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Dan Olson, manager of hilltop Hy-Vee. Photo by John Cross.

Holiday rush The big time of year for retailers begins Also in this issue Volk Transfer Thorset Comfort Systems True Team Re/Max

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2 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


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F E A T U R E S October 2013 • Volume 6, Issue 1

14

For most retailers, this is make-or-break time of year.

20

True Team at Re/Max

Jen True built a solid reputation at RE/MAX Dynamic Agents in Mankato. But success is sweeter and life is better since forming The True Team in 2012.

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Volk Transfer trucking firm

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When Troy Volk’s father died at an early age, the trucking firm nearly went under. Today, it continues to grow carrying national and international freight.

Thorset Comfort Systems of Mankato

Thorset Comfort Systems is approaching its 50th year in business and owner Tim Jones has been part of the company for almost 30 years, beginning his tenure in 1984.

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 5


■ october 2013 • VOLUME 6, ISSUE 1 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE EDITOR Tim Krohn CONTRIBUTING Tim Krohn WRITERS Pete Steiner Tim Penny Kent Thiesse Marie Wood PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman John Cross COVER PHOTO John Cross PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Ginny Bergerson MANAGER ADVERTISING sales Danny Creel ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey CIRCULATION Denise Zernechel DIRECTOR

For editorial inquiries, call Tim Krohn at 507-344-6383. For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail mankatomag@mankatofreepress.com. MN Valley Business is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South 2nd Street., Mankato MN 56001.

■ Local Business memos/ Company news................................7 ■ Business and Industry trends.........9 ■ Minnesota Business updates....... 10 ■ Business Commentary................. 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

Holiday season congestion spells success

Y

ou may have more insights into those crowded parking lots at River Hills Mall and other retailers this coming holiday season by reading our cover story this month. Retail trade kicks into high gear starting with October and Halloween. From women’s clothing to groceries and from furniture to crafts, retailers look for a shopping bonanza when the orange comes out. The story is particularly relevant given the recent report the Mankato/ North Mankato metropolitan statistical area had the highest Gross Domestic Product growth of all metro areas in Minnesota. The 4.1 percent growth rate for 2012 was higher than nearly 90 percent of the growth rates of other MSAs in the country. We edged out St. Cloud in Minnesota by a hair, but bested Rochester (3.6 percent), the Twin Cities (3.9 percent) and Duluth (2.8 percent) by bigger margins. Mankato/North Mankato’s total GDP reached $4.3 billion in 2012. That’s the value of all goods and services produced here. Listening to the retailers we interviewed for this month’s feature, you see where some of our strong growth is coming from. River Hills Mall’s Paul Wilke says the mall’s retailers will likely exceed the national estimates for sales growth. Mall stores open at least 12 months had sales growth of about 3 percent for the first six months of the year at River Hills, while total mall sales were up 5.1 percent including new stores that open. Strongest categories include teen retailers, gifts, jewelry and sporting goods. The hilltop Hy Vee store seems to be another case in point for Mankato’s growth. From Halloween through New Year’s the store will be bustling. Thousands of frozen turkeys will be arriving next month at the store. But the Halloween sales have been “huge,” according to store manager Dan Olson. One wouldn’t consider a grocery store to be a business that grows a great deal over the years. Not so. Since 1997, Hy Vee has gone from

6 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

275 employees to 400. It has gone from six major departments to 21. Trends in holiday gatherings drive some of that growth as Olson notes families seem to have holiday gatherings over the whole couple of months between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Longtime furniture retailer Mark Weinstein of the Bedpost actually sees the holiday season stretch into strong business after the holidays, where sales are strong for two weeks after the holidays. For craft retailer Hobby Lobby, the season starts early as the store sells items used in holiday decorating. There’s a wide swath of retail activity as Mankato grows as a regional trade center. Wilke notes Mankato draws from such a wide area things like weather and gas prices can have an impact on holiday season sales. Of course, the farm economy has a significant impact on Mankato as well. While farm prices aren’t quite as high as they were last year, land values continue to climb by double digit percentages in some cases. The region also continues to add jobs at a steady pace with year to year gains around 400. In that respect, Mankato continues to outpace the national economy, where economists note the number of “employed” people is about the same as it was several years ago. Mankato has made continuous gains in the number of employed while the unemployment rate remains around the 5 percent mark, a full two percentage points below the national rate. So as we head into the holiday season, the outlook appears fairly positive. If we get gas prices and the weather to cooperate, business could be robust. A crowded mall parking lot may be a hassle, but it’s also another economic indicator and a sign of success. MV Joe Spear is executive editor of Minnesota Valley Business. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com


Local Business People/Company News

Jernberg joins dental group Tim J. Jernberg, D.M.D. has joined Drs. Eichmeyer, Clause and and Kuryla in practice at Commerce Drive Dental Group. Jernberg is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine. He is originally from North Mankato and is the son of Dr. Gary and Mary Jeanne Jernberg. Tim J. Jernberg, D.M.D ■■■ Enventis completes broadband project Enventis, a subsidiary of HickoryTech, announced the completion of its Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project, which extended its fiber network to connect to health care facilities, schools, libraries, higher education institutions and public offices with an advanced high-capacity broadband network. Enventis received a grant administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration for this project. The company invested approximately $6.3 million or 30 percent of the $21 million project over a three-year period to build the fiber optic network, completing the project on time and under budget. Enventis built approximately 430 fiber route miles across northern Minnesota, connecting the network to its existing statewide fiber network. The project also directly connects community anchor institutions of Enventis’ collaborative partners, including Mayo Clinic and the State of Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology, enabling high-capacity fiber services and applications. ■■■ Once Upon a Child recognized Once Upon A Child in Mankato, a used children’s items reseller, was recognized for achieving a Gold Standard measurement. The Gold Standard is reached when a store achieves a set of standards set forth by the franchisor during the evaluation process. The Mankato store achieved the customer experience, store operations and consistent brand identity to earn Gold Standard recognition in 2013. ■■■ Farrish Johnson marks 120th Farrish Johnson Law Office of Mankato, the tenth oldest law firm in the state, is celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2013. It began in 1893 when H. L. Schmitt opened his law practice in Mankato. Charlotte Farrish, the firm’s namesake, joined the firm in 1926 and is noted as one of the earliest women to establish a successful law practice.

In 2011, attorneys Randall Knutson, Scott Kelly, and Daniel Bellig were among the recipients of Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year award for their involvement in the newborn screening case Bearder et al. vs. State of Minnesota. ■■■ O’Marron earns certification Title Resources, located in Mankato and New Ulm, announced that Jan O’Marron has received the distinction of Title Agent and Certified Closing Agent with the State of Minnesota. She is also a Title Agent for Fidelity. Title Resources is an affiliate of Gislason & Hunter. ■■■ Turk named Super Lawyer Blethen, Gage & Krause attorney Jim Turk has, for the 10th consecutive year, been selected as a Minnesota Super Lawyer in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Minnesota Law and Politics has also selected BGK attorney’s Chris Roe, Beth Serrill and Kevin Velasquez as 2013 Rising Stars. Kevin Velasquez was also chosen as a 2013 Up and Coming Attorney by Minnesota Lawyer magazine. Jim Turk ■■■ AmeriCare marks 20th AmeriCare Mobility Van, Inc. celebrated its 20th anniversary of providing non-emergency medical transportation services to residents of Mankato and south central Minnesota. ■■■ Stoynoff named interim dean Minnesota State University’s office of Academic Affairs recently announced that faculty member Stephen Stoynoff, a professor of English and the director of the university’s Teaching English as a Second Language program, was named interim dean of International Affairs. As part of his responsibilities, Stoynoff will provide strategic Stephen Stoynoff leadership for the Academic Affairs division in the area of international education. That includes study abroad and international student exchanges, international student recruitment and enrollment, international partnership initiatives, faculty exchange opportunities, international travel and related endeavors.

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 7


Rapoport joins Brunton Brunton Architects has added Timothy Rapoport, who comes from Leo A Daly in Minneapolis, where he was involved in the structural design of steel, masonry, concrete, precast systems, distribution centers, public safety facilities, and industrial facilities. Rapoport holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with structural emphasis from the University of Minnesota. ■■■ Peters earns banking diploma Eric Peters, vice president of commercial lending for First National Bank Minnesota, graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The Graduate School of Banking is a three year program that develops banking leaders through a program of advanced management education, which includes six weeks of on-campus studies along with intersession projects. Eric Peters He joined First National in 2010 and has his office in the bank’s Mankato location.

8 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

Local attorneys named Best Lawyers in America Three Mankato attorneys were named to the 20th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. The attorneys named to Best Lawyers are recognized by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence. More than 131,000 lawyers were evaluated and more than 6 million voting results were collected. The attorneys honored from Mankato are: Gerald L. Maschka of Maschka, Riedy & Ries; Joseph P. Bluth of Manahan & Bluth Law Office; Douglas R. Peterson of Leonard, Street and Deinard. ■■■

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

Finance

State banks improving

Financial data reported by the 351 banks in Minnesota at the end of second quarter 2013 improved, but by a small amount. According to Ron Feldman at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, “Second quarter results were better than the first quarter. There was some reduction in problem loans from an already strong level and a small increase in profitability and loan growth. The latter two areas continue to fall below historically normal levels. The gains were modest, but the state is performing, in general, on par with the nation.” The state median level of problem loans (as a percentage of the resources banks must have to cover potential losses on loans) fell by 18 basis points to the lowest point since 2005. Minnesota is right around the national median, with 10.79 percent noncurrent and delinquent loans as a percentage of capital and allowance. Return on average assets, a key measure of earnings, also improved to 0.96 percent in the quarter and stands higher at the Minnesota median bank than at the nation as a whole. Minnesota bank loan growth was 1.6 percent over the past four quarters, a third lower than the national median. Despite a substantial 80 basis point improvement from a year ago, this year-over-year change in the amount of outstanding loan balances remains sluggish by historical standards.

