Connect Business Magazine

Since 1994: The Magazine for Growing Businesses in Southern Minnesota

15 Years – Special Section

By • Mar 2009 • Category: Feature Story

Fifteen Years - Special Section

Learn what’s new with more than 75 people featured on our cover.

In September 1996, we began our current format of in-depth cover story interviews by featuring U.S. Reps. David Minge and Gil Gutknecht.

In part, we changed formats because of earnestly believing most readers would prefer learning about people rather than products or issues, which had dominated our magazine’s early content. Business, after all—and anyone having been in business knows—consists primarily of people in relationship to others.

In addition, we believed a business was best discovered through its leader’s mind and heart. Business culture always begins at the top and filters down. It’s the leader that really makes a business beat and with whom people really need to “connect.” Businesses are unique only because their leaders have been unique, and that uniqueness usually arises from a leader’s upbringing, character, response to failure and success, taste for risk, and adaptability.

Thus, we began featuring faces on our cover and having in-depth interviews, which directly ran counter to the still current magazine trend of publishing short, issue or product-driven articles.

As the editor making these changes, I came to these conclusions about business and business people years before while being in business myself. I started out in college selling during summers for General Foods and after graduation working as a sales representative for General Mills. I eventually became a buyer for a Washington D.C. food wholesaler and, lastly, was an account executive for a Baltimore-based health and beauty aids brokerage. I switched careers in 1993, and am still a businessman. I have my own freelance writing business.

As for this issue, we have tried “connecting” you once again with the leaders that make businesses beat strong. These cover people—along with our faithful advertisers and other businesspeople featured—are the main reasons for our long-standing success.

Daniel J. Vance



SEPTEMBER ’96 U.S. Reps. David Minge and Gil Gutknecht

Not many people know former Rep. David Minge’s wife grew up in our reading area—in Gaylord. Minge served in Congress until 2001. A year later, Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where he remains today. For our tenth anniversary in 2004, Minge emailed: “In this judicial role I consider and decide appeals from trail courts throughout Minnesota. The work is challenging, interesting and an important part of our legal system. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve the people of our state.”

To catch us up, former Rep. Gil Gutknecht emailed his private Christmas letter. In part, the letter read: When asked about Washington and politics, I tell people that I miss my friends, but I don’t miss “it.” This was the first even-numbered year in the last 26 my name wasn’t on a ballot. Given the results for my party, probably a good thing. In truth, John McCain and Sarah Palin had to run a perfect campaign and catch a few breaks to overtake the national mood. They got an economic meltdown at just the wrong time; they and the administration did not handle it particularly well and the results were pre-ordained. President Obama should be given his chance. The situation we face was brought about by cheap credit and too much debt. People bought houses they could not afford. Big banks and Wall Street leveraged debt by spinning instruments even they didn’t understand. I doubt massive federal borrowing and more debt will solve it—hangovers aren’t cured with more whiskey.

NOVEMBER ’96 Glen Taylor

In this issue, we learned Taylor Corporation founder Glen Taylor was highly competitive, enjoyed reading magazines, raised a type of pigeon called “spinners,” loved horses, understood the value of thanking people, and realized difficult problems can be conquered more than one way. You can read that fascinating interview at For a short update from Taylor, turn to his other appearance in our magazine, in September ’05. 

JANUARY ’97 Dr. Tony Jaspers

This Lake Crystal resident was board president of Mankato Clinic and was Minnesota Medical Association Speaker of the House. As a family physician based in Lake Crystal, he also delivered the Editor’s two children in 1995 and 1996, respectively. According to a Mankato Clinic spokesperson, Dr. Jaspers currently is on a leave of absence.

When interviewed in 1997, he had just served as “point man” helping create a joint venture between Mankato Clinic and Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Riverpath Community Health Network. A torchbearer for good fitness, Dr. Jaspers was an invaluable asset helping Lake Crystal Area Recreation Center get off the ground. Currently, he serves on the Lake Crystal City Council—and is often underappreciated as an asset to the Mankato and Lake Crystal communities.

MARCH ’97 Denny Warta and Mary Ellen Domeier

For an update on former New Ulm banker Mary Ellen Domeier, see the May 2004 entry below.

As for Warta—he is now a retired businessman and former coordinator of New Ulm Economic Development Corp. In an email, he writes: Congrats on the fifteenth anniversary of Connect Business Magazine. That is truly great. Our area is very fortunate to have its own regional publication—one to assist in spurring the vital thinking (necessary) to maintain a viable economy across our county lines.

Regional thinking, planning and activity are vital. A region like ours, in reality, is a metro area spread out. That area must include all the necessities and a good number of desirables or we will begin seeing a long-term faltering economy. In truth, any activity in our area is a plus for all of us and we need to let our residents and potential investors know we have a healthy quality of life in south-central Minnesota. Best wishes—Denny Warta.

MAY ’97 Starr Kirklin

The former Mankato First Bank president and a force behind building the Civic Center in Mankato said in a telephone interview: After retiring from (First Bank) in 1996, I spent five of the next seven years with Minnesota State. Since then, I’ve been semi-retired, doing some consulting in the philanthropic world of fundraising and being on the HickoryTech board. I’ve traveled throughout Europe the last few years and really enjoy Tuscany—the people, surroundings, and laid-back attitude. Also, I’ve remarried, and between us we have 12 grandchildren, including three in St. Paul, three in Rochester, three in Sweden, and three in Omaha. Much of our time is spent enjoying them. When we go to Europe, Sweden somehow gets on the itinerary.

JULY ’97 Karl Johnson

In this issue, we learned he worked on NAFTA and GATT, had testified before Congress, and was on a task force for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Glickman. In a telephone interview, North Mankato pork producer Karl Johnson said he and his brother have since greatly expanded their operations, which now involves sending 150,000 hogs to market—seven times more than when he was interviewed.

He said: I can honestly say 2008 was one of the most interesting years I’ve gone through—and I’ve been at this since the late ‘60s. Having the commodities go up and down so much was just incredible. One thing satisfying to me, though, was that last year, the U.S. exported nearly 25 percent of its pork. In the late ‘80s, we were importing more than exporting. Also, I really enjoy reading your magazine. You’ve featured people I’ve known, including Al Fallenstein, Fred Lutz, Dennis Miller and Mark Davis—when I went to Mankato High in the early 1960s, Mark Davis (now of Davisco Foods International) was my school bus driver.

NOVEMBER ’97 Gary Hopfenspirger

“Retired is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Gary Hopfenspirger, who formerly owned ten Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, including three in Mankato, two in Iowa, and one each in Shakopee, Chaska, Faribault, Worthington, and South Dakota. He had to battle Kentucky Fried Chicken corporate in Louisville to have the right to sell his franchises to his former managers. Eventually, he was able to sell seven of the ten to them, including the three Mankato locations. The last location sold seven years ago. “Most of the managers had been with us 20 years or more and we wanted them to have those stores,” he said. “If you surround yourselves with good people managing the stores, you don’t have to worry (about your business).” In the last year, Hopfenspirger and wife have traveled to California, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, the Caribbean, and recently, Florida, where he will take in baseball spring training.

