Collecting Connect

Welcome to another edition of Connect Business Magazine. Hope you greatly enjoyed last issue—you must have, at least somewhat, or you wouldn’t be back. So buckle your seatbelt, set off some July 4 fireworks, and away we go………

It never ceases to amaze. Can’t tell you how many times the Editor has talked with a business owner that saves every copy of Connect Business Magazine going back years. The latest sighting was at Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic (Wynn Kearney, May ’05 cover), where administrator Dan Menden has every issue since 1996. At one time, Institute for Environmental Assessment saved every issue. So does Brian Tohal of New Ulm Economic Development. Do you save your old issues?……….

On May 7, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Australian-based Ridley Corp. was in the process of selling the largest business headquartered inside Mankato city limits, Ridley Inc. (Bob Gallaway, Sept. ’03 cover). The Australia parent company owns 69 percent of Ridley Inc. stock; the stock trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Ridley Inc. owns Hubbard Feeds. Arguably, Ridley’s business announcement was the biggest in Greater Mankato since the sale of Midwest Wireless. The news broke on a day the Editor wasn’t working. Early on May 9, my uncle from southern Ohio called, and was the first to tell me Ridley was being sold. (My uncle’s brother-in-law is a Ph.D. animal nutritionist with Ridley.)………On May 14, Ridley President/CEO Steve VanRoekel said in a Connect Business Magazine telephone interview, “Not long ago, (our parent company in Australia) went through a strategic review process and decided they could no longer support our growth. We retained a Canadian bank to advise us. We are in the initial stages and have contacted a number of potentially interested parties. It could take a matter of a few months. If we were a private company there wouldn’t be the same obligation as a public company. We have to look at all the alternatives and decide what is in the best interests of shareholders. As for sales, we’ve gone from $100 million ten years ago to $600 million today. The people here (in Mankato) did that, and we are hoping and expecting that whoever owns our shares will appreciate that and would like to see us grow”……………

The Editor was saddened by the death of Flip Schulke, one of the world’s best magazine photographers. A Florida resident, Schulke nonetheless considered New Ulm his hometown. I will always remember his many off-the-record statements and interviewing him at a Rochester (Minn.) hotel for our July ’07 cover. What I couldn’t write last July: Less than a week before our interview, he nearly died of a blocked carotid artery……….

While in Sleepy Eye at W.W. Smith Inn, the Editor learned the Orchid Inn was no longer operating as a full-time restaurant. That situation could be temporary. Julie Schmitt, executive director of the Sleepy Eye Area Chamber, said in a telephone interview that certain people have shown interest in purchasing it, but nothing yet was “set in stone.” A deal possibly could occur even before our July issue printed, she said. Perhaps the ballroom, restaurant—even the closed motel—all could be up and running soon. As for our passing reference this issue of the W.W. Smith Inn Bed and Breakfast being on the “Lutheran” (south) side of town: Sleepy Eye’s division at the railroad tracks into Lutheran and Catholic halves began fading away years ago………..

The Editor enjoyed this year’s Greater Mankato Growth’s “Business Showcase” at Alltel Center and was surprised seeing Marcia Bahr there on her second day as marketing director for Mankato Clinic. Over the years, her contributions in no small measure helped Midwest Wireless (Dennis Miller, March ’01 cover) become the company Alltel would purchase for $1 billion. Bahr said in a Connect Business Magazine telephone interview, “In my last role with Midwest Wireless, I was vice president of marketing and communications, which meant I oversaw marketing strategy, brand management, merchandising, advertising, training, internal communication, market research, and public relations. In March ’06, we learned that marketing would be one of the departments affected by the merger. Alltel asked in early ’07 if I could stay on until March ’08 to help with the transition. I had almost thirteen months notice of being laid off. Now I’m director of public relations for Mankato Clinic and president of Mankato Clinic Foundation. A personal challenge will be learning a new industry. So far, I’m surprised how much I like it here, even more than I thought. The staff, employees, and physicians are so friendly, helpful, and giving of their time”……….At her hiring, Bahr was Midwest Wireless employee No. 67—the company at its peak had 700………..Shelly Megaw (Greater Mankato Growth) and Rod Mitchell (former owner Southern Minnesota Office Machines, featured Sept. ’96) are other ex-Midwest Wireless/Alltel employees finding re-employment in our region. Mitchell just became general manager of All American Foods (Jeff Thom, Jan. ’08 cover). In a telephone interview, Mitchell said, “I like the fact All American Foods is ‘nimble.’ You can actually find someone here to make a decision. In large corporations, sometimes (decision making) can take forever. We can respond to the marketplace quicker.”…………..


In St. Peter for the cover story with Dave Neiman, I once again was reminded of the many business owners in our region working behind the scenes to improve their communities. They all have interesting stories. As for Neiman, I had driven hundreds of times past Arrow Ace Hardware in St. Peter, and hadn’t a clue. Thank you, Larry Haugen, for that tip and others over the years………..

Finally, my son recently joined Boy Scouts. In May, he and I hiked ten miles from Rapidan Dam to North Mankato as part of his hiking merit badge requirements. Along the way, we hiked right past Happy Chef co-founder Sal Frederick—and other military veterans—raising an American flag on Belgrade Avenue to honor a comrade. Sal was looking well………Our ten-miler ended at Wallyn Field in North Mankato where my daughter was playing shortstop in a Miracle League baseball game. For the record: She and her teammates really want to play at the not-yet-finished Miracle League’s Fallenstein Field (Al Fallenstein, Nov. ’02 cover). About twenty kids are in the league this year, but when accessible Fallenstein Field is finished, that number easily could top 100. Build it and they will come. Thanks much to all the donors………….

Until next time: Like the Boy Scouts, “Be prepared” for our September issue.

Daniel Vance

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine

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