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

Ryan Neisen and his dad, Dan, of Neisen’s Riverside Sports Bar in St. Peter. Photo by Pat Christman

Wine and Dine Never a slow moment running restaurants, bars Also in this issue • MINNESOTA VALLEY PET HOSPITAL • SHAWARMANIA MEDITERRANEAN GRILL • EJ MUSHROOMS

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schedule, or even confidential emails with your divorce attorney. You may not believe you or your former spouse are tech-savvy enough to access your personal information through this shared Apple ID scenario, but it often happens without the person even intending to view the other’s data. I have seen situations where couples who share an ID unwittingly receive the other’s text messages and phone calls. Because Apple devices can be significantly synced with each other, it is important to verify that only you have access to your data. The cleanest solution during a divorce is for each party to create a new Apple ID (on your iPhone, navigate to: Settings – iTunes & App

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MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 1


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F E A T U R E S March 2020 • Volume 12, Issue 6

10

Whether it’s a pizza shop, sports bar or restaurant, owning and operating them is high risk and every day brings new challenges and surprises.

14

Ahmad Kiblawi opened Shawarmania Mediterranean Grill, in homage to the popular middleeastern shawarma sandwich, on Bunting Lane near the university.

16

After decades on Madison Avenue, Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital has more room for staff, pets and clients at their new location on Adams Street.

20

Rick Esser, of EJ Mushrooms, grows a variety of edible, gourmet mushrooms in a building on the shores of Lake Washington.

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 3


MARCH 2020 • VOLUME 12, ISSUE 6 PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Kent Thiesse Dan Greenwood

PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman Jackson Forderer COVER PHOTO Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Danny Creel Sales Joan Streit Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Marianne Carlson Theresa Haefner ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey CIRCULATION Justin Niles DIRECTOR For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail advertising@mankatofreepress.com. MN Valley Business is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South 2nd Street Mankato MN 56001.

■ Local Business memos/ Company news.....................................5 ■ Business Commentary.........................7 ■ MRCI....................................................8 ■ Business and Industry trends..........22 ■ Retail trends.....................................23 ■ Agriculture Outlook..........................24 ■ Agribusiness trends..........................25 ■ Construction, real estate trends.....26 ■ Gas trends........................................27 ■ Stocks...............................................27 ■ Minnesota Business updates............28 ■ Job trends.........................................28 ■ Schmidt Foundation.........................30 ■ Greater Mankato Growth..................32 ■ Greater Mankato Growth Member Activities ............................33

From the editor

By Joe Spear

Economic growth into headwinds

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he numbers for 2019 have started to come in on the Mankato regional economy and the trends aren’t surprising with manufacturing still being the overachiever as other parts of the economy are facing headwinds. Agriculture remains at the forefront of those headwinds. Soybean prices remain down from July 2018 when China imposed retaliatory tariffs on soybeans. While local soybean prices were $9.59 per bushel June 30, 2018, they recently clocked in at $8.74 in late December. By early Februar y prices had drifted lower again to $8.33. This comes even after tentative trade agreement signed mid-January with China, which promised to start buying soybeans again. Corn prices have been hammered by the reduction in demand for ethanol, which occurred due to Trump administration waivers that allowed oil refineries to refrain from buying as required by the Renewable Fuel Standard. Corn prices were at $3.88 in June 2019 and have since gone to around $3.64. Good news on the waiver front: a federal court recently found three waivers to be illegal. But it’s a case ethanol advocates and farm groups say will set precedent on limiting ethanol waivers and they hope to be back to previous Renewable Fuel Standards. Last year, as agriculture entered a multi-year decline, Mankato retail trade was flat or slightly lower. That’s a big indicator for the regional retail economy. When farmers don’t do well, Mankato retail is stymied. On the other hand, there’s been some solid growth in the Blue Earth County job scene. Blue Earth County employment in all industries grew by about 200 jobs in second quarter of 2019 compared to a year earlier. That’s a growth rate of 0.6

4 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

percent. The average weekly wage for all industries over the same period grew 4.4 percent landing at an average weekly wage of $813. Blue Ear th County manufacturing also added about 200 jobs, for a growth rate of 4.5 percent. Wage growth came in at a 4.2 percent increase, landing at an average weekly wage for manufacturing of $1,096. These are favorable trends. The higher paying jobs are growing faster than many other industries. We’ve seen this trend toward more manufacturing jobs for at least a year now. This bodes well for the area economy and for those seeking jobs or working in manufacturing. More and more, we might do well to direct our high school and even college students to the manufacturing sector as it seems to be growing faster than other industries. A similar trend showed in Nicollet County over the same time period. The Metropolitan Statistical Area that includes Mankato and North Mankato encompasses all of both counties. In Nicollet County, jobs in all industries grew just 0.96 percent while the average weekly wage grew 1.3 percent landing at $797 per week. For manufacturing, job growth is up 3.8 percent, and the average weekly wage is actually down 3.9 percent to $879 per week. The downturn in manufacturing wages could be influenced by one or two large employers, but wages have been going down for three quarters in a row in Nicollet County, which seems contrary to the Blue Earth County trend. Retail trade is another driver of the Mankato economy as the regional center nature of the area draws shoppers from outside of the area.


The story of Mankato retail trade is one of contraction. Employment in retail trade is down 5.5 percent in second quarter 2019 from a year earlier. That’s not surprising given the closing of big box retailers like Sears, Herberger’s, Gander Mountain, Gordmans and Lowe’s among many other smaller operations. The good news for people who work in retail is wages are up 4.7 percent, to $515 per week, about half of the level of the average wage in manufacturing. What about the medical industry? We hear how major medical providers are hiring, always looking for workers and pay relatively well. There seems to be a mixed bag here. Ambulator y health care ser vices employment (mainly medical care provided as outpatient services) has declined about 0.6 percent in 2019 second quarter from a year earlier. A healthy weekly wage at $1,255 has grown 2.2 percent. Nursing and residential care facilities in Blue Earth County have higher employment than clinics at a total of 2,500 employees, who are paid an average wage of $550. We’ve heard about the low wages these folks make tending to the elderly and the sick, and how much in demand they are. The numbers bear that out. Employment has grown 8.5 percent with wages growing 5.2 percent for nursing and residential care facilities. So what story do the numbers tell? Manufacturing appears to be an engine driving growth in jobs and wages. Mankato’s retail transformation continues downward. Unemployment, however, still remains extremely low at 2 percent. If the manufacturing sector can maintain its above average growth, the entire economy will have a strong foundation. If manufacturing falters and agriculture doesn’t come back, there could be clouds on the horizon. Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at jspear@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear.

Local Business People/Company News ■

Sheeran joins Pillars

Brittney Sheeran has joined The Pillars of Mankato as Dimensions Manager. Sheeran will oversee The Pillars memory care community and will work closely with nursing and activities to enhance the lives of the memory care residents. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in social work, she spent over 10 years working in senior care. The Pillars is owned by Oppidan and managed by Ebenezer. ■■■

Thomas joins Connect

Jay Thomas has joined Connect Real Estate Group as a Realtor. Thomas is a Madelia native and has extensive knowledge in existing home sales and renovations. He will focus on the Madelia, New Ulm., St. James and Lake Crystal areas. ■■■

Atwood Management rebrands

Atwood Management, formerly Atwood Property Management, announced the company has rebranded and created a new name and logo. Atwood Management also opened a new leasing office on the ground level of the Atwood Plaza building at 209 South Second Street in Mankato. It is one of Minnesota’s oldest family owned and operated leasing and management firms. Frederick Atwood founded Atwood Land Company in 1934.

Consolidated honors employees

Consolidated Communications honored two Minnesota employees with the company’s top awards. Amie Ternes, commercial product manager in Mankato, received the company’s highest honor, the President’s Award. The award is presented annually to a few select employees who demonstrate extraordinary performance on a project or who continually exceed expectations. Ternes has been with Consolidated Communications for 12 years and was recognized for completing

multiple company projects in difficult circumstances, and maintaining a contagiously positive attitude from start to finish. Pam Lehrke received the company’s Community Service Award for her consistent efforts to make a difference in the community. Lehrke, senior director of sales operations in Mankato, has been with Consolidated Communications for 25 years. She volunteers with a variety of local nonprofit organizations, including Girls on the Run, Waseca Vision 2030 and Trinity Lutheran School. ■■■

Garbes, Thomas joins True

Tara Garbes has joined True Real Estate as a real estate agent. She has an extensive background in retail service and management. Garbes focuses primarily in the Maple River area. Parker Thomas also joined as a real estate agent. He is a Mankato native and brings experience and resources from different professional industries. ■■■

Witte promoted at UP

United Prairie has promoted Lisa Witte to the role of Chief Financial Officer. Witte is responsible for the company’s financial forecasting, reporting, and budgeting, as well as management of the finance and accounting teams. Witte joined the organization in 2008, and has filled a number of roles, most recently as financial officer for the past two years. Witte is a graduate of Minnesota State University with a degree in accounting and finance. ■■■

Hansen joins Weichert

Sara Hansen has joined Weichert Realtors Community MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 5


Group in their Mankato office. Weichert Realtors Community Group, located at 300 St. Andrews Drive Suite 110, is an independently owned and operated affiliate of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates. ■■■

Birkholz serving at MCHC

Dr. Emily Birkholz, ophthalmologist, is performing surgeries at the Madelia Community Hospital & Clinic on Fridays. She specializes in cataract surgery and functional eyelid surgeries. Birkholz is a native of St. James and alumni of Minnesota State University and earned her medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School. She completed a one-year internship at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of Iowa. MCHC is an independent, critical access hospital.

