Thanks, Etc…

First, our thanks go out to Bethany Lutheran College for allowing us to use their eye-catching library to interview and photograph cover person Cindy Rae Pautzke, who operates out of her rural Blue Earth County home.

Question: Which city in the Connect Business Magazine reading area has five colleges for students to attend? The answer—and surprisingly, especially given recent history—is Fairmont. That city’s Southern Minnesota Educational Campus houses undergraduate and graduate classes, and degree programs, for Presentation College-Fairmont, Riverland Community College, Minnesota State, St. Mary’s University, and Minnesota West Community College. Not many years ago, 10,000-population Fairmont was known as the largest city in Minnesota without a higher education presence. In a telephone interview with Connect Business Magazine, Fairmont Assistant City Administrator Mike Humpal said that Fairmont is seeing a number of students from the Twin Cities and Greater Mankato moving down to live and attend college there, particularly for Presentation College-Fairmont’s nursing degree program. Perhaps a city- or college-owned student dormitory is next on the agenda?……..

At the Greater Mankato Growth annual meeting a while back at Alltel Center, CEO Jonathan Zierdt inspired the crowd. Greater Mankato has witnessed, felt, and tasted economic progress, and seems likely to reach the magical 50,000 population threshold by 2010, which would qualify it as a metropolitan statistical area through the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. This means Greater Mankato would become an “entitlement community” eligible for federal Community Development Block Program (CDBP) money and other programs……..

According to, the CDBP program provides annual grants to entitled cities to provide “decent housing and a suitable living environment” and “economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.” Eligible activities include: acquisition of real property; relocation and demolition; rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures; construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes; public services, within certain limits; activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources; and provision of assistance to profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities……..

In an email to Connect Business Magazine, Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges explained that Greater Mankato, even if becoming an MSA after the 2010 Census, likely wouldn’t be eligible for federal funding until 2012. As for other MSAs, in 2005 alone, St. Cloud received $545,000 in CDBP funds, and Rochester, $641,000. Becoming an MSA should elevate Greater Mankato—and therefore the region—to a higher marketing plateau, i.e., Hentges said that many larger corporations look only at MSAs when considering new sites for expansion………..

The Editor received a mailed promotional piece pitching United Prairie Bank as a $500 million, sixteen-branch bank with headquarters in Mankato. Curious, I searched the FDIC website and learned that United Prairie Bank, indeed, was the largest bank headquartered in our reading area, with dollar assets of $520 million. Its new corporate offices open on Highway 22 in June or July. In a telephone interview, Stuart Sneer, president, said, “My wife and I relocated back to Mankato in 1998 for a variety of personal and professional reasons. We are both MSU alumni. We moved our corporate offices here then, even though we didn’t have a Mankato branch.”……..The next five largest banks headquartered in our reading area, ranked in terms of total assets: Bank Midwest (Fairmont, $489 million), Profinium Financial (Truman, $303 million), Citizens Bank (New Ulm, $256 million), Wells Federal (Wells, $256 million), and Pioneer Bank (Mapleton, $247 million)……..

While interviewing Camas Inc. for this issue, the Editor noticed the excellent work little Le Center (population, about 2,000) has done attracting top-flight businesses, including Royal American Foods, European Roasterie, and Camas………

A few months back, St. Cloud Refrigeration acquired Mankato-based Cuddy Energy Systems (featured Jan. ’99), which, over the years, has installed energy management systems in the Hilton Garden Inn, Bethany Lutheran College, Rasmussen College, and many other buildings in our reading area. Many people in southern Minnesota habitually confuse Cuddy Energy Systems with Cuddy Mechanical; the two companies separated in the 1980s. With the sale, Cuddy Energy Systems retains its name, local offices and staff, and adds the muscle of a $30 million parent company………..

The Editor gets story and information leads from all kinds of sources. Several months ago, I learned from my uncle in Ohio, of all people, that Mankato-based $530 million Ridley Inc. (CEO Bob Gallaway, cover story, Sept. ’03), the parent company of Hubbard Milling, was in the process of purchasing a Kentucky-based animal nutrition company. It turned out my uncle’s brother-in-law was the Kentucky company’s Ph.D. animal nutritionist. Small world. Ridley has about 1,000 employees nationally and its 2007 annual report says it’s “one of North America’s largest commercial animal nutrition businesses.” Believe it or not, Ridley is the largest business headquartered inside Mankato city limits……….

Finally, former Winland Electronics CEO Lorin Krueger (cover story, Jan. ‘04) left that company on January 2 and not long thereafter was enjoying a well-deserved vacation in Costa Rica. In a Connect Business Magazine telephone interview, he said, “I’m networking now, and looking at business opportunities and at small businesses I can help grow again. Winland Electronics was in good financial position when I left and needed some transitions. It was an appropriate time for me to leave.”……….Though no longer CEO, Krueger remains a WEX stockholder, board member, and CEO search committee member. He also is a vice chair of Minnesota Technology, and involved with MRCI Foundation, United Way, and the Sakatah Institute. Another small world: While in Costa Rica, and driving down a rural road in the middle of nowhere, Krueger spotted a Katolight generator operating next to a utility shed…….

The next time we meet: July 1. The Editor is already looking forward to the next edition, which will be chock full of enjoyable surprises.

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine