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William Morris Associate Editor

Volume 1, Issue 2 – June 2017


mong its many other sterling qualities, one of my favorite things about June is that it’s the start of outdoor concert season. There’s no better way to spend a summer evening than watching a concert in the park, and the annual 11@7 series in Central Park is just the beginning. From Smokin’ in Steele to the Steele County Free Fair, hardly a week goes by without a great chance to kick back with a drink and enjoy some summer music.

If music isn’t your thing? Read on to find out what impact tourism has on the local economy, and what’s being done to support it. And we have the latest in hirings, promotions and awards for people you know (or ought to know!) in Around the Water Cooler. Be sure also to check out our columnists, who bring unique perspectives on law and education and economic development to inspire your next business move.

Of course, music isn’t just a summer pursuit. Year in and year out, music is serious business in Steele County, drawing tourism and exposure to our communities and sending products and performers back out into the rest of the world. You can’t talk about the Steele County economy without mentioning Wenger – both the company and the festival – and fans around the world right now are listening to their favorite tunes from Steele County-born musicians.

We’re proud to tell the stories of the people and companies that are strengthening Steele County, and we’re also proud to bring those stories online. We’re rolling out our new website at, and you can find us as well at @ForgeSteeleCounty on Facebook and @ForgeSteeleCo on Twitter. And no matter what medium you’re reading, we hope you’ll let us know what you think, and share your questions, suggestions and press releases with us at

In this issue of FORGE Magazine, we took a deep dive into live performances in Steele County, looking at our strengths as a home to live music, as well as ideas that could help the community draw bigger, more popular acts to town. Alongside that, we spoke to Wenger President Chris Simpson about what drives demand for his company, and check out how Music Boosters of Owatonna makes the magic happen for local student musicians. 4 |

Happy concerts! William Morris is Associate Editor of Forge Magazine and covers business, government and courts for the Owatonna People’s Press. Contact him at

PUBLISHER: Tom Murray EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Jeffrey Jackson ASSOCIATE EDITOR: William Morris CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Lisa Cownie Autumn Van Ravenhorst PHOTOGRAPHERS: William Morris Ryan Anderson Autumn Van Ravenhorst COVER DESIGN: Brendan Cox PAGE DESIGN: Tri M Graphics ADVERTISING MANAGER: Ginny Bergerson ADVERTISING SALES: Autumn Van Ravenhorst Kyle Shaw Per Kvalsten Erin Rossow Kristie Biehn Pam DeMorett ADVERTISING ASSISTANT: Becky Melchert ADVERTISING DESIGNERS: Kelly Kubista Nicole Gilmore Jenine Kubista CIRCULATION DIRECTOR: Carol Harvey For editorial inquiries, contact William Morris at 507-444-2372 or For advertising inquiries, please call 507-444-2386 or email

FORGE Magazine is published by

Southern Minn Media 135 West Pearl St. Owatonna, MN 55060





keeping steele strong

cov e r s t o r y

Music Makes Money promoters want steele county to be the place to go for live music







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MOVERS & SHAKERS R yan Gillespie:

Doing it all by trial and error (Photo by Autumn Van Ravenhorst)


veryone starts with the same 24 hours in a day, but some fit more into those hours than others. And while some give back to grow their professional network and others choose specific programs that align with their interests, Ryan Gillespie dabbles in a bit of everything. Her reason? To make a difference. Ryan is a born and raised Owatonnan who comes from a family that is known for their generosity and contributions. Her father, Barry Gillespie, is the thirdgeneration owner of a family-run real estate company that opened its doors in 1948 and a driving force behind Ryan’s involvement. “He has really been a pillar of the community,” Ryan said. “He was my role model for getting involved

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and being a part of different philanthropic efforts.” After graduating from Owatonna High School in 2000, Ryan enrolled in Gustavus Adolphus College and achieved a Bachelor’s in Dance in 2004. She eventually moved back to Owatonna and taught dance in several communities. She later began working as the office administrator at St. John Lutheran Church in Owatonna in 2006, and in 2011, she made the leap to become a licensed mortgage originator in the family real estate office. “I recognized that this [career] held a lot of opportunity and it was something I was interested in pursuing,” she said. “I moved to Bremer Mortgage in April of 2014 and I love it. I am proud of where I

work, I enjoy coming here, and the Otto Bremer Trust is amazing in how much it puts back into local communities.” Ryan has made a name in Steele County for her motivation and diverse skill set, making it easy to recognize why she is an active member of so many organizations. Ryan currently sits on the board of directors for both the United Way of Steele County and Steele County Historical Society, and in that serving as the marketing committee chair for the SCHS. She is also a committee member for the Habitat for Humanity homeowner selection committee, chair of the realtor service committee for the Southeastern Minnesota Association of Realtors, and soon to be vice president of public relations for the Owatonna Business Women, transitioning from her role as vice president of programming. After checking her planner for various appointments and reminders, she continued to list more commitments, such as her membership in the Owatonna Toastmasters Club, where members develop and empower communication and leadership skills as well as personal growth. She is also on the committee for Power of the Purse benefiting Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the stewardship committee for Associated Church, a member of the mortgage council for Bremer Bank and a soon-to-be graduate of the Owatonna Community Leadership Academy through the Chamber of Commerce. We aren’t done yet.

Autumn Van Ravenhorst FEAtURE WRITER

Ryan’s dynamic participation in one of Owatonna’s Rotary groups, serving as a STRIVE mentor this year, recently led to an offer to function as the Vice President. She will begin that role in July. She is often asked how she does it, to which she replies, it involves a lot of trial and error. “I am happy to try most of the things I am asked to do,” she explained. “I find it worth the time to help and give it a shot. But I am not afraid to say if something does not seem to be a good fit, or at least not a good fit for now because it may be down the road.” She added that professionally, there are a lot of organic benefits to being involved, which include

spending time focused and engaged with other community leaders, learning ways you can support one another’s businesses and endeavors and speaking out in a way that could potentially improve the community. “It is important for younger generations to find their place and voice in their own community in ways they are passionate about,” she continued. “Things are changing and evolving all of the time and I truly feel there is a lot of knowledge to be gleaned by younger generations that may not have been thought of or shared otherwise.” So what does Ryan like to do when she isn’t making impactful

decisions and volunteering her time? She is taking her son, Jayden, to one of his own activities, spending quality time with her family and performing live as a duo with Dave Williams. This has offered her an opportunity to express herself creatively and share her music with others, something she has always had a passion for. “Owatonna is pretty amazing,” Ryan said. “Our community has a spirit that others don’t. We all come together pretty well and get things done and accomplish specific needs. I am happy with our school system. I grew up here and now I get to see my son grow up, go through the same system and prosper. It is hard to imagine living anywhere else.” 

Ryan and her son, Jayden, enjoy the outdoors during a recent fall event. (Submitted photo)

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of Minnesotans believe the arts are an important or essential part of the overall education of Minnesota children (e.g., classes in music, writing, dance, art & drama)


of Minnesotans have attended an arts activity (at a theater, auditorium, concert hall, museum, gallery) within the past year


of Minnesotans are involved in the arts, by doing some creative activity like singing in a choir, doing woodworking or needlepoint, writing poetry or painting in their everyday lives

Source: Minnesota State Arts Board

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Musicians From Our R egion Many musicians have come from our neck of the woods and received national attention for their work.

Owl City

Owatonna's own Owl City is the moniker used by Adam Young. With a blend of electronica and emopop, Owl City first gained attention by self-publishing music on MySpace. The group, and Adam Young, gained mainstream popularity in 2009 with the album “Ocean Eyes.” It reached No.1 on the Billboard charts. The album's first single, “Fireflies”, reached No. 1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart.

Gear Daddies

From Austin, this local country-rock band came to fame in the mid to late 1980’s with a song featured in the movie "D2: The Mighty Ducks." The song, "Zamboni," is played often during intermission time at hockey games across the U.S. And Canada.

The Gestures

Mankato's claim to fame, The Gestures, only recorded two singles in the mid-’60s, but one of those, “Run, Run, Run,” made it to No. 44, and the Top Ten in several cities. They were described as one of the first American garage bands to write and perform British Invasionderived material.

Eddie Cochran

From Albert Lea, Eddie was a rockabilly pioneer. Though he died at the age of 21, he was inducted regardless into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987 together with Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins. He wrote the hit “Summertime Blues” which was later recorded by The Who and reached No. 8 on Billboard.