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Soybean groups honored

For the second straight year, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association emerged victorious at the National Agri-Marketing Association Region III Awards. The Council scored wins for its baseball-themed 2018 annual repor t and a digital #FollowAMNFarmer campaign, defeating CHS and Pioneer, respectively. Soybean Business, MSGA’s official magazine, scored top honors for the first time in the publication’s history for a trio of issues covering the agriculture’s economy, MSGA’s advocacy efforts and a preview of its MN AG EXPO trade show. The two organizations, managed by Ag Management Solutions, will compete for the national awards in San Diego in April. Doug Monson is the AMS director of public relations and Soybean Business editor-in-chief.

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Business Commentary

By Dean Swanson

What Is The Future of Franchising in 2020?

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local business investor asked me to do a column on franchising and to give some insight about what seems to be the best investment when we are seeing a lot of change in many franchise operations. Therefore, this may be a good time for both reflection and forecasting for the franchise industry. I will rely on information from my friends at FranNet whose mission is to assist individuals with the entire franchise process – from franchising an existing business to purchasing or selling a franchise. When you purchase a franchise, you are paying a price to be a part of that franchise. You are investing into a system of doing business, and they train you to be proficient. It buys a brand name and standards to insure your customers will experience the same high quality standards in every unit of that franchise. I ask these potential CEOs to be very familiar with what the franchisor provides and ask yourself if you are willing to follow their procedures. If not, do not make an investment in a system you will not use. As 2019 comes to a close and the dawn of 2020 breaks, there are untold numbers of budding entrepreneurs who have decided that this is “the year” to finally take the proverbial plunge and become a business owner. These individuals have the same thoughts and questions you might also be pondering. That is, what were the top franchise categories and trends this past year? Will they be the same next year? Everyone who goes into business for themselves wants to get it right and find that one true franchise concept that matches up with their income and lifestyle goals. Wanting to spot the top-performing or trending opportunities is a natural reaction. Yet ask a dozen different sources, and you may get a dozen different answers. But there is a way to cut through any inherent bias in the process. Sources such as the International Franchise Association (IFA) and Franchising Media Group can provide an outlook based in fact, but it’s always advisable to do your due diligence when researching subjective questions such as these. Let’s begin with franchise trends, the broader of the two categorical inquiries. Most industry experts and media outlets agree on the following common denominators when it comes to spotting the trends in the franchise marketplace for 2019 and into the year 2020: Demographics are boosting the franchise industry. Three specific examples show how certain demographics are positively affecting the business of franchising. The Millennial Generation, now surpassing 70 million in the U.S., has reached maturity in terms of their purchasing power. The demand for a wide range of products and services sold by franchisees has followed suit. Yet, Baby Boomers refuse to hand over the keys—grabbing a lopsided share of the small business market with their lifetime of saving and investing. They remain a franchisor’s strongest target market. Lastly, seniors are finally aging out of the

workforce, but driving a phenomenal health and wellness boom—an industry where franchising is noting some of its strongest growth. The Multi-Unit Craze. Franchising has noted a steady interest in opening not just one franchise location, but multiple units, in the quest to establish a small business empire. As it stands today, more than half of all franchise units in the U.S. are owned and run by multi-unit operators. They’ve taken full advantage of the semi-absentee business model, thereby allowing a manager to manage the locations. This keeps the focus squarely on strategy, growth, and oversight.

What are the current top franchises?

These examples are a little easier to gauge and review, thanks in part to numerous ranking systems that conduct monthly audits of which franchises have generated the most interest in awarding new units. In should come as little surprise that these franchise types typically remain at or near the top of the list:

Residential ser vices:

There are a whole host of franchise opportunities available in the booming residential services sector. Whether consumers are looking for house cleaning, tree trimming or general handyman services, this franchise category is hotter than ever. What’s driving this interest? Consumers are turning to outsourced options for things they used to do on their own. The reasons for this trend include increasing age, convenience and possibly the biggest factor of all—the time and hassle saved by having someone else worry about ongoing maintenance and upkeep.

Health and Wellness

This type of franchise has the advantage of a dual appeal. There are health-related franchise operations such as gyms, boutiques, and innovative workout concepts, but there’s also wellness, which extends deep into the spa, beauty and studio environment. Consumer interest in looking and feeling their best isn’t likely to wane in the foreseeable future. Top franchise trends and types are worth a cursory review, but avoid letting subjective information cloud your judgment. When engaged in the investigative process, it’s important to evaluate your income and lifestyle goals before reviewing concepts. Determining the potential revenue of a franchise is important, but to gauge a brands’ overall health, research its recent unit growth statistics, its year-over-year success rate and the all-important Item 19, located in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). That’s where you’ll find accurate statistical analysis related to a brand’s financial performance. Dean Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director, and regional vice president for the north west region.

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 7


Breaking Barriers:

MRCI And European Roasterie

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hey produce over 3.5 million pounds of fresh roasted, top tier coffee annually. They offer more than 50 flavored coffees, they roast up to 500 pounds per batch. Another number important to European Roasterie in Le Center, is five. Five individuals with disabilities that are able to learn new skills, earn a paycheck and make new friends. Five people that add a lot of value to their workforce. “We initially started talking to MRCI in July of 2019,” explained Becky Lambrecht, human resources specialist with European Roasterie. “MRCI placement workers toured our facility and discussed our needs. They then went back and found the candidates that would be a good fit to add to our workforce.” Being in a smaller community, with little public transportation, both sides quickly ran into a barrier: getting the MRCI client to work at European Roasterie. That’s when coworkers stepped in to help. “Luckily, we had an employee ready to step in to offer a ride to the MRCI worker,” says Lembrecht. “It worked out perfectly.” This type of true integration, is the ultimate goal of community employment for the individuals MRCI serves. It’s what drives the success for us, our employment partners and more importantly, the individual. “I have been very happy with MRCI. The clients that MRCI have introduced to ERI have been a wonderful addition to our workforce. All the clients are very reliable and hard workers. MRCI has done a great job matching clients skills to positions that we have open.” - Submitted by MRCI

About MRCI

MRCI provides innovative and genuine opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages at home, at work and in the community. Annually empowering more than 5,000 individuals across Minnesota, MRCI was established in 1953. For more information, please visit our website at www.mymrci.org.

8 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


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Ryan Neisen and his dad, Dan, bought the former Whiskey River last fall and reopened it as Neisen’s Riverside Sports Bar.

Being hospitable

Bar/restaurant business rewarding, challenging

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By Tim Krohn | Photos by Pat Christman

yan Neisen grew up helping out in his dad’s bar and grill, learning the ropes from a young age. Jim and Janet Downs got into the restaurant and bar business later in life after other careers. No matter the background, owning and operating a restaurant or bar business is a high-risk affair, filled with challenges and daily problems large and small. But it’s a business that brings reward to many who figure out how to survive. “We really love being in the restaurant business. We both say we wish we would of gotten into it sooner,” Jim Downs said. He and his wife, with help from their sons Jake and

Joe, bought Pagliai’s Pizza in downtown Mankato in 2001. Eleven years later, they bought the NaKato Bar & Grill on Belgrade Avenue in North Mankato. Neisen comes from an extended family of bar and grill owners, with his dad, several uncles and their kids operating 10 establishments in southern Minnesota. “I’ve been doing it 26 years. My dad’s had the Red Door Bar (in Belle Plaine) for 39 years, so I’ve been in it pretty much my whole life,” Neisen said. He’s now running the recently opened Neisen’s Riverside Sports Bar at the site of the former Whiskey River, just across the Minnesota River from St. Peter. He and his dad, Dan, bought the building last fall.

