Thanks for your avid support these last 20 years.
For new and old readers alike, this special 20-year edition is our unique way of retelling the established story of where we have been and what we have done. But really it’s more about you. Southern Minnesota has hundreds of incredible people that have grown businesses here and our 20-year mission has been to shine a spotlight on some of them.
Rather than review all 100 or so decision makers gracing our cover since 1994, we have chosen, for the sake of space, only one from each year. Each person picked has fresh information to share.
Before you ask, our 2006 choice, CEO Glenn Stolt of Sleepy Eye-based Christensen Farms, never appeared on our cover. He agreed to fill in best he could for Founder Bob Christensen, who passed away in November 2012. Christensen Farms for years has been one of the world’s largest privately owned pork producers.
To help provide some context for each year’s feature, we mined our own press release section over the years for select news tidbits. Each year has one, beginning with the happy announcement in 1994 of Great Lakes Aviation offering three daily round trips from two airports in our region to Minneapolis.
Finally, you are the reason we exist. You have read our magazine, supported our advertisers, and responded with your feedback. Many magazines in our reading area have come and gone since 1994. We remember at least six. Ours has survived only because of your continued support. We appreciate you.
– Daniel J. Vance, editor.
Jones Metal Products
Sarah Richards was head golf pro and general manager of Cannon Golf Club in Cannon Falls in 1994. She didn’t appear on our cover then, or even in the inside photo, but her family’s business was featured in our third issue, in May 1994, and also in 2011.
Now a once-a-week golfer, she dreamed of playing on the LPGA Tour and tried it out on the Futures Tour. She said, “I quickly realized that for every time I shot par, there were 100 women who could shoot as well. The lifestyle is a lonely grind. My favorite thing was teaching and coaching as a club professional.”
When re-interviewed for the May/June 2011 issue, she was director of sales and marketing at Jones Metal Products and training and recruitment director. She and her siblings, David and Jessica, were gradually purchasing their mother’s stock in the family business. Richards’ goal was to become president/CEO by 2012. The transfer of ownership was completed September 2011, and Richards assumed her new title on January 1, 2012.
In a recent interview, she said, “My co-owners, David and Jessica, with the support of the board of directors, including three independent members, decided it was a good time to make that shift. I chose my successor for sales and marketing, and now an inter-departmental committee does training and recruitment. My mother, Marcia Richards, still helps with company events and has an office.”
She added, “It has been the most challenging and rewarding two years I’ve experienced and will continue to be. Decisions I make can affect everyone who works here and their families. I also don’t want to disappoint my co-owners. It’s rewarding to realize the company’s successes, which are sometimes hard to recognize when they happen. I have pride in continuing the family legacy.”
Ted and Jodi Marti
Schell’s Brewing Company
Like Sarah Richards, Ted and Jodi Marti never appeared on our cover. But their business, Schell’s Brewing Company of New Ulm, was featured in our August 1995 issue. Since then, the company bought the Grain Belt label, built a visitor’s center, updated machinery, hired more employees, and substantially increased production. In a recent telephone interview, Jodi Marti said, “In 1995 we made seven beers. Slated for this year are 29.”
Schell’s Brewing Company, operated by Marti and husband Ted, great-great grandson of founder August Schell, garners a barrel of awards each year—14 last year alone. The biggest winner over the last five years has been Pils, a Pilsner that has earned five awards now displayed at Schell’s. Pils has been a personal favorite of both Martis, Jodi said, though, “My favorite depends on the weather and activity of the day.”
When Connect Business Magazine featured the Martis again in September 2011, their son Jace had recently completed a beer-making course in Berlin. Two other sons served in the military. Today all three are involved in the company. Jace shares brewmaster responsibilities with employee Dave Berg, Franz is in charge of the gardens and works with his mother on special events, while Kyle is in sales and marketing and continues serving in the National Guard.
