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Editor's Note-Hall of Famers
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Editor's Note-Hall of Famers

Introducing five of Minnesota's most accomplished and most admired business leaders of all time.

In this issue, you will be introduced to the 2009 inductees into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame, five of Minnesota’s most accomplished business leaders of all time.

Michael Fiterman, Dennis Frandsen, Viet Ngo, Edward Phillips, and Carl Platou join a group of 51 outstanding Hall of Fame members inducted since 1999 who have discerned opportunities unnoticed by others; pursued those opportunities with imagination and persistence; conducted their activities with integrity; and enjoyed a lifetime of achievement and service.

Each has led at least one competitively superior company while making substantial contributions to communities outside of business.

In addition to honoring them in this issue, we will do so in person—at an induction dinner at the Minneapolis Hilton hotel on July 23. They also will be permanently enshrined, along with previously inducted members, in a Minnesota Business Hall of Fame display at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

There, next to the skyway that connects the school’s two buildings, the accomplishments of each Hall of Fame member have been encapsulated on a plaque, and the stories of their achievements that have appeared in Twin Cities Business are available for students and visitors to read on a computer screen. Highlights from recent induction dinners also appear on screen.

Hall of Fame members inducted from 1999 through 2008 are:

 

1999

Elmer L. Andersen Newspaper owner, one-time governor, and long-time chairman of H. B. Fuller. Anderson, who died at age 95 in 2004, was known for setting and achieving ambitious goals at Fuller, calling for it to double in size every five years. As a newspaper publisher, his favorite task was writing editorials.

Earl Bakken The inventor of the modern battery-powered heart pacemaker and cofounder—in a northeast Minneapolis garage in 1949—of one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, Medtronic. Bakken was CEO of Medtronic, from which dozens of biomedical companies emerged, until 1976. He was senior chairman until 1989.

Curtis L. Carlson A widely proclaimed “ultra-entrepreneur” and innovator known for his salesmanship and unrelenting pursuit of opportunity. He founded and ran Carlson, one of the largest family enterprises in America, which has included Radisson Hotels & Resorts, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Country Inns & Suites, and T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants.

Edgar Hetteen The “grandfather of snowmobiling” and creator of a winter-sports industry. Hetteen, a self-described farm kid who liked to tinker, founded the companies that became Polaris and Arctic Cat. He later founded ASV, a manufacturer of all-terrain vehicles that was named one of the best small companies in America.

Whitney MacMillan CEO of Cargill for 18 years, when it was the world’s largest privately held company. He led the company to a threefold increase in employees (to 73,600) and a fivefold increase in earnings—and into steelmaking and worldwide prominence in milling, refining, processing, and transportation of 40 agricultural products.

Earl Olson Founder of Jennie-O Foods, the world’s largest grower and processor of turkeys, and developer of hundreds of new products, including turkey rolls, loaves, hot dogs, and pastrami. After selling his company to Hormel in 1986, he remained active with Jennie-O for 20 years, taking pride in the company’s growth to more than $1 billion in revenues.

 

2000

Ebba Hoffman In 1955, she was a newly widowed homemaker with two small children, an eighth-grade education, and a debt-hobbled company, Smead Manufacturing. Overcoming gender biases and aggressive competition, by the time of her death in 2000 she had expanded it into a 2,000-employee, $300 million in revenue, office-products powerhouse.

Luigino “Jeno” Paulucci Son of an Iron Range miner, he began working at age 10, selling groceries. He later founded Chinese foods company Chun King, Inc; frozen-pizza maker Jeno’s, Inc.; and Luigino’s, the maker of Michelina’s and Yu Sing foods. Paulucci also became the second-largest landowner in Florida and the developer of a planned community near Orlando.

Carl Pohlad A lifetime entrepreneur, active in business into his 90s. A buyer and builder of soft-drink bottlers, banks, and companies engaged in investment management and broadcasting. Owner of the Minnesota Twins, which he kept from leaving Minnesota in 1984, and which won two World Series championships under his ownership.