Cover Story

10 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


Jim and Jan Downs bought Paglaia’s PIzza in 2001 and then purchased the NaKato 11 years later.

Full-time plus

With four family members running the two businesses, the Downs family can share the work, along with their nearly 80 full- and part-time employees. Still, they all keep plenty busy. The NaKato is open 7 a.m. for breakfast, serves food throughout the day and closes the bar at 2 a.m. Then a cleaning crew comes in and a couple of hours later, the prep crew comes in for the next morning’s breakfast crowd. “So it’s almost 24 hours a day,” Downs said. Pagliai’s Pizza is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, and until midnight on weekends. “Pagliai’s doesn’t have the bar, just beer and wine, so that makes a huge difference in the staff you need, and you’re not open until 2 a.m.,” he said. “You need to be prepared to put in the work and the hours in this business.” When the Downses bought the pizza shop, Jim owned a promotional marketing company and a screen-printing business and his wife was an office manager. That experience helped on the business side, but getting into food service was a big leap. “The learning curve was pretty steep,” he said. “Fortunately, the previous owner stuck around a while and all the employees stayed on, so that made it a

Jake Downs, center, helps prepare pizzas for the lunch crowd at Paglaia’s Pizza. whole lot easier. The employees are training you,” he said. Downs said their biggest challenge is the same one facing most any business in the area. “The hardest thing is finding employees.” He’s tried a variety of hiring tactics, including social media and getting referrals, but said there’s no magic

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 11


The Neisen’s added a 140-foot bar to the former Whiskey River. (menu) prices. You really have to watch the finances side of things.” Despite the challenges, Downs said being in Mankato and North Mankato makes things easier. “Mankato is really hopping. It’s a good place to be.”

Neisen’s Sport Bar

The backyard at Neisen’s Riverside Sports Bar provides plenty of wildlife viewing. solution. “It’s just difficult.” They’ve been fortunate to have a lot of longtime employees, but they see more turnover at the pizza shop because they hire many college students who eventually move on. Downs said the other ongoing challenge is fluctuating food prices and rising costs in general. “The food costs just climb all the time. That’s one of the most significant things in the business is the cost of goods. And they

fluctuate. We use a lot of cheese at Pagliai’s and the cheese prices can make big swings with the dairy market. There was a tomato shortage last year and prices tripled in one week. You’re at the mercy of the markets that change every week.” He said the state minimum wage, which increases a bit each year, also is a factor. “It’s not earth-shattering increases but it creeps up, and eventually you have to adjust your

12 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

Neisen, too, says finding help is one of the greatest challenges. “With the unemployment so low, it’s tough. To get decent help you have to pay more. The money has to come from somewhere, that’s why even McDonald’s and places like that, their (menu) prices are going up.” With a majority of restaurants not making it, Neisen said doing things a little different than competitors and carving out a niche is important to success. Riverside Sports Bar brought in lots of TVs for customers to watch. “People want to watch all the different sports.” Since buying the former Whiskey River, they did some renovations inside, including adding a 140-foot bar. One experience he wants to keep is the birds and animals that were drawn into the backyard of the bar.


Paglaiai’s Pizza opened in 1969. “We want to repeat that. It’s fun to see deer and birds coming in.” Their menu focuses on sports bar fare. “We’ve been big with the burgers. When we came in, you’re not sure if you should try fine dining, steaks and things, but they were doing that here before and they didn’t make it. It’s very expensive (doing fine dining) and if someone has one bad meal, they won’t come back,” Neisen said. “We focus on making the food come out fast and be good. You have to be efficient.” That food, he said, is increasingly expensive. “It used to be the truck backed up to the door with food and it’d be $1,200, $1,300, now it’s 25 or 30 percent higher. The cost of trucking and food just keeps going up. It takes its toll.” Neisen said one sure thing is that he’s never bored. “You don’t know what each day is going to bring. You don’t know what’s going to break or who’s going to call in sick or what might happen.” MV

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Meat is carved at Shawarmania Mediterranean Grill.

Middleeastern flair

Shawarmania Mediterranean Grill opens near university By Dan Greenwood Photos by Pat Christman

W

hen Ahmad Kiblawi bought what Since moving the store to its current at the time was called Stadium location, at 251 Bunting Lane, the business Dollar in 2015 near Minnesota now doubles as a grocery and restaurant State University – called Shawarmania Mankato, it was Mediterranean Grill, in basically just a dollar homage to the popular store. He changed the middle-eastern name to Stadium Mart shawarma sandwich. SHAWARMANIA and began filling the Kiblawi had been MEDITERRANEAN shelves with middleconsidering a location a GRILL eastern, Asian and few miles away from African food products to 251 Bunting Ln #101, Mankato campus, but then Vera’s accommodate MSU’s Tacos announced they 507-779-7341 international students were moving to upper Shawarmania on Facebook and faculty. North Mankato. He

Cover Spotlight

14 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


jumped at the opportunity to remain close to campus. Complete with a kitchen, it was a perfect match, and only a block away from their original location. “I wanted to be closer to campus because our business is based on students,” Kiblawi said. “Some don’t have cars so it’s easier for them to come here.” Kiblawi is Palestinian but grew up in Abu Dhabi, where shawarma sandwiches are as common there as the hot dog or hamburger is the United States. After high school, he moved to Mankato for college about 15 years ago. He thought there were limited options for authentic middleeastern food, and was determined to one day open a restaurant. He had struck up a friendship with Anwar Taha, who was a frequent customer at Stadium Mart, and learned Taha was a chef by trade with experience running restaurants. The two decided to take a road trip to visit hotspots known for their middle-eastern food scene, including Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit. Kiblawi was already familiar with many of the middleeastern restaurants and grocery stores in the Twin Cities, supplying groceries from places like the Holy Land Deli, probably the most popular middle-eastern restaurant in Minneapolis. The two ordered off the menu from each restaurant they visited and noted the taste, portion size, menu options and cost. Back in Mankato, Kiblawi connected with Nancy Goodwin, who helps new businesses with marketing and start-up assistance through the Small Business Development Center in Mankato. “We talked about the full spectrum of marketing tools that they would need, whether it was signage, business cards, menus, logos, and everything right up to the content that went into his social media marketing and anything else he did reaching out to the public with fliers and special events, helping him brand and position the business for what it is,” Goodwin said. They initially began catering before opening the restaurant. Many customers had their first taste of Shawarmania at MSU’s

A variety of Middle-eastern favorites are served at Ahmad Kiblawi restaurant. international festival in 2019. Held annually in April, it features a variety of global foods from around the world. “It was a month before we opened, and was a nice boost in advertising,” Kiblawi said. “We’ll do it this year again and will probably add more items since we have a kitchen. Sometimes you have to look at what a customer wants, so we try to have more variety for people.”

Love at first bite

When they finally opened their doors on May 17, 2019, it was Ramadan, where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. By evening, the restaurant was packed with long lines of customers waiting to order. “It was crazy,” Kiblawi said. “I expected people to order different things but everybody wanted shawarma. Some people waited two hours because we weren’t ready for that kind of rush. We had 40 people come in right away.” To meet the growing demand, Kiblawi, his sister, Laila Kabalawi and Taha hired more employees, many of them MSU students, to expand the staff of about a dozen. That has helped them become more efficient so orders arrive faster, but Kiblawi emphasized that Shawarmania isn’t fast food quality, the meat is slow cooked, fresh and prepared to order. While gyros and falafel sandwiches are the most popular

dishes, they have been experimenting with more elaborate menu items, including stuffed grape leaves, cheese and meat pies, kababs, and deserts like baklava and tiramisu, a biscuit dipped in Italian coffee layered with cream and yellow eggs. “We do have specials on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Kiblawi said. “Monday always changes, Wednesday its chicken kabsa, a Saudi dish and then lamb biriyani is on Friday, which is a very popular item.” Kiblawi said he plans to expand the catering side of the business. His wife, who works at Taylor Corporation in North Mankato, reached out to Angela Raforth, executive assistant for Navitor, a subsidiary of Taylor Corporation about serving items from their menu to employees there. “He comes here once a week,” Raforth said. “The chicken shawarma is the most popular – our employees love it.” Since opening, business has been steady. Kiblawi said many customers from middle-eastern countries report that the dishes taste the same as they do back home. “Try it once – you’ll love it,” Kiblawi said. “Ever ybody is welcome here and we love taking care of people. MV

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 15


Dr. Dr Leah Renne and Leslie Foster check on Peanut after surgery at the new Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital.