“We’re fortunate they came back and they wanted to do that,” Marti said. “Jace came up with two new beers made in our 1936 cyprus wooden tanks. Last year we also added two beers in the Stag series: Barley Wine and August Bock.” Beers made by a brewery that has been around since 1860 garner national attention. Marti said, “We get requests to expand the territory, but we’re still just Midwest. We feel we haven’t filled the capacity in the Midwest market.”
David Minge and Gil Gutknecht
U.S. Congressional Representatives
The much-photographed faces of these two Congressmen were the very first to appear on our cover, in September 1996: U.S. Reps. David Minge and Gil Gutknecht. Democrat Minge went on to serve as a Minnesota Court of Appeals judge for ten years, while Republican Gutknecht hit the speaker’s circuit and wielded his auctioneer’s gavel.
Appointed to the bench by Gov. Jesse Ventura in 1993, Minge found judicial responsibilities less taxing than Congressional work. He said in a telephone interview, “As a judge, I worked within a legal framework with commitment to the rule of law. In the 300 cases in which I was involved, the law was fairly clear in 275. In maybe 25 cases you think ‘if the legislature had only known when the law was made how this would play out.’
He continued, “The more difficult role was serving in Congress because of our highly polarized political process and the frustration of having a significant number of public policy issues that require Congressional action. Things were polarized in the 1990s when I served in Congress, but I see more significant issues today. Some actions directed at President Obama show disrespect and there’s no reason for that. Yet we look back on previous decades and remember we succeeded. The Civil War was a challenge that eclipsed anything we’re seeing now. A possible solution is renewed acceptance of a sense of community, where we all pull together to make compromises to resolve problems and issues.”
Former U.S. Rep. Gutknecht was able to email an update. At age 62, he has despaired of ever breaking 90 as a golfer, but he’s still auctioneering, a vocation he had before serving in Congress from 1995-2006. He recently reached the halfway point in his goal of reading the entire Bible.
In October, Gutknecht spoke at a historically black college in Montgomery, Alabama, which he termed “an enriching experience for me, and a chance for them to see and hear from a Republican.” He’s involved in a couple of businesses, including Transparagov, a privately-held company helping state and local governments improve management processes by providing analytical management and outcome measurement software and services.
Gutknecht’s take on Congressional gridlock: “It’s not necessarily bad. We have two diametrically opposed points of view, making it very difficult to find common ground. But success leaves clues. Presidents Reagan and Clinton found ways to work with the other side.”
K&P Johnson Farms
When running unsuccessfully last year in the DFL primary for House District 19A seat, Karl Johnson had substantial political experience, much of it on the national scene. His reason for running: “The farm sector is not very well represented in the legislature and I’d hoped to improve that. I’ve supported local candidates and been involved in politics for a long time. I might run again.”
Johnson, along with brother Paul, co-owns K&P Johnson Farms, a Nicollet County hog operation. He served on the National Pork Producers Council for seven years, one year as president. He has worked with various national trade associations and rubbed shoulders with three U.S. presidents and other dignitaries.
“I met President Reagan at a brief meeting,” Johnson said. “President George H.W. Bush and I spoke and shook hands. He’s a very personable man. President Clinton is also quite personable. Pork producers were active in promoting his NAFTA program, which has been very good for us. Now Mexico is the biggest importer of U.S. pork, alternating with Japan. What we started back then has been a tremendous asset for the pork industry, which now exports about 25 percent of its production.”
When appearing on our July cover, he planned to produce 35,000 hogs in 1998. He succeeded, but the farm has since changed from farrow-to-finish to farrow-to-feeder, with 12,000 sows producing under contract with Protein Sources of Mapleton. Johnson’s brother, sister-in-law, and three full-time employees are involved. No longer an Equity Supply owner, Johnson foresees no difficulty if he were elected to political office. He said, “I can be at the farm part-time doing bookwork on weekends.”