■■■

Energy

Natural gas costs fall for manufacturers

Natural gas has been an important exception to the trend of rising prices for energy sources used by manufacturers. Production of natural gas in the United States increased rapidly beginning in 2007 as a result of resources found in shale formations. That increase in supply has in turn lowered the price of natural gas to manufacturers as well as other consumers, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The 36 percent decrease in the average natural gas price paid by manufacturers between 2006 and 2010, from $7.59 to $4.83 per million Btu, was large enough that the total cost of energy from all sources fell by 11 percent between 2006 and 2010, from $9.19 to $8.22 per million Btu (in 2005 dollars). Since that survey was conducted, natural gas prices have fallen further. Unlike commercial, residential, and other types of consumers, many manufacturers have the ability to meet a large portion of their energy needs through the use of nonpurchased energy sources, including the on-site combustion of waste or byproducts. As much as 28 percent of the total energy consumed in manufacturing in 2010 came from non-purchased, many manufacturers can freely substitute

one purchased energy source for another in a relatively short time. For example, in 2006, manufacturers could have substituted other fuels for 17 percent of their natural gas. Even with their considerable flexibility to switch fuels, manufacturers experienced an increase of more than 50 percent in their overall unit cost of purchased energy from 2002 to 2006. There is anecdotal evidence that manufacturers are starting to react to lower natural gas prices by planning to open new facilities in the United States.

Gas prices take a jump

The government forecasts that regular gasoline retail price averages will be $3.44 per gallon in the fourth quarter of 2013, 11 cents per gallon higher than predicted in last month’s estimate. The annual average regular gasoline retail, which was $3.63 per gallon in 2012, is expected to be $3.55 per gallon in 2013 and $3.43 per gallon in 2014.

U.S. oil production up

U.S. crude oil production increased to an average of 7.6 million bbl/d in August, the highest monthly level of production since 1989. Total U.S. crude oil production will average 7.5 million bbl/d in 2013 and 8.4million bbl/d in 2014.

Economic outlook solid

The government is assuming a 1.6 percent real U.S. GDP growth in 2013, rising to 2.6% in 2014. Year-on-year real GDP growth begins to accelerate in the second half of 2014, eventually rising to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. Forecast real disposable income increases 0.4 percent in 2013 and 3.5 percent in 2014. Total industrial production grows almost one percentage point faster than real GDP in 2013 at 2.5 percent, and its projected growth of 3.3 percent in 2014 is still well above the growth rate of real GDP. Private real fixed investment growth averages 6.0 percent and 7.8 percent over 2013 and 2014, respectively. The unemployment rate in the forecast averages 7.6 percent over 2013, and gradually falls to 7 percent at the end of 2014. Housing starts grow an average of 23 percent and 27 percent in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 9


Minnesota Business Updates

■ New state tax impacts

■ ADM planned takeover scrutinized

If an employer is helping to pay for their workers’ education or an adoption, those employees can expect a bigger tax bill in the near future. This year the state will tax a long list of employer benefits that were once considered tax breaks, although the tax breaks are still available under federal tax law, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Minnesotans will no longer be able to deduct certain student loan interest payments or mortgage insurance premiums. Even people who’ve filed for foreclosure may face a state tax if they receive “income” when their lender sells the house for less than is owed on the mortgage. The changes are part of the major tax and budget bill passed during the last legislative session. Keeping the federal tax breaks in place for state tax filers would have cost the state about $300 million a year. Critics of the changes say that when state and federal tax rules are different, it not only creates headaches for consumers but also for employers, who will have to take the additional taxes out of their employees’ paychecks in a lump sum later in the year.

Archer-Daniels-Midland’s planned $2 billion takeover of Australia-based GrainCorp Ltd. should be re-examined by Australia’s competition regulator, a committee of federal lawmakers said A separate appraisal of the deal being made by the Foreign Investment Review Board should examine a possible loss of tax revenue and distortion of the country’s agriculture market, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport committee said in an interim report, according to Bloomberg news. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission “didn’t have the expertise or the resources to ask the questions which we have asked,” and should reexamine the planned takeover, committee chairman Senator Bill Heffernan said The takeover is subject to approval from the board and China’s Ministry of Commerce as well. The approvals are necessary as the deal gives ADM, the world’s biggest corn processor, control over seven of the eight ports that ship grain in bulk from Australia’s east coast.

■ Xcel at odds with solar industry

■ General Growth issues first sustainability report

Xcel Energy says its push to clarify the netmetering incentive to residential solar customers is a move to do what is fair for all of its customers. Those in the solar industry believe the move could set solar back by years and cost jobs. Net metering is the way customers with solar panels are credited by their utility for the electricity their home systems produce. If a home produces more electricity for a given time than it uses, that customer is granted credits on his bill for times when his home is using more than it produces. For homes that produce more energy than they consume over the long term, those customers might never pay an electric bill – and there lies the rub for Xcel. Even if solar customers are producing more energy than they consume, they still benefit from use of the transmission grid to bring them power at night or in the winter when their solar panels are producing less. In the daytime, when their panels are producing too much electricity for the home, those customers benefit by the excess energy being carried away. The result is that nonsolar customers end up bearing the entire cost of maintaining the distribution system and adding capacity as the population grows. The debate is whether the benefits solar customers provide to the grid – and thus to non-solar customers – outweigh the costs. Excel has asked that public utility commissions set the value of the net metering benefit solar customers receive in order to start a discussion about whether that benefit is too large.

10 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

General Growth Properties, which owns River Hills Mall in Mankato, recently unveiled its inaugural GGP Sustainability report, now posted on GGP.com. The report focuses mainly on GGP’s energy conservation initiatives, including the use of solar panels and food composting programs. Highlights of the report include: The installation of state-of-the-art solar panels on the rooftops of four GGP New Jersey malls. The panels provide 12 percent of the properties’ energy needs at an estimated annual savings of $650,000. Over the past several years, GGP has installed Energy Management Systems that collect output data from submeters; monitor tenant and building utility usage; and are essential to measuring energy efficiency at GGP centers. A handful of GGP malls have introduced food composting initiatives to their operations. Food composting not only keeps tons of waste out of local landfills every year, but it provides a much needed source of animal feed. As GGP malls undergo renovations and remodels, tons of fixtures and other hardware become available. The fixtures and hardware are often donated to local non-profit organizations or repurposed


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Business Commentary

By Tim Penny

Addressing STEM skills gap critical to growth

I

t shouldn’t take much discussion to convince todays’ students they should take a second look at pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. In a difficult economy with high unemployment, unemployment in STEM fields stands at 3.2 percent, less than half the national rate of 7.5 percent and well below Minnesota’s rate of 5.4 percent. Author and educator Steve Blank, in his recent commencement speech at the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, made an even stronger case to the graduates: “Engineers,” he said, “used to be the people who made other people’s ideas work. Today, they change the world. We live in a time where scientists and engineers are synonymous with continuous innovation.” They are also part of one of the fastest growing job fields in America. By 2018, the nation will have at least 8.6 million jobs in STEM and computer science fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The difficulty, and the challenge for the U.S., is that our nation’s colleges and universities aren’t graduating enough students in STEM fields. Because of the shortage of workers trained in STEM fields, the U.S. may fall as many as 3 million workers short of meeting the number of high skilled available jobs in 2018, according to the National Math + Science Initiative. The organization notes that STEM jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent in the decade between 2008 and 2018. That compares with a much lower 9.8 percent non-STEM job growth rate. Jobs in computer science are expected to grow at an even faster rate – 45 percent – over the same timeframe. Taken on its own, this is encouraging news for our economy

– the fields most likely to lead American innovation are expected to experience significant growth in the near future. But that growth will not occur unless we produce a sufficient number of graduates trained in high skills fields. This STEM skills gap needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Sen. Amy Klobuchar defined the crisis for Minnesota during a recent forum on STEM education in Washington. “We’re turning away business at some of our businesses in Minnesota, because we don’t have the people for the jobs, and we really have to transform if we’re going to have to compete in this international economy.” Klobuchar recently released a report on manufacturing job growth and the shrinking representation of women in the field. She has also focused on concrete steps to address the STEM worker shortage by introducing legislation to double the STEM schools in America. She is joined in this effort by Senators Orin Hatch, R-UT, and Chris Coons, D-DE. Together, they successfully offered an amendment to immigration reform legislation that creates a national STEM education fund. If included in the final immigration legislation, this amendment will allow Minnesota and other states to augment their STEM education programs. The fund would be paid for by an additional fee on employers who need green cards for employees to help fill currently vacant positions. Klobuchar and her colleagues rightly note that more must be done to interest students in these fields and to do so earlier in their educations. A robust national fund dedicated to STEM education is a good place to start to ensure that women and underrepresented groups are exposed to opportunities to study in these fields.