Spreading out Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital has spacious new digs By Dan Greenwood | Photos by Pat Christman

A

fter 47 years at its Madison Avenue location in out of Wilmar that specializes in veterinary practices Mankato, Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital has a nationwide. new home. The new building at 1541 Adams It only took a day to move everything to the new Street provides more room for both location, including all of the animals and staff as they expand in equipment. They re-opened the size and scope. next day, on April 15, 2019. “We’ve just been busier and “We got super organized ahead busier and then we outgrew our MINNESOTA VALLEY of time, broke into teams and space,” said co-partner and everyone was responsible for a PET HOSPITAL veterinarian Dr. Leah Renne. “We different chunk of the hospital,” 1541 Adams Street, Mankato had two treatment tables and six Renne said. “We were only down 507-345-5900 doctors and surgery technicians for a day. That was quite a feat.” mnvalleypet.com sharing them. They had remodeled Now with a staff of 23, the clinic and expanded the building on has come a long way since its founding by Gil Boerbroom – who operated clinic out Madison several times, but you can only go so far.” of his home on 5th Street – before relocating to the The three co-partners who own the business, all Madison Avenue location in 1971. The practice veterinarians, worked with a design company based

Profile

16 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


The new building at 1541 Adams Street offers more space for staff and clients. transitioned into a partnership – adding one partner at a time as veterinarians came and went over the past five decades. The fact that they are a small, local business is becoming unique in the veterinary field. Renne said larger corporations are increasingly buying out small private veterinary practices. “(We) have always been small and privately owned,” Renne said. “It’s getting less common to find larger, good quality private practices.” Co-owner and veterinarian Dr. Julie Berndt calls herself a lifer. After graduating from Iowa State in 1987, she relocated to Mankato to work at Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital and has been here ever since. About 75-100 animal patients come through their door for treatment every day. “There’s never a typical day,” Berndt said. “You never know what’s going to walk through that door. It can be stressful, but at the end of the day I think we all enjoy coming here because we help both the human side and the animal side. We get the best of both.”

One of the family

Berndt said that’s one of the biggest differences between the time she joined the clinic over 30 years ago compared to today is that owners increasingly view their pets as members of the family. “When I started a lot of the mentality was, ‘it’s just a cat or it’s just a dog,’” Berndt said. “But now, for a lot of people, these are their fur babies.” In response, there are many more treatment options, from better dental equipment and digital x-rays to cancer treatment and health insurance for cats and dogs. “Now we know so much more about the disease processes; there are tests we can run that we couldn’t 10 years ago,” Renee said. Nowadays, cats can get kidney transplants, dogs get chemotherapy for cancer treatment, and there’s even acupuncture and hip and knee replacement surgeries. Berndt said allergy treatments have expanded from just one drug to many more options, as well as more innovate approaches to treating pain in animals. “It used to be there wasn’t anything to give dogs for

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18 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

pain from arthritis, and now there are a ton of options,” Berndt said. Some of the common issues they see are obese pets, broken bones and swallowing something they shouldn’t, especially with dogs during Halloween and the holidays. While chocolate is toxic for both cats and dogs, Renee said they rarely see cats coming in for swallowing candy. Dogs, on the other hand, will eat just about anything they can get their paws on. “For dogs, it can be toxic if it’s a high cocoa content,” Renee said. “A little bit of chocolate isn’t a big deal; we had a dog that ate a bunch of Reese’s peanut butter cups and that’s 90 percent sugar and peanut butter with very little actual cocoa. But if they get into that bar of bakers chocolate, we’ve had cases of where they’re having seizures and heart arrhythmias.” If it’s not caught early enough, some pets are referred to a 24/7 clinic in Eden Prairie where they can receive around the clock monitoring. Other seemingly innocent things, like a nut shell, can wreak havoc on an animal’s insides. Renee once had a cat that inadver tently swallowed a pistachio shell while licking the salt from the owner’s discarded shells. The sharp edges caused trauma on the cat’s intestines and required surgery. Sometimes it’s a matter of ruling out and deducing the root causes that may be making an animal sick. Recently, an owner brought a dog that was lethargic and in pain, but wasn’t sure why. “We just had a GI foreign body and it was stuck in his intestines,” Renee said. “Usually we take x-rays; sometimes you can see the object. In this case we couldn’t see an object at all, but you could see big bubbles of gas trying to push through that couldn’t. We had to assume by the signs we were seeing that there probably is something in there, and sure enough that’s what he needed.” Berndt said a big part of their profession is education. Dogs especially need different levels of exercise depending on the breed, while others range in metabolism.


The new Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital. As gluten free options become popular for humans, those grain free diets are marketed by the pet food industry to dog and cat owners. She said there is some concern those diets may correlate with heart disease in dogs, although there is still much more to understand about what diets are healthy for pets. Despite what Berndt said is a high-turnover rate for the veterinary industry – it can be physically taxing – they have employees who have been with them for 20 years or more. “Our staff enjoy coming to work and it shows,” she said. MV

Veterinarian Kalahari Kastelic and certified veterinary technician Megan Johnson perform dental work on a dog at the new Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital.

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 19


Rick Esser checks his inventory of mushrooms growing out of blocks of substrate at EJ Mushrooms in rural Madison Lake. Esser grows a variety of mushrooms that he harvests and sells to local businesses.

Lovin’ the fungus EJ Mushrooms grows indoors By Dan Greenwood Photos by Jackson Forderer

I

t takes attention to detail and a lot of even considered closing the business for patience to grow gourmet mushrooms good, but fellow mushroom enthusiast Rick indoors, especially in Minnesota in the Esser was determined not to let that happen winter. But that’s exactly and has since taken over what Efraim Cadriel day-to-day operations of accomplished when he the business. began growing a variety Esser, who is the of edible, gourmet founding president of EJ MUSHROOMS mushrooms in an adjacent Mankato Makerspace, met Kasota building on his property Cadriel in early 2019 when EJ MUSHROOMS LLC on the shore of Lake he was working on a on Facebook Washington near Kasota compost hopper there to in 2018. mix his own blocks of But then Cadriel, owner organic material for the of EJ Mushrooms, had some surgeries in the mushrooms to grow in. summer of 2019 that prevented him from That spring, the two discovered they both doing the physical work of growing, had an affinity for the spongy fungus. Esser maintaining and harvesting mushrooms. He has been foraging for mushrooms for years

Feature

20 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


and invited Cadriel on a hunt for the wild and elusive morel mushrooms. Cadriel then invited Esser to see his own growing operation. Cadriel had been buying bricks of organic material housing mushroom spores to grow from a company in Missouri, but Esser is hoping to use the hopper Cadriel made to make those compost blocks from scratch using soybean and oak pellets inoculated with spores. “When you’re trying to make your own stuff, you collect mushrooms and try to dry them out enough so that you can set the spores out in a little vacuum and get them in a tub,” Esser said. “You add some vegetable oil, and it collects those spores and keeps it in there and then you can put that into blocks.” The blocks can be stored for months in airtight bags and won’t be activated until the spores come in contact with oxygen. When they are ready to be used, Esser transfers the blocks to the fruiting room, cutting a couple slits in the bag to give the spores oxygen. At any given time, he has about 30 blocks producing mushrooms in the fruiting room, yielding up to six pounds for each block. Warm and humid Under the right warm and wet conditions, the mushrooms will sprout in just a couple days. After a week, they will have quadrupled in size. On a blustery January afternoon, the temperature outside is below zero, but in the fruiting room, it feels like a balmy, humid day in June. “In here, the UV lamps are going 24 hours a day,” Esser said. “It’s about 75-80 degrees in here. The humidity level is way up and it will collect inside the bags and keep those blocks nice and moist.” The bags create a microclimate that encourage the fungus to poke through the slits, but if the slits get too big, all of the moist air escapes, meaning the mushrooms won’t grow. “You have to be careful in the wintertime because if you open the bag too much, the block will dr y out and it won’t grow anything,” Esser said. In the fruiting room, there are