Clear with Computers to Superior Edge
Jerry Johnson, founder of Superior Edge, a Mankato software company, spends much of his time on airplanes. In a telephone interview while in Washington, D.C., he said, “Superior Edge has 50 to 100 clients nationally. I’m out of town 100 days each year.” This trip was to Washington, D.C., to speak with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials about the company’s products.
It’s not Johnson’s first start-up software company. As founder of Clear with Computers in 1983, he appeared on Connect Business Magazine’s May 1998 cover. He said of CWC, “Our customers, many of them global, used our product to help them sell their products and services more effectively.” He and a partner offered an IPO in 2000. Once CWC began trading on NASDAQ, Johnson left the company, but remains in contact with many of the people.
“I keep up with many of them and attended the 30th anniversary party,” he said. “They’re still a significant presence in Mankato, working with large and small customers in an expanded customer base.” After CWC, Johnson founded software company Anlon, which he was involved with for six years. Next came Superior Edge, an enterprise-level software and data company focused on providing technology-based solutions to large organizations. Johnson said, “We’re focused on agriculture, helping analyze data for farmers to help them understand what is going on with their crop—fertility, diseases and other issues that limit yields. The most satisfying aspect is filling a need for customers by inventing new approaches in software.”
There also are the personal connections. The Superior Edge team includes Johnson’s daughter, Anne, who develops the company’s patent portfolio, and several former CWC employees.
Greater Mankato Growth to Gislason & Hunter
When Maureen Gustafson, now marketing director at law firm Gislason & Hunter in New Ulm, graced our January cover, she was president and chief executive officer of Mankato Area Chamber & Convention Bureau, which became Greater Mankato Growth. In 2000, she left there for Mankato Clinic, which provided the largest challenges of her career.
Gustafson said over the telephone, “Healthcare is personal and emotional. There are bizarre challenges and image management is difficult to control. When Korey Stringer died of heat exhaustion during Vikings’ training in August 2001, one of our physicians was the team doctor. Sports media were interested, and the doctors who treated him were interviewed.”
Gustafson said that after that terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “everyone was encouraged to wear red, white and blue. One supervisor insisted an employee remove a red, white, and blue ribbon corsage because it didn’t meet dress code. That made national news, and I answered 1,000 email messages.”
In 2005, Gustafson joined Coughlan Companies, marketing books nationwide through book launches, author events, and library conventions. Three years later, Gustafson, whose adult daughter has Down syndrome, began managing a St. Paul program and obtaining funds in cooperation with State Sen. Kathy Sheran to mentor, coach, and arrange internships for people with mental and physical disabilities. When the economy affected grant funding, Gustafson moved to Gislason & Hunter, where she handles corporate entertaining, educational seminars, corporate giving, and image management for four Minnesota offices and one in Iowa.
She said, “My current job is the most fun, but my favorite was my time with Mankato Area Chamber and Convention Bureau—the right people, the right time, and a good economy.”
Jeanne Votca Carpenter
Shandwick International to Perception INK
Mankato native Jeanne Votca Carpenter dreams, lives, and breathes public relations. After a public relations and advertising stint at the Star-Tribune, she was senior vice-president of business development in Bloomington for Shandwick International (now Weber Shandwick), the world’s number three public relations firm. As the brand ambassador, she told the agency story, partnered with sister agencies, and developed new national business. She appeared on our November cover.
In 2003, she became executive vice president and public relations director for Twin Cities ad agency Preston Kelly, but left to hang out her own shingle in 2005 with Perception INK, in the Minneapolis warehouse district, near the Twins’ ballpark. She said in an interview, “I work with a former Shandwick colleague, Dixie Berg. She was my cheerleader, leaving my voice mail messages saying I could do this.”
Perception INK’s public relations services and corporate marketing specialty is executive visibility, such as profiled articles in print and arranging for CEOs to do public speaking. Votca Carpenter’s classic success story of executive visibility has been her work for Dan and Angie Bastian of North Mankato-based Angie’s Kettle Corn.