Alan “Buddy” Ruvelson A pioneer in private-equity investing. In 1959, he received the nation’s first license to operate a small-business investment company and opened one of the nation’s first venture-capital companies. During the next 41 years, he provided funding for 63 companies and helped build Minnesota’s venture-capital industry.

Wheelock Whitney CEO of what was Dain & Company (now RBC Wealth Management), he turned a small, local investment bank into a regional giant emphasizing investment in local businesses. He later was a candidate for governor, teacher of management at the University of Minnesota, part owner of the Minnesota Vikings, and pioneer in providing alcoholism treatment.

2001

Ralph Burnet Sales-minded entrepreneur and founder of Minnesota’s top home realty company, he developed Coldwell Banker Burnet into a home-selling juggernaut with more than 3,100 sales associates. He founded Burnet Realty, a predecessor company, in 1973 with a personal investment of $18,000. Later, he became a developer of Minneapolis hotels.

Dorothy Dolphin Founder of Dolphin Staffing, at the time of her induction, her temporary services firm dispensed 20,000 W-2 forms a year, and she owned 13 fast-food restaurants and a five-branch bank with $150 million in assets. During much of her career, Dolphin Staffing was the state’s largest woman-owned company.

Ron Offutt One of the world’s premier farm operators, his operation have included more than 200,000 acres of potatoes and other vegetables, a 21,000-cow dairy, three potato processing plants, and an array of dealerships selling $535 million in John Deere Equipment, Volvo and Mack trucks, and construction equipment.

Gerald Rauenhorst Founder in 1953 of what became Opus Corporation, a premier design and construction company. When he was inducted, it had built more than 2,000 commercial buildings throughout the United States, including dozens that changed the face of the Twin Cities. Opus was one of the earliest firms to unite the disciplines of architecture and construction.

Win Wallin Former president and COO of Pillsbury Company, he became chairman and CEO of Medtronic in 1985 and was credited with reviving its product innovation and sales. During his six-year tenure as CEO, Medtronic’s revenues rose from $370 million to $1 billion, profits tripled, and the number of its employees nearly doubled to 8,500.

 

2002

Irwin Jacobs Investor and business manager, he built Genmar into the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational watercraft, with $1.1 billion in sales and 7,000 employees at the time of his induction. But Jacobs has been best known as an investor in underperforming public companies who awakened management groups to their obligation to deliver value to shareholders.

Harvey Mackay Author of six business books, professional speaker, business columnist, and lifelong entrepreneur, he turned a tiny company into the Mackay Envelope Corporation, which at the time of his induction was a 500-employee, $100 million business. Mackay exercised community leadership to help keep professional baseball in Minnesota.

Mahendra Nath He arrived in the United States from his native India with $800 and a newly earned mechanical engineering degree. For years, he saved half his income to invest in rental properties—and was an employer of 3,300 people at 102 fast-food restaurants, two hotels, three commercial properties, and apartment buildings with more than 1,000 units when he was inducted.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson Businesswoman, community activist, international leader in the travel and hospitality industry, she became CEO of the $7 billion Carlson Companies (later shortened to Carlson) in 1998 and implemented plans to expand. As vice chair, she arranged a merger of Carlson Travel and Wagonlit Travel, expanding the company’s reach to 140 countries.

Glen Taylor In 1967, he began acquiring a small Mankato printing company and expanded it into an operation of 14,000 employees in 70 divisions at the time of his induction. Taylor purchased the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team in 1994, served for more than 10 years in the Minnesota Senate, and started the state’s first company-owned on-site daycare center.

 

2003

Kenneth Dahlberg War hero, inventor, entrepreneur. Dahlberg was a heavily decorated World War II “triple-ace” pilot who developed the first all-in-the-ear hearing aid and founded Dahlberg, Inc., which expanded to $100 million in revenue before selling to Bausch & Lomb in 1994. He also developed early paging and monitoring devices, and in 1995, became a venture capitalist.

John Mooty A practitioner of law and a builder of businesses. He was partner for more than 50 years at the law firm of Gray Plant Mooty and 24-year chairman of International Dairy Queen, which he and partners rescued and refocused in 1970 after performing a similar turnaround at National Car Rental. He later became a developer of real estate in Arizona.