SEPTEMBER ’97 Bob Wettergren

Wettergren has held only two jobs in life: Wettergren Dairy, where as owner he mentored the likes of John Bresnahan, Bill Pell, and Mark Davis; and St. Peter Chamber of Commerce, as its manager. In an email, the man known affectionately as Mr. St. Peter said: I’m still alive and kickin’ in St. Peter. I lost my beloved wife, Renee, in 2006. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Pheasants Ridge (assisted living), where the staff takes good care of me. I’m still a regular churchgoer and attend volunteer meetings now and then. I’m very fortunate to have good friends who provide me with rides, and am thankful for a wonderful family. My highlights since appearing in Connect Business Magazine include tossing out the first pitch on Cambria Day at the Dome (May 22, 2005) and receiving a Nicollet County Historical Society “life-long commitment to St. Peter” award.

JANUARY ’98 JO Guck Bailey

In 1998, she had just finished a stint as chair of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and was managing a group of local radio stations. Today, she continues managing radio stations in the Mankato area. Following 10 years working with publicly held corporate radio groups, Bailey became vice president and general manager of Radio Mankato/Minnesota Valley Broadcasting, which is a group of eight local Mankato radio stations owned by Don and John Linder. Bailey also owns some local businesses, including 15-year-old, Mankato-based, Sign Pro Custom Signs and Graphics. She is also very active in community service boards and projects in the Mankato area.

MARCH ’98 Jerry Schugel

Jerry and brother Richard helped build up New Ulm-based J&R Schugel Trucking, which now has outposts in Columbus (Ohio), Atlanta, New Ulm, and Tomah, Wisconsin. In 2007, Jerry sold out to his son Rick and nephew Brad—and now says he misses the people at J&R Schugel Trucking most. In a telephone interview, he said, “The company is running about 700 trucks right now. I’m retired and go out there every once in a while to help with odds and ends. I still have the same Harley Davidson you mentioned (in the cover story). I like riding a motorcycle anywhere. In fact, I had a motorcycle before I had a driver’s license. I’d bought one all smashed up and had it (road ready) by the time I had my driver’s license.” 

MAY ’98 Jerry Johnson

In the ‘80s, he co-founded Mankato-based, software firm Clear With Computers (CWC). After he sold out, the company evolved into Firepond, which remains in Mankato. Said Johnson in a telephone interview: I’ve started a new company, Superior Edge, which is on Madison Avenue in Mankato. It’s a software company that builds upon what I did before with Firepond. I’m really excited about it. We’re working with leading companies in agriculture to help them sell effectively through their dealers and agents. We started about three years ago, have been getting customers, and really are working hard on the product. Our software helps salespeople make proposals and solutions, and helps them find the right kind of customers through segmentation and data mining, searching, matching, and databases. This business is comfortable for me because it’s doing the kinds of things we used to do (with CWC).

JULY ’98 Jerry Dotson

We called this Jerry (the last of three straight) the “Wizard of Wireless,” a Mankato-born and –bred whiz kid who became director of education for AT&T Wireless in Seattle. Here’s news: He and brother Denny, president of Mankato-based Dotson Company, four years ago quietly founded a paradigm-shifting company they now call People Driven Performance (PDP). Involved in that venture is another former Connect Business Magazine cover story, Louise Dickmeyer (page 45).

Best we can explain it: In short, PDP is a holistic, frontline employee-driven, permanently embedded, high-priority system designed to effectively change a company’s culture in order to drive overall performance. The firm is fine-tuning the system right now at Dotson Company and Jones Metal Products and eventually will target 100-300 employee companies or groups. Trust us: There is nothing out there even vaguely similar to this approach. You can learn more at

SEPTEMBER ’98 Curt Fisher

Writes Mankato developer, commercial Realtor, and hotel owner Curt Fisher: First, it was fun reviewing the September 1998 Connect Business Magazine and enlightening to see how much was happening in my life then. Key changes for me since have been transforming a majority interest in my company to a Fisher employee ownership group, the expansion and affiliation with Coldwell Banker—now Coldwell Banker Commercial Fisher Group—and completion of the Downtown Hilton Garden Inn. Fisher Group now is more independent, which allows me to focus on specific projects. I have more time at my new country home on the Blue Earth River. Long-time friend/partner Bruce Paradis and I just turned 60 and are about to launch a new sailboat in Cape Town, South Africa, and sail to Belize, Central America—over 8,000 miles. We hope to be back in May. I continue to be most appreciative for opportunities given me in Mankato and for the committed employees of Fisher Group. 

NOVEMBER ’98 Neil Eckles

Over the telephone, we caught up with Eckles in Fort Myers, Florida, where he was attending a Cornell College board of trustees meeting. Sort of retired now, he is board chair of Blue Earth-based BEVCOMM and his son Bill runs day-to-day operations as chief executive officer. BEVCOMM has been expanding a great deal the last few years. It has purchased all of Cannon Valley Telephone and 30 percent of Hector Communications. The company is heavily involved in cable television, Internet, and telephone—“the triple play,” said Eckles. BEVCOMM also bought out the Charter cable franchise in Blue Earth and currently is bringing fiberoptics to all its subscribers. In great measure, the money used for growing the company originated with the $1 billion sale of Midwest Wireless, of which BEVCOMM was a shareholder. Eckles said the board seriously considered leaving the telecommunications industry completely after the sale, but didn’t when realizing selling the business probably would have led to layoffs of dozens of long-time employees.

JANUARY ’99 Maureen Gustafson

The former president of Mankato Area Chamber & Convention Bureau said in a telephone interview: I’m now executive director of Minnesota Works, a nonprofit organization funded by the State of Minnesota. It’s a statewide initiative that helps people with disabilities find meaningful employment. Right now, I’m at the State Capitol three days a week working with the Minnesota Department of Administration, which puts out all the state requests for bid. I respond to any work opportunities on behalf of organizations like MRCI and Lifeworks—I’m kind of like their broker. I have to stay in constant communication with elected officials. I’m also on the MSU Foundation board and doing work with One Bright Star.

MARCH ’99 Leo Berg

He started the Minnesota Events and Festivals Association and Heritagefest, the latter the now-dormant New Ulm ethnic festival. In a telephone interview, he said: I’m retired and enjoying not doing much. Heritagefest still is a corporation, has money in the bank—not a lot, but some—and we have an annual meeting. I don’t know the direction the corporation will go. I was the executive director of Heritagefest for 27 years, and am the one who started and brought it to a higher level as a festival. It’s an ethnic event, and ethnic events these days are not as popular. The newer generations aren’t as interested in them, which creates a problem when you don’t have enough customers to keep an event going. That is basically what happened.