Votca Carpenter said, “We took it all the way to the Martha Stewart show in New York. You need a good story with three cylinders to share and they have it. The business began in their garage. It’s an all-natural product made in a dairy- and nut-free environment, with four basic ingredients. The third cylinder is it’s gluten-free. The product was launched (2010-11) when the gluten-free issue was in the public eye. Dan and Angie told their story so well, showing Martha Stewart how to make kettle corn.”
Midwest Wireless to Consulting
In our March cover story, Dennis Miller, then Midwest Wireless president/CEO, said he didn’t think wireless phones would replace landlines. His opinion hasn’t changed over the last 13 years.
“It’s still true,” he said while speaking over a wireless telephone. “Wireless phones and landlines are not mutually exclusive. Voice communication is becoming an application. There will always be hard-wired connections and wireless connections. There will never be an end of the landline as we know it, because it’s more expensive to move a large amount of data through wireless networks.”
Describing himself as semi-retired, Miller gave a telephone interview from his winter home in Palm Springs, California. His current activities keep his fingers in the telecommunications pie through Mavericks Wireless, his solely owned limited liability company.
He said, “I’m doing consulting in the telecommunications industry with telephone companies and wireless companies. I also sit on several boards of directors, including New Ulm Telecom, Coughlan Companies, Jordan Sands, which is a division of Coughlan Companies, Luma, which is a Twin Cities technology company, and several non-profit boards.”
Semi retirement provides Miller with time to enjoy friends and family while allowing him to stay current in the telecommunications field, remaining a part of the industry by working more in strategy than operation. None of this, however, replaces the excitement he had helping grow Midwest Wireless through 2005. That’s the year industry consolidation began rapidly occurring. Miller and the Midwest Wireless board realized they would have to gain scale, be part of something larger, or sell. And that’s when his adrenalin rush ended. Miller said, “If I could stop the clock at 2005, I’d do it in a minute.”
When appearing on our March cover as “Mr. Whipple goes to Washington,” State Rep. Bob Gunther (Fairmont) co-owned two grocery stores. Both have closed since Walmart arrived in Fairmont. His wife, Nancy, manages the family business, Martin County Express, and they employ 16 bus drivers.
The Republican “Mr. Whipple,” representing House District 23A since 1995, is second in seniority in the Minnesota House. Gunther, who served on the Chicano Latino Affairs Council in the 1990s, counts among his legislative successes the passage of last year’s bill to help minorities develop small businesses. He said despite extremes on both sides of the legislative aisles, state politicians are more cooperative than those on the national scene.
For our 20th anniversary special, Gunther said, “During a 15-day bus trip last year, Minnesota Democrats and Republicans got along when they toured prisons, state colleges, and state-owned land together. When I was chairman of the Jobs Committee and the Human Services Committee, which merged for two years, I assigned members of my committee according to their interests and abilities, regardless of party affiliation. I asked Democrat Tim Mahoney of East St. Paul to be in charge of bioscience and bioenergy. Another Democrat, Nora Slawick, who knew and cared most about the ECFE program and sliding-scale childcare, was in charge of that.”
Gunther favors balancing the state budget by creating jobs so more people pay taxes—rather than increasing existing taxes or cutting government spending. He believes despite party differences, the Minnesota legislature works. He said, “Most economic development programs I had Republicans work on, the Democrats could vote against anything I brought up, but we (still) got a lot accomplished.”
Nonprofit Innovations to People Driven Performance
Louise Dickmeyer describes her career as eclectic. Her story began in 1988 with Dickmeyer employed by Valley Industrial Development Corporation. As executive director five years later, she focused on attracting the wireless industry to the Mankato area. She became the national marketing director of Scholarship Management Services (division of Scholarship America) in 1998, helping the organization gain visibility and increase its client base of large corporations that developed scholarship programs for employees’ children. In late 1999, she was recruited to merge the rival Minneapolis and Bloomington Chambers of Commerce into the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce—and to coordinate “life after merger.”
