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William Morris Associate Editor
Volume 2, Issue 1 February/March 2018
remember, probably about this time last year, seeing an exchange on Twitter (which of course is a wonderful platform for expressing nuanced philosophical differences). One user, presumably male, was complaining about Women’s History Month in March, wondering why there wasn’t a Men’s History Month. Another user retorted that, in fact, we do have a month devoted to men’s history. In fact, we have 11 of them. I hope that’s less true that it was in years past, but it remains the case that how we talk about history, and contemporary journalism as well, still often gives undue weight to the contributions of men and short-changes women. And this year in particular, as more and more stories come out across the country of the terrible treatment some women face in the workplace, it’s all the more important that we give women all the credit they’re due. I asked Ann Miller, owner of the Owatonna office of Spherion Staffing, about what she has seen in decades helping men and women find employment in the community, and for her thoughts on the past year’s revelations. While she hasn’t seen the type of egregious behavior uncovered lately everywhere from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, she said she definitely recalls an era of gendered expectations and comments that wouldn’t fly today. "I definitely have seen changes over the last 40 years in the professional work environment related to sexual harassment, from a "Mad Men" sort of mentality (but not quite THAT bad) to where we are today, being very conscious of what is said and implied in the workplace, and it is extremely frustrating to learn of
the large number of harassment cases coming out now," she told me. "I thought this all went out in the 70's, and for sure the 80's, with the changes in laws to protect people against this type of behavior." Alas, it is clear that isn’t the case. So as we approach Women’s History Month this year, I’m thinking about the additional barriers — not just from abusive bosses, but in balancing work and family, finding mentors, and in many other areas often difficult to spot from outside — that some women face in their careers. That’s why I couldn’t be more happy in our February/March issue of Forge to profile eight women, past and present, who have left their mark on Steele County in their personal and professional lives. Some I’ve known for years, while others were new to me, but all are exemplary leaders in our business community: blazing trails, raising bars and making Steele County a better place to work and live. What else do we have this issue? In Around Steele County, we visited southern Minnesota’s own Mount Kato ski area to see how winter sports play their role in the regional economy. We found out where the food in your child’s school lunch comes from, and who pays for it. And as always, we bring you expert columnists, press releases and economic indicators to help you stay on top of what’s happening around Steele County. Take heart, Steele County, for spring will be hear soon enough, and as always, let us know what you’re thinking! William Morris is Associate Editor of Forge Magazine and covers business, government and courts for the Owatonna People’s Press. Contact him at FORGE@Owatonna.com.
PUBLISHER: Tom Murray EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Jeffrey Jackson ASSOCIATE EDITOR: William Morris CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: James Figy Anna Vangsness PHOTOGRAPHERS: William Morris Karen Legault COVER DESIGN: Brendan Cox PAGE DESIGN: Tri M Graphics ADVERTISING MANAGER: Ginny Bergerson ADVERTISING SALES: Kyle Shaw Emily Kahnke Erin Rossow Kristie Biehn Pam DeMorett ADVERTISING ASSISTANT: Lisa Richmond ADVERTISING DESIGNERS: Kelly Kubista Nicole Gilmore Jenine Kubista CIRCULATION DIRECTOR: Carol Harvey For editorial inquiries, contact William Morris at 507-444-2372 or FORGE@owatonna.com For advertising inquiries, please call 507-444-2386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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/ FEB MAR 50
PG AROUND STEELE COUNTY
MOUNT KATO: WARMING UP WINTER FOR 40 YEARS
PG SPECIAL REPORT
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WOMEN IN BUSINESS
2018 AGRICULUTURE TRENDS AIM FOR GREATER ACCURACY
PG SPECIAL REPORT
ENTERPRISE MINNESOTA PEER COUNCIL BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OFFERS SUPPORTS MANUFACTURING CEOS MORE THAN JUST A MENTORSHIP
16 SECTIONS 26 09 28 FROM THE FOUNDATION
LOCAL LEARNING AG UPDATE GREENSEAM AROUND THE WATER COOLER
32 36 39
PG SPECIAL REPORT
LOCAL FOODS, LOCAL DOLLARS FUEL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAMS
REAL ESTATE NEWS PARTNERS FOR GROWTH HEALTHY WORKPLACE
40 42 49
ECONOMIC DASHBOARD FROM THE CHAMBER KNOW THE LAW
Cover photo: Julie Rethemeier, from left, Christina Wetmore, Kristin Haberman and Peng Olson, all leaders in the Steele County business community. Photo by Karen Legault.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 5
SPECIAL REPORT 2018 AGRICULTURE TRENDS AIM FOR GREATER ACCURACY FEAtURE WRITER
MARCH FARM AND POWER SHOW SHOWCASES LATEST TECHNOLOGY
he Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna is beginning to gear up for the North America Farm and Power Show, which runs March 15 to 17. This year, 181 companies with 310 booths will be on hand as vendors, ready to interact with the nearly 21,000 attendees who will make their way to the expo eager to learn firsthand what’s trending in 2018 for agriculture equipment. So, just what type of agriculture trends can attendees expect to see at this year’s expo? It’s all about technology updates, Tradexpos Inc. Show Director Brock Nelson said. “There’s no new breakout technology that people must have this year, but there are small improvements on every front,” he said. “Dealers will be showing more tailored approaches for data and precision in agriculture.”
the most fertilizer, making the process more cost effective. Vendors like Kibble Equipment in Owatonna will use the Farm and Power Show to promote the ease newer technology will bring to farmers and other agriculture business professionals. “This year’s biggest trend in agriculture is being accurate in everything that you do and buying equipment that is accurate, letting the user do more with less,” Kibble Equipment Salesman Brock Veldman said. “Technology has enabled the farming community to do things better. I would say that the down farming economy has pushed people to be more efficient.”
in agriculture equipment. “There was just a basic light bar that said if you were driving on the line or not,” he recalled. “Now, new equipment has driving or field accuracy that’s controlled by GPS that’s more accurate than any human can drive.” If you’re wanting to plant seeds in rows that are exactly parallel to one another, equipment over the last few years has been developed to do just that, Veldman said. “The new GPS technology will let you do things like plant closer together in more fertile soil areas and farther away in less fertile areas,” he explained. “It will also let you use less fertilizer in one area if it doesn’t need it, rather than spreading on the same amount.” The ability to be more accurate helps farmers become more efficient, thus lowering costs and improving the farmer’s net income by having more crops.
Technological advancements have paved the way for more The North America Farm and Power Show will feature 181 companies with 310 booths at the Four “They’re able to Seasons Centre in Owatonna. (Submitted photos) efficient farming buy only as much and agriculture When Veldman first started chemical, fertilizer and feed that businesses, Nelson said. Custom at Kibble Equipment 15 they need,” Veldman said. “In applications let the farmer know years ago, basic GPS was just the past, we would put down which part of the field needs beginning to hit the market way more than was needed 6 |
The North America Farm and Power Show will include vendors such as Boss Supply Inc., Kuhn and Broskoff Structure Inc., to name a few.
and it may have hurt the crop’s yield. Now, with better spraying and fertilizer accuracy, the better the soil and the environment. It’s more responsible in every way.” Veldman said the past few years has seen a surge in people adapting to equipment with better technology, but it’s beginning to level off this
agriculture trends will go and what Kibble Equipment may be able to showcase at upcoming Farm and Power Shows. “We don’t have equipment that will purely run itself, at least in this country, but I don’t think it’s that far down the road,” Veldman said. “I could see equipment in a few
"This year’s biggest trend in agriculture is being accurate in everything that you do and buying equipment that is accurate, letting the user do more with less." ~Brock Veldman, Kibble Equipment Salesman year as it becomes more available. “There’s ways to add technology to older equipment or to buy used technology so you don’t have to buy it brand new anymore,” he said. “You always want to keep up with technology that’s improving a bit, and the biggest challenge today is making it useful and easy for customers to use. The technology isn’t that new, it’s just about learning how to make it easier.” He said he’s always surprised at the pace of which technology is changing, and is intrigued to see where the future of
years that has one operator in a field controlling multiple other tractors.” Tradexpos purchased the North American Farm and Power Show for the 1996 season from the Minnesota South Dakota Equipment Dealers Association. Originally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Tradexpos has been hosting the large-scale event in Owatonna since 2003. “Logistically, the convention center in Minneapolis was difficult for the large equipment to get in and out of downtown,” Nelson said. “The Four Seasons Centre’s spacious
grounds have the flexibility of indoor exhibit space, along with hard surface outdoor area.” The upcoming March show will be Nelson’s first in Owatonna with Tradexpos and he said it provides a great opportunity for companies to market to every-day farmers. “The show lets people interact with a live person,” he said. “You can read about new technology in papers or online, or you can come to the Farm and Power show to ask things like what’s new with irrigation or ask if your fields would be suitable for irrigation.” In addition to Kibble, this year’s large vendors include Northland Farm Systems Inc., Boss Supply Inc., Sanco Equipment Co., Manke’s Outdoor Equipment and Appliances, Timpte Inc., Wilson Trailer Sales of Minnesota, Arnold’s Inc., Broskoff Structure Inc., K & S Millwrights Inc., and Quality Craft Tools.
If you go:
Catch the North America Farm and Power Show 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 15 and 16 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 17 at Steele County Four Seasons Centre, 1525 S Elm. Ave., Owatonna. For more information, visit tradexpos.com. www.forgesteelecounty.com | 7
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FROM THE FOUNDATION Tim Penny SMIF
SUPPORTING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA
innesota now has two women United States senators, so it should be no surprise to see so many women business leaders in our state and the growth of women entrepreneurship in Minnesota. According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, women now make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States — the highest percentage since 1996. Women’s entrepreneurship rates rose by 13 percent on average in both 2011 and 2016 according to the Global
Entrepreneurship Monitor survey, authored by Donna Kelly, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College in Massachusetts. Men’s entrepreneurship rates rose by 5 percent during the same period, according to the survey. Here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we have seen a significant increase in women entrepreneurs throughout our programming. In 2016 and 2017, an average of 38 percent of our loan clients were female entrepreneurs, an increase of 11 percent compared to the preceding two years. While these women-owned businesses are located throughout SMIF’s 20-county region, several of our women entrepreneurs are right here in Steele County. Paula Trenda of Curly Girlz Candy recently relocated her business from Medford to downtown Owatonna. She specializes in retail and wholesale candy sales and has found her niche in making natural, preservativefree candies, including “keto-friendly” candies, utilizing locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Trenda has grown her business exponentially with the help of SMIF’s Small Enterprise Loan Program. “It’s been a very easy process,” says Trenda. “We didn’t have a ton of collateral to put down for a traditional loan, so this has helped us get the equipment we needed, and the payment terms were very simple for us. The loan program has also allowed us to chat with a QuickBooks expert on SMIF's staff.”
