2004 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame

2004 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame

They are all leaders, achievers, and role models. All of them have built enterprises and have helped build communities in which enterprise thrives. Each has been an agent of change and a source of inspiration.

This year’s five inductees into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame have all of those attributes in common. Each, however, has also become distinguished in a distinctive way.

Bill Austin is the founder and CEO of Starkey Laboratories, the largest U.S.–based hearing aid manufacturer. While he was guiding the company’s growth to 3,700 employees and $420 million in sales per year, he also established the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which has fitted 100,000 needy children with hearing devices.

Tom Gegax implemented a new way to sell tires—in clean, efficient stores and at competitive prices—and built Tires Plus into a $200 million, 150-store chain at which headquarters employees could take time out for a shiatsu massage, a fitness-room workout, or meditation in a soundproof room.

Pinky McNamara, corporate turnaround specialist and philanthropist, has rescued and renewed dozens of companies. His $100 million Activar, Inc., holding company owns 14 private companies and stock in two public companies.

John Pellegrene, a paragon of marketing and merchandising, helped push Dayton’s Department Stores to the forefront of retail innovation and establish Target’s image as a fashion-forward but always affordable discounter.

Robert Sparboe moved to Minnesota 50 years ago to establish the Sparboe Chick Company with his life savings of $5,400. Its successor companies comprise a $260 million operation that sells 2.4 billion eggs a year.