MAY ’99 Dr. Doug Wood and Jerry Crest

Then, this dynamic duo from ISJ Regional Medical Center answered all kinds of questions about healthcare. Shortly after appearing on the cover of Connect Business Magazine, Dr. Wood left as president/ceo of Immanuel St. Joseph’s to return full-time to his role as a Rochester Mayo Clinic consulting cardiologist—where he remains today. He also serves in a number of leadership roles, including the Career and Leadership Development Committee.

Jerry Crest remains chief administrative officer at ISJ Regional Medical Center. Jerry has been largely responsible for the vision of ISJ as a Regional Medical Center—he has led this long-term strategy since 1995. In the last few years, Jerry has served as president of Mankato Chamber of Commerce, where he was instrumental in forming Greater Mankato Growth.

JULY ’99 Rick McCluhan

McCluhan passed away a little over a year ago. He was owner of Express Personnel Services (North Mankato), the former state chair of the Reform Party, and a friend of Jesse Ventura. For the January issue, the Editor asked Joni, Rick’s wife, about Express Personnel. On November 11, 2008, she became its full-time general manager. “Right now, due to the economy, there are a lot of people looking for work,” she said then in a telephone interview. “I wish I could find everyone a job. But there are still companies looking for people.”

SEPTEMBER ’99 Tom Rosen

He’s still ceo of Rosen’s Diversified, now a $2.4 billion, 4,200-employee Fairmont-based ag-related business ranked No. 184 on Forbes’ 2007 list of U.S. private businesses. In a telephone interview, Rosen said: Our company has grown to be a lot bigger than ten years ago. Now we’re in the pet food and treat business, have five packing and three processing plants, tripled the size of our chemical division, and own a trucking company in Green Bay. Personally, (having a wife, Sen. Julie Rosen, who is a state senator) takes a lot of adjustment. She’s done very well as a state senator. You’re kind of widowed for about five months (when the legislature is in session). It’s a time when you can’t do some of the things you used to do together.

NOVEMBER ’99 Staff Harder

Retired now, this former Carlson Craft (North Mankato) president does a little of everything. He clears snow for free off the driveways of eighteen homes, attends auto auctions to purchase cars for friends, lifts weights every morning, walks around Spring Lake Park, and day trades stocks almost half the day. As for day trading his own IRA money, he is doing better than his three managed accounts, he claims. He and his wife have lived in the same home since 1977. “The Lord has been good,” he said in a telephone interview. 

JANUARY ’00 Bob Weerts

We opened up a new century with Winnebago sparkplug Bob Weerts, who owned Blue Valley Sod and Weerts Construction, and was involved in numerous other ventures. The introduction to his interview read: “If you’re expecting Bob Weerts to be another Rodin’s “The Thinker” or some introspective MBA who analyzed and plotted his way to success, think again. This guy is one big ball of bubbling electrons that won’t stay put, impulsive, a whirling dervish, a straight shooter but from the hip, who somehow worked and willed his way through a crippling childhood bout with polio to be one of southern Minnesota’s most respected entrepreneurs.” For a Weerts update, see January ’06.

MARCH ’00 Pat Johnson

Now retired as ceo of Bloomington-based SFM (State Fund Mutual), Minnesota State graduate Johnson has been keeping busy. She and her attorney husband both enjoy travel and cooking, but her greatest personal satisfaction comes from volunteering. She said in a telephone interview: I’ve been teaching math to newer immigrants, mostly Somalian women. It has been extremely gratifying and a stark reminder how we can take our basic education for granted. For many of these women, this is their first opportunity at a formal education. I have eager learners and I learn a great deal from them.

MAY ’00 Mark Furth

Recently, Furth retired as ceo of $1.6 billion Associated Milk Producers, the New Ulm-based dairy cooperative, and handed the reins over to Ed Welch, an AMPI veteran. We caught up with Furth only days into his retirement, when he was literally cleaning out his AMPI desk. He said over the telephone: I’m going to miss the people here. AMPI has been my whole life. I have become friends with hundreds, maybe thousands of dairy farmers over the years. Now I’m going to do all those things I never had time to do, hopefully some traveling and vacationing. I have ten grandkids to spend time with and own a cabin up north. As for Ed (Welch), he’s a long-time AMPI employee of 25 years. He’s a known quantity in the company. His strengths are in manufacturing, which is the principal thing we do.

JULY ’00 Paul Wilke

Go ahead, call it “Paul’s Mall”—he’s been general manager of River Hills Mall more than 16 years. In 2008, the Mall was especially busy, he said over the telephone, with a dozen or so construction projects completed. Personally, Wilke’s one son is a legislative assistant in St. Paul and another is attending MSU. On the side, he and his wife have opened Topper’s Pizza, which employs more than 40 MSU students. Oh, he has another passion: Campus Kitchens. This nonprofit MSU organization collects, repackages and distributes unused food from MSU food service operations, providing more than 16,000 meals a year to needy Mankatoans. Thousands of MSU students volunteer to distribute the meals. Wilke says your business can donate food or money—the latter desperately needed—by calling Samantha with MSU at 389-6076.

SEPTEMBER ’00 David Castle

Fairmont-based Avery Weigh-Tronix has been sold twice the last couple of years—first to England-based European Capital and second to Illinois Tool Works. Former ceo and cover story David Castle retired from Avery Weigh-Tronix in 2007 and has a new passion: owning a bed & breakfast two hours outside Toronto. Shining Waters B&B is on 55 acres near the fish-rich Indian River, and has a five-acre garden of roses, raspberries, strawberries, and perennials. The B&B itself has four bedrooms and a nearby log cabin. A renovated barn hosts wedding receptions. He said, “You ought to check it out at or on YouTube.”

NOVEMBER ’00 Jeanne Votca Carpenter

When interviewed, this Mankato native and MSU grad was a senior vice president of marketing and business development at Shandwick International, then the world’s No. 3 public relations firm. Today? Here’s a quick update, via email: Three years ago, I launched Perception INK, a communications firm dedicated to helping companies, nonprofit organizations and their leaders create the positive perceptions critical to long-term success. From our Minneapolis office (near the new Minnesota Twins ballpark), we help clients tell their stories in ways that resonate with their customers, employees and community. Through public relations, executive speaking and other communications approaches, we help clients forge positive connections and create relationships of mutual goodwill and benefit. When in Mankato, I often proudly accompany my father, Cornelius, to events at Minnesota State University where I serve on the foundation board of directors.

JANUARY ’01 Bill Bresnan

He’s the most famous person ever raised in Madison Lake, the most famous graduate of South Central College, and a living legend in the U.S. cable television industry. In an email, Bresnan writes from his Purchase, New York, headquarters: From my childhood in Mankato to my present life as a cable company chairman headquartered on the East Coast (but operating cable systems throughout the Rocky Mountain states), I’ve tried carrying with me the small-town virtues my mother instilled in me as a boy in Minnesota. Today our company, Bresnan Communications, is bringing the most advanced telecommunications services to numerous small- and mid-sized communities in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, assuring that these customers enjoy the same high-tech benefits as urban markets.