Women make up 38 percent of entrepreneurial loan clients at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and the number is growing each year. Holly Jorgensen created her dental nonprofit, Let’s Smile Inc., in 2013 and works with SMIF to assist other dental programs around southern Minnesota. (Southern Minn Media photo)
In addition, Trenda had the opportunity to join one of SMIF's Local Foods Peer Councils. This group meets once per month to discuss business issues relevant to the local foods industry and to hear guest speakers talk about their experience as business owners. Each month, participants choose “Fast Burns” – any issue or challenge they currently face in their business that they would like to get insight and perspective on from other members. In addition to Curly Girlz Candy, the www.forgesteelecounty.com | 9
FROM THE FOUNDATION businesses range from salsa makers and maple syrup producers to craft beer brewers and coffee roasters. Curly Girlz Candy also was chosen as one of fifteen local food businesses to participate in SMIF’s Feast! Smart Start Initiative, supported by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and in partnership with Renewing the Countryside. She receives six months of free one-on-one coaching and mentoring from experts in the areas where she needs assistance. “[This program] offered us the ability to attend some executive training sessions that we wouldn’t have otherwise taken because of the cost,” Trenda says. In SMIF’s early childhood work, entrepreneur Holly Jorgensen started a non-profit called Let’s Smile based in Steele County. Jorgensen provides dental care to children
"I couldn’t have done it without SMIF. They have been supportive even after the loan process with employees coming to my classes, or thinking of me when planning an event. It’s more than just getting a loan."
Power of the Press
~ Katie Sollid, Owner of Sollid Yoga
and adults who are underinsured or uninsured. Jorgensen is active with the Owatonna Early Childhood Initiative, and SMIF currently works with 25 ECI communities across the region. The ECI program supports programming to enhance early childhood activities. SMIF has partnered with Jorgensen on projects for the Early Childhood Dental Network in Martin County as part of our ECI work. Another success story is Katie Sollid of Sollid Yoga. Sollid is a recent SMIF loan client who launched her business in Owatonna. She offers a wide variety of classes in her heated yoga studio including slow flow, vinyasa, barre, sculpting, restorative, gentle and yin yoga. “I couldn’t have done it without SMIF,” says Sollid. “SMIF has been supportive even after the loan process with employees coming to my classes, or thinking of me when planning an event. It’s more than just getting a loan.” SMIF offers a variety of services for all entrepreneurs. To learn more about SMIF’s offerings, visit www.smifoundation.org. Tim Penny is the President and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Previously, he represented Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982-1994.
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OFFERS MORE THAN JUST A MENTORSHIP
or nearly 30 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change the perspectives and lives of thousands of children around southern Minnesota.
The volunteer-supported mentoring network fosters relationships between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and youths (“Littles”) ages 5 to 18 in communities across the country. BBBS first came to Steele County in 1987 and since then has expanded to include Dodge, Rice and Waseca counties, together known as BBBS of Southern Minnesota. As Executive Director of the southern Minnesota chapter, Michelle Redman oversees the more than 590 Big and Little matches. She started at BBBS just under 10 years ago in fund development before moving on to her current role two and a half years ago. “Big Brothers Big Sisters is a hand up, not a hand out,” Redman said. “We try to make children’s lives better by helping them through hard times. Children in our program come from all different walks of life. Some live with mom and dad, one parent, foster parents or grandma.” Though each of the children in BBBS Southern Minnesota has a unique family, there is a consistency that flows from one to the next, intertwining all of the families. “It’s that each parent or guardian wants their child to have an additional, positive role model in their life,” Redman said. “It’s
wonderful to see how the child grows throughout the program because it gives them a chance to see a different pathway in life.” Redman said that growing up in a family allows someone to only see what their family does and knows. Being with another positive adult role model opens their
"If you’re a parent or guardian thinking if this is the right thing for your child, what child couldn’t benefit from an additional role model. All children can. If you’re not a volunteer, think about it. I always say that it’s about changing a life, and sometimes the life they might change may be their own. It’s lifechanging on both parts." ~ Michelle Redman
eyes to other possibilities in life. “It offers a tremendous experience,” Redman said. “These children get to experience how different relationships work. It’s lifechanging for them and it’s lifechanging for the volunteers as well.” After an in-depth interview with each volunteer, child and child’s family, a Big and Little are matched. BBBS asks for a one-year commitment from the adults, but Redman has yet to
Executive Director Michelle Redman
see a Big leave before the child’s time in the program is up. “We don’t take the child that’s waiting the longest and match them with the next adult,” she said. “We wait to match the right kid with the right adult to make the perfect match, and we work hard for it. These are children and we don’t want their match to be someone who’s going to leave, because Big Brothers Big Sisters makes a profound change in their lives. When we do match our Bigs and Littles, we make an extended family. And they do; they become family with one another.” When Redman says that the Bigs and Littles become family, she knows firsthand the relationship that’s built because she has been matched with her Little, Rosie, for three years. “She’s 10 and adorable,” Redman said. Every Wednesday, Redman joins Rosie for lunch at her school. The two talk, play a game (Uno is their favorite) and it’s a quick 40 minutes of touching base. Their lunch is in www.forgesteelecounty.com | 11
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota is a donor supported mentoring network that fosters relationships between children and adult volunteers. (Photos courtesy BBBS of Southern MN)
addition to the 50 activities a year say that she is now an extension of her Little’s family, which is that BBBS of Southern Minnesota Rosie, her mom and sister. organizes, offering each match four to five specially planned events to “Rosie and I have our own Christmas enjoy together tradition,” per month. Redman said with "Big Brothers Big Sisters a smile in her “Sometimes voice. “We make we go to a is a hand up, not a hand something to eat, Minnesota out. We try to make watch movies, sit Gopher children’s lives better by in the same place game with helping them through every year and transportation, hard times. Children in we have a great go to the time. She’s very archery range our program come from special to me and in Medford, all different walks of life." she always puts a play kickball, ~ Michelle Redman smile on my face.” dodge ball and we just Before Redman got done with joined BBBS, a canvas painting party,” Redman she admits she wasn’t aware of the gaps in the community that said. “You name it, we have an the organization could help fill. activity. I told Rosie the other week that I was so happy to have “I was blind to that,” she said. been matched with her because “Now my eyes are so open to otherwise I wouldn’t have been the need in our community and able to experience these things and the need for our program. It’s it’s so much fun to do it together.” not just a Twin Cities issue.” Since coming into Rosie’s life three Other Littles, like Rosie, are waiting years ago, Redman is happy to to be matched with their Big 12 |
and are eager to begin a mentor relationship that they will carry with them for the rest of their life. “If you’re a parent or guardian thinking if this is the right thing for your child, what child couldn’t benefit from an additional role model,” Redman asks. “All children can. If you’re not a volunteer, think about it. I always say that it’s about changing a life, and sometimes the life they might change may be their own. It’s life-changing on both parts.” An Evening for Kids’ Sake BBBS of Southern Minnesota wouldn’t exist without the help of grants and fundraising. Its largest fundraiser of the year is set for March 10 at the Star Fire Event Center in Waseca. The 16th annual Evening for Kids’s Sake will feature dinner, a live and silent auction and a program honoring BBBS of Southern Minnesota Bigs of the Year. Tickets are $75. For more information on the event or to become a volunteer for BBBS of Southern Minnesota, visit bbbsofsouthernmn.org.
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BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING SOLID SMALL BUSINESSES It’s no secret that running a small business, and even more so, beginning a small business, is a difficult task. Building a solid foundation of smooth operating practices will help make it easier. Though there are many tips, we’ve compiled five of the best from Smallbiztrends.com to help entrepreneurs successfully build their company.
Transparency: Be open and honest with your teams across all levels and departments. This allows trust to be built and shows integrity. Feedback: It’s hard for a business owner to stay efficient when day-today duties take you further away from core operations. That’s why it’s important to ask your team for feedback to help make sure you’re addressing inefficiencies and improving as your company grows.
Customer service: One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is to ensure excellent customer service. It will give you a solid reputation in the industry.
Documentation: Providing clear and easy to understand documentation to your employees leaves little room for things to be miscommunicated and allows for less wasted time.
Expectations Once a month, call a team meeting in which everyone discusses his/her department and their accomplishments and challenges. It will help everyone understand who is covering what tasks and allows them to ask questions.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 13
If this is what you see…
SLOW DOWN. Poor driving decisions could keep you and your employees from making it home S.A.F.E. today.
37,461 deaths and more than 2,000,000 injuries.* Those are the statistics from our nation’s highways for 2016 because of motor vehicle traffic crashes. Deaths are up 5.6 percent from 2015. These are family members, friend, and neighbors. SOURCE: NHTSA. 2016 Quick Facts, DOT HS 812 451. October 2017. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812451
Ward’s 50® Top Performer A.M. Best® A+ (Superior) Rating
Please make it home safe today.
Do you “Drive S.A.F.E.”? How often do you consider there are far more serious consequences to unsafe driving than just getting ticketed? In most states, if you kill or injure someone because of distracted driving or playing a role in a road rage incident, you could be criminally charged. If that’s not bad enough, these risky driving behaviors also put your loved ones in harm’s way, whether or not they are even in the vehicle with you. Think about it: What would your loved ones do if your behindthe-wheel conduct resulted in you being seriously hurt or killed from a car crash, or sent to prison because your actions contributed to another’s injury or death? Bottom line: Poor driving decisions could cost you your freedom and tear your family apart. Everyone has, at some point, made a poor driving decision: speeding to make up for lost time, reading an incoming text message, driving when too tired, or letting emotions take over when encountering a “crazy” driver.
The majority of all auto crashes can be traced back to four driving behaviors: Speed, Attention, Fatigue, and Emotion (S.A.F.E.). Risky driving habits typically develop over time and can be hard to break. Keeping the S.A.F.E. factors in mind may help you overcome the temptation to engage in behind-the-wheel conduct that puts you and others in danger. Before each trip: • Give yourself ample time to get where you’re
going. Not only does it feel good to be early and not rushed, you can significantly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash.
• Make a commitment to pay attention to the task at
hand, mentally and physically. Be on the lookout for inattentive drivers and drive defensively.
• Get enough rest to help ensure peak mental
awareness so you can react to hazards that may require split-second maneuvers.