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Vice President, Owatonna

LOCAL LEARNING George Chapple South Central College




ne of the largest challenges businesses face is finding and keeping an engaged and skilled workforce. There may be individuals in an organization who are hardworking and willing to learn, but how can they advance without the proper guidance? The Center for Business & Industry at South Central College aims to act as a performance development partner and provide total performance solutions. At CBI, we pursue many avenues to ensure we are meeting the needs of our business partners, including assisting companies with mitigating the cost of those training plans with various grant submissions. Professional development can be costly, and many companies are looking to lower their cost of operation. Often training is one area that companies will reduce in their annual budgets. CBI recognizes the financial commitment to provide employees with the necessary skills to perform safely and at a high level. One avenue available to businesses to mitigate the cost of professional development is through a Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grant through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. These grants create partnerships between educational institutions and businesses so they can jointly develop educational programs for the business and can provide upwards of $400,000 over a

Professional development can be costly and many companies are looking to lower their cost of operation. three-year period. The funds help to mitigate the cost to analyze the performance need, design learning objectives and outcomes, develop the training interventions, implement the training and lastly evaluate the effectiveness of the training based on the learning outcomes. Industry-specific grants are also available. South Central College is the lead institution for the Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is a consortium of 12 community colleges and 2 universities from the Minnesota State system. To address the skills gap that exists in manufacturing, MnAMP recently was awarded a $15 million Trade Adjustment Assistant Community College and Career Training Grant. Because of this funding, MnAMP is able to support eligible workers, veterans and other adult learners by mapping out career pathways in advanced manufacturing, including mechatronics, machining and welding. As part of MnAMP’s initiative to close the skills gap, it has developed the +Connect program. +Connect offers a series of training courses led by live instructors through online video

conferencing technology. This allows all employers, big and small, to offer high-quality training at the workplace. +Connect is ideal for incumbent workers or those in apprenticeships or dual-training programs. With the variety of industry-centered courses, participants can benefit from shortterm courses that can be taken from any location, including the job site, which helps businesses train current employees to meet the skills gap. These courses can also lead to academic and industry-related credentials. Through this grant, we are able to subsidize these important trainings for area businesses. We want all of our business partners to be successful. By removing the barriers that prevent organizations from investing in their employees, we can help them maximize productivity and efficiency. To act as a performance solutions partner, CBI provides consultation services from start to finish, including overseeing the financial components. ď ľ George Chapple is a manufacturing consultant for The Center of Business & Industry at South Central College. Chapple has 28 years of manufacturing experience in operations and training and development. He holds a B.S. degree in Psychology from Crown College in St. Bonifacius, MN, an MA in Community Leadership from Bethel University in Arden Hills, MN, and is finishing an MS degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University in Boise, ID.

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COVER STORY The band Fox & Coyote, including Owatonna High School graduate Ryan Evans, right, performs April 28 at Jefts Hall in Owatonna. This was the second concert this spring offered as part of Mark Woodrich’s Concert Club in Owatonna. (Photo by Ryan Anderson)

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William Morris Associate Editor

Promoters want Steele County to be the place to go for live music | 13


here’s a lot of money that changes hands around concerts, and Steele County music lovers want to see more of that action happening here in southern Minnesota. The U.S. music industry brought in revenue of about $7.7 billion in 2016, according to the Recording Industry Association of American, and despite booming growth for streaming music services online, the lion’s share of that money is spent up close and in person. According to Nielsen Music 360, 57 percent of music spending in 2016 went to live music events, up from 52 percent the year before. And that’s just the direct spending on the acts: the Minnesota State Arts Board estimates attendees of nonprofit arts events spend an average of $22.87 on non-admission expenses such as travel, parking and restaurants. And while there are no clear data on the amount spent by concert attendees at Steele County businesses, music events such as the Smokin’ in Steele blues and barbecue festival can bring thousands of tourists to the area, to say nothing of the value an active cultural scene can hold in attracting businesses and workers to town. So it’s no surprise that a number of efforts are underway, by organizations or individuals, to raise Owatonna’s profile in the music scene. From performers to promoters to fans, they say Steele County has a lot of advantages — and some definite shortcomings — when it comes to bringing bigname acts to town. Already, music enthusiasts run concert series in downtown

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Ellendale, at Jefts Hall, in Central Park and beyond. Here's what they want to see happen to take live music in Steele County to the next level.

"I definitely wish we had more usable venues. Pillsbury was like a diamond I found by accident." ~ Mark Woodrich

Finding the right stage From the Central Park grandstand to the Steele County History Center to the hangers at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport, there are lots of venues that a creative mind can adapt for live music. But when it comes to size and amenities, there are gaps in what Steele County can offer. "I think we’re missing the stuff right in the middle," said John Hammer, founder of Smokin' in Steele. "If it’s an actual concert-type venue, if you’re looking for more than 200 or so seating capacity, it’s very limited." Many of the most popular concert spots in town fall into that 200-andbelow range. Stephanie Kibler, meetings and special events manager at the historical society, works with a variety of musicians to plan events at the center, most often through Korey Borchert's Americana concert series. The History Center has held or plans to hold concerts in the main exhibit gallery, in the atrium, in the Wenger meeting room, on the outside patio and in the carriage house of the

nearby Village of Yesteryear. All are limited in the capacity they offer. "Push came to shove, we could do 200 to 250," she said. "I wouldn’t want to go that many. ... We try to do loose seating here rather than maximizing the number of seats we can have." The same constraints apply at many other possible concert stages, including several bars and the Central Park bandstand. Mark Woodrich, who this year kicked off a new Concert Club in Owatonna music series, is staging them in the newly remodeled Jefts Hall on the Pillsbury College campus. "I definitely wish we had more usable venues," he said. "Pillsbury was like a diamond I found by accident." Jefts Hall could hold up to 300 attendees, he estimates, with standing room only. For his shows, he starts with about 175 seats to sell, although he'd like to set his sights on bigger touring acts, ones that would call for more space than what Jefts and other locations around town would offer. "That is what Owatonna needs, is a mid-sized concert theater," Woodrich said. “We already have two great play theaters, but you could have comedians, you could have speakers, you could have all sorts of things in that theater. I want to use it for concerts." A wider variety of venues would also offer more opportunities for Steele County’s native talent to perform for a home crowd. Award-winning blues musician Mark Cameron is one of a number of local musicians, alongside such names as Har Mar Superstar, Owl City and Cloud Cult,

Mark Cameron

(Submitted Photo)

Making the money work Organizing, scheduling and promoting a live concert is not cheap. Woodrich can enumerate a long list of expenses that must be met: renting the venue, light and sound equipment and professionals to operate it, advertising and promotion, insurance and security, and of course, paying the band. "That all factors into setting your ticket prices," he said. "I’m not into this to do anything but break even and bring music into town, and if any money is made, it’ll go back into more shows, not into my pocket, until it proves that it can’t work or it proves to be really successful." Travelling musicians also need to make sure the numbers add up, Cameron said.

to achieve wide success in the music world. Cameron said existing stage options make it hard for performers like him to appear before Owatonna crowds. "The venues of a certain size need to exist, whereas today they don’t," he said. "The typical bar and restaurant environment, the venues are probably too small and too limited for what a touring musician would want to do." And both Cameron and Woodrich said there's a gap for a publiclyowned concert venue, pointing to examples in a number of surrounding towns sponsored by local governments. "Owatonna needs a public-owned

theater, definitely, or a community theater. Something that’s publicly owned or used for events," Woodrich said. "And you can say they have the high school auditorium, but it’s still the high school auditorium, and not where people want to go for a concert." Nobody has stepped forward to build new stages in town, public or private, although Woodrich noted that a need for more entertainment options was a common theme on the recent community survey conducted by Owatonna Forward. But finding the right venue isn't the only challenge: to succeed, concert promoters need to find the right business model for the stages they currently have.

"The income for a musician comes from two basic streams. They get paid for performance, but more important probably for the most serious musicians, is they’re selling their merchandise at the live performance, their albums and such, and marketing to sell their products over iTunes and the internet," he said. "When you’re a touring musician, you can’t play for free. It just doesn’t work, and the paying opportunities to play in Steele County are quite low." To cover all these costs, concert promoters can raise money in two ways: through ticket sales and from corporate or philanthropic sponsorship. Jerry Besser, owner of Tone Music in Owatonna, has been organizing concerts locally for decades, through the summertime 11 @7 Concert Series in Central Park, and more recently as head of | 15

"What does Owatonna want? Nobody knows. I grew up here and I love here and I even moved back to town, but as far as finding the music people want, nobody can figure it out, because even Owl City didn’t sell out in his hometown [in 2009]." ~ Mark Woodrich

Music in Owatonna, which organizes a concert every other year. Besser said in his 10 years with Music in Owatonna, he's seen sponsorship revenues in decline.

into other new events.

"As it was tougher to get some of these sponsors, or as [locallyowned companies] sold out, we started scaling it back," he said, remembering past shows that drew sponsorships of $4,000 or more. "Now a major sponsor is probably like $1,000, and there aren’t as many of them. Wenger is always big in it, Federated has been, we’ve got Gopher [Sport] in it now the last few times. ... Times have changed. Money is a little tighter."