12 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

Who knows? One day in the nottoo-distant future, perhaps one of the students we engage in science or technology today could be addressing the graduates of the College of Science and Engineering. MV Tim Penny is a former Congressman representing Minnesota’s First District and is the President of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

More information on STEM The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition works to support STEM programs for teachers and students at the U. S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies that offer STEM related programs. The STEM Education Coalition represents all sectors of the technological workforce – from knowledge workers, to educators, to scientists, engineers, and technicians. The participating organizations of the STEM Education Coalition are dedicated to ensuring quality STEM education at all levels. Learn more about the Coalition’s activities and how your group can get involved with the STEM Education Coalition at www.stemedcoalition.org


507-625-4606 121 E. Main St. Ste 311 Mankato, MN 56001

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 13


Tony Thompson, manager of Hobby Lobby in Mankato.

Happy Holidays Local stores gear up for the important holiday season By Tim Krohn | Photos by John Cross and Pat Christman

I

f you’re in the retail business, this time of year brings a mixture of anxiety, stress, promise and hope as the allimportant holiday shopping season begins. Paul Wilke, manager of River Hills Mall, has been working through a two-year budget and strategy plan for General Growth Properties, owner of the mall and the second largest mall operator in the country. “It’s a busy time of year. As retailing continues to move and change, we continue to put the puzzle together — with the leases that come up in the next two years, do you renew them or bring in some new retailers?” Wilke said. “You always have to watch the mix and keep things growing.”

At the hilltop Hy-Vee store, manager Dan Olson and his staff are bracing for their biggest weeks of the year — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl. “Halloween to the Super bowl is a big time. It’s all about the food. You have to have the right food, the fresh food people want,” Olson said. Tony Thompson, manager of Hobby Lobby, long ago began putting out Christmas items, but it’s another holiday that’s grown beyond belief. “Halloween just keeps growing bigger and bigger,” said Thompson of what has become the second largest commercial holiday in the country after Christmas. Holiday parties for businesses and at home ramps up business for Lisa Tscherter’s Kitchen, a catering business.

Cover Story

14 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


Mark Weinstein has had success selling higher-quality products at Bedpost Furniture. “We do a lot of business parties, but we do home parties, too. People have 30, 35 relatives over and want us to cater it,” Tscherter said. While most retail stores rely heavily on sales from now to Christmas to make or break their year, some are eyeing post-holidays. “It’s hard to wrap up a bedroom set or sofa and put it under the tree,” said Mark Weinstein of Bedpost Furniture. “The two weeks after Christmas are a big time for us. You’ll see a jillion ads for furniture stores at the end of the year.” Sales expected to grow, but slowly As the holidays approach, analysts are predicting consumers will spend 2.4 percent more than last year. (See related story.) That is slower growth than seen in recent years, attributed to a still slow economic recovery and stagnant wages. Wilke thinks the Mankato area’s stronger economy will likely produce better sales results than the national estimates. For the first half of the year, sales at mall stores that have been open at least 12 months rose 2.9 percent. Total mall sales, including newer stores, boosted overall mall sales by 5.1 percent. Gas prices, the farm economy and the weather are the three biggest risks to mall retailers, Wilke said. “Because we draw from such a large area, when gas prices jump, we see numbers drop as people postpone trips.” Still, he said, Mankato’s draw as a regional hub helps.

“At some point people have to come to Mankato, whether it’s for groceries or other shopping or services they need.” While the ag economy may not be quite as strong as last year when record-high crop prices boosted profits, it’s expected to be a strong year for farmers and agribusiness. “The weather is another thing. We can’t predict the weather, can’t do anything about it,” Wilke said. Wilke said the strongest sales at the mall have been for teen retailers, sporting goods, gifts and jewelry. “Scheels is really having a strong year and they did well last year. I guess even in a tight economy people spend money on sporting goods.” “In the gift category, Hallmark, Spencer’s Gifts have been strong. We have a lot of teen retailers and they continue to do well. The Buckle is our No. 1 teen retailer and they’ve done extremely well, and Charleotte Russe has done very well,” Wilke said. “Every jewelry store has been up. It’s been very strong.” Wilke said he fields a lot of questions about Barnes & Noble because of sales and leadership problems the book seller has struggled with on the national level. “Their sales have held up very well here. I think in these smaller markets they will do better than in the larger ones. It’s easy to drive to them and they are routine entertainment for a lot of people.” Two new sales stars in the mall are Francesca’s boutique and Charley’s Philly Steaks in the food court. In the food court, Massad’s continues to be dominant in sales growth. Their addition of retail sauces has boosted sales further. Wilke doesn’t get detailed sales information from the anchor stores, which are more autonomous from the mall,

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 15


The new Charley’s Philly Steaks has become a favorite at River Hills food court. but Wilke meets with their managers frequently. “I know back-to-school was very strong for Target.” JC Penney has suffered through corporate changes that haven’t worked out as a new CEO came in to change the chain’s direction, only to be ousted and the old CEO brought back. “They’ve been going through some corporate transition. Their stores are looking better and they’re doing well here.” Wilke said he tries to have a wide mix of stores in the mall to draw shoppers but said it leans toward teen and women’s retailers The average shopper at the mall is a female in her late 30s coming from a household income of $50,000 a year. One hoped for addition at the mall didn’t pan out. They had been in talks with a restaurant that was going to build on an outlot at the mall. “They backed out in the 11th hour.” Wilke said the restaurant industry in Minnesota has been hampered by the lack of the “tip credit” in the state. In Minnesota restaurants must pay the minimum wage to workers rather than paying a lower-than minimum wage and calculating in the value of tips as is done in most states.

“Our biggest week of the year is Christmas. Baking is the big thing for Thanksgiving. When you get to Christmas, it’s more the candy and pie,” said Olson, who’s been managing the store since 1997. In that time the number of employees has risen from 275 to 400. “Halloween has just become huge, too. It’s a non-secular thing everyone can celebrate.” Turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Christmas remain the American tradition. “But we sell a lot more seafood during Christmas; lobster and shrimp are huge.” Wine is the imbibe of choice for Thanksgiving while spirits dominate during the Christmas season, said Olson of the Hy-Vee liquor store. Next month, the first of thousands of frozen turkeys will begin arriving with fresh turkeys the big sellers in the week before Thanksgiving. Olson said one of the big changes he’s seen in his 32 years in the business is that holiday gatherings are spread out a lot more. “People are celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving all month long. We’re seeing more people working in retail and things like that, and a lot of families just can’t get together right at Christmas or Thanksgiving like they used to.”

Eat, drink, be merry For Olson and his crew at hilltop Hy-Vee the coming weeks will be a series of Halloween candy, frozen turkey, fresh turkey, shrimp, crab legs, international cheeses, topped off with some live lobsters for New Year’s celebrations.

For the Mankato Hy-Vee, Olson has seen a big expansion of choices, from six major departments to 21.

16 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

“There’s just a lot more variety. We have Starbucks, Italian and Chinese foods, all the specialty meats, gourmet burgers and bacon-wrapped asparagus. The pallet of our


The variety of goods at Hy-Vee has grown dramatically in recent years. customers is a lot more educated.” Specialty international cheeses have seen double-digit sales increases in recent years. “It’s a lot of education and demonstrating them so people know what they taste like and what to pair them with.” He said the growth in the sale of gift cards — to a variety of stores, from Applebees to Cabela’s — also has been a big change in the grocery business. “We get a flat percentage of the gift cards. We don’t get rich but we get some other sales along with them.” The hilltop store is unique in the Hy-Vee chain, which has 64,000 employees in eight states, in that it has a large and successful women’s clothing and gift section. “One of the managers here had a background in clothing and gifts and we just built if up from there,” Olson said. One thing Olson has seen less of lately are coupons. “When the economy went down in 2009, couponing became huge. Now people just want the price to be right. There’s still coupons, but people don’t want the hassle of doing it.” Finding the niche Weinstein has been in retail ownership and management for decades, starting with his “hippie” shop near the MSU campus he ran in the 1970s, selling music, T-shirts, incense and other items. The longtime Bedpost Furniture store features higherquality furniture, a niche he said has served them well as more and more furniture store competition has arrived in Mankato. “I’m a believer that your customers are your customers and some people are willing to pay the extra for something good. You have to focus on them,” Weinstein said. “You’re not going to compete with big boxes on trying to sell a lot of low price stuff.”