• Remain in control of your emotions and act
It Takes Just One Just one employee-involved vehicle crash and the liability alone could be staggering. It could very well make or break your business. Consider this actual Federated claim: The manager asked a staff member to go buy snacks for an employee meeting, and let the employee take a company car. The employee ran a red light while texting, and broadsided another vehicle in the intersection, severely injuring the other driver. CLAIM AMOUNT: $750,000
responsibly. Put space between you and motorists whose actions aren’t sensible.
Federated Insurance’s Drive S.A.F.E. risk management program was created to examine how these factors raise the risk of a crash. The program offers business owners some best practices, such as a company driving policy, driver MVR screening and monitoring, and driver education. The employee training portion includes a video that dives into the real and personal consequences of unsafe driving. To learn more, visit federatedinsurance.com. This article is for general information and risk prevention only and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The information herein may help reduce but is not guaranteed to eliminate any or all risk of loss. Qualified counsel should be sought with questions specific to your circumstance.
Federated Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiaries* federatedinsurance.com 17.12 DISTRACTED DRIVING Ed. 1/18 *Not licensed in all states. © 2018 Federated Mutual Insurance Company
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 15
LOCAL LEARNING Barb Embacher South Central College
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EFFORTS ALIVE AND WELL IN 2018
ne of the greatest rewards of working for a community and technical college is the ability to open up the doors of education and opportunity to virtually everyone. At South Central College, we work continuously to eliminate barriers that may keep potential students from beginning or finishing a degree. Recently, South Central College did away with the application fee that most colleges charge in order to remove yet another potential stumbling block for the student. Students can now apply to SCC free of charge year-round. Part of our mission is to provide equal access for all students — to all programs. This effort includes encouraging women to pursue traditionally male dominated careers and providing men with the support to pursue careers that have traditionally been filled by women. One of the programs that skews male is culinary arts. In December, South Central held a culinary arts student competition called “The Amazing Culinary Race.” The fast-paced skills event featured more than a dozen different action stations to be completed in four hours and challenged participants to bring their best cooking techniques to the table. The event was part of SCC’s work with the Southern Minnesota Perkins Consortium, which seeks to identify technical programs that are primarily pursued by one gender or another – and then take steps to encourage greater participation by the non-traditional gender. Culinary arts has generally attracted primarily male students, but with added emphasis on recruiting and advising directed toward women, SCC’s program now has more than the average percentage of female students in its culinary arts program.
Another traditional male career track runs through our advanced manufacturing area and includes programs in machining, energy technical specialist, mechatronics engineering technology and welding. Here again, we are seeing more women join these programs, prompted to pursue these areas of specialization by the higher than average starting salaries and apprenticeship opportunities. A new era of technical and technological upgrades have improved working conditions in machine shops and manufacturing facilities and made modern advanced manufacturing occupations more palatable and appealing for women — and men. Conversely, South Central College is seeing more men engage in traditional female vocations as well. Nursing, which has been looked upon historically as a women’s profession, is beginning to see a real and consistent upsurge in male participation. According to a 2013 U.S. Census Report, in 1970, just 2.7 percent of registered nurses in the U.S. were male. That number more than tripled by 2013. Correspondingly, the proportion of male licensed nurses doubled, going from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent. At SCC, 30 percent of the fall 2017 nursing graduates were male. With these kinds of positive, affirming results, SCC will steadfastly carry on with its work to encourage students to pursue career areas based not on traditional gender roles, but to find the best career option for their individual interests, strengths, competencies and goals. Barb Embacher is the Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at South Central College, formerly serving as the college’s Dean of Career and Technical Education .
William Morris Associate Editor
Photos by William Morris & Karen Legault
hat would Owatonna look like today without the effort and investment of generations of women?
Well, there would be no water park, for starters. The library, founded with money from a woman’s will and established and run by generations of women, would probably still exist, but in what form, who can say? Many companies would never have been founded, while others would have long since closed their doors. And many
COVER STORY a philanthropic board of directors would be hard pressed to fill their seats without female leadership. In fact, it’s hard to find any portion of the community that doesn’t owe something to the work and vision of women. What’s harder to find, in some cases, is the recognition they are due. In this issue, for Women’s History Month, we’ve profiled eight women who have left their mark on Steele County, from early 20th-century trailblazers to new arrivals, some that you know, and maybe some you haven’t met.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
Forge Magazine salutes Steele County’s indispensable
Christina Wetmore, Julie Rethemeier, Kristin Haberman and Peng Olson have all made a significant professional impact in Steele County. Not pictured: Sabra Otteson, Melanie Nelson, the late Mary Walbran and Maud van Buren, and uncounted thousands more, past and present.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 17
PENG OLSON Her resume takes a few unusual detours. Federated Insurance’s business continuity program manager — a position that includes risk management and resiliency planning for all Federated operations — first joined the company in 1993, after seven years with Mayo Clinic. For four years, she worked for the company as a management services analyst. And then … she left. “I worked for Federated, had a break in employment, went into consulting work in the Twin Cities, then chose to stay home to raise my family,” she said. Olson is one of many women (and a growing number of men) who choose to leave the workforce for a time to raise families, a difficult choice that often leaves them at a disadvantage when they’re ready to return to work. In Olson’s case, she kept her resume active by obtaining her master’s degree and leading a major community development project. By 2005, she knew it was time to return to Federated. “I knew the culture, was comfortable with the culture, the relationships I had built, and basically I began to create social capital in the community,” she said. Her accomplishment that most people will recognize,
though, has nothing to do with Federated. Olson was co-chair of the committee that spearheaded creation of River Springs Aquatic Center. “That was a tough project,” she said. “I was naive going into it … I thought it was going to happen overnight.” She got involved again for 2015’s school funding referendum, and today, she’s at it again, as leadership chair for Owatonna Forward, which arose in part from a group working to create an Owatonna Community Center. She also has served as a United Way board member and in other roles around the community. In all her roles, she said she’s been fortunate to have an employer, Federated, and a community that embrace female leadership, and key to it all, she said, was not just the time she has spent working, but the time she stopped. “I have the most respect for women who chose to take that risk and stay home to raise their family,” she said. And in all those roles, she said, she sees women making great strides every year, and does her best to help them be “intentional with leadership.” “I would say women are being embraced more by society, women in professional roles, women in terms of wages and compensation, women in terms of leadership,” she said.
Southern Minn Media Photo
Kristin Haberman in her office in downtown Owatonna. (William Morris)
KRISTIN HABERMAN In 1997, with a baby on the way, Kristin and Patrick Haberman had a decision to make.
a vested interest in the community and want to see it thrive,” she said. “They’re the ones doing such a great job.”
“I was in law school and he was in dental school, and we took out a map and said, where do we want to live?” she recalls.
Although she’s a longtime member of Owatonna Business Women, Haberman said most of the mentors who have guided her career have been men. But while clients will occasionally prefer an attorney of one gender or another, overall it has had very little impact on her career, she said.
They settled on Owatonna, due to family and friends in Rochester, Mankato and Albert Lea, and settled here shortly after. It was a good choice, she says. “I think when we moved to Owatonna, there were two newconstruction houses for sale, and then there was this boom where whole neighborhoods popped up,” she said. “It was very exciting to be in a city where a Cabela’s was coming in. There was always a new business opening, some new retail establishment.” She’s done her part to make it a good community as well. As a partner at Einhaus, Mattison, Carver & Haberman, she specializes in estate planning, business and real estate transactions, estates and guardianships. Outside work, she’s been involved with numerous community groups, including the Food Shelf, St. Mary’s School, as a soccer coach with Parks and Recreation and more. And although not a Steele County native herself, she has a great appreciation for those who are. “It’s people who’ve lived here their entire lives, and have
“Being in law school, men and women were in groups together and were all peers,” she said. “I would say there was not any gender difference at all, and it could be that profession too, because they are very aware of discrimination, and I don’t really notice it here either.” While she calls law school ruefully “a horrible return on investment,” she said she loves the work she does, and especially that she’s not involved in litigation and criminal legal work. “I’m not getting phone calls in the middle of the night,” she said. With four children in college and high school, she says “we’re grounded,” and Owatonna’s tightknit legal community has become home. “It’s a wonderful education,” she said. “I love where I work, I love this community.” www.forgesteelecounty.com | 19
MARY WALBRAN The Minneapolis Star Tribune obituary for Mary Walbran recalls her dean at the University of Minnesota law school suggesting to her father that she pursue a more appropriate female career, such as music. Her father, an attorney himself, replied, “I tried that. She’s no good at music. You keep her.” By the time she died in 1995, Walbran, 80, had left an indelible mark on Steele County, serving as the first female county attorney in the state, prosecuting a landmark early criminal vehicular homicide all the way to the state Supreme Court, with her uncle representing the defense (“Mother prevailed,” said her son, Owatonna City Attorney Mark Walbran, a fourth-generation lawyer”). She wrote an early Equal Pay for Equal Work law passed by the state, and served on the State Board of Law Examiners, earning awards from women’s legal associations and others for her pioneering accomplishments. Mark Walbran said Mary was a “remarkable woman,” with gifts of patience and conciliation that helped her find solutions to people's’ challenges. “She really enjoyed practicing law, she really enjoyed her clients, visiting people and trying to solve their problems,” he said. Mary Walbran continued actively practicing law nearly up until her death, not just as a prosecutor but as a public defender, planning estates and trusts, overseeing dissolutions of rural schools and creameries, and much more, often working side by side with her husband, John. “I’m proud of my mother and father both,” Mark Walbran said. “They were a very good team. My dad was more the corporate litigator.” Three of her sons, including Mark, followed her into the legal profession. Photo courtesy Mark Walbran
“I think overall she just loved the practice of law, loved helping people,” Mark Walbran said.
Melanie Nelson shows off one of Learning ZoneXpress’ products for the My Plate program in 2012. (Southern Minn Media photo)
MELANIE NELSON In 2002, Melanie Nelson knew she needed help.