Local music promoters have turned to a number of business models to make their events economical. For two of the largest, Smokin' in Steele and the Steele County Free Fair, the solution has been to forego ticket revenue entirely and support the acts through sponsorships and, just as importantly, a variety of other revenue-generating activities all tied into the larger event.

Hammer said he's seen some of the donors who used to play a larger role sponsoring concerts branch out

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"There’s only so much money to go around, and there’s lots of worthy people reaching hands out asking for money," he said.

"That’s where we really rely a lot on our sponsors," said fair secretary/ manager Jim Gleason. "A lot of our sponsorships are on the stages. We spend around $25,000 on free stage

entertainment, so we try to work with the sponsors and maybe they cover part of the sponsorship, and we pay the rest." Woodrich, meanwhile, has taken the opposite approach, with a heavier emphasis on ticket sales than sponsorship. "I’m worrying about ticket sales and sponsorships after that, but you need a good mix of both," he said. "When you rely entirely on sponsors, you sometime forget about the promotion to the public. You have to have a balance between that." Whatever the balance, though, each live music event has its own model to hopefully make ends meet provided there's an audience to be had.

Filling the seats Although they take pains not to denigrate local music fans, Steele County music promoters share a sense that it's often harder to attract an audience here than in other communities. "We need to have more people come out to these things," Besser said. “Attendance is thin, and it’s good music and doesn’t cost you anything. Maybe that’s the problem." Woodrich, starting a new concert series from scratch, says he's found local music fans tend to be less willing to take a chance on an unfamiliar act, at least until there's positive word of mouth. That's why for his first year, he planned a smaller, heavily promoted first concert to build buzz and audience for his subsequent shows. And despite having to cancel the first show due to inclement weather, by the third, he said the strategy was paying off - and building a concertgoing habit among his audience. "They need familiarity, and it needs to grow," he said. "[The concerts]

need to be funded up front in order to grow." Another factor, of course, is finding popular yet affordable acts that will bring their own fan bases, but deciphering local tastes in performers has proven a challenge, especially for the age 40 to 65 cohort that dominate attendance at many shows. "What does Owatonna want? Nobody knows," Woodrich said. "I grew up here and I love here and I even moved back to town, but as far as finding the music people want, nobody can figure it out, because even Owl City didn’t sell out in his hometown [in 2009]." Hammer said a key component is attracting attendees from out of town, which is a challenge outside a 30 to 40 mile radius, although a few established events have a broader draw. "We have dedicated music fans that come every year from out of the area [for Smokin' in Steele]," he said. "Barbecuers travel quite a distance, as do some of the acts. ... I think

we’re doing a good job drawing people out of, say, the Rochester, Northfield, Albert Lea, Austin ring, but when it’s a dedicated event with history like Smokin' in Steele, we get a lot of people from the Twin Cities." But even locally, organizers say there's more to do to let people know that there's great music to be had right here in Steele County. "The comments I hear more are 'oh, I didn't know that was happening.' We’re looking at innovative ways at reaching audiences that aren’t on the typical marketing platforms, like your newspaper and radio," Kibler said. "We have attendees at every Americana showcase that say, 'is this the first one you’ve done?' No!" To make sure that live music is thriving - and bringing in the full economic impact it can - promoters hope that soon, everyone will know the answer to that question: Yes, there is live music to be had right here in Steele County. And if organizers can find the sweet spot of venue, business model and promotion, there could be more and better yet to come. 

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here’s a song in the air for the music products industry, and one Owatonna company in particular.

After dropping from annual sales of $7 billion in 2008 to a low of 5.8 billion in 2009, the industry, which includes everything from instruments to sound systems to rehearsal chairs, has consistently hit more than $7 billion in sales annually since 2014, according to The Owatonna- based Wenger Corporation gets a piece of that pie, some years a bigger slice than others. "The cycle trends are clear," said Chris Simpson, President and CEO of Wenger. "What's not always so clear is how much funding educational institutions will have year to year to spend on their music programs." Wenger primarily serves the music education market, manufacturing

a vast array of products ranging from acoustical shells to music stands to stages and choral risers. There is a cyclical demand for these products that follows concert season, graduations and the annual school calendar. "Many schools prefer to receive new products over the summer months, so Wenger sees an increase in manufacturing and shipments June through August. For concerts in the fall, winter and spring, we see increased demand for our choral risers and acoustical shells," Simpson said. "For graduation, we experience greater demand for portable and mobile staging products. Wenger will often offer purchasing incentives for those products during peak times." Though the cycles are well-defined, sales figures fluctuate based on budgets for the company’s main customers.

"Education funding for school music programs is definitely a factor," Simpson said. "When those budgets are cut, it has an impact." That's why Wenger takes a collaborative approach in trying to orchestrate a successful bottom line, as well as keep to its roots: the belief that music is vital to a wellrounded education. "Wenger partners with organizations in the industry such as Music For All to support music advocacy efforts," says Simpson. "Music for All’s advocacy programs and resources are key elements in our vision to be a catalyst to ensure that every child across America has access and opportunity to active music-making in his or her scholastic environment.” Simpson also credits Wenger's forward-looking vision as keys to its seven-decade success. | 19

"Ongoing innovation is how we've continued to grow," he says. "Wenger prides itself on being immersed in the market, listening to customers and designing and developing products to meet the needs of our customers." Because the fate of school music education programs is very much reliant on state and federal funding, which can fluctuate, Wenger has had to make adjustments. "Music education programming is growing and changing. We still serve traditional band, orchestra and choral programs and manufacture equipment used in the rehearsal and performance of these types of music, but as music programs expand and change, Wenger’s product line has adapted as well,” Simpson said. “One example is the modification of our Instrument Storage Cabinets and Stringed Instrument Racks that now accommodate a variety of Mariachi instruments. Our stereo cabinets of the past are now multimedia cabinets designed to hold rackmounted components and digital tools used by educators. In addition to our traditional music stands that hold printed scores, we now offer iPad stands." Part of that innovation also came in growing its product line beyond the school music department into the athletic department. Wenger now offers a full line of athletic team lockers and specialized storage and transport solutions for athletic gear. In recent years, Wenger’s biggest emphasis has been in the performing arts market. To broaden its capabilities and product offering, Wenger purchased theatrical 20 |

rigging manufacturer and installer J.R. Clancy Inc. of Syracuse, N.Y., in 2011, and added performance space specialists SECOA Inc. of Champlin in 2016. The combined strength of these companies enables them to outfit all types of performing arts facilities with a full range of innovative products and solutions that benefit audiences, artists and back-of-house professionals alike. To remain at the forefront of technology, Wenger has also partnered with leading companies like sound equipment manufacturer HARMAN, with whom Wenger has developed computerized acoustic systems to improve the audio quality of virtually any performance space. Though Wenger is a global company, Simpson says it is proud to call Owatonna home. The company and the related Wenger Foundation both support music education and the performing arts in the region, such as through the Henry Wenger Marching Band Festival, which brings in thousands of visitors to the county each summer. The Wenger Foundation sponsors an annual visit of Owatonna fourth graders to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and supports such local arts organizations as the Owatonna Arts Center and the Little Theatre of Owatonna, as well as other nonprofit organizations across Minnesota and the United States. As a privately held company, the Wenger Corporation does not disclose sales, but today it employs more than 500 team members across a variety of functions and offers nearly 600 products worldwide.  | 20


he tradition of musical theater returns to Steele County this summer when Little Theatre of Owatonna presents the classic


GIRL THE MUSICAL The musical is set in and around New York City just prior to and following World War I. Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice, awaiting the return of her husband, Nicky Arnstein, from prison, reflects on their life together, and their story is told as a flashback. The story is told with comedy, drama, romance and plenty of music including, “People” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”

With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill and book by Isobel Lennart, “Funny Girl” was nominated for eight Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 1964 and made a star out of Barbra Streisand, who won an Oscar for her performance as Fanny Brice when the play was made into a movie. For more than 50 years now, Little Theatre of Owatonna has been producing quality theatrical performances that draw actors and audiences from across southern Minnesota, with more than 60 of the productions having been musicals. One of its first productions, back in the 1966-1967 season, was the still-popular musical “Guys and Dolls.” In the years since, its musical productions have included some of the most beloved musicals of all time, including “Oklahoma,” “The Sound of Music,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Music Man,” “The

Wizard of Oz,” “Cabaret,” “West Side Story,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Producers” and “Grease,” just to name a few. The artistic director for the LTO production is Linda Karnauskas with musical direction by Larry Ostermeier and technical direction by Brenda Hager. The orchestra will be led by Ray Lacina with choreography by Katie Gillespie. The production is sponsored by the Wenger Foundation. Performances of ‘Funny Girl’ will be 7:30 p.m. on June 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24. Matinee performances will be 2 p.m. on June 18 and 25. 

