mankato Intern and Minnesota State Mankato student Jared Jensen shares his advice on how businesses can best reach students like him… At the end of August students will be returning to college or arriving for the first time along with their parents, brothers, sisters and any other family members they coaxed into lugging their futon and mini fridge up four flights of stairs. Minnesota State Mankato enrolls more than 15,000 students. Bethany Lutheran College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Rasmussen College and South Central College add nearly 10,000 more students. These numbers represent a huge potential for extra business and an opportunity to create new customers. It all starts with move in day. It is usually a hectic rollercoaster ride which involves driving (hopefully not getting lost), checking in (trying to fight through the sea of people to acquire the correct room key), unpacking (possibly some discontent from parents or siblings), going shopping (buying everything you forgot at home) and saying goodbyes (usually accompanied by tears, at least from mom). Throughout all of this, businesses attempt to catch the attention of students and parents, but it is hard to compete with everything else going on. Students have a lot to worry about, and it can be hard to stand out. As we all know, technology and social media are reaching new heights in accessibility. Students especially are using social media sites all the time to access information about products,

services and events. Facebook and Twitter are an effective and easy way to connect with students. Having these two basic social media outlets can get short messages out to your customers instantly. I currently live in apartments close to the campus and they run their Facebook and Twitter pages really well. The variety of ways they use them is what impresses me the most; they use them to report news for residents regarding the apartment complex, to hold contests, to post about current events, and sometimes just ask questions to connect with residents. These things help build a positive relationship with their residents. A successful social media campaign involves far more than just posting deals, although I do love deals and freebies. It should also convey the business brand in everything they post and be consistent throughout their messages. If the messages are not consistent, people may not fully understand what the business is all about. A business that does these little things has a better chance of appealing to students. Welcome students, along with their families and friends, back with open arms. We are a huge potential customer base just waiting to be connected with about your product, service or event.

5 Years of Alive After 5 Jackson Park in the City Center will again be filled with music – and attendees anxious to take in the entertainment, while socializing with friends, family and co-workers. The free late summer concert series is put on by the City Center Partnership and from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays in August fills the City Center Entertainment District with live music, food, drinks and family fun. This year’s line-up includes:

Hobo Nephew’s of Uncle Frank The DW3 West of Aldine Mike Munson

In addition to the fabulous free music, attendees can participate in all the City Center has to offer. From galleries crawls to recreation trails, and specialty retail to the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour. City Center Mankato has the activities for all. For information on Alive After 5, visit facebook.com/Mankato. CityCenter. Attendees at the 2012 Alive After 5

MN Valley Business • august 2013 • 43

Greater Mankato Growth

August 8th August 15th August 22nd August 29th


Oil Change to Overhaul…

We do it all.

Best of Mankato Best Auto Repair

PATIO HOMES WITH LUXURY.

Best Auto Mechanic Lynn Austin

AUSTIN’S AUTO REPAIR CENTER INC. 1620 Commerce Drive, North Mankato www.AustinsAutoRepairCenter.com

507-387-1315

052965436201 EEO/AA

St. James - 507.375.5464 • Mankato - 507.345.6653 • www.Wilcon-Construction.com

44 • August 2013 • MN Valley Business


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