Her business, Learning ZoneXpress, had literally burned down, and she found herself overwhelmed trying to reestablish operations in a new location and get back in action. There was something missing, she knew. "The challenge really was that there weren’t any women mentors that I could turn to," she said. "After struggling to make it, I just said, I have to go to the Cities and find other women in groups that can help me." In the Metro, she found numerous professional and networking organizations specifically for women, who provided key business insight as well as what Nelson calls "soul support." That was harder to come by 16 years ago in Owatonna, but today, there's a much more robust network of support for women in business, thanks in no small part to the women like Nelson who created businesses where no such support was to be found. "I think that’s changed," she said of the lack of peer support for female entrepreneurs. "I’m really optimistic about the number of smart women, Owatonna Business Women, and the number of opportunities that are here." Nelson came to Owatonna in 1997 with no thought of entrepreneurship, as a family consumer science teacher at Owatonna Junior High School. Her first business, a sewing supplier called You and Me Patterns, was
founded with another teacher who later bought it out. The she started Pineapple Appeal, making sewing kits for the family consumer science classroom. “Then I started just curriculums and games and video and software and really education support materials for the family consumer classroom,” she said. “Then we branched into education and consumer health.” After 13 years teaching and another 13 at Pineapple Appeal, Nelson launched Learning ZoneXpress, which overtime has become a specialty publisher of nutrition education materials. After 20 years leading the company through fires, floods and other challenges, Nelson is now “semi-retired,” with control of day-today affairs turned over to CEO Joyce Mattson. In total, the business has 14 women employees, Nelson said. “It’s really about the people that continue to want to support Learning ZoneXpress and why they want to work here,” she said. “It’s a good group of smart women.” And there’s no better place for smart women to succeed, she said, than Owatonna. “I drove into town [recently], and I just cried,” she said. “This is the best town. This is the best place to start a business. I don’t think I could have started it anywhere else and been as successful.” www.forgesteelecounty.com | 21
Christina Wetmore joined Dufresne, Wayne and Associates a year ago and already is deeply involved with her new community of Medford. (William Morris)
CHRISTINA WETMORE You don’t have to spend your whole life in Steele County to leave your mark on the community. Take Christina Wetmore, an Ameriprise financial advisor at Dufresne, Wayne and Associates. A Texas native and 20-year financial industry veteran, she moved to Eagan in 2006, and to Medford just a year ago. She’s not been idle since: she now serves as president of the Medford Diamond Association, on the board for the Medford Education Foundation, and she’s a Community Leader for the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s Community Growth Initiative in Medford as well. “I love the community of Medford,” she said. “It seems like everyone in the Medford community has this sense of pride that is just contagious. It makes you want to be a part of them. I’ve been very involved in helping Medford grow, just because of that sense of pride in the community.” Wetmore has financial service in her blood — her mother was a J.P Morgan banker as well. She started her career at Wells Fargo, which Wetmore says looking back had an unusually high proportion of women in its ranks for the time. 22 |
“I probably had a unique opportunity and access to a number of women financial advisors in my life, more than most women do,” she said. She took full advantage of that opportunity. “I’m a seeker of knowledge,” she said. “If I don’t know the answer to a question, I have to go find that answer. Talking to everyone I knew, to see if this was the right place for me, the right industry, given what I want to do, which is help people.” And now that she’s established in her field and career, Wetmore has become the woman other women considering financial careers reach out to for guidance. Her advice? Go for it, she says. “I always encourage women to take the path that they feel like is scary,” she said. “If you feel like it’s a little unsettling, that’s where you want to be, so I try to encourage women to take the fear out of the equation. If the fear wasn’t there, what would you do? “Go for it. Just take the leap.”
JULIE RETHEMEIER You have to actively look to find a community group that Julie Rethemeier isn’t involved with.
Federated Insurance’s Director of Public Affairs just finished a term as chair of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism board. She’s also past chair of the board for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a former member of the United Way board, an Owatonna Foundation trustee, a founding member of the Owatonna branch of Junior Achievement, a board member for Early Edition Rotary, on several boards for
Riverland Community College, and plenty more besides. But while she’s deeply invested in the community today, that wasn’t the case when she first arrived in town. In fact, when she first interviewed for a job at Federated, her first impression of Owatonna was … not great. “My dad drove me down and I said, ‘I don’t know, dad, I don’t know if I can live in this small town,’ and his advice, sitting at The Kitchen over a piece of pie, was, ‘just give it a year. In a year you can move back, live in my basement again if needed, but give it a year,’” she said. So she gave it a year … and then another … and then 29 total, and counting. She blames both her employer and the broader community for getting her hooked. “Federated has been very good to be,” she said. “I’ve loved the culture and environment, it’s been very good to me, and so has the community. It’s where I met my husband, had my kids.” At Federated, she began in management services, a sort of management training ground for analysts, and later spent times in operations, as human resources manager, operations again, and finally 10 years ago took the public affairs position. The company has supported and coached her at each step of the way, she said, but even so, she’s pleased to see the company take a more intentional approach in recent years to developing female leadership. “We have a women’s leadership program right now that started last year, to help women develop their skills,” said Rethemeier, who helps lead the initiative. “Federated is not any different than any other organization, in that you typically have a lot of women that are front-line supervisors, but then as you move up the chain, the number of women comes down.” Often, she said, women self-select themselves out of contention for leadership roles, for a wide variety of reasons. Rethemeier said her goal is to ensure women have the support and confidence to pursue the full scope of their abilities.
Julie Rethemeier next to a reproduction of the original entrance to Federated Insurance, where she has worked for 29 years. (William Morris)
“I feel like I’ve always had people who were willing to do that for me,” she said. “I in turn am doing that for other women at Federated in different points in their career.” www.forgesteelecounty.com | 23
MAUD VAN BUREN
members of the board.
Photo and information courtesy the Steele County Historical Society, which has more information about Maud van Buren and other women who played key roles in early Steele County history in its exhibits, “Over Here, Over There, The Great War 100” and “Constructing the Crossroads, Autos and Roads.”
The 1935 annual report of the Owatonna Public Library included numerous testimonials to the value it brought to the community, including from managers at Jostens Manufacturing Company and Minnesota Implement Mutual Fire Insurance Company (better known these days as Federated Insurance), and Associated Church minister Frank Davis, who wrote, “Possibly a Church could do intelligent and effective business in the modern age apart from a Public Library. But I gravely doubt it.” The institution they were praising, which remains a key part of civic life today, owes a great deal of its past and current stature to one woman, Maud van Buren, who made it her passion to draw readers to the fledgling public library. Van Buren holds the unusual distinction of having been named head librarian in Owatonna twice, 18 years apart. In 1902, fresh out of library school, van Buren was hired to lead the library, then only two years old. Four years later, the library board declined to renew her contract, despite multiple petition drives and community committees formed in protest. The precise reason why is not known, although current librarian Nancy Vaillancourt, in her book Owatonna Public Library: Free to All, speculates that the outspoken van Buren “may have been a challenge to some 24 |
In 1920, the board invited van Buren, who had spent the intervening years as a librarian or library school instructor elsewhere, to return to the position, which she accepted. This time she stuck, remaining through her retirement in 1936, and oversaw many important library programs, including travelling bookcases that visited rural schools and other programs that doubled library circulation between 1920 and 1930. Dissatisfied in 1929 that 69 percent of residents were registered at the library, she declared, “We shall not be quite satisfied until all adults in the city shall have made the acquaintance of books that may brighten their lives or enrich their labors.” Van Buren (who wrote a book, “Quotations for Special Occasions,” that can still be purchased today) remained in Owatonna until her death in 1959 at age 89, and her family remains in Owatonna. Grand-nephew Jim Partridge recalls visiting her — “a very prim and proper lady” — as a child, and recounts once hearing an Owatonna librarian make a passing reference to Maud, who has assumed mythic stature there. “She was totally unaware Maud was a real person,” he said. “It was just a ghost that made things happen nobody could account for that happened in the library.” Ghost or no, Maud’s impact on the library can’t be overstated, Vaillancourt wrote. “She brought a true professional attitude and expertise to the library,” Vaillancourt wrote. “Throughout her many activities … Maud van Buren had a marked influence on many individuals and on the entire community of Steele County.”
SABRA OTTESON In the 1960s, a young woman seeking employment needed an extra dose of determination, or luck, just to get her foot in the door, Sabra Otteson recalls.
“My first job, because it was the 60s, and I was a woman and married, and people didn’t look at woman who might start a family as very reliable, my first job was as a legal secretary,” she said. Photo courtesy of Sabra Otteson
But she did get that first start, and even started that family, before coming back to work at the family business, J-C Press, as a salesperson. Otteson’s grandfather, E.K. Whiting, had purchased The Chronicle in 1896, and although the company had long since left the newspaper trade, it remained active as a printer, still bearing the initials of the Journal-Chronicle newspaper. By 1984, the business was run by her father, uncle and brother, but had run into financial difficulties. Otteson was there to begin turning things around. “I took it over at the, I guess you could say suggestion of the bank? Demand of the bank?” she said.
quite unhappy that they let women join, and one man left Rotary because they let us join.” He kept placing orders with J-C, though. Otteson, who remains an Owatonna Foundation trustee, sold J-C in 2014, and today splits her time between Edina and Arizona. She’s proud to see how the community has changed since her early days in the workforce. And today, she’s proud not just that she was a successful women in business. She was successful. Full stop. “I realized, and took the posture most of the time, that I was a businessperson, not a businesswoman or businessman,” she said. “I think that’s more an accepted thing now.”
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When she took ownership, annual revenue was less than $500,000. When she finally sold the company in 2014, that number was north of $9 million. “Just a couple months ago, I found the business plan for J-C for 1985, and it was a riot,” she said, laughing. “Our goal was to reach $1 million in sales that year, for both printing and office supplies.” Otteson was one of the first sole female owners of a large business in Minnesota, and that wasn’t her only first: she was the first woman on several local and state boards, and blazed a trail for other local women business leaders. “I was one of the first three women who went into Rotary, when they first let women in,” she said. “I remember two men in particular who were
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RELEVANT, RESPONSIVE AND DIVERSE By Rosi Back, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Greater Mankato Growth
s we settle into the new year, most of us contemplate and set our goals for 2018. Let’s be sure to stick to those goals and see them through. And as we progress forward, we want to reflect and be grateful for all we have. Some of the most productive and resilient ag land in the world is right here in this vibrant region – right here in the GreenSeam. GreenSeam is not simply a place, but it is also a state of mind and being. We have a real and visceral connection to the land we stand on. We are connected to all the people and enterprises that support, supply and stand with us. And we have a heritage that links us with the hardworking past generations whose shoulders we stand upon. In Steele County, we see things continue to flourish. The October 2017 unemployment rate shows an incredibly low percentage of 2.1%. In March 2009, Steel County’s unemployment rate was at a record high of 9.7%. After eight years, the unemployment rate has dropped by 7.6%, which doesn’t just happen because of one business or organization, but because of the synergy and collaboration of an entire county. Steele County is a part of the GreenSeam region, which is made up of a diverse group of individuals and organizations. Agriculture is currently the largest business industry segment in the GreenSeam region, with more than
$15.3 billion in sales annually. Spanning an economic continuum from production processing, manufacturing, professional services, research, technology, education, transportation and more; a majority of businesses in the region are either part of the agricultural value stream or indirectly impacted. The region boasts an extensive list of agribusiness concentration and industry dominance amounting to nearly 1,000 ag-related businesses. The natural synergy of the local business community further fuels the opportunities for our region, as well as individuals seeking opportunities. The GreenSeam region has many opportunities – some that are directly connected to ag and others more indirectly connected. We should all be proud of this region and its accomplishments. One of our goals for 2018 is to continue to tell the world what the GreenSeam region has to offer. As individuals and businesses working together, we can continue to spread the word and this region will remain vibrant and diverse. That togetherness, that teamwork will promote the region like a rising tide that will lift all ships. Reflecting on 2017, GreenSeam has continued to see economic growth and investments in the future of agribusiness and a talented workforce. If you are looking for an expert or someone in the supply chain, we can help. We are here to help your idea or business flourish and expand.
facebook.com/GreenSeam • @greenseamregion • #greenseampride • #iamag
A part of Greater Mankato Growth, Inc.
