Off-The-Cuff

Labor Day means an Editor labor day. I will be finishing yard work and figuring out what to do with a basement entrance. I hope you spend your Labor Day relaxing. That said, buckle your seat belt and away we go…

First: Submit your nominations for Connect Business Magazine’s “2011 Business Person of the Year “ contest by noon Friday October 1 through connectbiz.com/bpoy. We have made the process easy, so nominate your friend or co-worker today….

Here are the rules: 1) The nominated person must live and work in Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca or Watonwan County; 2) our judges evaluate candidates based on business results, personal character, leadership ability, and community involvement; 3) our judges, a panel of Minnesota State College of Business professors, will select three Business Person of the Year finalists; the nominee with the highest point total will be named winner and profiled along with two runners-up; 4) any person featured in our magazine the last two years is ineligible; 5) finally, the nominator’s name will remain confidential…..

Since 2004, award winners have been Lorin Krueger, Milt Toratti, Bob Weerts, Roxie Brandts, Jeff Thom, John Finke, and Pam Year….Now to other matters….

Not long ago, the Editor wanted to save money on monthly health insurance premiums. An insurance agent said I could save $1,500 annually on our family policy simply by switching to a health insurer I will call “Brand X.” In time, Brand X approved covering my wife and son, but rejected me because of a pre-existing condition. Given I didn’t want my wife and son using Brand X and me Brand A, I thought getting Brand X to change its mind about my pre-existing condition a logical course of action….

So I asked a Brand X telephone representative if having an updated physician’s opinion could help my cause for approval. Their previous rejection letter hadn’t been definitive—had seemed to keep the door open for approval—and the last professional opinion on my relatively benign hand condition had been rendered two years earlier. That said, I told the representative I didn’t want to spend money on a new physician opinion only to have her company reject me anyway. To this, she replied, “You’ll never know until you try.” Based on those words, I scheduled an appointment with a physician, who sent his professional judgment to Brand X. A week later, Brand X rejected me again, saying they just flat-out didn’t accept people with my condition, period….


I called Brand X back upset. Why hadn’t they said this earlier? I said one of their representatives had led me to believe I still had a chance to be approved. I had spent $123 on an office visit, too. When I pointed this out to a Brand X supervisor, she said, “We can deny (coverage to) anyone at anytime for any reason.”….After mulling over her response, I became motivated to learn more about how health insurance worked in southern Minnesota—and what I discovered surprised me. (See Business Trends in the print edition.)….

While away on vacation or business trips, the Editor enjoys comparing and contrasting other areas to south-central Minnesota. My July trip to northern Minnesota was enlightening, to say the least….For one, I realized that if not for tourists and beautiful scenery, Park Rapids would have little going for it except mosquitoes. As I saw it, the most noticeable difference between it and south-central Minnesota was agriculture, i.e., their lack of it. For decades, agriculture has been the Rodney Dangerfield of our southern Minnesota economy. It doesn’t get much respect—even though it was and has been responsible for creating so much spin-off wealth. The Editor has pushed for Mankato to embrace being the “Soybean Capital of the World,” but alas, soybeans must not be sexy enough for some….

While driving home on my northern Minnesota trip, I traveled Highway 15 through Kimball, Minnesota, about 15 miles south of St. Cloud. Amazingly, this city of 600 not only had its own school district, but also a successful Chrysler dealership, Maus Motors, and a full-service grocery, Gohmann’s Super Valu. I could not think of a city that small in south-central Minnesota that had even one of these three: an independent school district, a new car dealership or a full-service grocery. What was Kimball’s secret? I stopped by Tri-County News in Kimball to speak with Editor Jean Matua, but she couldn’t shed much light except to say Maus Motors had a strong customer base and that most locals were content not driving to St. Cloud to shop for groceries. The Editor speculates “location” could play a major role, i.e., the Chrysler dealership and grocery shared property where two state highways intersected. If nothing else, the example of Kimball could help struggling smaller cities elsewhere realize small-town businesses can succeed given the right formula….

From a story cut due to space limitations from this issue’s Business Trends: On August 3, Missouri voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition C. The vote sought to exempt Missourians from the upcoming federal healthcare mandate of having to purchase health insurance. It was the first shot over the bow for opponents trying to overturn Obamacare. Similar measures appear on the ballot this fall in Florida, Oklahoma, and Arizona, and these states more than likely will follow suit….

Our next issue hits mailboxes only days before the November election. In our reading area, the most interesting match-up should be between U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Minnesota State Representative Randy Demmer. Of the two, Republican Demmer is the only one with business experience. He has owned several NAPA auto parts stores and a successful computer and payroll services company….

Finally, thanks for reading southern Minnesota’s only locally owned business magazine. Also, remember before October 1 to nominate a friend or colleague for our Business Person of the Year contest by visiting connectbiz.com/bpoy. Until next time..

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine

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