MARCH ’01 Dennis Miller

We called him “Rocketman” for his meteoric rise leading Mankato-based Midwest Wireless from nothing to being sold for a cool billion dollars. Today, former ceo Miller and his ex-Midwest Wireless senior management team are looking at starting another business. He has used the time since the company’s sale a few years back to spend more time with family, advise young people, serve as vice chair of the ISJ-Mayo board, and do everything he can to promote the Mankato metro area.

As for finding another business, he said in a telephone interview: “You stick with your strengths and what you enjoy and telecommunications is something I know well and enjoy. We have looked at a number of opportunities and the fact we’re still looking means we haven’t found the right one yet.” He paused, then added, “There’s a good reason why you and I are talking here. That’s because I’m not going anywhere. I’ve had a chance to step back, recharge batteries, and think about what I’m going to do next. And I wouldn’t do it anywhere else (than this area).”

JULY ’01 Fred Lutz

This former 7UP Bottlers Association national president and Northland Beverage (North Mankato) owner is semi-retired and “still volunteering,” he said in a telephone interview. He winters in Naples, Florida, and enjoys a Friday breakfast group there made up of Minnesotans. Many of the speakers also have been Minnesotans, including a Minnesota Twins player or two, university presidents, Glen Taylor, and Gov. Pawlenty—up to 300 show.

He said: “Tonight, I’m seeing a Minnesota Timberwolves game with The Dam Store owner Jim Hruska, also a 1958 Mankato High graduate. I still own my share in the Minnesota Timberwolves and enjoy having fun with our four grandchildren. And I still fly my airplane. As for business, I sold the 20 acres I owned in North Mankato to Crossview Covenant Church, and we sold the Barnes and Noble mall near River Hills Mall.”

SEPTEMBER ’01 Bob Alton

Former HickoryTech president (and current board member) Bob Alton retired in ’02 and lives in Fort Pierce, Florida. He kept his Mankato home. His new life has been centered on volunteering, including teaching English as a second language to adults, reading news on a PBS radio station as a service to two thousand sight-impaired people, and mentoring young people through a group called Teen Anglers, in which he fishes with grade point-worthy high school teens once a month. He said in a telephone interview: “I’m a passionate fisherman, and also spend a lot of time on fresh and saltwater. I especially love bass fishing, and Florida is full of lakes with it.”

NOVEMBER ’01 Sharron Moss-Higham

Back in the day, she was the Big Cheese at Kraft’s massive processed cheese plant in teutonic New Ulm, the dairy-kind-of Capital of the World. When reading that cover story, you learned the Velveeta produced in New Ulm in 2000 equaled the weight of 33,500 Volkswagen Beetles—and other odd facts. Moss-Higham is no longer in New Ulm. She is Kraft’s vice president of procurement. To get a taste for her work today, read our 2001 interview in which she said: “Our corporate procurement organization does demand planning and forecasting by looking at long-term needs and by working closely with vendors. Many ingredients and supplies we use can’t be purchased overnight from just anyone.”

JANUARY ’02 Deb Flemming

This former Free Press editor emailed an update: “Deb Flemming now lives in Sartell, Minn., and currently serves as the executive director of the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides job-related training to Minnesota newspaper professionals and teaches the public about the role and obligations of a free press in a free society. Flemming also is an adjunct faculty member in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.”

MARCH ’02 Bob Gunther

He co-owned Fairmont-based Gunther’s Foods then and still owns Fairlakes Transportation, Martin County’s transit system. Right now, this seven-term Republican and other St. Paul legislators are up to their wisdom teeth in fiscal red ink. When the Editor spoke to him over the telephone, Gunther seemed generally content with life and work. He really enjoys being a state representative, but would rather be in the majority. It’s a line of work in which he can make a difference in people’s lives. His House committee assignments: Energy Finance and Policy; Environment and Natural Resources Finance; Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy; and Rules and Legislative Administrative.

MAY ’02 Tom Engdahl

From Waseca-based Brown Printing: It’s probably no coincidence that immediately after appearing on your cover in 2002, I was promoted from chief operating officer to Brown president/ceo. It never occurred to me your magazine would have such a powerful influence. My sincere thanks! Now, almost seven years later, I’m pleased to report Brown Printing remains highly competitive with wonderfully talented employees in a fiercely competitive market.

Having retired in December 2007, I am well into the process of juggling my discretionary time among any number of projects and pursuits—think manual labor heavily in the mix—all the time seeking ways to minimize irritating my wife and 17-year old daughter with overexposure to me.

Now that you have the gist, I conclude by wishing Connect Business Magazine all the very best. Finally, to Brown Printing readers, I’m confident Brown will survive and thrive, as has been the 50-plus year track record of this terrific company—one that knows how to focus on the future and change with the times.

JULY ’02 Lowell Andreas

In 1947, he and brother Dwayne purchased a Mankato soybean plant, modernized it, and renamed it Honeymead. They then sold out in the ‘60s, started National City Bank in Minneapolis, and later Lowell became president of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The rest is history. He maintains a summer home less than a mile from MSU, spends a little more than half the year in Naples, Florida, and has his last name engraved on two MSU buildings. Not a bad life. Even though retiring as president from ADM at age 50, 87-year-old Andreas still maintains an office at the Mankato Third Avenue ADM facility and, when here, enjoys friends and regular lunches at Mankato Golf Club.

SEPTEMBER ’02 Mark Davis

Back then, Le Sueur-based Davisco Foods International was a $450 million company. It has grown. When we caught up with President Mark Davis, his South Dakota plant had just the day before received a “New Factory of the Year” award in Orlando, Florida, from the U.S. Dairy Forum. In a telephone interview from Florida, Davis said, “I just got back from ten days in China and it was below zero (Fahrenheit) the whole time. We supply a dairy company there that specializes in infant formula. The company we’re working with was not involved in the (infant formula) scandal. We’re fortunate we chose a company with some integrity.”

When asked if he was still reading Connect Business Magazine, Davis said, “Read it? I’ve got it with me right now. And I was reading your article on Sam Gault (last issue) when my office emailed to say you had called.” His company’s second Nicollet County dairy farm will be operational by April.  

NOVEMBER ’02 Al Fallenstein

Has it really been more than five years? Taylor Corporation Executive Vice President Al Fallenstein, and wife Erla, passed away on December 16, 2003, following a Highway 14 automobile accident. One of their many legacies was the seed money for the fully accessible Miracle League field on Highway 14 at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Fallenstein was a quadriplegic and wheelchair user. Our introduction to his story began: It’s likely Al Fallenstein has never thought of himself as a corporate leader, or an inspiration, but nonetheless he is both and more. If what Napoleon said is true, namely, that “in war, the morale is to the material as three is to one,” then it’s no wonder the 85-division Taylor Corporation army has won so many corporate battles.