Hy-Vee checkout lines will be busy with holidays approaching. He said the Ekornes Stressless chairs are strong sellers as are the higher-end Tempur-Pedic beds. “Our Amish furniture is really doing good for us. It’s high quality and made by American craftsmen.” While virtually all furniture used to be manufactured in the furniture mecca of North Carolina, 80 percent of all furniture sold today comes from China. Weinstein said Mankato has, in recent years, been known as a having a huge increase in furniture sales compared to other areas of the country. “Once Mankato hit that 50,000 population mark, things really picked up and we got a lot more attention. I think when they get the road system complete better things will really explode in Mankato.” The biggest change he’s seen in his decades in retailing is the loss of the smaller family-owned retail stores. “These mom and pop stores are facing a tough environment. They offered really great service but you paid more for it. It’s harder now with the low-price

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 17


Hobby Lobby offers a wide-array of home décor and craft items. competition from the big boxes.” He’s also seen a big increase in most all retail stores having some type of sale virtually year-round. “Before the HOM and Becker’s came along, there were a few regular sale periods for furniture stores. I still focus on a few big sales in the year, but not the big sales every month that say 70 percent off.” Many of those “sales” he said are deceptive, using the higher “manufacturer’s suggested retail price” as the base price for an item and then saying it’s 70 percent less than that. “I believe in minimum pricing all the time. If I give 15 or 20 percent off, it’s a big sale. It’s more savings than saying its 70 percent off a manufacturer’s suggested price.” Hobby Lobby’s season starts early Much of the holiday shopping at Hobby Lobby starts earlier than at many businesses. “Our season starts a little earlier because we’re dealing with people who are making decorations for their home for the holidays,” Thompson said. “They buy supplies to make decorations for their home and we have a lot of people who buy supplies and make crafts they sell at craft shows.” The store features basic crafts to home decor and seasonal items. “We have a full-service framing department and fabrics and floral areas that do very well,” he said. “We have a little bit of everything and that’s what people

18 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

like.” Black Friday, the major shopping kickoff to the season that begins the day after Thanksgiving, is a big day for Hobby Lobby but not as huge as it is for big-box retailers pushing cheap TVs, clothing, gifts and other merchandise. Hobby Lobby has bucked a trend of virtually every national retail chain being open Sundays. The Hobby Lobby chain, which calls itself a “biblically founded business,” has no stores open on Sunday, Thompson said he and the employees appreciate having Sundays off. “It’s a family-owned company and they made that decision and stuck with it and it’s the right decision.” He said working at the store is satisfying. “We’re dealing with a little different clientele. People enjoy coming here so that makes it more enjoyable for us to come to work. They’re not buying things they have to buy. They’re buying things they want to buy. Good food, good cheer Tscherter has been in the food business all her life, starting as a waitress when she was 16. Three years ago she started her own catering business and is thrilled with it. “I always loved cooking. I’m busy every single day. Some days we can have four or five catering jobs; then it’s time to call the troops in.” She caters a lot of weddings, anniversaries, graduations and funerals, but a mainstay has been catering for a variety of businesses that order for business meetings or to give employees a chance to order something in once in a while.


Lisa Tscherter has catering jobs lined up virtually every day. “We’ll do 300 meals for Jack Links around the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We bring things out to Kato Engineering twice a week, the Mankato Clinic and Taylor Corp. businesses.” Tscherter, who works out of rented commercial kitchen spaces, said she focuses on “homemade meat and potatoes” menus but offers an array of choices depending on what customers want to spend. “For businesses meals we start at $5 or $6, so employees don’t have to spend a lot. We start at $7.25 a person for weddings, but most weddings are $11 to $13. I try to keep it affordable for them.” MV

Holiday sales to grow more slowly this year While the Mankato area economy has been stronger than in many regions, retailers are waiting to see how ready shoppers are to buy during the important holiday season. Nationally, sales are expected to climb less this season than in recent years as consumers remain cautious during a slow economic recovery, A new report released by the research firm ShopperTrak forecasts sales to rise only 2.4 percent in November and December compared with increases of 3 percent in 2012, 4 percent in 2011 and 3.8 percent in 2010. The number of visits to stores are predicted to fall 1.4 percent during those months. Traffic rose by 2.5 percent in 2012 after falling 3.1 percent in 2011. “Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge,” ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin said in a statement. In a poll by Reuters, about a third of consumers said they would be spending less this year than last on electronics, toys and jewelry. Additionally, 27 percent plan to spend less on clothes. ShopperTrak tracks sales at thousands of retailers across the country. Their research does not cover online sales, which account for about 7 percent of all retail sales. ShopperTrak said it expect the holiday shopping rush to come earlier this year because there is one fewer weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 19


The True Team, from left: Michelle Starkey, Jen True, Gretchen Sadaka and Vickie Foix.

True to her dreams Jen True builds on team concept in realty By Marie Wood | Photos by John Cross

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s a solo real estate agent for more than 10 years, Jen True built a solid reputation, survived the recession, and made top agent in 2011, her first full year at RE/MAX Dynamic Agents in Mankato. But success is sweeter and life is better since forming The True Team in 2012. “I decided to form a team because quite honestly as a single parent, it was a challenge to be in so many places at one time. I feel like we can have a life. I do feel married to this business, but it gives me a little more flexibility,” said True. A Realtor since 2001, True joined RE/MAX Dynamic Agents in 2010. True enjoys working with the brokers, agents and administrative staff at there. “I felt like I found my home. I like the brand. You have instant credibility with the RE/MAX brand,” said True. “It’s like I’m a small business within a company.” True started her team with listing coordinator, Michelle Starkey. Starkey follows every transaction from listing to

closing. She manages every detail: measures the rooms, writes and designs the spec sheets, processes closings, and schedules advertising. “Michelle has a huge role. She gets a lot of credit for our results. Michelle keeps us in line when we’re running in all different directions. She’s my right hand,” said True. In February 2013, Gretchen Sadaka, a Realtor with six years experience, and Vickie Foix, a Realtor with 13 years experience, joined the team as buyer agents. Foix and Sadaka work closely with the buyers to sell homes, but True works with all her past clients and personal referrals directly. Teams are common in the real estate business, but relatively new to the Mankato market. In Minnesota, RE/ MAX has 146 teams and in July of 2013, The True Team was ranked 19th in the state. And The True Team is just getting started.

Profile

20 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


Jen True Leader of The True Team, RE/MAX Dynamic Agents, Mankato Sponsor, YWCA Girls on the Run Sponsor, Backpack Food Program Board member, Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program Member, Realtor Association of Southern Minnesota Member, National Association of Realtors “I do see the team growing in the future. It’s exciting,” said True. Here’s how The True Team operates. As team leader and listing specialist, True puts together strategies for clients. To be successful in realty, True said it takes strong administration, networking, marketing and negotiating skills. That’s the framework True provides the team. “I have all the tools I need to do my job effectively and efficiently,” said Sadaka. Having worked with True at another agency, Foix joined The True Team, because she wanted to jump start her career, try the team concept and work with True. “Jen has honesty and integrity,” said Foix. Working together, the women meet both individual and team goals. They back each other up on vacations and busy periods like this summer when the market flipped to a seller’s market. They meet every Monday morning, stay in contact by email, text and phone, and put their heads together to solve problems for their clients. The result is enhanced customer service and more than 30 years collective experience behind every transaction. “The True Team is a machine,” said True. “We have our systems in place and it works. There is no competition with each other. I want to see everyone succeed on the team.” Loyal to each other and RE/MAX Dynamic Agents, team members get along along well with humor, respect and trust in equal doses. True is a generous person, footing the bill for pedicures and birthday outings, even her own birthday, said Foix. The whole team can attest that she doesn’t micromanage. “I want everybody to feel valued and that they are part of it. I know they work hard. They want to sell,” said True. True colors True isn’t just a name. In testimonials on The True Team website, clients say True is honest, professional, warm and genuine. Her business is built on referrals and recommendations. From short sales to lake homes upwards of $500,000, True says she and her team treat every transaction equally. “I’ve sold a house for $17,000 this year, cash. I sold a shed in Waldorf for $12.5 (thousand). I treat every seller just the same. It’s all real estate,” said True. True weathered the financial crisis of 2008 that led to a recession that ended in 2012. The real estate market was hit hard due to subprime mortgages, foreclosures and a tightening of credit. As housing values fell, people stayed

put. True’s confidence was shaken as she watched Realtors leave the business. She took a leap of faith and hired a life coach who specializes in real estate. “I’m going to sink or swim,” True decided. True swam. “The Realtors in the business who have weathered the storm – we’re great Realtors and we can be trusted,” said True. “I respect my competition and other Realtors.” Today True and her team have a standing monthly phone call with their life coach. True likens it to a mental health check for her business. Every conversation begins with what’s going great in the business. “It’s not about the money, it’s about being the best you can be. If we are doing what we enjoy doing, it’s all going to come,” said True. January through July 2013, The True Team completed 75 transactions with 15.65 million in sales volume. In the Southern Minnesota Real Estate Market, home sales were up 28 percent in 2013 over the same period in 2012. “We know the market and advise our clients to the best of their interests,” said True. True has deep roots in Mankato. She grew up on the horse farm, Indian Lakes Stables. She also comes from a family of builders including her dad and grandfather. She admits that she’d rather be in jeans than business suits, but she’s a natural at real estate. “I love that every day is different. I think real estate is a rewarding, challenging career. Real estate is what you make of it. You meet people in all walks of life. I find it a privilege to be involved in people’s lives in a transition point,” said True. Once her sons are on their own, True dreams of living in the mountains of Colorado. She wouldn’t give up real estate. Her plan is to run The True Team in Mankato and start a second True Team in Colorado. With True, her dream is a possibility. On her bulletin board in her home office, she has pinned up a quote from Anthony Robbins: “The path to success is to take massive determined action.” In the meantime, this down-to-earth, Realtor is looking forward to a busy fall market. She is taking broker classes in order to gain knowledge – not to open her own business. She is content at RE/MAX Dynamic Agents, but she still has her ambitions. “We’re a team and we’re on target to be the number one team,” said True. MV