dozens of b l o c k s producing four varieties; including s h i t a k e , chestnut, oyster, and lion’s mane mushrooms. Each block can yield 2-4 harvests. Even after they stop producing indoors, they can lay dormant for months over the winter, Rick Esser holds a box of three pounds of harvested mushrooms, only to come including blue oysters, shiitake and lion’s mane varieties. back to life in mushrooms, which resemble a the spring. large piece of cauliflower and “If you put a few of these blocks taste like crab meat, are finicky outside, you may notice that now but fun to work with. The giant you’ve got oyster mushrooms mushrooms are full of water that popping up on your dead trees, or needs to be squeezed out of the maybe the blocks themselves are fungus like a sponge in order to producing shitakes,” Esser said. cook them. “It’s been fun. I feel like Johnny “My personal favorite is to clean Appleseed a little bit, spreading them off, roast them and maybe mushrooms all around the saute them,” he said. countryside.” Esser said oyster mushrooms Esser said while the EJ are the easiest to grow because Mushrooms is still mostly a they’re more flexible with the hobby – he works about five moisture and temperature in the hours a week – the business has fruiting room. Shitake’s have a garnered attention from local nutty flavor and require hot and restaurants, like Chankaska ver y humid conditions to Winery near Kasota and the successfully grow. Esser said the Wooden Spoon in Mankato, who chestnuts are even more flavorful supplement their menu with EJ than the shitake. If he has extras, Mushrooms. he’ll dry the chestnuts – which Tony Hauck, the head chef at concentrates the flavor – and Nakato Bar and Grill, remembers grind them into a powder to mix Cadriel coming in with a sample with Himalayan sea salt. pack of five pounds of lion’s mane, At present, Esser is producing oyster mushrooms and shitakes about 20-30 pounds of mushrooms last fall. Hauck used the a week for customers, although mushrooms to make a risotto and the fruiting room has the capacity loved it so much that he called to produce 200 pounds a week. Cadriel again for another order. While it’s still a relatively small He’s been ordering about five operation, word has been pounds of mushrooms up to twice spreading. a month for his menu, “I’ve successfully doubled the incorporating them into steak and distribution every month since lamb dishes, or making a wild I’ve started, but it’s more of a mushroom soup. hobby at this time,” Esser said. “They’re very popular, and It’s not something that’s making when people see they’re locally or breaking the bank. We’re just sourced they get really excited keeping this thing running.” MV about it,” Hauck said. Hauck said he mostly buys oyster and shitake mushrooms. He said the lion’s mane

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 21


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Solar capacity increasing

The Energy Information Administration forecasts 13 GW of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity will be added in 2020 and 13 GW more will be added in 2021. They also expects a total of 11 GW of small-scale solar PV capacity will be installed during 2020 and 2021, mostly in the residential sector. Various state and federal policies support EIA’s forecast solar capacity growth, including California’s requirement that, beginning in 2020, all new home construction has rooftop solar panels. Tariffs on PV modules imported into the United States started at 30% in January 2018, but they have declined to 20% in January 2020 and are expected to decline to 15% in 2021 and expire completely after 2021. During 2018 and 2019, increases in U.S. domestic module prices were, to an extent, offset by declines in global module prices. This price decline was in response to reductions in China’s domestic PV installation targets and subsequent release of module inventories for global markets. Although global PV module prices showed signs of stabilizing in 2019, the net price impact of the tariffs versus the surplus of modules is uncertain over the short-term forecast. The Energy Information Administration forecasts 13 GW of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity will be added in 2020 and 13 GW more will be added in 2021. They also expects a total of 11 GW of small-scale solar PV capacity will be installed during 2020 and 2021, mostly in the residential sector. Various state and federal policies support EIA’s forecast solar capacity growth, including California’s requirement that, beginning in 2020, all new

22 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

home construction has rooftop solar panels. Tariffs on PV modules imported into the United States started at 30% in January 2018, but they have declined to 20% in January 2020 and are expected to decline to 15% in 2021 and expire completely after 2021. During 2018 and 2019, increases in U.S. domestic module prices were, to an extent, offset by declines in global module prices. This price decline was in response to reductions in China’s domestic PV installation targets and subsequent release of module inventories for global markets. Although global PV module prices showed signs of stabilizing in 2019, the net price impact of the tariffs versus the surplus of modules is uncertain over the short-term forecast.

Wind power grows

EIA expects wind capacity will increase from 106 GW at the end of 2019 to 125 GW at the end of 2020 and to 130 GW by the end of 2021. In 2019, onshore wind installations grew as many developers worked to meet the deadline on December 31, 2019, to secure the production tax credit (PTC). However, the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019 that passed in December included a one-year extension to the wind PTC. The legislation extended the PTC through 2020 and restored it to 60% (from 40%) of its full 2.5 cents per kilowatthour (kWh) value. EIA does not expect the extension to have an effect on capacity additions until after the 2021 forecast horizon.

Crude oil to rise some

EIA forecasts Brent crude oil spot prices will average $65 per barrel in 2020 and $68/b in 2021, compared with an average of $64/b in 2019. EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices will average about


Retail/Consumer Spending Vehicle Sales Mankato — Number of vehicles sold - 2018 - 2019 1500

1,219 930

1200 900 600 300 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

$5.50/b lower than Brent prices through 2020 and 2021, compared with an average WTI discount of about $7.35/b in 2019.

Changes to ship fuel

Global liquid fuels inventories were mostly unchanged in 2019, and EIA expects they will grow by 0.3 million b/d in 2020 and then decline by 0.2 million b/d in 2021. On Jan. 1 the International Maritime Organization enacted Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which lowers the maximum sulfur content of marine fuel oil used in oceangoing vessels from 3.5% of weight to 0.5%. EIA expects this regulation will encourage global refiners to increase refinery runs and maximize upgrading of high-sulfur heavy fuel oil into low-sulfur distillate fuel to create compliant bunker fuels. EIA forecasts that U.S. refinery runs will rise by 3% from 2019 to a record level of 17.5 million b/d in 2020, resulting in refinery utilization rates that average 93% in 2020.

Oil production to rise

EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 12.2 million b/d in 2019, up 1.3 million b/d from 2018. U.S. crude oil production will average 13.3 million b/d in 2020 and 13.7 million b/d in 2021. Most of the production growth in the forecast occurs in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico.

Natural gas production up

U.S. dry natural gas production set a new record in 2019, averaging 92.0 billion cubic feet per day. EIA forecasts dry natural gas production will rise to 94.7 Bcf/d in 2020 and then decline to 94.1 Bcf/d in 2021. Production in the Appalachian region drives the forecast as it shifts from growth in 2020 to declining production in 2021.

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

Sales tax collections Mankato (In thousands)

- 2018 - 2019

600

$459,114 $501,500

500 400 300 200 100 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Sales tax figures, City of Mankato

Lodging tax collections Mankato/North Mankato

- 2018 - 2019 $42,501

70000

$48,188

52500 35000 17500 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: City of Mankato

Mankato food and beverage tax - 2018 - 2019 175000 140000

$63,883 $60,700

105000 70000 35000 0

J

F

M

Source: City of Mankato

A

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O

N

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 23


Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

Stable land values continue into 2020

M

any agricultural experts and economists have been warning for the past few years that we could be headed for a significant correction in farm land values in the Midwest. Land value summaries showed that a reduction in average land values did occur in many regions of the U.S from 2014-16, including the Upper Midwest, before stabilizing in many areas in 2017 and early 2018. Land values have been under pressure in some areas in late 2018 and in 2019, due to reduced crop yields, the ongoing trade war with China, low commodity prices, and reduced farm profitability. However, overall land values have remained fairly stable due to relatively low long-term interest rates, a limited supply of land being offered for sale, and relatively strong buyer interest. Iowa State University does a comprehensive land value survey each December, which is regarded as one of the best resources on trends in Midwest farm land sales. Following is a table showing the average value of Iowa farm land for the past 13 years (20072019), and the percentage change in land values from year-to-year.

Iowa average farm land values (2007-2019)

YEAR 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

AVE. VALUE PER ACRE % CHANGE $3,908 +22.0% $4,468 +14.3% $4,371 (2.2%) $5,064 +15.9% $6,708 +32.5% $8,296 +23.7% $8,716 +5.1% $7,943 (8.9%) $7,633 (3.9%) $7,183 (5.9%) $7,326 +2.0% $7,264 (0.8%) $7,432 +2.3%

Data is from the Iowa State University 2019 Farmland Value Survey.