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The students of the Owatonna High School Dinner Ensemble performed at the Music Boosters of Owatonna Pancake breakfast. (Submitted photo)

Phil a n t h r o p y

Music Boosters of Owatonna: Making the Music Happen


hen schools across the nation face budget cuts and other pressures, music programs are often among the first to go. It was in 1982 when a group of concerned members in Owatonna learned of these reductions to music programs, including the staff, in their community. They came together to raise funds and reduce the impact of those cuts. This group eventually became known as the Music Boosters of Owatonna, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support music and musical arts in the school district and community as a whole. “Today, the manifestation of that is we are very prominent in donating money and other

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things to the schools to help support music programs,” said Wes McMains, co-president of the board with his wife, Jodi. “These types of donations can range from purchasing equipment, instruments, upgrading buses or providing scholarships to students.”

being the MBO benefit concert and silent auction that brings in anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 annually. The event offers dinner and jazz ensembles each year, while the other acts are a fresh combination of student, faculty and community talent.

Wes and Jodi have lived in Owatonna for nearly 19 years, and both have musical backgrounds, including being members of the choir at Wartburg College. The couple jumped into the Music Boosters after Wes resigned from a volunteer position with another organization in town and was looking for another opportunity to get involved.

The benefits of music education are clear, the McMains say, with studies consistently exposing the tremendously positive effect music education has on academic performance, sense of community, self-expression and self-esteem.

“It was a great fit,” he said. The organization holds events throughout the year, the biggest

“That is one of the biggest reasons I am on the board to continue to support kids in music, because I think our program is great,” Wes said. “We are continually producing excellent musicians and providing an acclaimed program

Autumn Van Ravenhorst FEAtURE WRITER

in Minnesota. Whether we are at the Big Nine or anywhere else, we hear how good the programs are. Additionally, our purpose as a board is to help that continue and provide an avenue for the community to show how they appreciate the music and arts.” On top of providing monetary and physical contributions, the support of Music Boosters of Owatonna comes in many other forms, such as sponsoring concerts at the Owatonna Arts Center and volunteering time at the Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival. “We are able to help make sure these things can happen,” Wes continued. “We hope to do more of this going forward.” Along with diversifying their services, the organization has several plans of the future, one being a complete redesign of their current website.

“We are finally transitioning into the 21st century,” laughed Wes. Along with the new website will also come a digital version of their newsletter.

It was in 1982 when a group of concerned members in Owatonna learned of these reductions to music programs, including the staff, in their community. They came together to raise funds and reduce the impact of those cuts. Historically, the group has only been able to take paper donations, which typically are mailed to its PO Box. One idea for the future is to develop a new donor program, making it more easily accessible to donate to the organization.

Another is to create a Music Boosters Hall of Fame, honoring those who have gone above and beyond in support as well as a Music Hall of Fame, showcasing outstanding musicians of the various programs. Despite the almost universal interest and enjoyment that is gained from music, school programs will continue to face threats such as staffing, funding or scheduling. It is organizations like the Music Boosters of Owatonna that help keep such programs successful and engaging, enriching the lives and education of our youth. “We work hard all year,” said Wes. If you are looking to get involved, join the board or be a part of the different events and committees, be sure to watch out for the launch of their updated website and new ways of communicating with the community. 

The Owatonna Junior High School Jazz Band performs during its spring concert at the Owatonna Arts Center. The Music Boosters of Owatonna support ensembles like the Jazz Band with instrument purchases, scholarships and other assistance. (Submitted photo)

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ong before there was any concept of a place called the “GreenSeam,” people of this region were innovating. Advances in farming techniques, developments in production, equipment and technological breakthroughs all had roots in the minds of those inhabiting this GreenSeam. We understand transformation in its many forms. A seed buried in rich ground, germinating. A bank loan granted to an enterprising agricultural business. A local supply chain of crops and producers, raw materials, suppliers, manufacturers and distributors emanating into the world of consumers and drawing people to the area for agri-tourism with professionals to serve them all. GreenSeam is a transformative stretch of ground and a groundbreaking way of life for all those connected to its energy and growth. 24 |

GreenSeam is made up of a diverse group of individuals and organizations. Agriculture is currently the largest business industry segment in this region with more than $15.3 billion in sales annually. Spanning an economic continuum from production processing,

If you are looking for a career in ag directly, or ag business, I can think of no better place to live.

manufacturing professional services, research, technology, education, transportation and more; a majority of businesses in the region are either part of ag’s value stream or indirectly impacted. The region boasts an extensive list of ag business concentration and industry dominance amounting to nearly 1,000 ag related businesses.

I AM AG Our story series, “I Am Ag”, focuses on a variety of these businesses. You might gain a new perspective on what “ag-related business” really means. This month we hear from Allana Kern of Shred Right – The Information Destruction Authority. Shred Right is the Upper Midwest’s most comprehensive shredding services company, serving Fortune 500 firms and smaller businesses with AAA NAID Certified mobile on-site and off-site document destruction

and paper shredding. Allana had this to say, “My definition of ag is the science and art of raising animals, Allana Kern constantly Shred Right learning their needs, and preparing and tending to land. Shred Right serves the ag business daily – directly and indirectly. We shred for sensitive and confidential material for many banks, food manufacturers, law offices, government agencies, and in some cases, we are even called right to out to a barn office.” She went on to say, “If you are looking for a career in ag directly, or ag business, I can think of no better place to live. I have the privilege of serving farmers every single day and they are some of the hardest working people on our planet. (I know, because I married a dairy farmer). Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa have so much opportunity for fulfilling careers in ag, even if you’re just helping a young farmer get his/ her first loan, or in my case, making sure all the loan officers, lawyers and manufacturers are getting their sensitive material shredded by a company they can trust.” The GreenSeam strives to transform the way we think about and define agriculture. Educators, media outlets and communication technology platforms all help generate more creative thought in the minds of our future generations that will help them push the current boundaries of agriculture and continue the trend of growth. GreenSeam; building on the existing ag business prominence across the Southern Minnesota – Northern Iowa Agricultural Region and maximizing a growing economic marketplace. @greenseamregion #greenseampride • #iamag

A program of:

A REGION ON THE RISE The statistics below represent the number of employees and businesses that are directly or indirectly related to agri-business within the GreenSeam region. The top agriculture-related industries include: Natural Resources and Mining, Construction, Manufacturing, Trade, Transportation and Utilities, Financial Activities, Professional and Business Services. Wages for these categories in the five counties listed below total more than $7 Million.*



Steele County



Blue Earth County



Freeborn County



Nicollet County



Rice County



Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Q3 2016





watonna is not the only community banking on music to bring in some bucks.

The City of Mankato recently opened a new Performing Arts Center as part of its civic center campus. Attached to the downtown Verizon Center, the $28 million venue seats about 2,000 with retractable seating to allow for conventions, trade shows and expos. The Performing Arts Center rounds out the Verizon Center complex, which already has the main civic center and the Vetter Stone Amphitheater in Riverfront Park. Officials at Verizon Center say although the complex is still relatively young — the civic center opened in 1995, the amphitheater in 2010 and the performing arts center in 2016 — the economic impact to the community is significant. Verizon Center works with Explore Minnesota Tourism to calculate that impact through a formula is based on attendance, spending, wages and expenses. A multiplier is applied to calculate the final dollar

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amount and total local economic effect. The center accordingly estimates that in 2016 the economic impact to the Mankato area was $41,543,811. In the first quarter of 2017, they have it at $12,532,474. Eric Jones, marketing manager for the Verizon Center suite of facilities, says for Mankato and surrounding communities in southern Minnesota, competing with the Twin Cities will always be a challenge. "We want to make sure we get our name out there," he said. "We want to throw our hat in the ring and get the artists, whether musical or otherwise, as well as conventions and expos. We do get a lot of competition from the Twin Cities." There are a wide variety of venues both indoor and outdoor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. That's why, Jones says, the Performing Arts Center with its stateof-the-art sound system, acoustics and stage was a needed addition to Mankato's offerings. The newest addition to the Verizon Center complex is still finding its legs, but has had several symphony

performances as well as nationally-known artists grace its stage. While it’s not even a year old yet, the city is optimistic it will allow them to up their game in attracting outside visitors. Already, Blue Earth County is second only to Olmsted County (Rochester) in the southern Minnesota region on Explore Minnesota Tourism's economic impact analysis, with Blue Earth coming in at $192,778,355 in gross sales. Olmsted County led the way with $472,309,455.

It is also surrounded by the 11-acre Mayo Park, used for outdoor events such as the Down By the Riverside concert series. So with top-flight performance spaces to the east and west, as well as in the Metro to the north, Steele County has its work cut out to attract the best events and entertainment to town. 