That togetherness, that teamwork will promote the region like a rising tide that will lift all ships.”
Join us for the 35th Annual Rural Legislative Forum “Initiatives to Improve the Rural Economy”
Thursday, February 15, 2018 4 - 9 PM at the Verizon Center, Mankato
Register at greenseam.org/events
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 27
Water Cooler Godfrey Resigns as Tourism Director After 3 years as Tourism Director at the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Katie Godfrey has accepted a position as Communications Coordinator at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. “Katie has had a tremendous impact on attracting tourism to Owatonna,” said Brad Meier, president of the Chamber. “She will be missed here at the Chamber, but we are excited that she will still be working in the community for a great organization.” Godfrey’s last day as Tourism Director for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism was December 19th. “My time at the Chamber has been filled with working with great people who are passionate about Owatonna’s future,” said Godfrey. “It’s been an honor to work with all of you and I hope we will stay in touch.”
Historical Society names new executive director
The Board of Directors of the Steele County Historical Society is pleased to announce the hiring of James Lundgren, currently residing in Minneapolis, as the executive director of the society. James has made a career out of working for nonprofit organizations including several Minnesota county historical societies. James’ educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota with a double major of American history and American Indian studies. He also has a master’s degree in non-profit administration from Regis University in Denver. Previously he has worked as Interim Director at Grand Center for Arts & Culture, New Ulm; Director of Operations, National Museum of the Great Lakes, Toledo, OH; Executive Director, History Center of Olmstead County; Co-director of Finance and Operations, National Eagle Center, Wabasha, among others. When not working in non-profits, James has two hobbies as a reenactor and road bicyclist. James works with historic sites all over the Midwest and the Southeast to plan and implement events related to the War of 1812 and American history from 1800 to the 1850s. As a road cyclist, James is active with a club based in Wabasha, MN that organizes local and regional rides and participates in RAGBRAI which is the annual bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. The society also recently elected five board members at its Nov. 9 annual meeting, and announced seven awards for volunteers and community partners. "Year after year I’m astounded at the level of experience we’re able to access with our board,” said incoming Board President Bill Hartle. “We have a very strong leadership foundation in place and we couldn’t be more pleased with these appointments. Each of these individuals’ deep professional backgrounds and passionate commitment to history will bring insightful perspectives to our Board.” “It is an honor to recognize these individuals and groups who make a tremendous impact on SCHS and the community they serve,” said outgoing Board President Jerry Ganfield. “This year’s winners support the history of Steele County through research, funding, education and more. Their dedication is inspiring to us all.”
Jasinski named Legislator of the Year by Auto Dealers association Freshman Senator John Jasinski (R-Faribault) was named Legislator of the Year by the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association for his work on behalf of auto dealers throughout Minnesota during the 2017 legislative session. MADA has not awarded the honor since 2011.
Senator John Jasinski with Greg House of House Chevrolet Buick Cadillac in Owatonna and Steve Brown of Harry Brown's Automotive in Faribault
Jasinski won the award after his efforts in support of policies that help Minnesota’s auto dealers, like investigating the failed rollout of Minnesota’s new vehicle license and registration system, and for his authorship of Senate File 2149, which allows auto dealers to recoup administrative costs lost due to complying with certain regulations.
“I could not be more appreciative to MADA for this honor,” said Sen. Jasinski. “Auto dealers are a crucial industry to Minnesota’s economic success. It’s been tremendous working with MADA to help these businesses continue delivering excellent service to their customers. I look forward to building on this partnership in the years to come.”
Habitat for Humanity Director accepts new position Pat Heydon, Executive Director, announces her resignation effective December 29, 2017 as she has accepted a new position with Habitat for Humanity International. Heydon remarked, “While I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an organization that makessuch a profound impact in the lives of families and this community, I look forward to the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity International and with affiliates across the country.” Pat will join the Operational Excellence Department with Habitat International in January 2018. Since joining this affiliate, Heydon has led the completion of four new home constructions, implemented new programs, and developed a larger presence in the communities served by this affiliate. Pat is planning to continue supporting this affiliate in a volunteer role.
Marco purchases BusinessWare Solutions Marco, a leading technology services provider, has announced that it has purchased BusinessWare Solutions, an IT services and managed print company headquartered in Hutchinson, Minnesota. They also have locations in Owatonna, Willmar and Chanhassen. BusinessWare Solutions has been providing its clients with technology solutions since 1994. Its employees have joined the Marco team and will be serving clients from each of the existing markets. “This purchase compliments the technical expertise and service offerings Marco currently provides throughout the state of Minnesota,” said Jeff Gau, Marco CEO. “We look forward to continuing BusinessWare’s commitment to satisfying its clients and providing opportunities for their valued employees.” Marco has 1,140 employees and serves more than 32,500 customers from its 49 locations throughout the Midwest and nationally. There are 16 Marco locations throughout Minnesota.
Profinium raises $24,000 for Unique Giving Campaign Profinium employees and members of their board of directors donated more than $24,000 to their Achieving Dreams Together campaign, aimed at helping people during pivotal moments in their lives, where a small gesture during the holiday season can truly make a difference. “Profinium is a banking and full financial health solutions center; and our purpose is ‘Achieving Dreams Together,’ says Marques Doppler, Profinium Chief Executive Officer. “Helping our clients achieve their dreams is at the core of what we every day, and this campaign has brought it to life in ways even we couldn’t predict, from replacing a washer and dryer set to helping grieving families, it has truly made a difference.” Profinium partnered with Radio Mankato, KOWZ in Owatonna and KBEW in Blue Earth to promote the program, asking for nominations from the public through December 17. By partnering with local businesses for discounted or at cost services and materials, they were able to fulfill 21 of the nominations.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 29
Around the Water Cooler Eric Thronson Joins Ameriprise Financial
Cash Wise Liquor, Holiday Inn support hospice Board members of The Homestead Hospice House accept a check for $3,339 from Dave Isaacson from Cash Wise Liquor. The amount was money raised from a Wine and Beer tasting Cash Wise Liquor and the Holiday Inn put on for the Homestead Hospice House in September.
U.S. Bank announces tax reform investments U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), parent company of U.S. Bank, has announced investments in its employees, the U.S. Bank Foundation and several strategic projects as a result of the tax reform package. Management has made the following decisions: A special $1,000 bonus for nearly 60,000 employees; Raising minimum wage to $15 for all hourly employees; A one-time $150 million contribution to the U.S. Bank Foundation; Enhancements to employees' health care offerings effective for the 2019 enrollment period; and An additional investment in strategic projects centered on the customer experience with an emphasis on digital and mobile capabilities. "We believe that tax reform is positive for the U.S. economy because it provides an immediate opportunity to benefit our employees, our communities and our customers," said Andy Cecere, President and Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Bancorp. "We are proud of our people and their commitment to our customers and communities. We felt it was important to reward their hard work and dedication with this special bonus, the minimum wage increase and the health care enhancements." 30 |
Eric Thronson has joined the Austin office of Wealth Management Solutions, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. as a Financial Advisor. Wealth Management Solutions is made up of 34 advisors and staff across six Minnesota locations. Thronson has 9 years of experience in the financial industry and an additional 8 years of experience as a regional retirement plan and pension consultant designing plans for corporations all over the upper Midwest. His practice is highly focused on financial planning and business retirement plans. Thronson and his wife and 4 children reside in Kasson. As a financial advisory practice, Wealth Management Solutions provides financial advice that is anchored in a solid understanding of client needs and expectations, and provided in one-on-one relationships with their clients. Want to share your company's news?
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Around the Water Cooler Owatonna Foundation celebrates project completion Recently, members of the Owatonna Foundation Board of Trustees, along with staff and board members from the Hospitality House, celebrated the completion of a Foundationfunded project to improve the laundry facilities and lower level living quarters at the Hospitality House. Hospitality House offers temporary and emergency accommodations for men who are transitioning through homelessness.
Pictured left to right are Foundation Trustees Dave Einhaus and Ray Stawarz; Larry McGraw, Brad Vettrus and Tim McManimon of Home Federal, and Trustees Julie Rethemeier, Betsy Lindgren and Bill Beer. (submitted photo)
The home receives no government funding and currently provides shelter to 17 men. “We are extremely grateful to the Owatonna Foundation for their support of this project. This beautiful, historic home is a welcome respite for our clients, but there are always maintenance and improvement projects for us to deal with to keep the home in good condition and safe and secure for those we serve.” said Mary Carstensen, the facilities manager. Pete Connor, who serves as the Hospitality Board President stated “The Owatonna Foundation has long served our community by supporting worthy projects. We are very appreciative of their ongoing support of the Hospitality House and the men we serve.” The Foundation also has received gifts from several local businesses, including a $2,500 donation made by Home Federal Savings Bank; a $500 donation made by Community Bank; and a $2,500 donation made by AmesburyTruth.