JANUARY ’03 Dan Gislason

From Gislason & Hunter offices in New Ulm, he emailed: I’m currently in my thirty-seventh year of my law practice, and am soon to be Medicare eligible. My law practice remains a general civil practice with an emphasis on family law and civil litigation. My alternative dispute resolution practice has expanded and is truly where my heart is. I have participated as a task force member in a Minnesota Supreme Court initiative to bring new forms of ADR to family courts in the Third and Fifth Judicial Districts and am providing Early Neutral Evaluations regarding financial issues as well as parenting time issues. I have been named a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and am actively mentoring the young lawyers in the firm so I can slow down.

Kudos for maintaining the health and vitality of Connect Business Magazine. It is well read by many. It’s a wonderful tool for the businesses and the professions of southern Minnesota.

MARCH ’03 John Linder

John Linder of Minnesota Valley Broadcasting continues to own and operate locally owned radio stations in southern Minnesota, including one of this area’s only remaining locally produced AM stations, KTOE. In 2007, Linder added more stations to his Mankato Radio Group, including KYSM-AM and KXLP-FM, which were previously owned by Clear Channel Broadcasting—and started a new country station, KATO-FM. Linder was recently instrumental in assisting Minnesota State University’s KMSU construct a new transmitter and tower site.

MAY ’03 Ed Bosanko

He ran Truman’s $250 million (now $480 million) Watonwan Farm Service—Minnesota’s largest local farmer-owned cooperative. What’s Ed Bosanko doing today? He emailed: I retired from WFS on August 1, 2008, after having spent just short of 40 years working for cooperative agricultural grain and farm supply companies. My wife and I moved back to Aberdeen, S. Dak., in September, where we raised our family after having moved there in 1968. We are now close to our youngest daughter and our grandchildren so we can spend more time watching them grow. I am also still actively involved with my brother in our 1,600-acre family farm 20 miles west of Aberdeen. We also run a pheasant hunting operation at our farm: Lone Tree Lodge. I look forward to spending much of my time golfing, fishing, hunting and whatever else retired people do.

JULY ’03 Louise Dickmeyer

Mankato’s own Louise Dickmeyer has been Valley Industrial Development Corporation executive director, Scholarship Management Services national marketing director, and Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce ceo/president. Her newest venture? She is now executive vice president of People Driven Performance (PDP), founded by Denny and Jerry Dotson. PDP offers enterprises a business system called rCompanyHub™, which is a continuing performance improvement solution engaging employees so they drive the effectiveness, efficiency, and agility of those systems. In addition, Expert Publishing of Minneapolis is publishing Dickmeyer’s book, No Risk No Reward: Mergers of Membership Associations and Nonprofits, which offers direction to staff and board members involved in the merger process. Dickmeyer has a Masters degree in nonprofit management.

SEPTEMBER ’03 Bob Gallaway

$600 million ag-related Ridley is still the largest business headquartered in Mankato. Former ceo Bob Gallaway retired from Ridley in 2005, and since then has been a feed business consultant. He joked over the telephone: “Other than that, I’m kind of twiddling my thumbs and wondering what I’ll be doing tomorrow. We live out in the country on 20 wooded acres near Rapidan. I keep a little office in the Northwest Office Building, which gives me a place to work.” As for Connect Business Magazine, he said: “It’s amazing—you learn so much reading. I read your magazine every issue. This last issue, you featured John Finke. I knew him and what he does, but didn’t know about him as a person.”

NOVEMBER ’03 Al Annexstad

In the five years since his cover story of a successful life shaped by youth mentoring first appeared in Connect Business Magazine, many positive developments have come about in Al’s busy life. (Annexstad is a St. Peter native.) After 45 years of service to Owatonna-based Federated Insurance Companies, Annexstad recently passed along the reins of leadership as president/ceo, after having led Federated to a position of unprecedented financial strength. He continues to serve as Federated’s chair. At the same time, he and wife Cathy, and the Federated organization, remain deeply committed to the cause of youth mentoring, raising millions of dollars in recent years for at-risk children through the Federated Challenge for Kids of Minnesota. Also, the Annexstad Family Foundation has helped send many deserving Minnesotans to college—young people who share Al’s life story that was shaped early on by caring adult mentors.

JANUARY ’04 Lorin Krueger

Former Mankato-based Winland Electronics CEO Lorin Krueger, our Business Person of the Year 2004, is still on the Winland Electronics board and on the MRCI Foundation and United Way boards. He said in a telephone interview: After leaving Winland Electronics in January 2008, I took a ‘sabbatical.’ It was time off to enjoy friends, family, and travel. I began reflecting on what I might want to do the next 25 years. People told me not to jump too quickly into anything new. From there, I set out looking at business opportunities in franchising or purchasing a retail, distribution or manufacturing business. My wife and I went to Nashville and Cincinnati to look. After visiting friends in Chicago, I set out earnestly to purchase a distribution business in this region, but I was outbid. I’m looking at purchasing a business within 100 miles of Mankato. The poor economic times have caused some owners to take their businesses off the market—these owners can’t retire because of their declining personal portfolios.

MARCH ’04 Tom Atwood

In our cover story then, we said “Atwood” could be the most seen “surname” in southern Minnesota because of so many Century 21 Atwood Realty “for sale” signs. In that regard, not much has changed. Today, the Mankato-based company has 32 agents, and Tom and his father are still co-owners. Said Atwood in a telephone interview: “In ’07, I bought out my father in our property management business. The real estate market has become a challenge the last five years, but to offset that our rental business has been strong lately. With low interest rates and low home prices, the affordability index is probably close to an all-time high. Buyers are sitting on the fence because of being worried about the economy. The national news media talks about the real estate markets in California and Florida going down, but ours has only been stagnant.”

On a personal note, since being featured, Atwood now has a granddaughter, Jade Rose, who recently turned four.

MAY ’04 Mary Ellen Domeier

A former Minnesota Bankers Association and Valley Bank & Trust president, New Ulm’s Domeier still has a foot in business. She serves on the boards of New Ulm Telecom (since 1999), American Artstone (since 2003), and Iowa-based Bank Midwest (since 2007). Her other foot is planted as a volunteer trustee at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and chair of New Ulm Retail Development Corporation (NURDC). Other than that, she’s retired. In a telephone interview, she said: “I love the opportunity to keep involved in the business community. When it comes to church matters, that is my way of giving back and being of service to our Lord. I have had a blessed life. With NURDC, hopefully, we will keep New Ulm retail vibrantly alive.” Besides work, and volunteering, she has grandchildren in Des Moines and Elk River. 

JULY ’04 Wade Hensel

Former chair of $20 billion Cooperative Finance Corporation and current general manager of BENCO Electric and Brown County Rural Electrical Association, Hensel writes this in an email: My growing family—now with four grandchildren—and my work have been my primary focus. It has certainly been fun watching my grandchildren grow and learn. We are very fortunate to have our children live close. At work, our mission continues to be providing the best possible service at the lowest possible cost consistent with sound business management. The lowest possible cost portion of this mission is being challenged as many forces are trying to raise the price of electricity to cause people to use less. There are also many at the state and federal level trying to severely limit CO2 emissions long before any technology is available to accomplish it at a reasonable price—in addition to new energy taxes through a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax. We’ve been working hard informing people of the cost to our members and society of many of these proposals.