On the other side of the Highway 14 corridor, Rochester's Mayo Civic Center just underwent an $84 million renovation and expansion. With the expansion, which was just completed in early May, the center will offer 200,000+ square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space. The facility will also feature a ballroom and rooms to accommodate more than 2,000 attendees. This is in addition to the original offerings of the complex; the exhibit hall, the 7,200- seat Taylor Arena used for wrestling and basketball and the 3,000seat auditorium used for performing arts.

The new $28 million, 2,000-seat Performing Arts Center, which opened last year in Mankato’s Verizon Center, stands ready for showtime. (Photos courtesy Verizon Center)

Music fans catch a live act at the outdoor Vetter Stone Amphitheater in Riverfront Park in Mankato. The amphitheater is part of the city’s Verizon Center Campus.

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BE IN HARMONY A CHORUS OF LOCAL OPPORTUNITIES A shuffling of papers, a quick vocal warm up, a slight click of the intercom and before long a gentle female voice comes over the company speakers singing a lovely rendition of “Still, Still, Still.” Back in the ‘80s, Norma Buxton, wife of Chairman Charles I. Buxton II, used to sing music over the company intercom at Christmas time. The annual visit by the High School Carolers and the Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival are also long-standing traditions of music loved and supported by Federated employees. Music affects people on a visceral level, and serves to soothe, inspire, and encourage. While music is everywhere, it has established an especially noteworthy presence in Steele County, giving residents ample opportunity to compose their musical interests. Performers, financial supporters, volunteers, and audiences all play an essential role in the success of musical entertainment. Meet two of the many Federated employees who share our community’s love of music. Molly Liverseed, account executive assistant, grew up in a musical family and took her first French horn lesson in fourth grade. Today, she plays French horn as often as she can with the Owatonna Symphony Orchestra and Owatonna Community Band, also having served on the board of the latter. “Music is the best friend I have ever had. I don’t know where I would be without music.” Although Sara Borgerding, business analyst, participated in choir in high school, she now spends more time “living vicariously” through her children’s musical pursuits. She and her husband volunteer whenever they can, playing an important role “behind the scenes” with the OHS marching band and musical theater productions to show their appreciation for music in every form.

BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER Our company culture is uniquely Owatonna: small town values supported by a hardy Midwestern work ethic. Our employees approach challenges with enthusiasm, eager to devise solutions that will make our company, our community, and, especially, our clients even stronger. In total, we are working together to create a more “harmonious” world. Federated offers a variety of positions and professional paths, as well as a comprehensive benefits program. Bring your passions, your goals, your talents, and your insights to Federated, and together we can make the world sing!

Federated Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiaries* 17.12 MUSIC Ed. 5/17 *Not licensed in all states. © 2017 Federated Mutual Insurance Company

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Around the

Water Cooler Chamber announces 2017 Owatonna Tourism Awards

Modern Metal Products featured on Manufacturing Marvels

The Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism recognized six local individuals who have provided outstanding service in the Owatonna Tourism Industry:

Modern Metal Products appeared Monday, May 8, on Manufacturing Marvels, a two-minute spotlight seen nationally on The Fox Business Network. Manufacturing Marvels is produced by Marvel Production Group LLC of Dallas.

Attraction: Jerry Ganfield, Steele County Historical Society Customer Service: Vicki Lysne, Comfort Inn Events: James “Corky” Ebeling, Owatonna Parks and Recreation Lodging: Jack Spitzack, Baymont Inn & Suites – Owatonna Restaurant: Nancy Morness, The Kernel Restaurant Retail: Tom Brick, Owatonna Shoe Individuals were recognized at the Owatonna Tourism Awards Luncheon on May 11.

Modern Metal Products announced that its company was seen on the national cable network Fox Business Network. Manufacturing Marvels is a two-minute educational and promotional production, using award-winning producers, directors and narrators to showcase American manufacturers, their products and processes. Filming took place on location at Modern Metal Products in Owatonna on April 24.

Thomas Dufresne achieves Circle of Success Recognition Thomas Dufresne, CFP, ChFC, CRPC, a private wealth advisor with Dufresne, Wayne & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. in Owatonna, has qualified for the company’s Circle of Success annual recognition program and will be honored in 2017. To earn this achievement, Dufresne established himself as one of the company’s top advisors. Only a select number of high-performing advisors earn this distinction. As a private wealth advisor, Dufresne provides financial advice that is anchored in a solid understanding of client needs and expectations, and provided in one-on-one relationships with his clients. Dufresne, Wayne & Associates has served the Owatonna area since 1996.

Clawson of Owatonna receives MCFOA certification Jeanette Clawson, assistant city clerk for the City of Owatonna, recently became certified as a Minnesota Certified Municipal Clerk through the Minnesota Clerks and Finance Officers Association’s certification program. To become a certified MCMC, applicants are required to be a MCFOA member for at least three years, to have completed extensive education programs and to affirm that they believe in and practice the MCFOA Code of Ethics. Those hoping to become certified also require experience serving a municipality either with elections, human resources management, general management, meeting administration, execution of official documents, records management, financial management or management of legal instruments. Clawson is one of the 40 newly-certified MCMCs throughout the state whom the League of Minnesota Cities recognizes for their commitment to professional development. 30 |

Chamber welcomes new MainStreet Director The Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is excited to announce Shirley Schultz has been hired as the new MainStreet Director at the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. Schultz has been active as a volunteer with the MainStreet program since 2013 and active in the Chamber for many years. “Schultz is passionate about the success of downtown Owatonna and has a desire to make it even better,” said Brad Meier, President of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. “She is a great fit to move the vision for downtown forward.” Schultz started in her new role on April 10th.

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CDI promotes Flesner to Senior Design Engineer

eCM Printing, a Division of eCM Publishers, Inc. Owatonna Promotional Products, a Division of APG

Climate by Design International is pleased to announce the promotion of Reuben Flesner to Senior Design Engineer. Reuben has been working as an Applications Engineer for the past several years. Reuben will be coordinating Product Development as well as Design Standardization at CDI. “Reuben’s aptitude and contributions have propelled him into a new role where he will have the opportunity to lead CDI’s design standardization. His innovative approach will continue to enhance our strategic direction and long term growth at CDI,” said Mike Peterson, VP of Operations. Flesner said, “I am looking forward to contributing to CDI in a new way through development of standard products and engineering systems. These will aid CDI for continued growth.” Flesner holds a BS degree in mechanical engineering from South Dakota State University and a MS degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University. He was the recipient of a 3M Engineering Scholarship for Excellence of Graduate Research in Design and Manufacturing.

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Around the Water Cooler Thrivent named a 'World's Most Ethical Company' Thrivent Financial announced that it has been recognized again by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, as a 2017 World’s Most Ethical Company. The World's Most Ethical Companies designation recognizes those organizations that have had a material impact on the way business is conducted by fostering a culture of ethics and transparency at every level of the company. For six years in a row, Thrivent's commitment to operating with ethical business standards and practices has been highlighted by this honor. This continued recognition ensures long-term value to members, employees, suppliers, regulators and investors. Thrivent is one of only seven companies in the Financial Services category honored this year. Thrivent Financial is represented in the local area by Financial Representative, Nick Lewis.

Cybex, Wenger donate to the Owatonna Foundation At their recent ribbon cutting ceremony in celebration of their building’s expansion, Cybex International, part of the Life Fitness brand family which is a division of Brunswick Corporation, presented a check for $10,000 to the Owatonna Foundation. In his presentation, Mark Schwabero, Chairman and CEO of Brunswick, stated that they were continuing their support of community growth in Owatonna. “We are extremely grateful to the Life Fitness family for making this donation. We are honored that Life Fitness, along with Cybex and their employees, made the decision to support the Foundation. It has been amazing to watch Cybex grow, and their recent expansion is a great example of their continued commitment to Owatonna and to their employees,” said Foundation President Betsy Lindgren.

the Owatonna Foundation. “We are very pleased to be able to support the Owatonna Foundation with this gift. Their continued support of Owatonna projects has created a community that benefits all of us and makes Owatonna a better place for our employees.” said Chris Simpson, President and CEO of Wenger. Lindgren said the foundation is greatful for the donation.

J-C Press, an award-winning commercial printing and marketing company, has announced its acquisition of select assets from Waseca-based Clear Lake Press. The acquisition expands the company’s services to an even more diverse range of commercial printing capabilities.

“Wenger has been a part of our community for many years and their support is much appreciated! This gift will help us to continue the Foundation’s mission of improving the quality of life for present and future generations by supporting Owatonna projects that focus on community, arts, recreation, and education,” she said.

“We are very excited about the future of J-C Press with the expanded capabilities and the hiring of key employees” said Patrick McDermott, President and Owner of J-C Press. “The company Phyllis Beschnett grew in Waseca has a great reputation and we are very fortunate for this opportunity.”

The Owatonna Foundation was established in 1957 with the goal of improving the quality of life for present and future generations of Owatonna residents.