Richard Schulze A retailing paragon, Schulze, the founder and chairman of Best Buy, opened his first store in 1966 and showed a remarkable ability to adapt to changes in consumer demand. At the time of his induction, Best Buy had become an international $36 billion, 1,900-store retailer of electronics, appliances, and recorded music and movies.

Daryl “Sid” Verdoorn As top executive officer of C. H. Robinson from 1977 to 2002, he transformed the company from a $150 million seller of fruits and vegetables into a $3 billion, 3,900-employee, 15,000-customer multimodal international shipping company known for its sophisticated Web-based logistics programs.

Manny Villafaña A “serial entrepreneur.” Among the companies he founded were Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. (CPI), which developed pacemakers that, at the time of his induction, were worn by 2.3 million patients, and St. Jude Medical, which developed mechanical heart valves worn by 1.5 million patients. Both companies provided extraordinary rewards to investors.

2004

William Austin Founder of Starkey Laboratories, the largest hearing aid company based in the United States. As CEO, he guided the company’s growth to more than $420 million in revenues and 3,700 employees while also establishing the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which under his direction fitted 100,000 needy children with hearing devices.

Tom Gegax Cofounder of Tires Plus, which improved the experience of tire buying with professional assistance and waiting-room amenities. When the company was sold in 2000, it had become a 1,600-employee, nine-state, 150-store chain with $200 million in annual sales. Gegax became a provider of guidance for growing companies.

Richard “Pinky” McNamara A rescuer of troubled enterprises, McNamara, a University of Minnesota football star, made a 36-year career of buying and resurrecting bankrupt or foreclosed-upon businesses. He became the CEO of Activar, a 600-employee, $100 million holding company, and at one point, owned and directed 25 companies at the same time.

John Pellegrene Marketing paragon and retailing innovator, Pellegrene transformed the Target Corporation’s bull’s-eye into an icon of branding, invented Dayton-Hudson Corporation’s Santabear, created the first computerized bridal registry, and promoted the Target-funded restoration of the Washington monument.

Robert Sparboe He moved to Litchfield in 1954 to establish the Sparboe Chick Company with his life savings of $5,400. By the time of his death in October 2005, he had developed his company into a $260 million operation that annually sold 2.4 billion eggs laid by more than 10 million hens. He also owned a bank and an insurance agency.

 

2005

Dale Bachman In 1992, he became a fourth-generation president of his family’s floral and nursery company and expanded its business into plant-care products, tools, and home décor items. At the time of his induction, Bachman’s company employed approximately 1,100 individuals, plus an additional 500 during peak seasons.

James Campbell CEO of Minnesota’s largest bank, which he developed into a leading commercial lender. During his tenure, the assets of Minnesota banks within the Wells Fargo system grew from $5.9 billion in 48 separately chartered institutions to $52 billion within one institution. In retirement, he has been a leading spokesman on public policy.

Ronald Fagen Granite Falls–based builder of flour mills, meatpacking plants, power plants, corn- and soybean-processing facilities—and more than 70 percent of the nation’s ethanol-production plants. Within two years of his 2005 induction, his company, Fagen, Inc., had grown to $2 billion in revenues and more than 3,500 employees in 37 states.

Robert Kierlin Cofounder of Fastenal, Inc., in a tiny Winona storefront in 1967, Kierlin built it, by the time of his induction, into a $1.2 billion retailer of industrial parts, with 7,000 employees operating 1,600 stores, 12 distribution centers, and a 3,500-vehicle fleet of trucks. Kierlin compensated himself modestly in business and served in the Minnesota Senate.

Ken Melrose A master strategist, he became CEO of the Toro Company in 1983 amid doubts that it could survive, refashioned its product portfolio, made it a leader in products and services for turf development and landscape management, and helped it achieve a sevenfold increase in revenue and a 25-fold increase in its stock price in 22 years.

 

2006

Al Annexstad A believer in outworking the competition, he joined Federated Insurance of Owatonna as a sales representative, opened offices in five states, and doubled client numbers in the South. Annexstad became CEO in 1999 and in seven years built Federated to $4.5 billion in assets, annual premiums of $1.4 billion, and a surplus of nearly $1.5 billion.