SEPTEMBER ’04 Gov. Tim Pawlenty

You’ll have to forgive the man, because the Guv has been more than busy the last few months, you know, what with a gazillion dollar deficit and dealing with an ascending Democratic insurgency in St. Paul. So pounding out an email response to our perky media request for a personal update must not have really piqued his interest as a request from, say, the Washington Post or New York Times would. Anyway, if you believe all the talking head pundits, Gov. Pawlenty was on John McCain’s very short list for vice president, which automatically puts him on the very short list for being the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. When interviewing him for our cover, the Editor was most impressed with the Guv’s oozing intellect—he was smarter than what I had thought going in. One crisp mind.

NOVEMBER ’04 Fred C. Krahmer

Of all our cover stories, this Fairmont native has been the only one to befriend a band of roaming Gypsies—while in Fairmont, no less. Over the years, he has worn a lot of hats, including being a major grain and pork producer, land developer, an attorney with Krahmer & Bishop, and a bank owner with Profinium Financial of Truman. When we tried reaching him for an interview, he was tucked away in a little corner of Mexico on travel. When he returns, we’ll interview him and include his gracious update in the May Off-The-Cuff column.

JANUARY ’05 Milt Toratti

He helped found Riverbend Center for Enterprise Facilitation (RCEF) in Blue Earth County. In 2003, with Toratti at the helm, the National Association of Counties recognized RCEF as the nation’s “Best Rural Economic and Community Development Program.” He was our Business Person of the Year 2005. Today, semi-retired Toratti is writing hunting and fishing books, and is nearly finished with The Entrepreneurial Mind. He also mows Shoreland Country Club’s grass and is the building/gym supervisor at a St. Peter recreation center, trying to “keep those young people disciplined and on the straight and narrow,” he said in a telephone interview. “I especially enjoy helping sixth through ninth graders with basketball advice. Both my boys were great basketball players and I played some, too.”

MARCH ’05 Doug Thomas

Lately, the director of Henderson-based EdVisions has been especially busy. The group helps teachers nationwide form cooperatives to improve education delivery and results. Thomas writes in an email: We just completed a five-year plan to help create another hundred EdVisions high schools across the country. We now have 47 schools in 12 states in our network. Within five years, we’ll have up to 35 staff people here in Henderson and nationwide. We just received notice of a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to jumpstart our business expansion. Despite the recession, we’ll have a market as long as there are kids and people who want their schools to change for the better. Our future plans include a micro-university/training center in Henderson. On a side note: Downtown Henderson had its best fall ever. We’re seeing lots of people who love our small town, historic setting, celebrations, and great food.

MAY ’05 Dr. Wynn Kearney Jr.

He is still senior physician at Mankato-based Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic (OFC) and a Minnesota Timberwolves minority owner. In a telephone interview, he said: On a personal note, I have very happily remarried to a wonderful woman, Ginnette, who is a great wife and wonderful mother. Our combined families have five children. So life is good. As for business, I have just completed two years as HickoryTech board chair. I think its future is bright. OFC is in the midst of an expansion. As for the Timberwolves—they’re in turnaround mode. Al Jefferson and Kevin Love will give us a frontline we’ve never had before.

As for Connect Business Magazine: I always take several things away from reading your cover interviews that I didn’t know previously. Your insightful questions lead to interesting personal and business information. Others have made similar observations. 

JULY ’05 Jean Fitterer Lance

An email from her Maple Grove office: North Mankato native Jean Fitterer Lance continues working for Boston Scientific Corporation as vice president and general counsel—cardiovascular, providing counsel on a wide variety of domestic corporate legal issues involving Boston Scientific’s cardiovascular business. In addition, Jean is actively engaged as a meber of the AdvaMed Legal Committee and The American Medical Association Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration. She also serves as an alumni board member for Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is married to Brad Lance, also an attorney, and they have three sons. The family enjoys youth sporting events, community and school activities, and spending time at their Lake Jefferson home.

SEPTEMBER ’05 Glen Taylor

In an email, Taylor Corporation founder and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor kept us up-to-date on his fast-paced life. Forbes ranks $1.7 billion Taylor Corporation at No. 286 on its top U.S. private business listing, behind only Fairmont-based Rosen’s Diversified for this region. (See September ‘99, Tom Rosen). In short, Taylor writes: “As Chairman of Taylor Corporation and giving up the day-to-day responsibilities, I find I have more time to spend on my hobbies, more time with my family and with my other business interests. And I still enjoy the ability to mentor people within the corporation.”

NOVEMBER ’05 Keith Kor

Amazing: He and his board keep coming up with ways to cut costs and increase profits at Winnebago’s Corn Plus ethanol plant. In a telephone interview, Kor rattled off one innovative measure after another, saying: We put in fluid-bed technology and reduced our natural gas consumption 52 percent. When we burn our bi-product, the ash that burns off has fertilizer value and we’re selling that back to the farmer. We have two, 2.1-megawatt turbines producing electricity for Corn Plus. With that, we’ve teamed up with John Deere as co-owners of the turbines, and have an agreement with them to purchase the electricity. We are locked in at under a nickel per kilowatt for 20 years. We also pelletize our DDG, call it Corn Glow, and sell it to people using corn-burning stoves. We’re also looking at new technology to increase our yield within the plant. Typically, a plant will get 2.7 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, but with the new technology that will go to 2.9.

JANUARY ’06 Bob Weerts

Our Business Person of the Year 2006, Winnebago-based Weerts is one of three people to appear on our cover twice. (Mary Ellen Domeier and Glen Taylor are the others). He is best known for Blue Valley Sod, yet there is so much more. In the last year, Weerts opened “Biopellets,” a pellet manufacturing facility in Deer River to supply corn stove users. He has a five-year sales contract, and exports product to Europe. He also developed land in Winnebago that became the site for a grocery store. In a telephone interview, he said, “In all our businesses, including Blue Valley Sod, we have been trying to be proactive rather than reactive in this down economy. We’re not bellyaching about the economy—just taking advantage of it.”

He now has five different new ventures going on at once, in Minneapolis, Mankato, and Spokane. What ties them together is green energy. As parting advice to our readers, he added, “Be positive. Things will get tough, but be positive. Everything is going to work out. The Lord is good.”

MARCH ’06 Yvonne Cariveau, VoyageurWeb

We called her a “Minnesota Internet Pioneer” for having co-founded Internet Connections in 1994. Now Dr. Cariveau owns Mankato-based VoyageurWeb. In a telephone interview, she said:

Much has changed since being on the cover. For one, I remarried—to Derek. The ceremony was held in the backyard of my Main Street home. In terms of business, we moved to the Union Square Building. As for the Internet: Over the holidays, I was talking with my daughters (in their 20s) and their boyfriends. They all are constantly using the Internet—over their wireless phones, game boxes, music players, communication devices, and their car GPS systems. They don’t like it when they aren’t connected. Using the Internet is really in their generation’s bloodstream. In time, this will have huge (business) implications for all of us. It will become increasingly harder for companies to do business without having a decent budget for interacting online. Younger people today want to be able to interact with you and get answers 24/7. If not able to do it, they will go to someone who can.