Dickmeyer founded Nonprofit Innovations in 2003. She appeared on our cover in July. Her new company helped nonprofits increase revenue, reconstitute leadership, and focus on taking their work to the next level. Working with what is now Greater Mankato Growth, she helped establish Vikings Training Camp. She had been with Taylor Corporation’s Strategic Accounts Group two years when she received a 2006 telephone call from Denny Dotson, now retired from the Dotson Company.
“When Denny initially talked to me about People Driven Performance, it was a challenge to leave Taylor Corporation for a start-up company,” said Dickmeyer. She became one of four partners in a system of internal communication for non-desk employees. She said, “We use software and touch screen hardware. We have 40 client sites in nine states in manufacturing, healthcare, banking, auto dealership, etc. It’s a different job every month, and I’ve always enjoyed doing something different.”
Mary Ellen Domeier
New Ulm Area Catholic Schools to Retirement
At 72, Mary Ellen Domeier of New Ulm has left the workforce. After her May 2004 cover interview, she completed a three-year stint with New Ulm Area Catholic Schools and served on the boards of American Artstone, New Ulm Telecom, and Bank Midwest. Now she serves only on a Bank Midwest advisory board. In her career, she was a long-time Frandsen Bank & Trust executive, Minnesota Bankers Association president, and U.S. Federal Reserve advisor.
In a telephone interview, she said, “At first, I felt a sense of loss (in retiring). When having a career, you sort of identify yourself with your corporate achievements or work. After a transition, I found I’m doing just fine. I love savoring time I have with elderly siblings, family members, friends, children, and grandchildren, including some grandchildren going to college. Three years ago, I nearly lost my spouse of 52 years. Relationships have jumped to the top of my priority list. It’s all about savoring. I spent my life tasting and experimenting with this and that, which gave me a wealth of knowledge and experience. Now I’m trying to use that knowledge and experience in a different way. I’m volunteering with New Ulm Retail Development Corporation, New Ulm Chamber, Oak Hills Memorial Foundation, and numerous church and diocesan commissions.
Besides people she knew in business, she said, “I miss the adrenaline rush that came with being involved in new projects, such as a purchase or merger. The biggest adrenaline rush has been Bank Midwest coming to New Ulm. I still do consulting for them. They are an ESOP (employee-owned). About ten years ago, when I started working with them, I realized the culture they had and their commitment to communities was exactly would I would be doing if I were starting a bank.”
Our September cover story has a life today that “just keeps rolling on into the future and I never know where that will lead me,” said Taylor Corporation Founder Glen Taylor in a Connect Business Magazine interview. Today, North Mankato-based Taylor Corporation oversees more than 100 companies worldwide and about 8,800 employees, with 4,000 in Minnesota.
He said, “At one time, I thought perhaps I would be spending more time in retirement, but in fact found I love all the work I do, such as with my businesses, helping with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and helping others in need. I love being with my grandchildren. I have a very happy and busy life, one that has so many different things that keep my life interesting at all times.”
As for helping others in need, he said, “We have done a number of missions trips through Starkey, the hearing aid company, and owner and friend Bill Austin. We have taken free hearing aids over to schools for the deaf, with the most recent being a trip to China, where we were able there to help thousands of children and senior adults. In China, we had university students as interpreters and assistants. Because of the Internet, by our second day, these students knew who I was, that I had the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they knew everything about the Timberwolves. Of course, so many of the young women were talking about Ricky Rubio. The young men knew all about professional basketball and the players on the team—and here I was in China, on a missions trip, on the other side of the world. In the evenings, the students wanted to learn more about the United States and some still communicate with me. Even though I’m in my 70s, I’m still continually learning. No matter where I go or what I do, there is always more to learn.”