NAMESTOKNOW GAUHER "MO" MOHAMMAD
When Gauher Mohammad joined the team Doherty in 2001 as a service manager, he quickly began putting into practice the skills he learned while earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Soon, Mohammad — or "Mo," as everyone calls him — rose to his current position of vice president of the Minnesota-based staffing firm. Besides his work at Doherty’s Owatonna office, Mohammad is an active leader in the community. He serves in leadership roles for the American Staffing Association, the Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association, the Owatonna Human Rights Commission and the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. When it comes to education, he holds positions on the curriculum advisory board for Rasmussen College in Mankato, the Liz Moen Scholarship Fund and the Foundation board for Riverland Community College, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate. Faith is also important to Mohammad, and he enjoys discussing and clearing up misconceptions about the religion of Islam. He has spoken at public events on the topics of the changing faces of the Muslim community and religion vs. culture. Overall, he works to strengthen the community through education and a healthy economy. www.forgesteelecounty.com | 31
REAL ESTATE NEWS Justin Ohnstad SEMAR
COMMUNICATION AND EMPATHY: KEYS TO SUCCESS IN REAL ESTATE
omen make up 62 percent of Realtors in the United States. They have a variety of positions within the business of real estate: some are agents, others are managers, still others are owners and real estate trade association executives. I am privileged to work for a company that is managed by a female broker. When I put the question of why we saw success for our female colleagues, Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors CEO Karen Becker told me, “Over the last 20 years, I’ve witnessed the number of women entering the real estate industry rise sharply, as is true in many areas of business. Part of women’s success in real estate is their ability to be empathetic with their clients, tough negotiators and the fact that they tend to keep in touch with clients long past the closing. They are often strong communicators. All of these skills are an advantage when navigating the average 182 steps in a real estate transaction. They are also drawn to the flexibility of the career and the knowledge that there is no “glass ceiling” to punch through – their success is their own.” It’s not just the real estate business but the mortgage and title industries that have a business model that encourages women to succeed. In many cases, your entire home-buying or selling transaction may be handled by women.
Real estate is a fantastic career for both men and women. I would encourage you to reach out to your Realtor with any questions you might have about the business and how you can be a part of it. When you talk to your Realtor, be sure to ask whether now might be a good time to sell your current home. We have an incredibly low inventory of houses for sale. If you have considered selling your home in the past and felt the value wasn’t there or it just wasn’t a good time, spring is right around the corner and you are in a good position to reconsider your decision. Interest rates are starting to go up, and soon we will see new construction pick up, making this one of the best times in the last decade to sell your house. In the last year, we have seen the number of homes for sale decline. The number of closed transactions is down 10 percent from last year – mostly because of the lack of inventory. The best news is the median sale price is up almost 4 percent from the year before. The average days on market is down from 73 days to just 63 days on the market. So if you’re ready to sell your home, odds are good that there’s someone out there who can’t wait to buy it. Ask your Realtor how to get the process started. Justin Ohnstad is president of Southeast Minnesota REALTORS© and is an ERA Gillespie agent based in Owatonna.
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James Figy FEAtURE WRITER
Bob Kill - CEO Enterprise Minnesota
Owatonna peer council member Steve Cremer, president of Harmony Enterprises speaks at an Enterprise Minnesota business event, which was open to all manufacturers.
ENTERPRISE MINNESOTA PEER COUNCIL SUPPORTS MANUFACTURING CEOS
hen Tracy Humann took the help of Telamco employees over as CEO of Telamco in and the Enterprise Minnesota peer 2013, she knew little about council for CEOs in Owatonna. manufacturing. She understood Manufacturing business owners how to run a business from her 20 from across southern Minnesota years as the director of a Montessori travel to Steele County to receive preschool. feedback and stay current But making with the industry at monthly membrane peer council meetings. "One of the things switches and Humann said her father had that I’ve learned keypads was been a member of the peer more the through the group council for years. However, domain of she didn’t join until one … is that whether her father, of his former colleagues Phil Telander, you’re big or small, suggested it during her first who founded few months at Telamco. everybody deals the Lonsdale with the same Whether one is a new company owner or a manufacturing in 1968. problems." veteran, the Owatonna peer The transition ~ Tracy Humann, Telamco council and similar councils wasn’t optimal, statewide are designed but nothing to benefi t all professionals in the about the situation was. “My dad industry, according to Enterprise had been diagnosed with leukemia, Minnesota CEO Bob Kill. and we thought we were going to have six to nine months, and we had “Peer councils around the state less than three,” Humann said. “I … serve as, first, a networking started here on December 3, and opportunity because sometimes my dad passed away on the 13th owning and running a business of December. So we very literally is a little lonely. But, second, they worked together for eight hours.” act as advisory boards, because What brought her up to speed was they hold each other accountable
as if they have an advisory board,” Kill said. “So it’s an important part of engaging with the clients and helping them get to the next level on a vitality and growth journey.”
BUILDING AN ORGANIZATION FOR MANUFACTURERS Enterprise Minnesota’s story begins in 1987 when the state legislature formed the public Greater Minnesota Corporation. According to the organization’s website, it morphed into “a publicly funded economic development organization” called Minnesota Technology, Inc. from 1991 to 2003. After becoming a private 501(c)(3) organization in 2004, it adopted its current name in 2008. While Enterprise Minnesota has always helped companies improve processes and cut costs to bolster their lean manufacturing practices, its focus has changed a little over the years. The organization now assists companies with quality management systems, ISO certification, strategic plans, marketing and developing employees through workforce training.
President of Harmony Enterprises Steve Cremer (left) and President of PlastiCert, Inc. Craig Porter (right), both Owatonna peer council members, speak on a panel at Enterprise Minnesota's 2017 State of Manufacturing – Southern Minnesota event.
The help comes in a few forms. First, the organization’s business experts provide one-on-one consultation services for more than 100 companies each year. Second, about 100 members take part in peer councils across the state that are geared toward professionals in various roles, whether owners, entrepreneurs, operations managers or second-generation leaders. Being open and trusting is important, so competing businesses aren’t allowed to be in the same council. The Owatonna group started 15 years ago, becoming the first peer council. Some of the 12 companies currently in it have participated for more than a decade, including Akkerman Inc. in Brownsdale, Harmony Enterprises in Harmony and Hanson Silo Company in Lake Lillian. Peer council membership is $4,800 for one year. But it’s worth it for those looking to improve their business practices, such as Pat McDermott, president of J-C Press in Owatonna. “The great value in Enterprise Minnesota, from my perspective, is they all have significant experience in running businesses or functional areas,” said McDermott, who has been a member for nearly two years. “Their experiences are realworld, in-the-trenches sort of stuff.”
MEETINGS THAT MATTER The Owatonna peer council meets
Manufacturers gather for a statewide peer council event in 2016. (Photos courtesy of Enterprise Minnesota)
every third Monday of the month for Instead, the peer council has had a about four hours. The meetings begin cumulative effect from many small with each member giving an update pieces of advice and information. and asking for advice “It’s just been very on “fast burn” problems, beneficial to discuss "It’s just been such as the rising cost topics, success and of healthcare or a very beneficial issues with other struggling employee, business owners who to discuss topics, according to Humann. have been through success and “It was first described similar circumstances,” issues with other to me as: ‘a situation he said. “Their business owners that is keeping you up perspectives on who have been at night,’” she said. how to approach business challenges through similar After that, the are invaluable.” meetings often feature circumstances." presentations on a ~Pat McDermott, J-C Press Sometimes, the peer particular topic from councils visit a group Enterprise Minnesota member’s facilities to consultants or outside industry observe the practices, which allows experts. Peer council members are them to give more specific feedback. able to talk over the issues with the Human enjoys seeing the processes speaker and one another to share at each plant — everything from their concerns and experiences. welding to injection molding. One session that Humann found Telamco is different from the very useful was with a marketing others in many ways, she said. firm from Hutchinson. She probably But there’s one thing that unites never would’ve heard of the company, the peer council’s members. being 70 miles away, but the “We are probably the smallest presentation sold her on hiring it. company within my peer group — “I loved what they had to say, I loved employee size and dollar size — but how they worked, and we have been one of the things that I’ve learned with them for just over a year. I see through the group … is that whether huge results, lots of changes,” she said. you’re big or small, everybody deals with the same problems,” For McDermott, there hasn’t been she said. “It’s sometimes nice to one single takeaway from his time in the council that has revolutionized know that you’re not the only one how he operates J-C Press. that has to go through this.” www.forgesteelecounty.com | 35
PARTNERS FOR GROWTH Tom Kuntz OPED
TIF DISTRICTS LET CITIES PAY IT FORWARD WITH TAXABLE GROWTH
erry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. I hope everyone had a very blessed Christmas and will safely enjoy the New Year.
In October of last year, my wife and I took a trip out East, and in the Providence Journal was an article on Tax Increment Financing. The article said, City officials have mapped out a 60 to 70-acre swath, covering downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, where they would dedicate new property tax revenue to cover the city’s investment in a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. How a TIF district works: A tax-increment financing district is a way of paying for part or all of a project by setting aside tax revenues that result from the project. It captures some or all of the extra revenue paid in taxes by new development, redevelopment of once-vacant properties in the district or by increased property values. An example would be a vacant building that generates $1,000 a year in taxes. A new developer renovates the property into apartments and/or retail space. The new facility now generates $10,000 a year in taxes. The city could use the difference of $9,000 a year for a period of, say, 10 years to help up front with the development. After the ten-year time period, the whole $10,000 generated by taxes goes back into the general fund.
on how the increment is spent too. TIF eligible expenses include: land acquisition, demolition and relocation, site improvements, environmental cleanup, parking, utilities, streets, sidewalks and building rehab for substandard housing. Owatonna uses TIF for that very reason to improve property values and increase tax revenue for the great City of Owatonna. In 2017 we purchased 122 Vine Street (which was the Arnold house) and used TIF to help develop Ace Hardware. This neglected property sat empty for years due to barriers to redevelopment such as potential soil contamination, asbestos removal and costs of demolition. TIF dollars were used for purchase of the property, demolition and the public parking lot. This is a good example of how tax increment financing is used to increase the city tax base over time and help redevelop properties. Tom Kuntz is the Mayor of Owatonna and a member of Owatonna Partners for Economic Development.
TIF is used to encourage three general types of private development: redevelopment, growth in low- to moderate- income housing and economic development. Such districts are created for a certain number of years depending on the type of district. After they expire, new tax revenue again flows into the community’s general fund. All TIF districts must meet a “But for” test. The development is only possible but for the use of tax increment financing. An elected body must make this finding. There are strict restrictions
The 150-year-old Arnold Hotel, which sat vacant and boarded up for more than a decade, was finally removed last year to make way for a new Ace Hardware store, thanks in part to a TIF district created by the city to pay for part of the project. (Southern Minn Media photo)
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HEALTHY WORKPLACE Kristina Rauenhorst, M.D MCHS
PREGNANCY AFTER 35:
HEALTHY MOMS, HEALTHY BABIES
f you're older than 35 and hoping to get pregnant, or have women in your company planning to start a family, you're in good company. Many women are delaying pregnancy well into their 30s and beyond — and delivering healthy babies. Take special care of yourself to give your baby the best start. The biological clock is a fact of life — but there's nothing magical about age 35. It's simply the age that's considered the threshold for various risks. For example: • It may take longer to get pregnant. You're born with all the eggs you'll ever have. As you reach your early 30s, the eggs tend to decline in quality — and you may ovulate less frequently, even if you're still having regular periods. Does this mean you can't get pregnant? Of course not. It may simply take longer. • You're more likely to have a multiple pregnancy. Agerelated hormonal changes may cause you to release more than one egg at a time, which boosts the odds of conceiving nonidentical (fraternal) twins. The use of assisted reproductive technologies — such as in vitro fertilization — also may play a role. • You're a little more likely to develop gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs only during pregnancy, and it's more common as women get older. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help to decrease this risk.