Wenger Corporation also recently presented a check for $2,000.00 to

Want to share your company's news?

Send word of your hirings, promotions, awards and more to

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J-C Press Acquires Select Assets of Clear Lake Press

The transition of select assets will occur over the next several months as facility updates are completed in Owatonna. “I am confident this acquisition will be great for our clients and employees alike,” said Phyllis Beschnett, Owner of Clear Lake Press. “Clear Lake Press is one of the best print providers in the Midwest. Combining our history with the rich history of J-C Press is really something special."

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Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism


Brad Meier, President/CEO of Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism It’s a constant request from our members: “Find me more workers!” Meanwhile, 25 percent of graduating seniors say they don’t have a plan after graduation. Here are three ways we are connecting the incoming workforce to our businesses.

1 2

More than 160 high school juniors and seniors experienced firsthand the opportunities for not only a job, but a career during the school year through Made in Owatonna Day. Before the workforce tours, 18.5 percent of the students said they were interested in an internship in manufacturing. This grew to 32 percent after the tour. The program is run in partnership with Bosch Foundation, United Way, Junior Achievement and Owatonna Public Schools. Connecting ‘new’ workers with local business is happening now. Are your openings listed? Again, in partnership with the United Way, Workforce Development Inc. and Owatonna Public Schools, we have developed the onestop for first time job seekers in our area at Initiatives at the high school to engage students about local opportunities comes to fruition on this site. Your jobs aren’t here? Email them to


Pilot programs with students doing apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing at local businesses are happening right now. This workforce connection is through a position funded by a grant obtained by the United Way. This initial grant ends soon and the partners are committed to keeping this position in what we plan as a partnership between the United Way, Owatonna High School, Workforce Development Inc. and the Chamber. These initiatives are the tip of the iceberg for how we work as a business community with the schools in the area. There will be more opportunities for your business to connect as we move this initiative forward. Coming Soon: A new magazine publication that will outline job and career opportunities in Steele County. It will include wage ranges, employer needs for workers and ways to get connected. Look for Steele County Works this fall!

“Dan Buck, executive director of Kids Korner Educare Center Inc., explains to 60 students the job opportunities in Pre-K and Kindergarten education during a recent Made in Owatonna Day.”

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“The Made in Owatonna Day initiative exposes high school students to job and career opportunities in the Owatonna area. Pictured is Dennis Von Ruden of General Equipment sharing manufacturing opportunities locally.”

“Tim Blazek of Tim’s Repair talks about being a mechanic and running his own business. High school students get to experience many different segments of the economy through Made in Owatonna Day.”

For more information about the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, go to

CALENDAR OF EVENTS Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism



Thursday, August 3, 2017 Location: Owatonna Country Club 10 a.m. Check-In 11 a.m. Shotgun Start 5 p.m. Social & Evening Meal

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Thursday, July 20, 2017


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Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism

O WA T ONN A T OURISM Outstanding Individuals Recognized at Tourism Awards

Group Tours

Upcoming Events

Plan your reunion in Owatonna

Six locals were honored at the 2017 Tourism Awards Luncheon in May for their contributions to the Owatonna tourism industry. Award recipients were honored in the following categories: Attraction, Customer Service, Events, Lodging, Restaurant and Retail.

Save the dates for Smokin’ in Steele, Crazy Days, Art on the Hills, the Steele County Free Fair and more. Find out what’s happening in Owatonna at

The Owatonna Chamber has booked 40 tours for the 2017 season so far. Groups visit the National Farmers’ Bank, Orphanage Museum, Village of Yesteryear, and more.

When was the last time you saw your extended family or old classmates? We can help you find the perfect place to hold your reunion in Owatonna. Call the Chamber at 507-451-7970.

Meet in Meet in

Find Venues Find


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pecial events attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Steele County each year, but it is the permanent attractions that lay a strong foundation for the tourism industry.

"We have some really unique attractions in Owatonna," said Katie Godfrey, director of conventions and tourism for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. "For example, the National Farmers’ Bank (operating as Wells Fargo) was designed by Louis Sullivan, who was Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor. People literally come from all over the world to see this bank, which is located in the heart of Historic Downtown Owatonna.” Godfrey also cited the Orphanage Museum at West Hills, the only known orphanage museum in the country, as a unique draw that brings visitors from around the world, and

(Southern Minnesota Media photos)

said the historic Village of Yesteryear and nearby exhibits at the Steele County History Center are a big draw as well. The importance of drawing in that crowd, and drawing on their pursestrings while they are in the region, is not lost on the community and business leaders. Local officials are so committed, in fact, that the Owatonna Chamber has a contract with the City of Owatonna to utilize 95 percent of the lodging tax received by the City on tourism marketing. In her role at the Chamber, Godfrey manages the tourism marketing plan, which includes purchasing advertising to get in front of potential visitors, primarily targeting the major cities in the Midwest. She also leads development of an annual visitor guide and maps, and her department also maintains a visitor

website at But while the events and attractions are in place and marketing money is available, the challenge remains getting people off Interstate 35. "We’d like to capture more of the people who are driving by to visit the Twin Cities," Godfrey said. "We are working on a wayfinding project that will help with that problem down the road." That initiative involves collaborating with nearby communities. "We have a regional tourism partnership with the Northfield and Faribault chambers called the MinneRoadtrip, which is an umbrella brand to promote the three communities," Godfrey explains. "Many people are drawn to the idea of a multicommunity road trip, and we’ve found this to be a very successful brand so far. It was launched in early 2016."

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Just as tourism can fuel the business economy... business can fuel tourism.

Tourism's success and economic impact are measured in several different ways. One way is to look at whether there is an increase or decrease in lodging tax and occupancy rates at the lodging properties from year to year. For example, from 2015 to 2016, Godfrey says lodging tax receipts increased 7.5 percent (the statewide increase was 6.2 percent, per Explore Minnesota Tourism), and Owatonna occupancy increased by four percent, which is fairly significant. And Explore Minnesota, the state tourism department, has a formula for estimating visitor spending. According to the latest Explore Minnesota tourism economic impact report (2015), Steele County had $72,735,555 in gross sales

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related to tourism, which equates to $4,450,922 in sales tax. Hotels and lodging are obvious recipients of the money tourism can bring in. But smaller, home grown-businesses in Owatonna also see a bump. Julie Schultz of Costas Candies and Restaurant on Cedar Avenue in downtown Owatonna is thankful Steele County seems to have a robust tourism economy. "We see a lot of customers who are traveling through town stop to eat at our restaurant. We get a lot of visitors who are here in town for events, whether sporting, expos or other tours," Schultz said. "Once the weather starts getting warmer, we see an increase in traffic. Spring break and Christmas break are also busy times for us. Spring and

summer are when we see the most new people stopping in to Costas because of tourism, but we definitely see people year round because of the tourism here." Just as tourism can fuel the business economy, though, business can fuel tourism. "In addition to our one-of-a-kind attractions, we are of course home to Cabela’s and the Medford Outlet Mall, which are both major draws to the region," Godfrey said. "We also want to make sure people get off the interstate and visit our Historic Downtown shopping district, which is full of unique retail and dining options, including two candy stores, an artisan cupcake shop, high end women’s clothing, a fiber arts store and more. "

By the Numbers According to Explore Minnesota Tourism, the average per person per day spending for day travelers is $52. It jumps to $89 for overnight travelers, not including lodging. Based on this formula, Katie Godfrey at the Owatonna Chamber says her office is able to estimate the economic impact of events. "For example, about 4,000 people come to Owatonna for Corky’s Early Bird Softball Tournament, and there are at least 400 overnight travelers," she says. "By using EMT’s formula, our conservative estimate for an economic impact is about $222,000, not including lodging. But it does include spending money on gas, food and shopping."

Here’s the estimated impact, excluding lodging, of some popular annual events:

She admits there is work to be done not only attracting visitors from outside Steele County, but also working like a magnet to keep them doing business local. "If there are local business leaders who attend meetings or conventions outside of Owatonna, we want you to know that we would love to host your meetings here," Godfrey said. "Meetings and conventions are important for our local tourism economy, and it’s a great way to support local lodging and other businesses. We are happy to help with the process." 

er at SCC Start your college care AA degree, and after earning your . r college or university transfer to a four-yea

CORKY’S EARLY BIRD SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT • About 4,000 visitors total • A minimum of 400 overnight travelers • Conservative economic impact estimate is $222,000

North American Farm and Power Show • About 30,000 visitors (including locals) • Assuming half are day travelers from outside of Steele County, conservative estimate is $780,000

Steele County Free Fair • 300,000 visitors total, about 100,000 from outside of Steele County. • For 100,000 visitors, conservative estimate is $5,200,000 | (800) 722-9359 | A member of the Minnesota State system. South Central College is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Educator and has ADA accessible facilities.