Our May 2006 cover prematurely passed away of a heart attack in November 2012, while hunting in Kansas with friends and his 14-year-old son. Bob Christensen enjoyed spending time with his son, who was involved in competitive marksman tournaments across the country, and his daughter, who participated in horse riding competitions.
Glenn Stolt, now chief executive officer of Sleepy Eye-based Christensen Farms, one of the world’s largest privately owned pork producers, said, “When I first heard the news (about Bob), I was in shock, but I also realized we needed to act. With a company our size of 1,000 employees, we have customers, lenders, contract growers, employees, and a whole host of stakeholders that would hear this news rapidly. It was important to convey our sincere condolences to the family and to communicate the business was going to move forward. At the end of the day, people didn’t have to worry about their job security or the supply of pork. They could just focus on their recognition of Bob as a legendary and visionary leader within Christensen Farms and the industry. We are one of the nation’s largest family-owned pork production companies.”
A few days after Bob’s passing, the Christensen family and company board asked Stolt to assume the role of interim chief executive officer. He said, “I am blessed with a supportive and capable management team. We’re focused on driving the business forward and never forgetting and recognizing Bob’s contributions and leadership. The Christensen family, from the start, has not wavered in their commitment to move the business forward. We have a collection of industry veterans that know the pig business very well.”
BAMCO to Retirement
In March, we featured founder Jerry Bambery of Mankato-based BAMCO, which owned (and still owns) five McDonald’s franchises, including ones in Northfield and Faribault, and three in Mankato.
In an interview, Bambery said, “When selling BAMCO, I said I’d retire when my mind would start to go. Then someone said my mind had started to go some time ago. I have told people I haven’t retired, only re-treaded, which occurred after Marilu and I passed our (BAMCO) holdings on to our daughters Colleen and Keri in 2009. Since then, I’ve been on a journey to better discover who I am, my true self. I’ve been getting good feedback from others, making appropriate adjustments, and continuing to discover who or what I was meant to be.”
He said his life’s passion hasn’t changed since growing up. “My parents and siblings, both professionally and personally, were about service to others, each in their own way. I’ve been involved with the founder of Kids Against Hunger, who has demonstrated a passion could be put into practice to make a difference. I’ve joined a new company, Linked Cause, which has the basic goals of feeding starving and hungry people, and providing clean water and shelter for those needing it. These are fundamentals all people need for a dignified existence. All of these are part of Richard Proudfit’s passion. I’m an under-the-radar advocate for Linked Cause and have a passion for these causes.”
Is he intense and driven? “People say I am,” he added. “My true intentions don’t always come out the right way, which is why I can upset people. I try to be better each day. There was a time when I was with McDonalds when I didn’t think I could do well without feeling guilty about something. I’m different now. I challenge the status quo and have made a commitment to change.”
Paulsen Architects to I&S Group
In March, our cover story featured Brian Paulsen, whose Mankato architectural firm had designed some of southern Minnesota’s most high-profile buildings. On October 10, 2013, Paulsen Architects merged into I&S Group. Everyone wants to know why.
He said to Connect Business Magazine, “We had a successful firm. It wasn’t like we had a for-sale sign on our door. Chad (Surprenant, with I&S Group) approached us out of the blue. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but the more I thought, the more I realized this was an opportunity for us to be with a larger organization that had a regional presence.”
In the year prior, Paulsen and wife Tami had already been discussing possible exit strategies. Paulsen said, “And we were looking at those alternatives when Chad called. A metro area firm had been interested in acquiring us. I had killed that idea because there were no guarantees the jobs would stay here. Joining I&S Group allowed my staff members better opportunities for not only creating great architecture and interior design, but also for professional growth. I am now director of architecture, and a principal, and will be at I&S Group five years. When the sale became final on October 10, after signing the papers, we hit the send button to Red Door Creative to transmit the press release. Within minutes, my inbox had about 30 supportive responses.”