MAY ’06 Bob Christensen

Sleepy Eye-based Christensen Farms is still the world’s largest family-owned pork producer, raising enough pork to feed more than 14 million people each year. At the time of Christensen’s cover story, pork processing plant Triumph Foods was just starting. Today, Triumph Foods slaughters 19,000 head a day and has grown to employ around 2,500. Strong export markets for high-quality pork products have fueled several value-added plant expansions. This last year, the plant added a freezer facility, expanded equilibrium bays, and implemented CO2 stunning for more efficient pork processing. Christensen Farms is the largest shareholder of Triumph Foods, located in St. Joseph, Missouri.

JULY ’06 Dr. Bill Rupp

He successfully led Mankato-based ISJ Regional Medical Center through a period highlighted by significant quality improvements, which resulted, in part, in the organization receiving the Minnesota Quality Award from the Minnesota Council for Quality in 2006. Dr. Rupp left ISJ in June 2007 and was replaced by Dr. Greg Kutcher. Only months ago, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, named Rupp president/ceo. Today ISJ Regional Medical Center has annual revenues above $400 million, employs 2,000 plus, and has an annual payroll of $110 million.

SEPTEMBER ’06 Pam Year

Mankato-based MRCI WorkSource’s executive director emailed: We are fortunate here to have completed a pretty successful 2008 and are preparing for expected difficulties this year.  Our people are often the first to lose their jobs and the first to suffer funding cuts, so we expect there will be blood—to paraphrase the movie title. I am personally curious to see if this latest (financial) crisis will help our country shift its attention from the “price” of things to the “value’ of things. I think some good may come of it all if we can begin to look less cynically at our situations and revert to an earlier, more value driven, sense of community.

Personally, I’m not quite ready to quit. I feel ready to be tested and able to lead our organization through another chapter. It is still the most interesting cast of characters—both staff and clients—I could ever hope to hold dear.

NOVEMBER ’06 Bob Wallace

Fairmont Chamber executive Bob Wallace said in a telephone interview: After being in Connect Business Magazine, I received emails and heard many comments. You hear over and over what a wonderful magazine Connect Business Magazine is for the region. Because my interview also featured Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation—I was on the board—that issue was handed out to all board members.

I’m just plugging away here at the Chamber. I have no plans on retiring in the near future. What would I do if I retired? I’d probably volunteer to do what I’m doing now anyway. I feel good, really enjoy my work, and don’t have any plans to hang it up. In other words, I’m still buying green bananas. Workforce development is one Chamber challenge—getting people geared up and reeducated for all the new types of jobs becoming available. There are good-paying career opportunities here. You don’t have to go elsewhere.

JANUARY ’07 Roxie Mell-Brandts

Our introduction to her cover story began, “Most people scrapbook memories. Roxie Mell-Brandts of Garden City, Connect Business Magazine Business Person of the Year 2007, preserves hers by restoring a Minnesota town.” Today, she is still president of Jensen Transport, a hauler of propane, anhydrous, and soybean oil with headquarters in South Bend Township near Mankato, and with facilities in the Twin Cities and Benson. She began at Jensen Transport as a 17-year-old high school senior and bought into the business 27 years later. And, of course, she is still quite sentimental about her true love, Garden City.

MARCH ’07 Jerry Bambery

He owns five McDonald’s franchises, including all three in Mankato. But change is afoot. In a telephone interview, Bambery said: I have resolved to transfer my McDonald’s business to my two daughters, Keri and Colleen, hopefully by the end of first quarter. We have to do a lot of legal work for it to happen. They have been doing substantial work the last 15-20 years, and have been mentored by other McDonald’s operators and me. I am now doing things I always hoped I could do, including building a cabin in Canada, shooting and field dressing a buffalo, and for the fourth year in a row spending a month traveling the U.S. and Canada with a brother who has lung cancer. As for the months-long construction around his landmark Madison Avenue location—to help reclaim some of the lost business, he has opened a second drive-thru lane.

MAY ’07 Art Olsen

Business has been going great guns for the president of New Ulm-based Beacon Promotions, an award-winning promotional products manufacturer. Before Beacon, Olsen was president (at different times) of Advertising Unlimited, R.L. Polk, and Norwood Promotional Products. As for business, he said in a telephone interview that rising healthcare, oil, plastics, and natural gas costs have affected company margins. He added: We’re just working hard as we can at growing the business. We’re forecasting about $15.5 million for this coming year. Considering the economy, we think that’s a realistic number. With your magazine: When I bring it home to my wife, she reads it, and she especially enjoyed the article about Sarah Person of Exclusively Diamonds. On a personal note, the Olsens have a new nine-month-old grandson, Finn Olsen Allen.

JULY ’07 Flip Schulke

The Editor earned his pay doing this cover story. The interview involved two lengthy telephone conversations and one face-to-face at a splashy hotel near Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Schulke spent his high school years in New Ulm. The first paragraph of his Washington Post obituary read: “Flip Schulke, 77, a photographer whose arresting images of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. became icons of an era, died May 15 (2008) of congestive heart failure at Columbia Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Schulke also shot memorable photographs of the boxer Muhammad Ali, pre-Castro Cuba and Fidel Castro, eight presidents and the early astronauts.”

SEPTEMBER ’07 Mike Drummer

A Mankato land developer, construction company owner, and garden center owner, St. Clair native Drummer said this in a telephone interview: Thanks: After being in Connect Business Magazine, I received letters and email from others who’d been on the cover, including Mark Davis, Dennis Miller, and Jerry Bambery—and from Becky Taylor (Glen Taylor’s wife). As for business, we had taken a break in 2005 because we thought the market would go soft. We believed the population base in Mankato wasn’t growing enough. We believed (the new home building) was because people were moving from rental to home ownership with the low interest rates. We thought the market would slow, and it did. Last summer, Drummer placed 89 lots on the market near Mankato Airport and has sold eight already; and purchased 70 acres in North Mankato to develop this year. He added, “We are focused now on doing only starter homes.”

NOVEMBER ’07 Sarah Person

Exclusively Diamonds (Mankato) owner Person had a busy 2008. She writes:

I was keynote speaker for the Bethany Lutheran College women’s retreat. The theme was how God can take our journeys and experiences and carve out a person making a difference for HIM.  I wanted women to feel empowered to step out in faith and know “We can do all things in Christ that strengthens us.”