Jill Blashack Strahan Founder and CEO of Tastefully Simple, a retailer of gourmet and specialty food products that started in a small shed in Alexandria and grew to $140 million in sales 13 years later, when the company was engaging 27,000 consultants to serve as hosts at in-home tasting parties. Quote: “Dream it, believe it, work it.”

Mark Davis A premier commodities processor, he transformed the humble St. Peter Creamery into Davisco Foods International of Le Sueur, the largest supplier of cheese to Kraft and the world’s largest producer of whey protein isolates. When he was inducted, Davisco produced a million pounds of cheese per day and generated $700 million in annual revenues.

Stanley Hubbard A visionary broadcaster known for transforming “unworkable” ideas into successful enterprises—including United States Satellite Broadcasting, which launched its first satellite in 1993, when few homes had satellite-dish televisions. His Conus Communications allowed local U.S. stations to gather news from throughout the world.

Thomas Rosen Joined his family’s feed, fertilizer, and farm-chemical business in 1972, became CEO in 1991, and expanded its revenues from $550 million in 1998 to $2 billion at the time of his induction in 2006, when the company’s five beef plants butchered and processed 7,000 head of cattle per day, and its chemical and fertilizer business spanned 17 states.

2007

Ray Barton His insights into the power of franchising led to the expansion of Great Clips into the biggest single hair-care brand in the world. At the time of his induction, the 25-year-old company had $700 million in system-wide revenue and 2,580 franchise stores throughout 42 states and western Canada.

Don Helgeson For more than 50 years, a leader in Minnesota’s poultry industry. He built Gold’n Plump into a $200 million integrated breeder, feeder, processor, and marketer of chickens. When he was inducted, it had 1,500 employees, three plants, and two hatcheries. It was among the first to brand fresh processed chickens.

Donald Kotula An Iron Range–bred bulldozer salesman who responded to rising energy costs in the early 1980s by selling parts for log-splitters to owners of wood-burning stoves. That led to the creation of Northern Tool & Equipment, which at the time of his induction had $700 million in sales through catalogues, the Internet, and 62 stores.

William S. “Bill” Marvin Known for his single-minded devotion to his family’s century-old window and door company, he was president and chairman from 1960 through 2001 and CEO from 1986 to 2000. He joined the company as “employee number eight,” and grew it to 5,500 employees and $600 million in annual revenues.

M. A. Mortenson, Jr. A builder of skyscrapers, airports, sports arenas, schools, and manufacturing plants. When he became president of the M. A. Mortenson Company in 1969, it had 15 employees. By 2007, it had 1,200 employees, offices in six states, annual revenues of $1.4 billion—and it had changed the skylines of dozens of American cities.

 

2008

Lee Anderson, Sr. Transformed a small-scale installer of insulation into a $1.5 billion family of companies that serves the commercial construction and power industries. In 40 years, he executed more than 40 acquisitions of companies. He became the owner of several banks and a widely admired philanthropist.

Gary Holmes Sold light bulbs as a teenager, bought a rental property at age 16, and was financially independent by age 21. At the time of his induction, he was CEO and sole owner of CSM Corporation, an $800 million real-estate development and management company with more than 200 residential, commercial, industrial, retail, and hotel properties in 16 states.

Horst Rechelbacher A 1970s operator of hair salons, he founded hairstyling schools and the Aveda Corporation, a seller of plant-based hair-care products through 25,000 stores, salons, and spas. After selling Aveda to Estée Lauder for $300 million, he started Intelligent Nutrients, a producer of all-organic cosmetics and personal-care products.

Guy Schoenecker Creator of happy customers and motivated employees, he founded BI, short for “Business Incentives,” later for “Business Improvement.” When he was inducted, it was a $485 million leader in creating customized incentive marketing programs, and had operations in Australia, China, Dubai, and the United Kingdom.

Eugene Sit Investment manager, philanthropist, patriot. A World War II refugee in his native China, he knew no English when he entered the United States at age 11—but earned a college scholarship and became an investment manager. In 2008, Sit Investment Associates had $7 billion under management. In 2005, he cofounded the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund.

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