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DASHBOARD Comparison Report of building in Owatonna 2016/17 120000000

2016 Total 2016 Industrial


2016 Commercial


2017 Total 2017 Industrial


2017 Commercial 40000000 20000000 0 Millions

Jan 16

Jan 17

Feb 16

Feb 17

Mar 16

Mar 17

April 16

April 17

May 16

May 17

June 16

June 17

July 16

July 17

Aug 16

Aug 17

Sep 16

Sep 17

Oct 16

Oct 17

Nov 16

Nov 17

Dec 16

Dec 17

Source: City of Owatonna

Comparison Report of Homes for Sale to Newly Listed Homes Owatonna


New Home Listings

2017 New Home Listings

Homes for Sale

2017 Homes for Sale





Jan 16

Jan 17

Feb 16

Feb 17

Mar 16

Mar 17

April 16

April 17

May 16

May 17

June 16

June 17

July 16

July 17

Aug 16

Aug 17

Sep 16

Sep 17

Oct 16

Oct 17

Nov 16

Nov 17

Dec 16

Dec 17

Blooming Prairie

Source: SEMAR


2016 New Home Listings

2017 New Home Listings

2016 Homes for Sale

2017 Homes for Sale

25 20 15 10 5 0

Jan 16

Jan 17

Feb 16

Feb 17

Mar 16

Mar 17

April 16

April 17

May 16

May 17

June 16

June 17

July 16

July 17

Aug 16

Aug 17

Sep 16

Sep 17

Oct 16

Oct 17

Nov 16

Nov 17

Dec 16

Dec 17

Source: SEMAR

40 |


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Source: SEMAR

| 41


steer clear of copyright snares I

f you own a business of any kind and you play music in your place of business for the benefit of customers, you need to know a bit about performing rights organizations (“PROs�). These organizations manage copyrights for almost all kinds of music and are responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers whenever a song is played in public. Whether it is on the radio or over the internet, whether you own the DVD, CD, or record or tape, if you play if for the public, you are subject to the Copyright Act of 1976 and must pay a fee. Even if you hire a band who performs cover songs,

42 |

you are subject to the Copyright Act. People often assume that musicians and entertainers are responsible for obtaining permission to perform music; however, unless they are performing their own music, this obligation falls squarely upon the business owner. Any business that plays music in a public setting must pay the PROs. These include, but are not limited to, restaurants and bars, live music venues, radio stations and theme parks. However, there are some exceptions. In general, if the performance occurs in a public place or any place where people gather, it is subject to the Copyright Act. Private gatherings with family

Mark Carver Attorney

or friends are exempt. Religious services are also exempt unless the music is transmitted beyond the physical location where the service actually takes place. PRO rights are managed by three organizations: BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). BMI and ASCAP are the most common in the United States. The PROs give these businesses permission to use the music written by their songwriters. Sometimes businesses may need permissions from more than one PRO because some songs have multiple songwriters, and the

The same concept applies to sporting events that are publically broadcast in bars, restaurants and similar establishments. Sports broadcasts generally require licenses and some events, such as Ultimate Fighting Championships, require event-specific licenses. Beyond any fee to watch such events in your home, if you are going to permit the public to watch, you have to obtain and pay for a separate license. Business owners tend to ignore these rules and hope they don’t get caught. However, it is better to get permission rather than seek forgiveness. The PROs enforce their rights and the consequences of failing to obtain a license can be devastating, especially to small businesses. The PROs actively search the internet, social media and local newspapers for advertising relating to copyrighted material and even send agents to local establishments to witness infringements. Those who are caught are subject to hefty fines that far exceed any licensing fee. In some cases, the PROs can also “pierce the corporate veils” of corporations and LLCs to get at the assets of individual owners. If you play music in your place of business for the benefit of customers, you are encouraged to seek legal advice or contact the PROs directly. They will be more than happy to help.  Attorney Mark Carver practices law with Einhaus, Mattison, Carver & Haberman, P.A., in Owatonna.

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individual writers of the songs may belong to different PROs. Each PRO has a website that identifies which songs are managed by that PRO. Austin, Albert Lea, Owatonna, Online

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PARTNERS FOR GROWTH Greg Kruschke City of Owatonna


id you know Owatonna has a shovel ready site ready for development? The City has been working towards this designation for the past few years and recently was able to accomplish the official certification from the State of Minnesota for one property Owatonna’s Industrial Park, which will greatly increase its visibility. Shovel Ready sites are becoming a “must have” in marketing your community and carry many benefits. Shovel-ready sites are in growing demand among companies and site selection consultants, and they are an increasingly popular tool for communities to attract new business and industry. They are a benefit to companies and site selectors because they take much of the time, expense, unpredictability and risk out of development. Because the sites are more likely to catch the eye of corporate site selectors or site selection consultants, they’re also a distinct competitive advantage for site owners and communities.

How Site Selectors Choose a Location Location selection takes on different approaches depending on the situation and the experience of the project team. However, in the end, it is a process of elimination that takes place in two phases. 44 |

The process begins with either an initial list of preferred locations or specific criteria for which to build a list. Location lists are frequently based on counties for manufacturing and distribution projects and on cities (metropolitan statistical areas or MSA’s) for headquarters, back office and R&D projects. The county-level analysis allows for more defined geography that can be better differentiated (e.g., locations near Interstates).

construction completion date with customer product delivery demands.

It is important to note that the local economic development agencies are usually not contacted until Phase II for site visits unless the project team does not have experience in data collection. Also note that real estaterelated information is required at several points in the process.

Benefits for Minnesota Communities and Site Owners

When making real estate decisions, many companies will first seek the availability of existing buildings (unless the building they need is highly specialized) and then consider potential sites in an attempt to reduce startup time, minimize risks and reduce cost.

Benefits for Companies Certified shovel-ready sites are extremely attractive to companies looking to expand, relocate or start up. The reasons are simple: Global economic forces are pushing companies to make market decisions faster than ever before. They no longer have the luxury of spending six to 12 months on a site search. Shovel-ready sites can be purchased quickly. Companies need sites that are ready for development and can match the

Shovel-ready sites simplify the development process and greatly reduce risk by eliminating most of the unknowns from the site selection decision and increasing the predictability of getting the land developed, the building constructed and the business up and running. Finally, shovel-ready sites lower development costs, a very important factor at a time when all companies are more cost-conscious.

Certification offers several benefits for communities and site owners, but let's start with the most important: increased visibility in a very crowded marketplace. Minnesota’s Certified Shovel-Ready sites will be heavily marketed at national conferences and trade shows as well as on the property search tool we provide for site selectors. The result is improved visibility for both the community and the site. Certified shovel-ready status is fast becoming a standard for sites being marketed throughout Minnesota. Having certified sites demonstrates that communities are progressive, business-oriented, and prepared for new development.  Greg Kruschke is Community Development Specialist for the City of Owatonna and a member of Owatonna Partners for Economic Development. Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development.

William Morris Associate Editor



Keeping t he legacy alive

enger Corporation puts the name of Owatonna’s most famous band director on stages, risers and music stands around the world, but it’s not the region’s only tribute one of Steele County’s most famous entrepreneurs.

The Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival, held each summer since 2010, brings top-caliber high school marching bands from around the state to compete on the streets of Owatonna. It is named for the founder of Wenger Corporation,

(Southern Minnesota Media photos)

| 45

who first came to Owatonna in 1936 as a high school music teacher, led multiple ensembles to first-place finishes in national competition in the 1940s, founded the company and patented his first invention (a chair designed to help a student support the unwieldy sousaphone) in 1946 and left teaching to run the company full-time in 1953.

The festival is the brainchild of Kim Cosens, an Edward Jones investment advisor and former high school band director who started up the event with support from the Wenger Foundation and Harry Wenger’s descendants. Like all music organizers in the county, Cosens and his board have had to find ways to cover the costs for the event — although to hear him tell it, they’ve not suffered for

lack of supporters. The festival draws big crowds to downtown Owatonna as well as hundreds of students and teachers from the competing schools. “We’ve had just incredible support from the community,” Cosens said. “I cannot thank the community enough, both from the biz side, for their financial support and sponsorship, and from the community that comes out to watch the festival, and what we call our patrons, the people that pay to be able to sit in the bleachers right there in the judge’s area, have that nice brunch, a little thank you gift from us.” That’s how the festival strives to keep its sponsors and paying audience happy. For the bands themselves, Cosens said they’ve had success because of the organization and logistical support the festival offers. “We’re hearing feedback from directors and participants, things like, ‘this is our favorite festival of the year, Owatonna does such a wonderful job of organizing and hosting this festival, we can’t wait to come back again next year,’” Cosens said. “We have a lot of return schools that try to come back to our festival every single year.”