Paulsen Architects designed Midwest Wireless corporate headquarters, Mankato Public Safety Center, Blue Earth County Justice Center, Rosa Parks Elementary, and the renovations of Old Main and Mankato Depot. Now with I&S Group, former Paulsen Architect employees are continuing to move forward with Kyle Smith and Tailwind Group, especially on the new Profinium Place project.
He added, “Finally, my wife Tami was one big reason for Paulsen Architects’ success. She has moxie at marketing, brand recognition, and strategic planning. And she encouraged our staff to become more involved in the community.”
In 2009, Fairmont-based Rosen’s Diversified was No. 184 on the Forbes 500 list of private corporations, just ahead of Taylor Corporation. It was the nation’s fifth largest beef processor. In a telephone interview, Chief Executive Officer Tom Rosen shared his concern about what he believes has been hurting the Minnesota economy.
He said, “Our company has been in business in Minnesota since 1946. We’ve grown a lot over the last few years and now have more than $3 billion in annual revenues. However, I’m very concerned about the future of doing business in Minnesota and where the state is heading, especially Greater Minnesota. We don’t have a good business climate, and the climate became worse last legislative session. We are 48th now in overall business climate. It’s going to be rough in this state moving forward.”
He added, “I like Minnesota, but we are not competitive because of all the taxes and estate taxes they are pushing on us. I never thought I would see it. A lot of my friends have left the state. I worry about what this state will look like in ten years. It’s hard to get businesses here and harder to keep businesses here. When they talk about taxing the rich, the rich will just leave. I get calls and letters from South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. We don’t need to be the No. 1 state for business, just No. 25 or 26. We can’t be No. 48 because it’s a competitive world.”
Rosen’s Diversified has facilities in Ohio, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas. Of all those states, Rosen said South Dakota had the best business climate, followed perhaps by Wisconsin, which has improved lately. Rosen said, “(Wisconsin has) become pro-business and is willing to work with you. These states around Minnesota are becoming more aggressive. They realize companies can move.”
She was executive director of 225-employee Pathstone Living in Mankato and regional director of $120 million Ecumen in 2010. Now in 2014, and still in those roles, she has some exciting news.
In a telephone interview, she said, “It’s exciting what our company has done the last three years. We started a program called Awakenings, which has been a huge initiative in fifteen of our sixteen facilities to decrease the use of anti-psychotic medications among residents. As a company, we have discontinued over a thousand anti-psychotic medication prescriptions. These drugs don’t work well on the elderly and we have found wonderful alternatives to those medications, such as aromatherapy, more exercise, different activities, and trying to get to know the person better and listening to what’s important to them.”
As an example, she said, “One resident before taking her bath would always get extremely anxious, to the point we had been almost unable to bathe her. Then we learned she loved classical music. So a half hour before her bath, we started playing classical music in her room and then taking that music along with her to her bathing room. She was calm during the bath, so much so we no longer needed medication. The side effects with anti-psychotic medication can be significant and the alternatives have proven much better. Our residents are doing fabulous. It’s the right thing to do. We started this program with a Minnesota Department of Human Services grant and have received national attention for our work.”
Personally, both her sons will be married in 2014. One son works for US Bank in commercial loans and the other started SendHub, a business in Palo Alto, California. Pfeffer has been working on a national committee with the National Administrators Boards, and will be the Mankato YMCA president in 2014.
Marty Davis in November was featured as president/CEO of Le Sueur-based Cambria, and with the Davis family team that owned Davisco Foods International and Sun Country Airlines.
Davis has deep St. Peter roots. In a telephone interview, he talked about his high school reunion: “I graduated from St. Peter High class of ’83 and we had our 30th high school reunion last July. The most interesting part was realizing people really don’t change that much. It was refreshing seeing people that had been a big part of my life. At the reunion, I met up with an old classmate and ultimately hired him. We hadn’t seen each other in twenty years. With some people you picked up right where you left off thirty years ago. I visited with Wanda Tate, Denny Blaschko, John Brekke, Chris Burg, and others. Jeff Leonard hosted the event. We played golf, and had dinner at Shoreland and a bonfire.”