• Your chances of needing a C-section are increased. Many factors may be at play here. Older mothers have a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications — such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and placenta previa. These problems can lead to a C-section delivery. Labor problems tend to be more common in first-time mothers older than age 35. And if you're carrying twins or other multiples, you'll likely need a C-section. • The risk of chromosome abnormalities increases with age. Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosome problems, such as Down syndrome, and after age 35, the increase in risk is substantially higher each year. • The risk of miscarriage is higher. The risk of miscarriage also increases as you get older — perhaps due to the higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities. Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. Pay special attention to the basics. Make a preconception appointment to make sure your body is prepared for the task ahead, seek regular prenatal care during pregnancy, eat healthfully, gain weight wisely, stay physically active unless your health care provider prescribes bed rest, avoid risky substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and learn about prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities. The choices you make now — even before conception — can have a lasting effect on your baby. Think of pregnancy as an opportunity to nurture your baby and prepare for the exciting changes ahead. Kristina Rauenhorst, M.D. is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and sees patients at Mayo Clinic Health System in Faribault.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 39
DASHBOARD Comparison Report of building in Owatonna 2016/17 120000000
2016 Total YTD 2016 Industrial YTD
2016 Commercial YTD
2017 Total YTD 2017 Industrial YTD
2017 Commercial YTD 40000000 20000000 0 Millions
Source: City of Owatonna
Comparison Report of Homes for Sale to Newly Listed Homes Owatonna
2016 New Home Listings
2017 New Home Listings
2016 Homes for Sale
2017 Homes for Sale
2016 New Home Listings
2017 New Home Listings
2016 Homes for Sale
2017 Homes for Sale
25 20 15 10 5 0
30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates 5
Jan Feb Mar April May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Source: Freddie Mac
Number of Homes Sold OWATONNA
BY THE NUMBERS
UNEMPLOYMENT 2016 REPORT 2017
Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped to a 17-year low in December according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Jan Feb Mar April May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Here’s what the numbers show: • Statewide unemployment fell to 3.1 percent, the lowest since July 2000. • 8,900 additional jobs added in December, including 8,700 new private-sector jobs. • Leading job-creators in 2017 were Education and Health services (12,626) and construction (9,394) • Over the full year, the state gained 44,200 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent. That equals the overall U.S. job growth rate in 2017. • Unemployment among black Minnesotans fell to 7.5 percent, the lowest number on record
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 41
Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
O WA T ONN A T OURISM O WA T ONN A T OURISM
February and March bring major tradeshows as well as fun local events like Around the World Food & Brewfest and the Little Theatre’s, A Streetcar Upcoming Events Named February Desire. Details at visitowatonna.org. and March bring major tradeshows as well as fun local events
like Around the World Food & Brewfest and the Little Theatre’s, A Streetcar Named Desire. Details at visitowatonna.org.
In 2017 Group the Chamber Tours booked 38 group tours at attractions like the 2017 theBank, Chamber booked 38 group tours attractions like the NationalInFarmers’ Orphanage Museum, andatVillage of Yesteryear.
National Farmers’ Bank, Orphanage Museum, and Village of Yesteryear.
A Great Year for Travel
2017 was a great year for Owatonna tourism. Occupancy in the lodging properties increased by 7% from the previous year! 2018 looks to be a A Great Year for Travel healthy year 2017 wastravel a great yearasforwell. Owatonna tourism. Occupancy in the lodging properties increased by 7% from the previous year! 2018 looks to be a healthy travel year as well.
Visitor Guides Does your business need 2018 Owatonna Visitor Guides and Maps? Give DoesChamber your business 2018 Owatonna Visitor Guides Give the a callneed at 507-451-7970 and we will addand youMaps? to our route. the Chamber a call at 507-451-7970 and we will add you to our route.
Reunion in Reunion
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For more information about the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, go to
CALENDAR OF EVENTS Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
2018 EVENTS $15 for event or $40 for a Y-Pro Pass (includes 8 programs)
February 22: Lunch N Learn
BUSINESS BOOT CAMP Location: Owatonna Public Library – Gainey Room Time: Noon to 1 p.m.
Home Buying, Selling & Renting
Thursday, February 15, 2018
April 26: Social Event
Navigating Federal Tax Reform.
Owatonna Public Utilities – Morehouse Room | Noon to 1 p.m.
Location to be determined | Noon to 1 p.m.
Thursday, March 15, 2018 TOPIC:
What You Need to Know
Customer Service in a Digital Age Speaker: Holly Sobrack
BUSINESS AFTER HOURS 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
FEBRUARY Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Location: NEW Arrow Ace Hardware, 122 W Vine Street
MARCH Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Location: Home Federal Savings NEW location (Former Dunn Brothers Coffee)
www.owatonna.org or call 507-451-7970 or email email@example.com
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 43
Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
Future Focus Future Focus share the message share the message
2018 2019 2020 The Mission
Advancing the prosperity of our member businesses and the vitality of the area.
The Guiding Principles · Responsibility Accountable for managing and governing the OACCT with integrity.
Develop Talent Develop Talent Restore the Core Restore the Core Strengthen Economy Strengthen Economy Attract Tourism Attract Tourism
· Relationships Open communications and transparency in all endeavors to benefit the OACCT, members and the area. · Representation Recognizing the diverse needs of businesses with innovative approaches, solutions and determined leadership.
Attract & Retain Attract & Retain Talent: Attract, develop and Talent: retain a highly qualified, Attract, develop and well-trained workforce retain a highly qualified, capable of meeting well-trained workforce the area’s employment capable of meeting needs. the area’s employment needs.
Restore the Core: Restore the Core:
Revitalize Owatonna’s Downtown District to Revitalize Owatonna’s become a vibrant and Downtown District to economic center of become a vibrant and community life. of economic center community life.
Champion a Strong Champion a Strong Economy: Advocate for probusinessEconomy: policies, be a
Advocate for on prokey resource combusiness policies, munity issues andbe a key resourcewith on comcollaborate partmunity issues and ners on local economic collaborate with partdevelopment. ners on local economic development.
Position Owatonna as a destination for leisure, Position Owatonna as meeting/convention, a destination for leisure, tournament, reunion meeting/convention, and group tour travel. tournament, reunion and group tour travel.
320 Hoffman Dr., Owatonna, MN 55060 | 507.451.7970 | firstname.lastname@example.org | owatonna.org | 320 Hoffman Dr., Owatonna, MN 55060 | 507.451.7970 | email@example.com | owatonna.org |
Attract Tourism: Attract Tourism:
Southern Minn Media photos
LOCAL FOODS, LOCAL DOLLARS FUEL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAMS
slice of pizza, a mound of fruit, one of those little milk cartons â€” school lunches might not seem too complex. But for local school districts, lunch programs create a challenge.
Steele County schools must provide nutritious meals that meet federal standards while also being mindful of the cost to their taxpayers. Owatonna Public Schools chooses to handle food service on its own, while the Medford and Blooming Prairie school districts choose to hire an outside company to take care of it. The goal is to create delicious meals for all students, according to Amanda Heilman, director of finance and operations for Owatonna Public Schools. To do
so, it employs 25 full-time and 24 part-time employees who work in the kitchens, the offices or as couriers. Both Medford and Blooming Prairie schools contract with Minnetonka-based catering and food services company Taher.
Medford has 905 students and budgeted $534,100 for lunch for the 2017-2018 school year, which equals about $590 per student. Blooming Prairie has 728 students and budgeted $435,654, which equals about $598 per student. Owatonna has about 5,000 students and budgeted $3,015,575, which equals about $600 per student. But the numbers alone donâ€™t give a full picture of what the school districts must provide. www.forgesteelecounty.com | 45
“School lunch programs are expected to be self-supporting and have a completely separate fund than the district general fund,” Heilman said. “Many people don’t realize that we are expected to cover all expenses, including items like lunchroom supervision and ‘chargebacks’ for utilities and custodial services.” Other issues that affect cost are stricter USDA standards for school lunch programs, as well as the decision to buy from local produce growers and suppliers.
In December 2010, then-President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. The bill’s goal was to promote healthy eating. The formal rule came two years later, with guidance from first lady Michelle Obama and thenAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
While the policy set a high mark, it hasn’t seemed to hit it consistently. In a 2014 report from the USDA, most food service managers said they had experienced difficulty in maintaining expenses and getting students to accept menus since the changes took effect. More than 60 percent reported a rise in wasted cooked and raw vegetables, and almost 50 percent reported a rise in wasted fruit and bread or grain items.
“This rule requires most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took measures earlier this year to reduce financial burdens. His memo from the USDA loosened standards on whole grains, salt and milk.
RISING TO MEET A HIGH STANDARD
sodium, saturated fat and trans fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements,” state the guidelines in the Federal Register. “These improvements to the school meal programs, largely based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, are expected to enhance the diet and health of school children, and help mitigate the childhood obesity trend.”
However, Heilman said that Owatonna schools did not see a large impact from the regulations. The school district considers each product’s quality, cost and the likelihood students will accept it — in addition to meeting USDA standards — before approving it for use in a new menu.