Iowa farm land values rose at an incredible pace from 2000 to 2013, with only one minor decline in 2009, before more significant declines of 8.9 percent in 2014, 3.9 percent in 2015, and 5.9 percent in 2016. This was the first time that the Iowa land value survey has shown three consecutive years of decline since the mid-1980’s. The 2017 Iowa Farmland Value

24 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

Survey showed an increase of 2 percent, or $143 per acre, compared to a year earlier, before a slight decline of 0.8 percent or ($62) per acre in 2018, which was followed by an increase of $168 per acre or 2.3 percent in 2019. Overall, 2019 average farm land values in Iowa are still 14.7 percent below the peak average land value of $8,716 per acre in 2013. The average 2019 land values increased in eight of the nine crop reporting districts in Iowa, as compared to 2018 average land values, while decreasing in only the Northeast District. The greatest increases were +5.9 and 5.5 percent in the East Central and Central districts, while the only decline was (2.9) percent in the Northeast district. The Northwest District reported the highest 2019 average land values in Iowa at $9,352 per acre. There continues to be a limited supply of available land for sale in some areas of the State. Trends in farm land values in Southern Minnesota are probably fairly close to the trends shown in the Iowa land value survey, reflecting the lower crop prices and tighter profit margins in recent years. Similar to Iowa, land values in many portions of Southern Minnesota seemed to stabilize in 2017, before declining slightly in 2018 and 2019. In addition to low profit margins, 2018 and 2019 crop yields have been the poorest in several years for many farm operators, due to the excessive rainfall and poor growing conditions during the past two growing seasons. Some isolated land sales across Southern Minnesota have still been reported at fairly high values per acre; however, the overall land value trend in the past 4-5 years has been a decline of 10-20 percent from the peak land values in 2013 and early 2014. In the past couple of years, there has been an increasing gap in the average land price for high quality, well drained farm land, compared to low quality, poorly drained land. One of the best sources of farm real estate values in Minnesota is the University of Minnesota’s “Land Economics” web site at: www.landeconomics.umn. edu. This web site is updated annually after September 30, and accesses a data base of various land values, based on farm land valuations reported to the State Revenue Office by County Assessors Offices throughout the State each year, which are adjusted annually based on actual land sales in a given County. This web site allows for selected sorts by County, State Economic Regions, Watersheds, etc., as well as by types of land. Based on potential returns from crop production, current land values should probably be much lower than current levels. In recent years, many farm


operators have purchased farm land as an “opportunity investment”, using returns from existing farm land that is “debt-free” to help subsidize the cash flow and debt payment ability on the newly purchased farm land. Similarly, investors have purchased farm land as a long-term investment, accepting current cash rental rates as a desirable annual rate of return. Most economists point to the relative stability in farm land values in the Midwest as the primary reason that we have not seen more farm operations discontinuing due to financial collapse or bankruptcies. However, the continuing low profit margins in crop production, as well as in most of the livestock sectors, in the past couple of years is increasing the financial stress for many farm operations. The value of farm land accounts for over 80 percent of the total assets in the U.S. agriculture industry. During the farm financial crisis of the 1980’s, average farm land values declined by over 60% in a 5-year period from 1981 to 1986, which lead to many farm bankruptcies and foreclosures. Currently, there are no signs on the horizon of a dramatic decline in land values, similar to the mid8 However, there are some lingering “caution 1980’s. flags” that could put further downward pressure on 6 land values in the coming 12-18 months. These potential challenges include: 4 • Continued low or negative profitability in crop and livestock farming. • Lack 2 of increased exports from the new trade agreements, which could keep commodity prices reduced. 0 J in F interest M A rates M Jby the J Federal A S Reserve O N D • Increases Bank. • Changes in Federal estate taxes, capital gains taxes, or 1031-exchange policies. • Reduced interest to purchase farm land or an 8 increase in the amount of land being offered for 100 sale. 6 • Lack 85 of confidence in the land market by investors and 4ag lenders. 70

Many areas of the Upper Midwest experienced 2 above55average corn and soybean yields in 2016 and 2017, which seemed to stabilize land values in many 400 locations Jof the F region M A inM2017 J and J early A S2018. O N D However, 25 greatly reduced crop yields in many J Southern F M AMinnesota, M J JNorthern A S Iowa, O NandD portions of Eastern North and South Dakota in both 2018 and 2019, together with continued low commodity prices, appears to be putting more downward pressure on land values in some locations. Most likely, the future 100 trends in crop prices, along with the level of 2020 85 crop yields and profitability in livestock production, will determine if land values stabilize, or if we see 70 further declines in land values later this year. Expect considerable variation in land values going forward, 55 based on location, land quality, amount of tile 40 and local buyer interest. drainage, 25

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

D

Agriculture/ Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2019 — 2020

20

8 6

16

$3.74

12

4

8

2 0

$3.31

J

F

4

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

0

J

Source: USDA

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2019 — 2020 8 20 100 16 6 85 $8.25 12 470 8 255 $7.94 4 40 0 0 J F M A M J J A S O N D 25 J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D Source: USDA

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

— 2019 — 2020

20 100 25 16 85 22 12 $48.71 70 19 8 55 16 4 40 13 0 J $45.84 F M 25 10 J F M J F M Source: USDA

25 22 19 16 13

A M J A M J A M J

Milk prices

J J J

A S O N D A S O N D A S O N D

Minimum prices, class 1 milk Dollars per hundredweight

— 2019 — 2020 25 22

$17.05

19 16 13 10

$15.63 J

F

M

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

A

M

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J

A

S

O

N

D

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

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 25

10

J

J


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato

Commercial building permits Mankato

- 2018 - 2019 (in millions)

- 2018 - 2019 (in millions)

$8,968

5,000,000

$2,938

4,000,000

25,000,000

3,000,000

20,000,000 10,000,000

1,000,000

5,000,000 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

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A

M

J

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D

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

Existing home sales: Mankato region - 2018 - 2019 (in thousands)

187

300

168

Median home sale price: Mankato region - 2018 - 2019 (in thousands)

250

$182,000 $169,000

200

240

150

180

100

120

50

60

0 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota

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A

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Source: Realtor Association of Southern Minnesota

Interest Rates: 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

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

Housing starts: Mankato/North Mankato

— 2018 — 2019

- 2018 - 2019

5.5

4.8%

5.0

30 24

4.5

18

3.6%

4.0

1

12

3.5 3.0

0

D

Source: City of Mankato

0

$2,835

15,000,000

2,000,000

0

$3,181

30,000,000

8

6 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

Source: Freddie Mac

N

D

0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

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N

D

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Lincoln Auditorium renovation and mechanical upgrades

Read us online!

Construction Management General Contracting Design-Build www.webconmankato.com

26 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

507.387.1667 | 300 St. Andrews Dr. St. 200 | Mankato


Gas Prices 5

Gas prices-Mankato

— 2019 — 2020

54 43 $2.16

32 21 10 0

J

F

J

F

$2.02

$42.84

$45.61

+6.5%

Ameriprise

$161.93

$178.64

+10.3%

Best Buy

$80.01

$90.93

+13.6%

Brookfield Property

$19.35

$18.30

-5.4%

Crown Cork & Seal

$76.19

$78.87

+3.5%

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S

O

N

D

Consolidated Comm.

$3.80

$5.29

+39.2%

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Fastenal

$35.37

$38.34

+8.4%

General Mills

$53.48

$52.93

-1.0%

Itron

$80.71

$88.32

+9.4%

Johnson Outdoors

$64.96

$73.31

+12.9%

3M

$163.81

$163.80

0.0%

Target

$124.28

$118.11

-5.0%

U.S. Bancorp

$59.34

$54.81

-7.6%

Winland

$1.16

$1.02

-12.0%

Xcel

$61.78

$69.03

+11.7%

— 2019 — 2020

32 $2.08

F

Archer Daniels

J

$2.21

J

Percent change

M

54

10

Feb. 13

A

5

21

Jan. 5

M

Gas prices-Minnesota

43

Stocks of local interest

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

0Source: GasBuddy.com J F M A

M

J

J

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D

C. Sankey

D

C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 27


Minnesota Business Updates

The Star Tribune reports that Target’s designers and engineers spent about 14 months developing Open Story, researching not only the features offered by premium luggage brands, but also talking to consumers about what they’re looking for in luggage and where they’d like to see improvements. They went through several prototypes and stress tested them on trips and on cobblestone streets.

■ 3M: 62 years of dividend increases The 3M Board of Directors recently declared a dividend on the company’s common stock of $1.47 per share for the first quarter of 2020, an increase of 2 percent over the quarterly dividend paid in 2019. This marks the 62nd consecutive year 3M has increased its dividend. The company has paid dividends to its shareholders without interruption for over 100 years. During the past decade, 3M has returned $57 billion to shareholders through a combination of dividends and gross share repurchases, or 121 percent of reported net income.

■ Target adds trendy luggage line Target has added a stylish luggage line. The 40-piece Open Story line includes hardsided checked and carry-on luggage, backpacks, packing cubes, garment bags and totes with prices, ranging from $19.99 to $179.99. The suitcases include features such as USB ports to which a battery or power bank can be attached, a builtin TSA lock, a laundry bag and lots zippered pockets to help travelers to keep their items organized.

Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims Nine-county Mankato region Major December Industry 2018 2019 Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

675 251 61 273 1,260

Local non-farm jobs Percent change ‘18-’19

860 293 54 268 1,475

Construction 126000 126000 Manufacturing Retail 113000 Services 113000 Total*

12,106 2,835 5,416 5,808 21,496

14,839 4,057 5,974 5,025 26,122

126000

2100 1400

113000

700 100000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

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Minnesota Local non-farm jobs

28 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

D

D

D

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150000 100000

2000 1400 1400

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700 0

J

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200000

4000 2100 2100

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3,010 2,992

8000 3500 3500 6000 2800 2800

+22.6% +43.1% -10.3% -13.5% +21.5%

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- 2018 - 2019

(in thousands)

Percent change ‘18-’19

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

3500 2800

+30.9% +16.7% -11.5% -1.8% +17.0%

Minnesota initial unemployment claims December 2018 2019

130,946 131,613

139000

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

Major Industry 139000 139000

- 2018 - 2019

Nine-county Mankato region

J

F

J

F

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■ Fastental benefits from digital

first quarter of fiscal year 2019, during which the company experienced historically wide pricing spreads between Canadian crude oil and crude oil from the United States. CHS processes Canadian crude oil at its refineries in Laurel, Montana, and McPherson, Kansas. Poor weather conditions that occurred in fiscal year 2019 and the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 continued to negatively impact the company’s ag segment operations, with lower crop yields, poor grain quality in some areas and lower fall crop nutrients sales. “We are not immune to the challenges of our industry, and our first quarter results reflect the difficulties 139000 brought on by fall weather and ongoing trade tensions,” Jay Debertin, president and CEO, told analysts.

Electronic sales in all forms is emerging as a significant growth opportunity for Fastenal Co., a Minnesota-based wholesale distributor of products ranging from construction fasteners to water pumps to 3D printers. Last year, in fact, the distributor’s electronic sales— which include its internet-connected vending machines, ecommerce sales from Fastenal.com and electronic data interchange—grew 32% year over year, CEO Daniel Florness told Wall Street analysts, according to SeekingAlpha.com. In the fourth quarter, electronic sales picked up even more steam, increasing 35% over the year-earlier quarter. “The way we think about ecommerce, it’s about making our business a little bit more efficient every day because, as our supply chain partnership with our customer grows, most of our business activity is coming from vending,” Florness told analysts.

126000

CHS Inc., the nation’s leading agribusiness cooperative, reported net income of $177.9 million for the first 139000 quarter 139000 of fiscal year 2020 that ended Nov. 30, 2019. This compares to net income of $347.5 million in the first quarter 126000of fiscal year 2019. 126000 The results for the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 reflect revenues of $7.6 billion compared to revenues of 113000 $8.5 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2019. 113000 The refined fuels business was down compared to the 100000

100000 J F

J M

M J

J A

J S

1400 2000

N

D

A O

S N

O D

6000

2000 J F M A M M A M J J M A M J J

J A A

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A S O N O N D O N D

100000 50000 F

0 0 J F JM

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F M A M AJ FA M

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J JA

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A AO

S N S

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D D

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area (includes all of Blue Earth and Nicollet Counties) 200000 150000

December

100000

D

0

J

0 F

J M

F M A A M J

M J

J A

2018

2019

2.5% 62,061 1,574

2.6% 61,484 1,625

J S

A O

S N

O D

N

D

Unemployment rates Counties, state, nation County/area

- 2018 - 2019

108,919 97,928

J

50000

Unemployment rate Number of non-farm jobs 50000 50000 Number of unemployed

150000

0

D 0

100000

200000

D

700 2000

700

150000

4000

0 F F

1400

200000

5,109 4,661

Minnesota number of unemployed

N

N

8000

700 0 J 0 J

2100

- 2018 - 2019

Nine-county Mankato region

4000 2100

2800

1400

Archer-Daniels-Midland 700 Company recently reported its full100000 0 J J F M AyearMnumbers. J J ADM A S reported O N $65 D billion in revenue, roughly in line with analyst forecasts, although statutory earnings per share of $2.44 beat expectations, being 4.5% higher than what analysts 3500 expected. 8000 Following the result, analysts have updated their 200000 2800 earnings model. The latest consensus is for revenues of 6000 150000 $66.9 2100 billion in 2020, which would reflect a 3.5% improvement in sales compared to the last 12 months. 4000 1400 Statutory earnings per share are expected to bounce 100000 29% to $3.14.

Employment/Unemployment

F M A A M J

Local number of unemployed 8000 3500 6000 2800

3500

2800 2100

■113000 ADM revenue $65 billion

■ CHS first quarter: $177.M

3500

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

December 2018

December 2019

2.6% 3.6% 4.2% 3.6% 2.4% 2.4% 6.3% 4.2% 3.9% 2.8% 3.2% 3.7%

2.6% 4.0% 5.2% 3.4% 2.5% 2.5% 4.9% 5.0% 3.8% 3.0% 3.5% 3.4%

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

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 29

0

J


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

Things to watch out for to prevent impulse buying By Joseph Pisaniap | Associated Press

S

ale ending soon! Only two left! This is a hot item! If you’ve shopped online, you’ve probably seen those messages. What you may not realize: They’re designed to make you spend more. Online stores have adopted tricks used for years by infomercials and home shopping networks. The only difference now: online stores are trying to get you to click the buy button. After reviewing 200 of the top shopping sites, including Amazon, eBay and Macys.com, a study by the University of Michigan’s School of Information found that all the sites had an average of 19 features that could encourage impulse buying, such as limitedtime discounts and wording that made an item seem like it was almost out of stock. The best way to combat them? Being aware of the tactics retailers use. “The onus is on the consumer,” says Paco Underhill, author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” Here’s what to watch out for:

Almost sold out

Be suspicious of messages that say an item is almost sold out. They’re easy to fall for, since more people are shopping on their phones and have less time to shop, says Underhill, who is also the founder of retail consulting firm Envirosell. He says shoppers should take a break and check back a couple of hours later, especially if it’s an item you don’t really need. Chances are the item is not really selling out and you may decide you don’t want to buy it after all. Another thing to watch out for: messages saying an item is in high demand. It can make you feel like the item may sell out soon and entice you to buy. A study by Princeton University and the University of Chicago singled out online clothing seller Fashion Nova, which tells customers that items in their cart “are in high demand.” The problem? The message appears for any item that’s added to the cart. Fashion Nova’s cart also tells shoppers that their items are being “reserved” for 10 minutes. But nothing happens to the items after the 10 minutes are up. Fashion Nova didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

30 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

Falling prices

On Amazon, it’s common for the online shopping giant to show a crossed off “list price” and a lower price it is selling the item for. Don’t rely on that, says Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate who runs ConsumerWorld.org. He recommends searching for the item on other sites to see if there’s an even lower price. Another tip: use price tracking site CamelCamelCamel.com, which can show you how the price has changed over time and let you know if it has been cheaper. And be wary of sites that say there’s a limited-time discount but don’t give you a final date. That’s a sign it’s just a way to get you to shop.

Confusing emails

If you went to an online store, expect to get an email in your inbox soon. Online stores use artificial intelligence technology to send you emails if you browse or add something to the cart, even if you don’t end up purchasing anything. Read them carefully — they’re designed to get you back to shop. Dworsky has received emails where the subject line made a promise of offering $10 off or free shipping, for example, but then the small print says you have to buy much more to qualify.

Fighting back

If you see a sale countdown clock that keeps restarting, savings that are too good to be true or other misleading activity, Dworsky says you should alert the authorities. Try your local consumer affairs office, state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission, which takes consumer complaints on its site. Also try complaining to the online store. “Until someone stops them,” he says. “They’re going to keep doing stuff that crosses the line to being deceptive.” MV


Sponsored by the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

Self offers credit-builder loan without money upfront Bev O’Shea | Nerdwallet

I

f you have no credit or — worse — bad credit, establishing a good credit reputation can seem impossible, because no one will approve you for a card or loan. You can use a co-signer, but that involves risk for the co-signer. You could try a secured credit card, but you have to have money for the deposit. But credit-builder loans, like those offered by Self (formerly Self Lender), offer consumers a chance to build credit or rebuild damaged credit without requiring money upfront. Company co-founder and CEO James Garvey says he wanted to “create a simple way to establish credit history for the first time.” He noted that credit-builder loans — long offered by some credit unions and community banks — “have been proven to help people establish credit history.” Self loans are open to U.S. residents in all 50 states.

Credit-builder loans vs. secured cards

With a credit-builder loan, the amount you borrow does not come to you right away. Instead, it’s held until you make all the payments and then released to you. A credit-builder loan is different from a secured credit card in two important ways: • You don’t need money upfront to get the loan, though you do need to be able to afford the monthly payments. (With a secured card, you have to pay a deposit up front, and that amount is generally your credit limit.) • You cannot access the money on deposit until the loan is paid off. (With a secured card, you can use up to your credit limit anytime — though doing so will increase your credit utilization and hurt your credit until the balance is low again.) How do you decide between a credit-builder loan and a secured credit card? You don’t have to. You can use both.