The St. Peter alums reminisced about teachers and coaches, including Ed Rundell, one of Davis’ favorites. “Mr. Rundell had a very strong personality,” said Davis. “With him, you had to turn in your daily algebra assignments on time. Hardly anyone crossed that line. One kid, a good student and one you wouldn’t expect, didn’t do his homework one day. Mr. Rundell had no patience and dismissed him in front of the class. He was kind enough to show the kid where the door was by assisting his exit from the room. You didn’t come to his class late or without your homework completed. He was teaching algebra and you were going to learn. Mr. Rundell, Mr. Miller, Mr. Harvey, and others, sometimes scolded us harshly. They were uncompromising in their discipline. They don’t let teachers now discipline with any contact, but in our day they could. The way they disciplined helped us get with it, and certainly helped me grow into the person I am today—the good parts anyway.”
Dan and Angie Bastian
Angie’s Kettle Corn
This couple began in 2002 making and marketing tasty popcorn cooked in a kettle. It became Angie’s Kettle Corn of North Mankato. By 2012, they were sharing the honor of being our Business Person of the Year. In a Connect Business Magazine interview, Angie recently shared one of their company’s proudest moments.
She said, “Last year, we created a special Pink Ribbon bag, like many food companies do, to honor breast cancer awareness month. We donated a portion of the proceeds of the sale of every bag of Angie’s Kettle Corn. What was important to me in creating the campaign was in trying to donate the money raised as close to the research or healthcare piece as possible. Often, food companies create these campaigns and the money goes to a foundation to raise awareness.
Bastian was on the Mayo Health System Foundation board. A Foundation development officer directed her to a Mayo Clinic research team working on the genetic mapping of breast cancer. Said Bastian, “I met with a researcher, who explained in an hour what Mayo Clinic was doing to understand aggressive breast cancers and provide individualized treatment to each patient. What I came to understand about their work was it would be monumental if they were successful. It would change the way breast cancers were treated.”
She continued, “There was a moment of pride when we cut a $25,000 check to the BEAUTY project of the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Every single Angie’s Kettle Corn employee had a role in creating this charitable donation, everyone who touched, checked, and filled those bags. We have 200 employees now. They all knew what we were doing and why, and could all celebrate with us the fact we had been able to give. In terms of our business, last year (our twelfth) our revenue grew by 96 percent. We added about 40 employees in 2013. It was incredibly challenging growing by that much.”
Mary Jeanne and Gary Jernberg
Mary Jeanne and Dr. Gary Jernberg landed on our July cover. Mary Jeanne and her son co-owned nine Subway franchises, and Gary, besides owning Southern Minnesota Periodontics, had invented the antibiotic Arestin and been involved with Boston Scientific. In an interview, Gary said his projects have been progressing well, but not all his projects over the years have been success stories.
He said, “For example, my wife and I had an MSU student from the People’s Republic of China live with us about 20 years ago. This was when Mary Jeanne was the graduate school director. This young man was getting his MBA and was an electrical engineer. After graduating, he wanted to return to China to help elevate people’s standards of living there. He asked me, Is there anything you can think of that might help me do this? We talked some more, and came up with the idea of setting up a company that could involve technology transfers of everything from low-grade technology, pharmaceutical, and consumer products to energy and pollution products to help with their developing pollution problems. We set up a small company in the early ‘90s and then went to China, where we met with business and government leaders. The Chinese really wanted investment from our end, but we just weren’t able to do it. We tried hard getting the company going, but the effort failed, and we closed the corporation. We had really needed a person based in China. I learned a lot from the experience, including that what we perceived as important to them in many cases was not. It was a humbling experience. As a follow-up, the Chinese student ended up becoming a successful businessman in China, heading up an international investment company. He learned from the experience, too.