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 21


Special Focus: Agriculture and agribusiness

Local region an agriculture powerhouse By Marie Wood

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n the Greater Mankato area of Blue Earth and Nicollet and accountants who all count farm families among their counties, both agriculture and agribusiness play a key client list. role in our economy. Greater Mankato Growth recently convened business owners, educators and agricultural Agricultural Profiles organizations to explore and tap into agriculture in our While farmers make up a small percentage of the overall region. workforce: about 5 percent in Nicollet County and less Mankato is a regional center for processing agriculture than 2 percent in Blue Earth County – farm earnings rank products and a hub of soybean processing with ADM and high among local industries. CHS facilities. Mankato is the headquarters of Ridley, the According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Blue largest animal health nutrition business in North America. Earth County farm earnings were $157,353,000 in 2011. Ridley also produces Hubbard Feeds here. As an industry, agriculture ranked number 5 after health At POET Biorefining in Lake Crystal, about 20 million care, government, manufacturing and retail. bushels of locally-grown corn is refined into 56 million In Nicollet County, farm earnings were $86,774,000 in gallons of ethanol annually. 2011. As an industry, agriculture ranked third in Nicollet And agribusinesses and organizations are thriving County after manufacturing and government. including AgStar Financial Services, implement dealers, Here’s the breakdown from the U.S. Department of Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Commerce-Bureau of Economic Analysis. Only 2011 ICOLLET OUNTY GRICULTURAL Soybean, as well as attorneys, insurance agents, Realtors statistics are available. MVROFILE

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Nicollet County:  Population: 32,820 (Ranks 32

nd

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Nicollet County Agricultural Marketing in MN)

Nicollet County:

 Total employment: 16,413 jobs - Farm employment: 893 jobs - Non-farm employment: 15,520 jobs Population: 32,820

employment: 16,413 jobs Nicollet Total County Agricultural Rankings:

(Among all Farm MN counties) employment: 893 jobs  No. 11 in livestock production 15,520 jobs Non-farm employment: - No. 4 in hogs -Total No. 18agricultural in milk cowsmarketing: $364,000,000  No. 20 in total agricultural production

 No. 34 in total crop production     - No. 30 in corn

Blue Earth County: th • Population: 64,384 (Ranks in MN) Marketing Nicollet County Crop &14Livestock

Blue Earth County Agricultural Marketing (Million $) Hogs (1,000 head) Minnesota Top Counties:

$600

• Total employment: 50,666 jobs - Farm employment: 1,008 jobs - Non-farm employment: 49,468 jobs

$550

Population: 64,384 Blue Earth County Agricultural Rankings: (Among all MN counties): Total employment: 50,666 jobs • No. 5 in livestock production 1,008 jobs Farm employment: - No. 2 in hogs 49,468 jobs - No. 9 Non-farm in sheep &employment: lambs Total agricultural marketing: $550,000,000

$400

• No. 4 in total agricultural production

$100

Blue Earth County:

$500 $450 $350

Trendline

$300 $250 $200 $150 $50

• No. 6 in crop production - No. 8 in corn - No. 6 in soybeans

$0

Nicollet County Crops & Livestock (%-share Ag Marketing) 22 • County october 2013 MN Valley Business Blue Earth Crop• in & Livestock Marketing $600

(Million $)

MN Top 10 Counties: Livestock Nicollet County Livestock Sectors $600

(%-share in Ag Marketing) (Million $)


AgStar has grown with local ag economy

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aul DeBriyn, president and CEO of AgStar Financial Services, has been at AgStar for more than 26 years and has seen firsthand how AgStar supports local farmers and commercial producers in a global marketplace dictated by supply and demand. “People have gone more toward corn than soybeans because of pricing. Corn is the Paul DeBriyn bigger driver than soybean due to the combination of demand for corn for swine, ethanol and exports,” said DeBriyn. On any given day, the price of corn here is higher than the price on the Chicago Board of Trade and the price can be as much as $2 more per bushel, explained DeBriyn. According to DeBriyn, corn prices had gone down some this summer, because people predict a good harvest across the U.S. and in Minnesota, it’s predicted that the 2013 corn crop will be the second largest corn crop ever. Overall, the Mankato area is expecting a good crop due in part to moisture, noted DeBriyn. AgStar is part of the Farm Credit system. With 23,000 clients, operations in 69 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, AgStar manages more than $8 billion in loan and lease assets and is one of the larger Farm Credit associations in the country. Headquartered in Mankato, AgStar employs 200 people here out of 610 employees total. The Star Tribune ranked AgStar number seven in its 100 Top Workplaces in 2013. Due to a series of mergers, Mankato became the logical choice for AgStar headquarters. “Agriculture is the second largest employer in the state of Minnesota. Mankato is at the heart of it,” said DeBriyn.

Created in 1916 by Theodore Roosevelt, the Farm Credit System was charged with providing loans and financial services to rural America. The government seed money was paid off in 1958. Today, AgStar is operated as a cooperative owned by client stockholders. AgStar brings money from investors in the global marketplace to rural counties such as Blue Earth and Nicollet. AgStar’s financial services include loans, leases, crop insurance and life insurance to farmers, as well as mortgages to residents in rural areas. AgStar works with community banks and equipment dealers to make it easy for farmers to access AgStar services. With a public mission to support and enhance rural America, AgStar delivers practical tools to farmers to help them achieve their goals. AgStar Edge offers classes, workshops, webinars, online tools and calculators, email newsletters, industry insights and professional guidance. AgStar also invests deeply in its service area: credit and outreach to young farmers, programs for women in agriculture, loans for minority farmers, education for young farmers, programs for women in agriculture, For instance, AgStar created GroundBreakers, a program that includes starter loans with reduced interest fees, education opportunities such as agricultural business tours, discussions, conferences, and the support of local groups such as Future Farmers of America. “We put a lot of focus on young, beginning farmers,” said DeBriyn. The AgStar Fund for Rural America reinvests money into rural communities. AgStar gives back 1 percent of its net earnings to rural communities in the form of grants. “Blue Earth and Nicollet gets a good share. We provide support for young beginning farmers, education to make farmers more successful, and provide a lot of resources back to Nicollet and Blue Earth counties,” said DeBriyn.

Greater Mankato Agricultural Region

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n a series of meetings convened by Greater Mankato Growth, a group of business owners, educators and agricultural organizations estimated that the agriculture activities of more than 13 counties have an economic relationship to the Mankato-North Mankato MSA. The group coined the term Greater Mankato Agricultural Region (GMAR). The GMAR contains 5.9 million acres of farm land and includes: Blue Earth, Nicollet, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Le Sueur, Martin, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Waseca and Watonwan. The GMAR also includes parts of Lyon, Murray, Nobles and Yellow Medicine counties. The GMAR is home to: • $6.3 billion in agriculture sales* with a $10.1 billion overall economic impact** • $4.4 billion in agriculture service and supplies*** • Nearly 17,000 farms*** * Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2011 ** Bureau of Economic Analysis, RIMS II Mankato-North Mankato multiplier *** USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture

Compiled by Greater Mankato Growth

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 23


After his father died unexpectedly, a young Troy Volk kept the business going, even after advice to file for bankruptcy.

Go big or go home

Volk Transfer grows after barely hanging on By Pete Steiner Photos by John Cross This is certainly not your father’s trucking firm, or for that matter, your grandfather’s. But third-generation president and owner of Volk Transfer, Troy Volk, almost didn’t get the chance to run the 65-year-old company that today directly employs 35 people, operating out of a 50,000-square-foot facility just west of Third Avenue on Mankato’s industrial north end. Sitting in the boardroom named after his

father, Rick, Troy talks of how the company nearly folded after his Dad’s sudden death at just 47 in 1993. Troy had begun driving semi for his Dad only two years earlier at the age of 18. The company would barely survive the three years after Rick’s death, saddled with $150,000 in debt and back taxes, and down to just two trucks. In 1996, their accountant, their attorney, their banker – all advised filing for bankruptcy and shutting the doors. Not quite

Spotlight

24 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


Seeing an ongoing demand for warehouse space, Volk Transfer built a large warehouse after outgrowing their old facility. 24, Troy says he resolved that would not happen. “Those people did not believe in me.” He took full ownership of the company in 1997 and found new financial advisers, including a banker, who “knew my work ethic, who believed in me.” Sixteen years later, with 30 tractors and 70 trailers, as well as other partners and contracted owner-operators, Volk Transfer ranks in the top three percent of trucking fleets in the country. White line fever Truckers move America. The quintessential industry employs nearly 7 million in all, moved nearly 69 percent of all domestic freight last year, and booked more than 640-billion dollars in gross revenue. But Troy Volk points out, it’s an industry that is evolving quickly, and “it’s very competitive [and] extremely regulated.” To keep up, Volk in 1998 added a logistics brokerage business. That gave the company control of their freight even if they were subcontracting the hauling. That expanded their ability to serve a much larger area, and today, the company ships freight all across the U.S. and Canada, and they’re working on expanding into Mexico. Volk says one of the reasons they survived those dark days of the ‘90’s was “a handful of local customers that had been extremely loyal to my father.” At first, not only was Troy company president, he was dispatching, doing maintenance, doing bookwork, and he was still driving. To this day, he remains a very hands-on owner.