As for business, it’s more difficult in a challenging economic environment. However, we’ve been blessed with an incredibly loyal clientele. Our bridal market has been insulated from tough economic times, and quality diamonds and gold prices have remained solid. The most unique diamond we sold was a four-carat, fancy yellow radiant set in a custom-made platinum setting with over one-carat of diamonds paved around the center diamond.  I fell in love with that diamond on a buying trip and designed the mounting to enhance its beauty.

Also, the Inter City Leadership Visit team is planning a leadership summit April 26-27 to continue helping our region thrive.

JANUARY ’08 Jeff Thom

This Mankato-based All American Foods ceo—and our Business Person of the Year 2008—has a keen sense of humor. In a telephone interview, he said: As always, things are going well here—in spite of me. I thought after putting me on the cover in January 2008 you’d been broke by now. As for our business, we’re able to pay the bills and not lay anyone off in this economy, which is a testament to everyone working here. I still think as we business people get older, we learn more and get smarter, and a lot of what we learn is how little we know. Bringing new knowledge around me, as a business aspect, has been valuable to all our employees and me. Thom mentioned Rod Mitchell on January 1 replacing retiring Keith Brekke as president. (Brekke then joined the board.) He also mentioned not reading many magazines, but always setting aside quality time for Connect Business Magazine—“despite your choice for the cover a year ago January,” he deadpanned.

MARCH ’08 Bryan Paulsen

Mankato-based Paulsen Architects has designed more than a few buildings around southern Minnesota—and the nation. Bryan wants to bring you up to speed with this email: If I had to sum up what I’ve been doing in business lately, I’d say I’ve concentrated on our firm’s strategic growth—and I don’t mean in terms of size alone. We’ve added landscape architecture as a core service; expanded our green/sustainable design practice by gaining further experience, education and accreditation; and encouraged our staff members to grow professionally by obtaining certifications in their areas of expertise and becoming more involved in community activities. On a personal level, the biggest highlight of 2008 was being a fan of the Mankato West Scarlets Football Team, which my son Jonny plays on, and watching them win the State AAAA Championship.

MAY ’08 Cindy Pautzke

This creative Vernon Center native as a child helped found Pumpkinland and, years later, Participant Centered Results, which you can learn more about in her email: Indy (my golden lab) and I have been traveling the U.S. helping businesses become more successful. Specifically, we’ve been working on redesigning new hire training and designing training to help participants learn better, harder, and faster. My specialty is how the brain learns with the impact of eliminating death by PowerPoint and creating training that moves from 10 percent to 80-90 percent in retention rate. My clients enjoy Indy so much. They have been inviting her into the strategic learning environment. She adds fun, laughter, and sense of stability. Also, we’ve been helping clients understand that especially in these economic times building a training program and designing effective meetings is saved revenue—due to reduced cycle time with faster on-boarding that produces business results.

JULY ’08 Dave Neiman

St. Peter born and bred Dave Neiman has a growing flock of ten Arrow Ace Hardware stores in southern Minnesota. In an email, he writes: In late 2008, we opened the Mankato store and it’s going great. Personally, this summer, I took a bad fall that required surgery with pins and screws in my right foot. For over two months, I wasn’t able to walk or put any weight on my foot. I had a walker to help me get around. I can now walk a few blocks and my doctor said I should totally recover sometime this summer—one year after the injury. Every situation provides an opportunity for learning. Now, I appreciate my health and the ability to walk more than ever. I also have gained a better understanding of the obstacles many people with limited mobility face.

SEPTEMBER ’08 Gene Hugoson

This issue featured Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson, a Martin County resident. In an email, he said he kept busy in late 2008 conducting “listening sessions” around Minnesota to hear what was on the minds of farmers and others involved in agribusiness. “With all that has been impacting agriculture, it’s important to hear directly from farmers, small business owners, and others regarding the issues affecting our rural economy,” he writes.  These informal discussions covered a range of topics including renewable fuels, food safety, and the outlook for agriculture in an uncertain economy. He plans to schedule additional listening sessions around Minnesota this year, he said.

NOVEMBER ’08 Jonathan Zierdt (JZ)

Writes Greater Mankato Growth CEO Zierdt: What a truly humbling experience to be featured by Connect Business Magazine last fall. It seemed people genuinely enjoyed having an opportunity to learn a bit more about my life story and the article was certainly long enough to let them do that (Ha, ha). Your use of “JZ” provided levity to the whole experience and allowed folks to have fun. I was particularly touched by the “thank you” banner advertisement and the businesses participating in it. What a heartfelt gesture. I was speechless—and you know that isn’t an easy task.

JANUARY ’09 John Finke

Our recently named Business Person of the Year 2009, John Finke, president of $155 million HickoryTech Corporation, had this to say (appropriately) over the telephone: We appreciate the recognition HickoryTech received. The article seemed to put the focus where it should be: on the people serving our customers. They deserve much of the credit for what we as a company achieve everyday. After the magazine ran, I received a dozen or so cards and a dozen or so emails from people commenting on the article. My wife and I received even more positive feedback meeting people on the street wanting to talk about it. Most of the feedback has been at basketball or hockey games. It’s part of being in Mankato—it’s a more personal approach. 




Fifteen years ago, in March 1994, Connect Business Magazine became southern Minnesota’s first business magazine. Our first printing of 600 reached selected businesses in three counties: Brown, Blue Earth, and Nicollet. Today, our controlled circulation of 7,600 blankets a nine-county region that includes Brown, Blue Earth, Waseca, Watonwan, Martin, Nicollet, Le Sueur, Sibley, and Faribault counties. Besides having been first, we’re also our region’s only locally owned business magazine.

Kutzwald (Judson screen printer) and Micro-Trak Systems (Eagle Lake) were profiled in that first issue. Remarkably, five of our initial advertisers have stayed with us all these years: Jones Metal Products, Manpower, Marco (which includes Southern Minnesota Office Machines), HickoryTech, and Corporate Graphics.

In that first issue, Publisher Jeff Irish said, “Ideas are like pennies. There are millions in circulation, but only a few rare enough to be of any real worth. Connect Business Magazine is a ‘penny’ I have been kicking around for years. If we do our job well, the information contained within these pages will strengthen your local business connections and provide tangible benefits to your organization.”


Connect Business Magazine exists to “connect” southern Minnesota businesses through features, interviews, advertising, and news. It’s a publication of locally owned Concept & Design Inc. of Nicollet, Minn.

2009 STAFF

Concept & Design of Nicollet owns Connect Business Magazine, which began as a 20-page monthly before becoming a bimonthly in October 1995. About that time, the magazine rapidly accelerated its reach and value to advertisers by becoming a free, controlled-circulation magazine. The first team: Angie Fredrickson (editor), Becky Wagner and Dave Maakestad (production), J.R. Smith (illustrator/photographer), and Jeff Irish (publisher).

Other team members joined later:
Daniel J. Vance (editor, June ’96).
Kris Kathmann (art director, May ’97).
Cory Sjoblad (advertising manager, January ’02).
Josh Swanson (production, June ’04).
Kelly Hanson (production, Oct. ’07).

is a former Editor of Connect Business Magazine
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