How Self works

Once you’re approved by Self, the loan amount is deposited in a certificate of deposit, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., with one of its partner banks. You’ll make regular payments for the term of the loan, then get access to the money. Self offers one- and two-year terms, though you first determine what you want your monthly payment to

be. The lowest payment — at $25 a month — has a two-year term. That loan comes with a nonrefundable $9 administrative fee (it can be up to $15 if you choose a different payment). At the end of the term, you get $525 plus interest of 0.1% APY (in two years, that would be well under a dollar). You’ll have paid $609, for an annual percentage rate of 14.92%. The other monthly payment amounts you can choose from are $48, $89 or $150; those higher amounts have 12-month terms and slightly higher administrative fees. APRs for Self loans do not exceed 16%, according to the company. A larger loan will not help you build your score any faster, but may cost you less in interest. Be sure to pick a payment amount that is comfortable; a late payment could hurt your credit, and that’s the last thing you want. Once you’ve made payments as agreed, your money is released to you. That could be the beginning of an emergency fund,and Self will encourage you to keep salting away that monthly payment, either in a higher-yield CD or a savings account at its partner bank. During the repayment period, you have access to free credit monitoring and a VantageScore produced by TransUnion, so you can track your credit score’s progress. If you decide to close your account before it’s paid off, you can access the money in the CD, minus the amount you still owe.

How to apply for a Self loan

The loan application is submitted online via Self’s website. To qualify, you must: • Be at least 18 years old • Be a permanent U.S. resident • Have a Social Security number • Have either a bank account or debit card; a prepaid card is OK (You’ll pay a fee for using a debit card.)

Self fees and penalties

Payments 15 days late or more incur a fee of 5% of the scheduled monthly payment. They are not reported late to the credit bureaus until they are 30 days late. If the account continues to be late, it will eventually be closed and the loan will be reported as “defaulted” on your credit reports. MV

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 31


The mission of the Greater Mankato Growth Ambassadors is to be the greeting arm of Greater Mankato Growth to promote the community and encourage expansion of established businesses and the development of new businesses in Greater Mankato.

Each month the Cavaliers make visits to new members of Greater Mankato Growth. Cavaliers are also the friendly greeters at Business After Hours events held every month. They help new Greater Mankato Growth members feel welcome and help introduce them to other business professionals at these events.

NEW BUSINESS

NEW BUSINESS

One Up Nutrition 1600 Warren Street, Suite 5, Mankato

The Rose Room 615 South Front Street, Mankato

NEW BUSINESS

NEW OWNERSHIP

THiNQ Success, LLC Mankato

Wynn Lash & Nails Spa 1633 Monks Ave, Suite 130, Mankato

Kato Crossfit, Rexius Nutrition, BodiKey Physical Therapy | katocrossfit.com

Skrien Chiropractic Clinic. P.A. chiropracticfamilyclinic.net

Livea Weight Control Center livea.com

Pivotal Chiropractic & Wellness pivotalchiro.com

VENDORS WANTED! FOR THE 2020 SCHEELS SPORT & HEALTH EXPO AT THE MANKATO MARATHON Showcase your business to thousands of runners and spectators. CONTACT: JBAUMANN@VISITMANKATOMN.COM mankatomarathon.com/expo When: Friday, October 16, 2020 from 12pm-7pm Myers Field House, Minnesota State University, Mankato

32 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business

SPORT & HEALTH


2020

2020 SPONSOR:

4 - 6 PM

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JAN 7

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Mankato Ford

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Store It MN

2015 Basset Drive, Mankato NETWORKING TW WORKING ORKING

It’s not just st WHO WHO you ou know, it’s who knows k Hours hosted by YOU. Networking IS Powerful.

BE IN THE KNOW

LEARNING

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

Eide Bailly:

MEMBER EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS

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

TALENT REFERRALS We only RETENTION NOTE: Calendar magnets are available at the check in table at each Business After Hours event andrefer they member are available at our office businesses. Word of mouth at 3 Civic Center Suite 100. Also, a downloadable version is available at greatermankato.com/business-after-hours. Keep yourPlaza, employees engaged and retained with

and direct referrals come

Business After Hours gives levelsbeing an opportunity to get together with one a valued access torepresentatives our member from onlyGreater Mankato Growth member businesses at allfrom another to exchange ideas and learn about each other’s businesses. greatermankato.com/events member of GMG.

events and programs.

SHAPE YOUR CREDIBILITY Raise your reputation by COMMUNITY THANK YOU, belonging. Research shows Your investment helps us that businesses who belong 2020 continue to build the best to a chamber of commerce environment for your SPONSORS! business and its employees. are more successful.

SAVE THE DATE!

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MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 33 greatermankato.com/join


moremankato.com We asked Marcia Bahr, Director of Marking & Communications at Mankato Clinic...

Why Do You LOVE Living in Greater Mankato? How do you spend your leisure time? Marcia: My husband and I are big walkers. So we love the walking trails. It's also really fun to go to some of the nonprofit fundraising events where you enjoy those. Why do you live here? Marcia: We like the size of the community it feels like a small town but yet it's big enough and has enough amenities that we're happy with that. It's close to a metro. There's lakes down here and plenty to do and it's just a beautiful place to live. Why do you work for this company? Marcia: We have the greatest culture. I mean it's just it's just phenomenal. Our employee engagement; they're very passionate about the clinic, the community and getting involved.

Why do you think it is great to do business in Greater Mankato? Marcia: Well I think the diversity of the community is very important. We're trying to create a culture where everyone feels welcome. I think a lot of it comes back to that pride in our community and we have a culture of of wanting to be successful and people supporting the community. What do you think are the community’s greatest assets to attract talent? Marica: Well I think the economy and all the amenities that our community has. Our school system is awesome. and having post-secondary schools within the community as well is great. Find your “WHY” at moremankato.com/virtual-tours Thank you to Mankato Clinic for being an early adopter and supporting the More Mankato community campaign and for continuing to support everything Mankato!

PRESENTED BY:

IN COLLABORATION WITH:

THANK YOU! The Free Press MEDIA

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34 • MARCH 2020 • MN Valley Business


Greater Mankato Growth. Inc.

Annual Meeting GREATER MANKATO WHY March JOIN 10, 2020 GROWTH? EXPOSURE

This premire business event brings together the business Brand; community and our four businessBuild units your to share the growcelebrate your business. accomplishments of the current year, the Stand out and get vision for the future and honor our esteemed “Volunteer noticed! of the Year” recipients! This event is open to the public.

2019 Volunteers of the Year

Minnesota State University, Mankato 220 Centennial Student Union 4:30-5:45 pm Registration, Reception - CSU Fireside 5:45-6:15 pm Awards & Business Meeting - Ballroom 6:15-6:45 pm Dinner It’s not just st WHO WHO you ou 6:45-8:00 pm Program, Keynote know, it’s who knows k YOU. Networking IS Powerful.

NETWORKING TW WORKING ORKING

Keynote Speaker BE IN THE KNOW

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TALENT Jon Teeslink RETENTION Snell Motors Greater Mankato Growth Volunteer of the Year

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Future iQ

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We only refer member businesses. Word of mouth and direct referrals come David Buerle is a from world-renowned strategist, being a valued researcher and practitioner. His message member of GMG.

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

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GreenSeam Your investment helps us Volunteer of the Year continue to build Nathan Hanel the best environment your Capstone for Publishing business and its employees.

will revolve around future trends on a macro and micro level; how current changes in our CREDIBILITY community and across the globe will affect all Raise reputation by preemptively pull people of your us and how we can belonging. togetherResearch for futureshows readiness.

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Learn more and register to attend at greatermankato.com/meeting

Thank you to our sponsors! Presenting Sponsors

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MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 35 greatermankato.com/join


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Register by March 6, 2020 Register or for more information: cob.mnsu.edu/food or 507-389-5424 An Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity University. This document is available in alternative format to individuals with disabilities by calling the College of Business at 507-389-5020 (V), 800-6273529 or 711 (MRS/TTY). BUSC581AD_01-2020

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 37


LASTING RELIEF THROUGH BETTER BACK CARE.

Remember life without back pain? Restore your strong, healthy back and return to an active life through personalized back care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. From your first appointment, our back care experts evaluate you as a whole person, not just your injury. That allows us to provide exactly the care you need with your total recovery in mind. Don’t wait another day to rediscover life without back pain.

Call 507-246-1892 for an appointment. mayoclinichealthsystem.org/backpain

MN Valley Business • MARCH 2020 • 38

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