Hauling local goods On any given day, 50–75 trucks will pull in or out of the Volk Transfer lot. An analysis of their loads reveals not only a thriving transport company, but also how vibrant and diverse manufacturing is here in Southern Minnesota. Volk hauls sporting goods shipments from Johnson Outdoors in Mankato and Big Game in Windom all across the country to major retailers like Bass Pro and Cabela’s. They do both warehousing and cross-country hauling for Angie’s Kettle Corn of North Mankato. They haul medical equipment from Coloplast, which has locations in North Mankato and Minneapolis, along with a distribution center in Atlanta. They also haul plastics and extrusion products from AEP (the successor to Atlantis Plastics), and of course, printed materials from North Mankato’s Taylor Corp. The long haul When Troy Volk took over the company in 1997, they were doing mostly short runs, within a 30-mile radius of Mankato. By 1999, he began purchasing trucks with sleepers, so the company could do long-distance, or overthe-road (OTR) hauling. Then in 2004, they added LTL (less-than-load) operations, whereby their long-haul trucks could deliver pallets of cargo to more than just one end destination. Volk explains, the model is similar to parcel delivery trucks. All dispatching, even, say, for a load that originates from Coloplast’s Atlanta location heading for Texas, is done from the Mankato offices. And yes, the hands-on president still does some of that dispatching

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 25


On any given day, 50-75 trucks pull into or out of the Volk warehouse. himself. But he no longer drives. Volk leads the interviewer and photographer out into the sparkling clean warehouse. Pallets of packaged product are piled to the ceiling in some corners, while tens of thousands of folded cardboard boxes of different sizes are stacked everywhere, waiting to be filled. Volk says, as he became more aware of the importance of warehousing, the company decided several years ago, they had to expand, even in a recession. He says his solid customer base in multiple industries meant that someone was still always shipping. “We stayed in our old location [a little farther north, on Third Avenue] literally as long as we could.” The new 30,000-square-foot facility tripled their warehouse space in 2011, and just two months ago, they completed another 20,000-square-foot expansion. A forklift hums past us. “Hey, Dad, where do you want me to stack these pallets?” It’s Troy’s son, Travis, who along with Troy’s only sibling, Wade, have joined the business. Out in the parking lot, one of Volk’s tractors is hitched to a J.B. Hunt trailer that’s backed up to one of the 19 warehouse bays. Hunt, with thousands of trucks, is one of the goliaths of the American industry, yet frequently partners with Volk. Troy points out, we’re looking at an example of the fastest-growing sector of the trucking industry: drayage, or intermodal freight. The Hunt trailer is loaded with Angie’s Kettle Corn, for a short haul to a

26 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

Twin Cities’ freight yard by the Volk tractor. There, the container will be loaded on a train to be shipped to California. Search for drivers “Down every road, there’s always one more city, I’m on the road, the highway is my home:” Merle Haggard The sign outside the office says, “Drivers Wanted.” With good-paying, fulltime jobs hard to find, Troy says he still has to scour the country for company drivers, who can make up to $55,000 a year. The reasons drivers are hard to come by? Two: first, regulations and insurance requirements make it hard to qualify as an OTR trucker. Second, it’s a tough job that requires a special person. “It’s not an easy life. An OTR driver sleeps in his truck, eats and showers at truckstops, might be away from his family for 10 or 12 days at a time.” Still, for someone who is not made for a desk job, it might be just right. Vikings’ trucker Every summer, Volk’s drivers get a special assignment: the company is a transportation partner with the Minnesota Vikings, so they haul all the team’s gear and equipment from Vikings’ headquarters at Winter Park in Edina to the MSU campus in Mankato, and then back. “Eight full semi loads!” Troy grins. The interview is wrapping up, but the hands-on company


owner’s day is just beginning. He says he’s going to change into work clothes, then go back out to the warehouse to help load a new project: 28,000 boxes that have to be labeled, palletized, and loaded for shipment. Who’s the client? Ah, that’s still a secret. What we do know: wherever this cargo is going, Troy helped load it, he might dispatch it, but he won’t be driving. MV

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 27


Siblings Tim and Beth Jones bought Thorset Comfort Systems in 2005.

A hot and cold business Siblings run longtime Thorset Comfort Systems By Marie Wood Photos by John Cross

28 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


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horset Comfort Systems is approaching its 50th during the day and going home at night. I do most of the year in business and owner Tim Jones has been part after-hour service calls, too. of the company for almost 30 years, beginning his Beth: I never dreamed going out of high school that I’d tenure in 1984. All told, the Mankato ever own a business. I don’t know a company has been in existence since lot about the equipment. That’s Tim’s 1964. expertise. I handle the office, When Tim came on board, he messages, bookkeeping. It’s different worked for Ken Thorset. Tim was the bookkeeper and than walking away and not worrying after hours. You’re worked in the office before he began selling heating and thinking about what’s going on. cooling equipment in 1996. In 2005, Tim and his sister, Beth Jones, bought Thorset MVB: What products do you sell? Comfort Systems from Merlyn Buck, who purchased the Tim: We sell heating and cooling equipment: furnaces, air company in 1989. Beth conditioners and the runs the office and products that go with it answers the phone – thermostats, while Tim does sales, humidifiers, air installation and service exchangers, air with assistance from his cleaners. Mostly now as lead technician, Sid far as furnaces, people Nestegard. are going with two“I thought it would stage furnaces with DC be a good thing to buy (direct current) voltage the company because blower motors. They he knows what he’s are more electrically doing,” said Beth. efficient than Thorset Comfort alternating currents Systems installs and (AC), because the DC services furnaces, air motor is used to blow conditioners, heat air through the ducts pumps, radiant tube for the air conditioning. heat and indoor air You use the DC blower quality products such as motor to get efficiency air purifiers and on the air conditioners, humidifiers. They do as well as on the custom sheet metal furnaces. work too. Thorset specializes in Carrier MVB: Are people products. concerned about energy The company serves efficiency? Do you the Mankato area and educate your travels within a 30-mile customers? radius to Mapleton, Tim: Most people want Janesville, Le Center, energy efficiency. I try Lake Crystal, Nicollet to tell them that this and Courtland to name one will save money on a few. Many customers electricity bills. You are repeat customers save money on and referrals, but they operating costs versus also advertise. other products that Tim lives in Judson don’t have a DC blower while Beth lives in a big motor. Plus utility Co-owner Tim Jones does everything from cutting metal to making emergency old farmhouse a mile companies give rebates calls at Thorset Comfort Systems. north of Judson. Tim on more efficient added duct work and products. outfitted Beth’s farmhouse with a Carrier furnace and heat pump. A heat pump transfers hot air out of the home in MVB: What environmental standards affect your business? summer and pulls heat into the home in fall and spring. Tim: Air conditioners are going high efficiency. Puron The new equipment, along with insulation, have lowered refrigerant is replacing R-22 units. Since 2010, we’re not her utility bills. selling any equipment not using Puron. R-22 (refrigerant “I love it,” said Beth. 22) has been used in AC units since the 1950s. Since 2010, because of ozone depletion, we can’t use it anymore. We MVB: How is owning the business different from being an use Puron. Puron is what Carrier calls it. It’s non-ozone employee? depleting. Tim: There’s a lot more responsibility than coming in

All In The Family

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 29


Co-owner Beth Jones does the bookkeeping and keeps the office running at Thorset. MVB: Tim, what are your duties? Tim: I do it all. I help with install. I have other guys to help with installs and service. Right now we just have one, we used to have more. In the winter time, we get a lot of calls at night. MVB: How are your sales and installs divided between new homes and existing homes? Beth: Most of ours are existing homes, replacing existing equipment. We get occasional additions where we need to add duct work to get heat and air to the addition. MVB: Is that challenging? Tim: You gotta make it fit what’s there. You have to make metal fittings to adapt to existing duct work. Beth: We have equipment cut out back. Tim and Sid are very good at making the fitting they need. MVB: How long has Sid Nestegard, your lead technician, worked for you? Tim: About five years. He’s very good with customers – a reliable, competent employee. He’s got good people skills. MVB: How have the products and industry changed over the years? Tim: Products have become more efficient. The parts inside are more brand specialized. You used to be able to interchange. You have to be more brand-specific in repairs. They do work better and more efficiently. When I started, gas furnaces were 60 to 70 percent efficient and now they’re up to 97 percent efficient. Air conditioners, when I

30 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

started, had an 8 or 9 SEER rating, Now the average is 15 to 16 SEER and up to 21 SEER on some equipment. SEER is season energy efficiency ratio. MVB: What is your approach to customer service? Beth: We try to get to customers as quickly as possible for service calls. For elderly and children, I try to move them up to the top of line if we can because they are affected most by temperature changes. We try to work with customers to get the best price for the most efficient product. If they have questions on billing, we try to get back to them as soon as possible. We try to put our customer first. Tim: When we install, we try to go through and explain how the system works. We ask if they have any questions. If questions come up later, we tell them to give us a call later. Beth: They’ve gone out to show people again how the thermostat works. MVB: What’s next for Thorset Comfort Systems? Tim: Just trying to provide good products and service to our customers. We try to be as up-to-date as we can in products and training. Beth: That about sums it up. MV


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Agricultural Outlook

By Kent Thiesse

Larger farms don’t have lower production costs

A

sk most farmers or ag professionals, and probably anyone with any knowledge of crop farming, whether larger farm operations have a lower cost of production, and they would probably say yes. However, the farm management data from Minnesota and other states does not support the assumption that average costs of production per acre get lower as farm sizes gets larger. Interestingly, in some cases it is just the opposite, and in most situations there is very little correlation to farm size. Earlier this year, the University of Illinois released a research-based study that compared costs of production for crop farm operations of various sizes in 2011. The study was based on 641 grain farms in Illinois that are enrolled in the Farm Business Farm Management program, and data was based on actual farm management records. Following are some of the key findings • Total non-land farm operation costs on grain farms did not very much, regardless of the operation size. The average non-land costs were $484/acre for farms of less than 500 acres, $481/acre for farms between 501 to 750 acres, $486/acre for farms between 2,001 and 3,000 acres, and $525/acre for farms over 4,000 acres. • Fertilizer costs ranged from $103/ acre to $124/acre, with the highest cost being for the largest farm size group of over 4,000 per acre, and lowest fertilizer cost being for the farm size group of 501 to 750 acres. For seed cost, there was very little correlation to farm size. Chemical costs were only $30/acre for farms over 4,000 acres, but were between $41/acre and $49/ acre for all other size categories. • Power costs, which include farm machinery hire, repairs, fuel, and depreciation, ranged from $108/ acre to $151/ acre, with the farms

of less than 500 acres having the highest power costs.