“We continue to successfully meet all required nutrition standards while maintaining our budget,” Heilman said. “Our district began making changes toward these nutrition standards before we were required to, so it wasn’t as big of a change as it might (Photo by William Morr have been for other districts. ”
GOING TO THE SOURCE All schools are serving more fruits and vegetables, but choosing to hire out food services rather than run them in-house can cause the district to lose some control over the source. According to Taher, the company’s school lunch service provides an abundance of options for students, using fresh, healthy products. “We’ll go above and beyond your school board’s requirements by taking
the lead on progressive nutritional guidelines, implementing forwardthinking environmental practices, and, of course, easing the strain on your district’s overworked budget,” the company’s website says. However, it is not clear how much is sourced from local suppliers and growers. Blooming Prairie Superintendent Barry Olson said the district has no control over those issues. And the definition of local produce can sometimes be vague, making it unclear how far food has traveled. On the other hand, Owatonna schools receive most foods from their primary supplier, Upper Lakes Foods in Cloquet, and their produce
comes from Bergin Fruit & Nut in St. Paul, according to Heilman. “Both of these distributors will carry various Minnesota-grown products throughout the year. We are able to order directly from a local supplier if we go through the appropriate channels,” she said, adding that the district defines “local” as coming from within 100 miles. This allows Owatonna schools to pump money back into the area’s economy, even if the average price per student is slightly higher. Heilman said the school district spent $50,000 on local products in the 2016-2017 school year. “We get a variety of produce from
southern and central Minnesota in the fall, including watermelon, kohlrabi, corn on the cob, cantaloupe, zucchini, among others. Most of these items are purchased through our prime vendor and produce supplier,” she said. “We purchase Bushel Boy tomatoes from Owatonna throughout the entire year. Previously, we’ve purchased apples from Johnson’s Oakside Orchard in Ellendale.” It’s a balancing act for school administrators who must decide how much control is worth the cost to serve up a healthy lunch every day, but local school districts work hard to ensure children go home each day with a full stomach.
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START INVESTING IN "WORKERS OF TOMORROW" TODAY The No. 1 issue for today’s employers is recruiting, training and retaining employees from a shrinking pool, according to Bob Kill, CEO of manufacturing consultancy Enterprise Minnesota. "We’re now competing for the workers of tomorrow in every industry," said Kill, who has served in executive positions at Ciprico, Northern Telecom and the Burroughs Corporation over his career. "...You need to make the investments — whether it’s automation, whether it’s continuous improvement, whether it’s developing your young leaders. You need to make the investments today like never before to do more with the same number of people." Employers should add automation that allows people to move up in the company, rather than eliminating jobs. However, as the best employees rise in the ranks, it’s important to offer enough training that they can be effective in their new roles. This is often lacking, especially for employees promoted to management, Kill said. "Whether it’s leading of people or leading of a function, process improvement is only sustainable in an organization by engaging the people and getting them to understand why this makes their job easier, why this offers a career opportunity and why it will make the company a more viable employer in a smaller community."
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KNOW THE LAW Mark Carver Attorney
FINDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
ccording to a recent report from the Minnesota Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women, there are over 150,000 businesses owned by women in Minnesota, which employ around 200,000 people and generate almost $25 billion in annual revenues. And there are some great opportunities out there to assist women who want to add their own business to those numbers. The first step for any entrepreneur is to do your research and put a business plan together. Do you have a viable product? How can you bring it to market in a profitable way? One local and free resource is the Owatonna Area Business Development Center, formerly the Incubator. The OABDC can help you with your business plan and in a variety of other ways. You will then want to choose your business entity. There are a variety of entities to choose from including simple single-member LLCs (limited liability companies), multi-member LLCs, S-corporations, C-corporations, professional corporations and
partnerships. There are specific legal and tax implications for each entity and you are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney and an accountant in choosing the specific entity that best suits your business. Don’t forget to look into any applicable licensing requirements as well. From there, most people will seek financing from a lending institution and engage in some form of marketing to get their new business off the ground. For women, there are several opportunities that are not available to everyone. The Minnesota Department of Administration has a Targeted Group Small Business Procurement Program for women who both own and run their own
businesses. This program can provide specific advantages for businesses that market their products or services to the state of Minnesota or that bid on state construction projects. There are a variety of grants available to women entrepreneurs as well. Womensnet.net can provide you with an exhaustive list of grants available to women business owners. Another resource for women entrepreneurs is the National Association of Women Business Owners – Minnesota. This association provides networking and mentorship resources for women business leaders in every stage of the business development cycle. If this is the year you start your own business, I wish you the best of luck. In the words of one of the most successful business women ever, “Don’t worry about being successful, but work toward being significant, and the success will naturally follow.” – Oprah Winfrey Attorney Mark Carver practices law with Einhaus, Mattison, Carver & Haberman, P.A., in downtown Owatonna.
www.forgesteelecounty.com | 49
Anna Vangsness FEAtURE WRITER
WARMING UP WINTER FOR 40 YEARS
t’s no secret that Minnesota winters can be brutal, but for 40 years, Mount Kato has been working hard to introduce people to a number of sports that can turn a long, dreadful winter into a season of fun.
Located on Highway 66 in Mankato, Mount Kato offers 19 ski runs, telemark skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing. It’s the only ski hill in southern Minnesota, and thus draws thousands of people from the area and as far away as Yankton and Sioux Falls, SD. That’s one of the reasons why Paul Augustine purchased the business in 1978. “The Augustines originally purchased Mount Kato because they saw a need for skiing in the area,” Mount Kato Ski Instructor and social media and website manager Bruce Prehn said. “To this day, we still get people from northern and western Iowa and South Dakota. Even ski areas in South Dakota are very small compared to Mount Kato. The strategy when the family purchased it was to capture that market and they did a great job.” 50 |
Mount Kato has continued to expand and grow over the past four decades and has brought an economic opportunity to the area for residents. Though there are just five year-round employees, the number jumps to 250 seasonal employees in the wintertime. “The biggest thing we want to do is introduce as many people as we can to the different sports in the winter time,” Prehn said. “A lot of people aren’t doing things outside in the winter, but skiing and snowboarding are things you can do your whole life.” Having been employed by Mount Kato for much of its tenure in Mankato, Prehn has seen the popularity of skiing and snowboarding increase. Whether it’s with a day pass or season pass, skiers and snowboarders flock to Mount Kato eager to fly down one of the ski runs or hit the terrain parks. Mount Kato started as a ski area and ski school, Prehn said. Now, they have a large following for their alternative snow sports such as snowboarding and telemark skiing, which is a skiing technique that
combines alpine and Nordic skiing. The increasingly popular telemark skiing uses terrain parks with jumps and obstacles to challenge skiers. “Terrain parks were originally for snowboarders, but ski areas have started building them,” Prehn explained. “We’ve built one that has rails, pipes, a boat and a Volkwagen Bug that skiers can bounce off of, corrugated plastic tubing and jumps.” The park crew works hard each year designing the terrain park at Mount Kato. They even have a progression park for the ski school, which has moveable features with PVC pipes on the ground to introduce people to the terrain park in a safe manner. “It’s up to the imagination of the park crew about what they come up with,” Prehn said. “Above all, they keep safety in mind and make sure the transitions are in good working order.” Mount Kato hasn’t forgotten about those who don’t ski or snowboard, either. They also offer snow tubing, which includes two conveyor lifts to get up the hills. “It’s cool to have families come
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Serving Owatonna & Surrounding Area Family Owned Since 1984! This year, Mount Kato celebrates its 40th year in business. With 19 ski runs, telemark skiing, snowboarding and tubing, Mount Kato offers something for just about everyone. (Photos by Anna Vangsness)
out or bring their families on ski vacations,” Prehn said. “We have people well into their 90s that come out every day, too. Everything at Mount Kato is a sport you can do throughout your lifetime.”
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"The biggest thing we want to do is introduce as many people as we can to the different sports in the winter time."
~ Bruce Prehn
Mount Kato has you covered if you’re looking for a place to downhill ski, snowboard or try telemark skiing, but the Mankato area also offers an abundance of winter activities, as well. Heather Curling Club If you’re interested in trying your hand at curling and you’re at Mount Kato, head just down the road to the curling capitol of southern Minnesota, Mapleton. See what curling is all about during open league on Wednesday nights, January through March. All Seasons Arena Maybe your forte is more gliding on ice rather than snow. If that sounds like you, All Seasons Arena in Mankato is an indoor ice rink that is dedicated to both open hockey and public skating. Winter trails Bicycling isn’t just for spring and summer anymore. With oversized tires designed for riding on soft, unstable terrain, a fat bike lets you hit the Sakatah State Trail or Red Jacket trail in Mankato year-round. Nicollet Bike Shop has fat bikes for rent by the day or week.
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MARKETING ADVICE EVERY BUSINESS PERSON SHOULD KNOW In this day and age, content marketing has become the number one way to attract the attention of the right audience and increase consumer engagement. According to Forbes, there are a handful of marketing tips everyone needs to know in order to be successful.
Use Facebook to your advantage: Social ads are a great way to amplify the reach of your content marketing. Even a $1020 boost on Facebook can go a long way. Don’t use click-bait: The closer you get to having headlines that resemble click-bait, the more hesitant that your audience may become. Skip the obscure language and stick with short, simple titles that don’t leave the reader struggling to understand what you’re writing about.
Create a plan: Use a checklist and stick to it for each post that lists all of the social channels and applications you plan on using to promote your content.
Look into your analytics: Keeping an eye on your Facebook, Google or Twitter analytics will help you keep track of the most popular topics and content types that are driving traffic to your site.
Use a domain: Promote your content through a .com domain as often as possible. This helps bring people to your website and lets your content have a more permanent online home
Not sure what to do after school? Looking for help getting your first job? Steelecoworks.com can help. This website features a tab with the steps you need to get started, links to information about job and training opportunities in a variety of fields and an interactive searchable jobs database. In addition, you can schedule one on one appointments to help you figure out your next steps. Contact Anisha Zak to learn more through her OHS school email or AnishaZak@ workforcedevelopmentinc.org.
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Our Welding Repair shop is experienced in all areas of welding. From big jobs to small, we’ve seen it all. Equipment repairs including; agricultural, commercial, livestock, industrial and construction. Metal Services’ portable repair trucks can bring this service right to your door. We specialize in piping and maintenance projects at your location.
Manufacturing Career Opportunities are Endless South Central College’s manufacturing apprenticeship programs follow a Learn Work Earn model. Apprentices work for area manufacturers while going to school, allowing them to earn wages while gaining experience in the field. By combining on-the-job training with traditional classroom instruction, we help you master your technical skills and earn the life you want.
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IN THE APRIL/MAY
PUTTING THE CASH IN CASH CROP Minnesota farmers harvest about 8 million acres of corn, and 7.5 million of soybeans, each year. These two crops between them are worth more than $8.5 billion to the state and power the economic engines of counties and communities all across the state. In the April/May 2018 edition of Forge Magazine, weâ€™ll be finding out where all that corn and soybean production is going, and why those crops are the indispensable staples of Minnesotaâ€™s agricultural economy. Check back as always for key economic indicators, local employment news, and deep reporting into topics of import to local businesses and influencers. Got a question, suggestion or idea? Let us know at FORGE@Owatonna.com. See you in the spring!
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