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And that would no doubt be pleasing to Harry Wenger, who until his death in 1992 still felt the drive to make sure all students had access to band programs. In 2010, his granddaughter Wendy Wenger Dankey told the Owatonna People’s Press that her grandfather once met a group of youths during a trip to the Bahamas.


“He found out that they didn’t have a band, so he went back and bought and refurbished used instruments for them,” she said. “They just thought that was the greatest thing and when he went back they played a concert for him. He just loved it.”

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And there’s no better county in Minnesota than the one Harry Wenger put on the map to continue in his name, making the music he loved. 

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ARTS SUPPORT THE WORKFORCE • Studies show that employees with arts-related skills are critical to the industries of the new economy. Arts circle back to industries seeking employees with high-level communication and creative problem-solving abilities, such as software development and web design, advertising firms, automobile design companies, architectural and engineering firms and other fields. • A KPMG survey of more than 1,200 high-tech workers examined the most important factors associated with taking a new job. “Community quality-of-life,” including availability of arts and

cultural activities, was the second most important factor — after salary — and more important than benefits, stock options or company stability. • Minnesota was named the most livable state in the nation for the sixth year in a row by Morgan Quitno Press, due in part to citizens’ access to the arts. • A recent study shows that 62 percent of the artists in a community spend between one and four hours per week volunteering or performing community service, and another 18 percent spent between five and ten hours per week. Make the right move.

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steoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints where the cartilage surfaces of the bones are damaged. It is the most common form of arthritis. There is a wide variety of nonsurgical treatment options for mild and moderate arthritis, including medications, physical therapy, exercise, weight loss, cortisone injections, and hyaluronic acid injections also known as “rooster comb.” Once the damage is severe enough, the bones of the joints make contact with each other, which can cause debilitating pain and loss of function. When this happens, it may be time to consider a total joint replacement. What does a joint replacement involve? A total joint replacement is a procedure commonly done for knee, hip, and shoulder arthritis. It involves

replacing the damaged joint surfaces with a combination of metal and plastic parts. For hips and shoulders, this typically involves a socket combined with a ball and stem. For knees, this involves specially shaped metal components with a piece of plastic between them acting as a cushion. These new parts allow the new joint to function fully without pain. When is the time right to consider a joint replacement?

• Can’t participate in the activities they once enjoyed because of arthritis • Are not happy with their quality of life due to debilitating arthritis symptoms • Are willing to participate in a postoperative rehabilitation program Want to learn more about joint replacements?

• Have severe osteoarthritis

Joint replacement surgery should only be considered when other treatment methods have proven to be ineffective and your body is healthy enough for surgery. To learn more about total joint replacement surgery or treatment of arthritis, please schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic providers. 

• Have found the non-surgical treatment modalities mentioned above to be ineffective

Scott Perkinson, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon with Mayo Clinic Health Systems who sees patients in Owatonna and Faribault.

If your arthritis is severe and you are otherwise in good health, you are likely a candidate for a total joint replacement. The best candidates for joint replacement include patients who:

| 49






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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.

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Do you have entry-level positions that are tough to fill? Do you want to be part of building the workforce of tomorrow? is a website devoted to helping first-time job-seekers with connections to local job and training opportunities, as well as information on resume-building, interviewing and other soft skills. The site features a searchable job bank with options for seasonal/summer opportunities, paid and unpaid internships and part-time and full-time positions. Help young people get their first work experience and fill your HR needs. Send your Steele County open positions to

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hen we talk about housing inventory, I’m reminded of an old song – “How low can you go?” While we’re not dancing the limbo, we are certainly in a dance. A negotiation dance. This is one of the best times in history to transact real estate. Strong home values combined with low interest rates have driven the market for months. There are buyers lined up waiting to compete when properties hit the market. If you’re a seller, you are certainly in the driver’s seat. Wading through multiple offers while avoiding legal pitfalls can be a challenge. Having a professional on your side to help you through the process can make a difference in your bottom line. (Not to mention your peace of mind.) There are over 180 steps in any given transaction. Statistics show that when listed with the REALTOR, you will likely get more money for your home. What if you’re the buyer? This is still a good market to purchase a home – you’ve got low interest rates, and rents continue to rise. Buyers aren’t shying away from the market, despite the multiple offer challenges they may encounter. So what can buyers do to get ready? Most buyers spend several hours “shopping” on the internet using sites like and Zillow. That’s great. However, if you want to be taken seriously when you make an offer on a home, you need to have your financing in place, first and foremost. Check your credit scores and shop your lender.

Different lenders have different programs and benefits – you need to find the lender that best meets your needs. Once you are preapproved, you know what your parameters are. Whatever you do, if you are in the market for a home, do not go out and buy a car or other large purchase.

This is one of the best times in history to transact real estate. Strong home values combined with low interest rates have driven the market for months. There are buyers lined up waiting to compete when properties hit the market.

Now you need to figure out your “must-haves.” These are the items that you cannot live without in your home. Is it a fenced backyard for your kids or pets to play in? Is it a three-car garage? Is it a motherin-law suite? Once you have that figured out, you want to contact your Realtor. No one is better equipped to negotiate on your behalf or understands your local market better than your Realtor. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get your first offer, or even your third. In this market, you have to be prepared to move quickly and keep moving if your offer isn’t the one the seller chooses. For suggestions and questions you can ask to connect with the right Realtor for your home, you can go to under the Find a Realtor tab. Don’t forget to look under the Consumer Resources tab for more information on real estate and your community. What does our market look like right now? As we transition into the summer market, our inventory is still low and the demand is strong. To put it simply, our region needs more homes for sale in all types of styles and price ranges. So if you’re on the fence, it’s time to make a move before interest rates rise. Buying or selling your home can be overwhelming, especially in this market. But with a few steps and with the help of a professional, you can have a fun, exciting experience.  Justin Ohnstad is president of Southeast Minnesota REALTORS® and is an ERA Gillespie agent based in Owatonna.

| 51


the arts impact Minnesota’s

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Riverland Community College, a member of Minnesota State, is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer. Copyright © 2017 Riverland Community College. All rights reserved.

economy • The arts in Minnesota have over $1 billion in economic impact annually. (Minnesota State Arts Board) • Increased tax revenues come as the arts attract businesses, visitors and new residents while encouraging consumer spending • Reports indicate over 30,000 artists are located throughout Minnesota along with more than 1,600 arts organizations. • In greater Minnesota communities, the arts stimulate business development. Small arts towns like Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, New York Mills, and Lanesboro, for example, “revive their town centers and reinvent themselves” through increased commitment to the arts. (Greg Myers, Corporate Report Minnesota)

• “A vibrant arts community is critical to how corporations decide where to locate, and how people decide where to work.” (Megatrends and Megatrends 2000, John Naisbitt)


U.S. FACES BUMPY TOURISM OUTLOOK Tourism brings big spending not just in Minnesota, but throughout the country, but experts predict 2017 will be a down year for the industry, due in part to international backlash against President Donald Trump.



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The Chicago Tribune in March cited multiple experts predicting: • The United States will have about 4.3 million foreign visitors this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue. • New York City still expects a record 61.7 million visitors due to rising domestic tourism, but predicts 300,000 fewer international tourists will cost the city economy about $900 million. • Los Angeles could lose about 800,000 international visitors and $736 million in spending over the next three years. • Flight searches from the United Kingdom to Miami have fallen 52 percent over last year.

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IN THE AUGUST ISSUE keeping steele strong

FINDING FUTURE FARMERS Since the first settlers arrived in Steele County, agriculture has been a cornerstone of the local economy. But in recent decades, agriculture has seen massive changes in how food is grown, harvested, transported and sold, and many of the small family farms that once dotted the landscape are gone. In August, look to FORGE Magazine to learn how, with the average farmer almost 57 years old, the industry is trying to find the next generation of future farmers. Read our next issue as well for more regional business news in Around Steele County; fresh perspectives on growth from such partners as Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors and Owatonna Partners for Economic Development, and of course, more local business news, press releases and announcements, all coming to your mailbox. Email Associate Editor William Morris at and let us know what else you’d like to see in these pages!

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THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS We would like to thank all of our sponsors for helping make the 8th Annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival possible. We look forward to seeing you all next year!

Major Sponsor: Wenger Foundation Fortississimo Sponsors: Owatonna People’s Press Hy-Vee Forte Sponsors: City of Owatonna Park & Rec Mayo Clinic Health System Federated Insurance R & K Electric Inc. General Equipment Company Redfin HomeTown Credit Union Spherion Staffing J-C Press Tri M Graphics Jostens Walmart KRFO/KAT COUNTRY Wenger Corporation | 55

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® 1880 Austin Rd, Suite #1 OwatOnna • 451-7355 Licensed in the State of Minnesota 2017 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.® Equal Housing Opportunity.


Forge June Edition  
Forge June Edition