• Much of the higher non-land costs of $525/acre for the crop farms over 4,000 acres, compared to the smaller to more medium size categories can be explained by the higher percentage of crop acres planted to corn. The farms over 4,000 acres had an average of 76 percent of their crop acres planted to corn, while farm operations between 500 and 2,000 acres only had 59-63 percent of their crop acres planted to corn. Non-land costs associated with corn production tend to be significantly higher than similar costs for soybean production. • Land costs include financial cost of owning land and cash rent paid, or cash-rent equivalent on sharerent acres. Just as with the total non-land costs, land costs per acre tended to increase as the farm size groups increased. Average land costs are $119/acre for farms with less than 500 acres, $195/acre for farms of 1,001 to 1,500 acres, and $234/acre for farms over 4,000 acres. • The farms of under 1,000 acres had land costs of under $200/acre, which is explained by the fact that more operated farm land is owned, much of it likely at fairy low debt levels per acre. Farms of this size tended to own 20-30 percent of their crop acres, while the farm group sizes above 1,000 acres only owned 12-16 percent of their crop acres. How does Minnesota farm management data compare to the results from the Illinois FBFM study? We used the University of Minnesota FINBIN program to look at average costs and returns of 1,500 grain farm operations of all sizes from throughout Minnesota raising corn and soybeans. Similar to the Illinois study, the data is from actual farm financial records.

32 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

Here are some of the finding:

• Corn yields averaged almost 171 acres in 2012, with a slightly higher average yield for farms above 1,500 acres. The 5-year average corn yields on only cash rented acres showed very little difference between the various size categories. Interestingly, the 5-year average soybean yields on cash rented acres were close to 42 bushels per acre, but were slightly higher on farm sizes 100-500 acres, and somewhat lower than average on farms over 1,500 acres. • Corn fertilizer costs averaged nearly $179/acre on all corn acres, but averaged about $195/acre on farms over 1,500 acres. Corn seed costs averaged slightly over $108/ acre, and chemical costs just over $29/acre, with very little difference between the various farm size categories. Seed and fertilizer costs for soybeans also showed fairly small variations between the farm size groups. • Average cash rental rates on cash rented corn acres in 2012 was nearly $190/acre, but was $255/ acre for farms in the 1,501-2,000 acre size group. The 5-year (20082012) average cash rental rate for cash rented corn acres was approximately $154/acre for all farms, and again the farm size groups above 1,500 acres had a 5-year average cash rental rate of nearly $179/acre. • The average total direct and overhead costs per acre for all corn acres was $721/acre in 2012, but averaged over $780/acre for farm group sizes above 1,500 acres. However, the average total direct and overhead costs for all soybean acres in 2012 was just under $400/ acre, but the average costs for the farms over 1,500 acres was less $363/acre.


Agriculture/Agribusiness Corn prices — southern Minnesota

(dollars per bushel)

— 2012 — 2013

8

20

$4.69

$13.47

8

2

4

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: USDA

0

185 pound carcass, negotiated price, weighted average

— 2012 — 2013

$96.48

100

24

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

80

18

70

A

M

J

J

A

Source: USDA

S

O

N

— 2012 — 2013

$20.68

$18.35

16

$63.33 M

Minimum prices, class 1 milk Dollars per hundredweight

22 20

F

F

Milk prices

90

J

J

Source: USDA

Iowa-Minnesota hog prices

60

$16.92

12

4

110

(dollars per bushel)

16

6

0

Soybean prices — southern Minnesota — 2012 — 2013

$7.49

D

14

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

Corn and soybean prices are for rail delivery points in Southern Minnesota. Milk prices are for Upper Midwest points.

There does not appear to be any advantages to larger farm sizes over small to medium sized farms, from a standpoint of lower cost of production and higher return per acre. The final analysis is that well managed crop farms of all sizes that control their production costs and machinery expenses can be profitable. It also appears that land costs, especially cash rent paid, is a big factor in profitability of crop operations. In the end, a farm operator of any size that pays close attention to all aspects of farm management can have a very profitable crop farming business. MV

D

Source: USDA. Based on federal milk orders. C. Sankey

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MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 33


Employment/Unemployment Initial unemployment claims

Minnesota initial unemployment claims

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

97 154 51 197 499

Percent change ‘12-’13

50 128 34 167 379

-48.5% -16.9% -33.3% -15.2% -24%

Major Industry

August

Construction Manufacturing Retail Services Total*

‘12

‘13

Percent change ‘12-’13

2,356 2,108 1,359 5,358 11,181

1,883 2,036 1,063 4,396 9,378

-20.1% -3.4% -21.8% -18% -16%

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

127,618 126,757

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 7,634 6,473

0000

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Minnesota number of unemployed

- 2012 - 2013 178,408 152,775

200000

8000

150000

6000

100000

4000

50000

2000 0

0

- 2012 - 2013 2,836.2 2,859.7

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan statistical area

Unemployment rate Number of non-farm jobs Number of unemployed

2012

2013

5.4% 54,622 3,120

4.5% 54,786 2,565

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

34 • october 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) June

0

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

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

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


Construction/Real Estate Residential building permits Mankato 8000

(in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

$1,898.1 $2,243.9

3000

$2,401.1 $4,331.3

6000

Residential building permits North Mankato

- 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

- 2012 - 2013

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

175 208

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 15 29

30

150

20

100

10

50 J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota (in thousands)

- 2012 - 2013

$11,842.3

12000

0

J

F

M

A

M

A

S

O

N

D

- 2012 - 2013 (in thousands)

$263.4 $100

1500

$1,086.3

6000

J

Commercial building permits North Mankato 2000

10000 8000

J

Source: Cities of Mankato/North Mankato

Commercial building permits Mankato

1000

4000

500

2000 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 4.0

3.5%

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

200

0

J

Source: City of North Mankato

Existing home sales: Mankato region

0

0

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

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

2012

2013

Percent change

47 2 6 23 7 6 11 14 6

38 9 12 29 10 15 12 15 6

+24% -78% -50% -21% -30% -60% -8% -7% 0%

Source: Minnesota Foreclosure Partners Council C. Sankey

MN Valley Business • october 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

Aug. 14

Sept. 17

Percent change

Archer Daniels

$38.54

$36.72

-4.7

4

Ameriprise

$89.70

$93.06

+3.7

3

Best Buy

$31.67

$38.68

+22.1

Crown Cork & Seal

$45.22

$43.82

-3.1

Fastenal

$46.43

$50.33

+8.4

General Growth

$20.38

$19.54

-4.1

General Mills

$52.05

$49.36

-5.2

HickoryTech

$11.09

$10.83

-2.3

Hutchinson Technology

$3.43

$3.36

-2

Itron

$40.29

$41.44

+2.9

Johnson Outdoors

$25.91

$26.89

3.9

3M

$117.62

$120.04

+2.1

Target

$70.04

$64.59

-7.8

U.S. Bancorp

$36.97

$37.57

+1.6

Wells Financial

$22.45

$22.45

0

Winland

$0.70

$.60

-14.3

Xcel

$28.20

$27.00

-4.3

Gas prices-Mankato — 2012 — 2013 5

$3.95

2 $3.49

1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Gas prices-Minnesota — 2012 — 2013

5

$3.94

4 3

$3.47

2 1 0

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

Source: GasBuddy.com C. Sankey

36 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


Jim Turk

Beth Serrill

Christopher Roe Kevin Velasquez

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MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 37


Advancing Business for a Stronger Community

Manufacturing in Minnesota Minnesota Manufacturers Week is held each year to highlight this important sector and its impact on the economic vitality of the state In Minnesota, manufacturing contributes $37 billion to the state economy and represents 15% of Minnesota’s gross domestic product. In the nine county region of South Central Minnesota, 19% of all jobs (private and public sector) come from manufacturing. In the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), 18% of total payroll and 15% of all jobs come from manufacturing, with 7,825 total individuals employed in the field, as of Q1 2013. Manufacturing also plays a significant role in the success of other industries. According to the Department of Employment & Economic Development, each manufacturing job also supports another 1.9 jobs elsewhere in the economy through supplier purchases and employee spending. That means a total of 22,693, 45% of jobs in Greater Mankato, are either in or supported by manufacturing. Fortunately for Greater Mankato, manufacturing remains strong. One of the keys to this success is the region’s diverse industry mix, along with supply chain benefits that come with many complementary businesses located here. Industries with a particularly strong presence in Greater Mankato include: Metal Manufacturing and Fabrication, Electronic Manufacturing Services, Printing, as well as Agriculture and Food Processing (more details on the Agribusiness sector on page 39). Based on manufacturing’s vitality and wide-ranging impact, the entire business community in Greater Mankato can celebrate Minnesota Manufacturers Week.

