2020 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame

Celebrating five careers and lifetimes of achievement.
2020 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame

Visionaries must motivate others to join them in realizing their dreams. Because if they lack followers, leaders with great ideas cannot grow their companies or strengthen their communities.

Twin Cities Business has selected five successful leaders to join the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. They possess the capacity to innovate, set a clear direction, and unite their employees behind common goals.

The ability to bring people together is sorely needed in 2020, when Minnesotans are struggling to cope with injustice, bad economic times, and a pandemic. The Hall of Fame induction also is a time to reflect on widening the circles of leadership in the Twin Cities and beyond.

In recent years, more people of color have moved into key leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors in Minnesota, but the business world’s leadership is largely white. In 2020, businesses large and small can take concrete steps to open doors, to mentor and sponsor talented people of color. Greater diversity in business leadership not only advances the principles of justice and equality, but it also means companies can better serve their customers and the communities where they do business. We all benefit from the creativity and innovation that different perspectives bring.

Here’s a brief look at our 2020 Hall of Fame inductees:

  • Alan (Al) Hodnik was born on the Iron Range and has devoted his life to providing jobs and strengthening the economy of northeastern Minnesota. As CEO of ALLETE, he substantially grew the energy-based company and reduced its carbon footprint. A former mayor of Aurora, Minnesota, he launched a clean energy subsidiary that’s involved in wind energy generation. Working effectively with labor and managers, he spearheaded numerous innovations at ALLETE.
  • Monica Nassif has used her talent for seeing what others don’t recognize to create and build a successful cleaning products company. After working closely with a Dayton Hudson executive, she developed a knack for filling market niches and merchandising. Her upscale cleaning product lines—Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day—were sold in 2008 to SC Johnson. Nassif, a former Walker Art Center board president, continues to advise young entrepreneurs.
  • Bill Otis built New Ulm-based Nuvera Communications Inc. into a large company that offers high-speed internet, digital TV, and wireless services for residential and business customers. Under his 37-year leadership, he took a small telephone company and pursued acquisition opportunities that gave him the business scale he needed to provide high-quality services in small towns. He grew annual revenue from $3.6 million to $65 million.
  • George Sherman embraces the complexity of real estate development, because he views it as an opportunity to have a positive impact on communities. Sherman’s development projects have exceeded $4 billion in value; more than half of his development work has been in affordable housing. Undeterred by financial and procedural obstacles, he tenaciously pursues projects—such as a major Duluth theater renovation—that add to community vitality.
  • Kathryn (Kathy) Tunheim is a leader who has had a profound impact at the intersection of business and public policy. In guiding her strategic communications firm for 30 years, Tunheim has provided the framing and messaging that have helped Minnesota businesses thrive and has persuaded citizens that public investments increase everyone’s quality of life. Passionate about building Minnesota, she’s known for her intelligence, humility, and character.

Read more from this issue