Made in Greater Mankato See all the products that are manufactured here in our region at greatermankato.com/ greater-mankato-made If you would like to add products your business ,manufactures to our ever growing list, contact us at info@greatermankato.com

Greater Mankato Growth

Q1 2013 Mankato-North Mankato MSA Payroll by Industry

Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development

507.385.6640 • greatermankato.com 38 • october January 2013 2013 •• MN MN Valley Valley Business Business


Agribusiness in Greater Mankato Manufacturing up Close Each year the Economic Growth Collaborative of South Central Minnesota holds a special event as part of Minnesota Manufacturers Week. This year’s Tour of Manufacturing of South Central Minnesota is on Saturday, October 26 from 9 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The event provides an opportunity for everyone to get a look at manufacturing up close, learn about the products made here and find out about career opportunities in the field. By getting an up close view, those attending see manufacturing as it is today – an increasingly high tech environment that rewards advanced education, providing greater potential for those who choose careers in manufacturing. The Tour of Manufacturing is similar to a “Parade of Homes,” with participating manufacturers offering tours throughout the day. Manufacturers opening up their facilities for the Tour of Manufacturing this year include: Aerospace Systems Blue Earth, MN Corchran, Inc. Waseca, MN Express Diagnostics International Inc. Blue Earth, MN Lindsay Window & Door, LLC North Mankato, MN MRCI WorkSource Mankato, MN

The Greater Mankato region has always had a significant concentration of farms and agriculture related businesses, with their number and impact continuing to steadily increase over time on both the producer and manufacturing/ processing side. The Greater Mankato Agricultural Region (GMAR). includes more than 13 counties with an economic relationship to the Mankato-North Mankato MSA and make up According to 2011 USDA data, this region is home to: • 15,000 farm jobs • 8 of the top 10 soybean processing counties in Minnesota • 7 of the top 10 crop producing counties in Minnesota • 7 of the top 10 hog producing counties in Minnesota (including the top 4) • 6 of the top corn grain processing counties in Minnesota (including the top 4) In addition to the many farms themselves, the region’s agriculture presence includes the several related industries, with the following approximate number of businesses in each: • Agriculture Manufacturers and Processors – 46 • Farm Equipment/Maintenance –40 • Farmer’s Cooperatives – 26 • Ag Suppliers/Distributors – 23 • Ag Associations – 10 • Ag Financing – 7 As these figures demonstrate, Agribusiness is an industry that brings a wealth of advantages and opportunities to the region.For more information, visit greatermankato.com/ agribusiness.

MTU Onsite Energy Mankato, MN TBEI, Inc. Lake Crystal, MN

Greater Mankato Growth

V-Tek, Inc. Mankato, MN Winegar, Inc. Waseca, MN Wells Concrete Wells, MN In addition to these companies, the MSU College of Science, Engineering & Technology will also be opening its doors to provide information on educational opportunities available in preparation for careers in manufacturing. For more information and a map of the Tour of Manufacturing, visit tourofmanufacturing.com. The 2013 Tour of Manufacturing is sponsored by:

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 39


Member Events Business After & Before Hours

5:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Greater Mankato Growth

October 1 Spherion Staffing & Recruiting November 5 Bethany Lutheran College December 3 ECS-Your Wiring Pros

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. October 16 First National Bank Minnesota November 20 J. Longs for Men December 18 Pioneer Bank

2013 Business After Hours Sponsored by

2013 Business Before Hours Sponsored by

August Business After Hours at I&S Group

August Business Before Hours at Laurels Edge Assisted Living

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

40 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business


Cavalier Calls on our

Newest Members

PrimeLending 1400 Madison Avenue, Suite 616, Mankato chadborgmeier.com

The Picker-Uppers LLC New Ulm ThePickerUppers.com

2014 Marketing Opportunities One of the many benefits of being a Greater Mankato Growth member is the opportunity to take advantage of exclusive member marketing opportunities. Now is the time to sign up to get the best chance of getting the marketing opportunities you want for 2014. Because some marketing opportunities are limited, all members are encouraged to sign up for the 2014 marketing opportunities they want online by November 1. All online sign-ups will be collected through midnight, with a drawing held for those marketing opportunities where demand exceeds supply. Businesses will receive an email in early November, letting them know the marketing opportunities they have signed up for that are confirmed. After November 2, all marketing opportunities that remain will be available on a first come, first served basis. To see all the marketing opportunities available from Greater Mankato Growth, as well as our affiliates Visit Mankato and City Center Partnership, visit greatermankato. com/2014-marketing-opportunities.

Promote Your Business at No Charge Some of the best marketing opportunities available to Greater Mankato Growth members are included for free with membership: • Clickable Listings in the Greater Mankato Online Business Director with a link to your customized page with more information on your business. There is also a printed directory that is available online, which Greater Mankato Growth also provides to those inquiring about businesses in the area.

• Opportunity to utilize the Greater Mankato Growth Member logo in your business and on your website and printed materials to promote your commitment to Greater Mankato by Advancing Business for a Stronger Community. To learn more, visit greatermankato.com/2014-marketing opportunities.

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. MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 41

Greater Mankato Growth

Willow Brook Senior Cooperative 700 Agency Trail, Mankato willowbrookcoop.com

• Hot Deals feature that enables you to post coupon offers, promoted on the Gerater Mankato Growth and Visit Mankato websites.


growth in Greater Mankato New Business Karma 1522 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato

second location Jersey Mike’s Subs – Riverfront 500 South Riverfront Drive, Mankato

Expansion DuPont Pioneer Research Center 19456 State Hwy 22, Mankato

Renovation - Country Inn & Suites Hotel & Conference Center by Carlson 1900 Premier Drive, Mankato

Greater Mankato Growth

Ribbon Cutting Bonfire 1910 Premier Drive, Mankato

If you have a milestone moment such as a groundbreaking or ribbon cutting, the Ambassadors are here to help you celebrate it. To schedule, call 507.385.6640.

Greater Mankato Growth and South Central College are continuing to offer short, timely professional training sessions over the lunch hour. Sessions are only $20 for GMG Engaged and higher members, $30 for Basic GMG Members and $50 for non-members. Registration fee includes a lunch from Buffalo Wild Wings! October 10 - Superior Customer Service Take your Customer Service to the next level by: • Applying great phone skills • Learning the do’s and don’ts of email responses • Discovering what your face says to the customer • Approaching and setting the tone of the interaction • Remembering rule #1

November 14 - Change the Way You Do Business Discover how to eliminate time lost caused by: • Searching or waiting for information • Clarifying incomplete and unusable information • Waiting for approval or a signature • Making copies that are not used or required • Inconsistent process and procedures

42 • october 2013 • MN Valley Business

December 12 - OSHA – Top Ten List Uncover what businesses were caught doing last year: • Discover the quickest/easiest way to get a snapshot of your company’s compliance • Use the MnOSHA top ten list as a guide for your future • Learn MnOSHA vs. Federal Law differences • Explore how to be ready for an audit


Embrace the race – Mankato Marathon helps our community In 2013 the Mankato Marathon, presented by Mayo Clinic Health System, anticipates bringing nearly 10,000 people to town including runners and spectators. Some of these people will be visiting Mankato for the first time. It’s our job as a community to welcome them with open arms so they will want to return for another visit. The fourth annual Mankato Marathon takes place on October 19 to 20, 2013 and is projected to have an attendance of 5,000 runners. In 2012 runners surveyed by Mankato Marathon said they brought an average of two other people with them for the weekend. Nearly half of our runners from 2012 came from outside of a 30 mile radius. Being further from home, the runners and the people they brought likely did some eating, sleeping and shopping while in Mankato. The same 2012 runners surveyed said they spent an average of $150 in Mankato on race weekend. We can only guess how much money their guests also spent while they were here. Recently Visit Mankato went through an extensive branding process. The research revealed two key attributes unique to Mankato – our trail activities and our wellness events like the Mankato Marathon. We are excited to have the Mankato Marathon fit so well into what we know our visitors enjoy about our community. Local businesses have the most to gain from the return visit. So embrace this event and its participants by putting up banners or messages on a marquee welcoming runners; putting

together runner’s specials for the weekend (we can help you promote); or by coming out on race day to cheer on the runners. A big thank you goes to the local businesses who showed support this year and helped make Mankato a welcoming place for all the runners and spectators of the Mankato Marathon. Next year marks the fifth anniversary of the Mankato Marathon. The event will incorporate new features including a legacy program that will recognize all the marathoners that have run all five years. The 2014 Mankato Marathon is bound to be bigger and better. If you would like to get involved personally or through your business please let us know by contacting Josh Anderson at janderson@visitmankatomn.com or 507.385.6663. Mankato Marathon Schedule of Events Saturday, October 19 Scheels Sport and Health Expo – 12 to 7 p.m. Toddler Trot – 1 p.m. Diaper Dash – 1:15 p.m. Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic Speaker Series – 1:30 to 7 p.m. YMCA Kids K – 2:30 p.m. Pork Power 5K – 4 p.m. Sunday, October 20, 2013 I&S Group 10K – 7:30 a.m. Half Marathon, Relay Marathon and Marathon – 8 a.m. Post Race Festivities – 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The City Center Partnership, along with Minnesota State University, Mankato, is starting the Mavericks Hockey season off right by building on the game day experience. Saturday, October 19 is Hockey Night in City Center Mankato. There will be live entertainment, food, drinks, a mechanical bull and kids’ activities from 4 – 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Plaza to celebrate the kickoff of the 2013-14 Mavericks Hockey Season. A game day experience can play a major role in supporting City Center vibrancy by capitalizing this attribute, which is unique to downtowns across the region. As a community

business member you can help support that experience by showing your Maverick Pride all season long. Whether its pre-game in the City Center or sporting Mavericks gear at work, it starts with Hockey Night, so Get Hooked!

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.

MN Valley Business • october 2013 • 43

Greater Mankato Growth

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