Best of Business 2019: This Year’s Winners
When it’s time to host an event or hire a new professional services provider, why go it alone? Hundreds of Minnesota businesses have already blazed a trail for you. Tap into that collective knowledge to find a top-notch lawyer, data security expert, or commercial real estate broker—you’ll save time and get excellent results from the best of the best.
Earlier this year we asked executives and decision-makers for recommendations in common business service categories. TCB’s annual subscriber survey is based on the opinions of people like you who make key vendor decisions. Thanks again to all those who shared their expertise.
—Adam Platt, executive editor
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE GENERAL CONTRACTOR
Ryan Cos. US
Ryan Cos. US builds on its 81-year history of creating the structures customers need to grow their businesses. The family-owned company offers broad commercial real estate services that take projects from concept to completion. With an ethos of responsive communication, transparency, and teamwork, Ryan focuses on the “why” behind projects to match clients’ objectives. It is currently developing the $1 billion, 40-block Ford site in St. Paul with housing, retail, office, and public space. A national builder with 16 offices from Florida to Washington State, Ryan has 1,284 employees—537 of them in Minnesota—and $2 billion in revenue.
Doran Cos. | Kraus-Anderson | M.A. Mortenson
BKBM Engineers adheres to its core principle of collaborating with all players on a construction team. It has been an integral team player for 50+ years on complex structural, civil, and restoration engineering projects across the Midwest. From offices in Brooklyn Center and Denver, BKBM handles the evolving challenges of design, build, and renovation with creativity and responsiveness. Its industry partners think the world of BKBM, awarding the firm the Minnesota Construction Association 2019 Design Professional of the Year award. Recent work includes structural engineering at the Moline apartment complex in Hopkins and civil engineering for the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee.
Michaud Cooley Erickson | WS
ADVERTISING AND MARKETING FIRM
As many advertising and marketing firms move toward specialization, Unrestricted MKTG of Eden Prairie stays wide-ranging. It provides a full menu of brand and marketing services to Minnesota-based companies. Founded in 2004 as the Capture Group, Unrestricted offers integrated services. The seven-employee shop—which flexes to add specialized pros when needed—calls itself an untraditional marketing warehouse, developing cost-effective campaigns and services for varied clients. The firm favors unconventional approaches for strategic planning, branding, production, content, analytics, and creative in print, online, and for merchandise.
Antenna | Fast Horse
PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM
Lola Red PR
With hustle and spirit, Lola Red has made a name for itself in public relations by working as an extension of clients’ teams. A hallmark is its focus on measurable results, demonstrating to clients that it moves the needle. Lola Red specializes in numerous sectors, including food and beverage, consumer package goods, wellness, and franchise development, with a clientele that includes Life Time, Smashburger, and Shinola. Launched in 2000, it has 20 employees and offices in Minneapolis and Denver. Lola Red is definitely having its moment.
Fast Horse | Padilla
Chowgirls Killer Catering
Heidi Andermack and Amy Brown founded Chowgirls Killer Catering in 2004 to offer organic, sustainable, and delicious food for any event. They’ve since grown Chowgirls into a 120-employee-strong, $5 million business. It’s known for creating outstanding food for off-premise events and at its own venues, Solar Arts in Northeast Minneapolis and Soo Visual Arts Center in Lyn-Lake. In 2019, the company was named an “outstanding caterer” at the Charlie Awards, a coveted Twin Cities food and beverage industry honor. A recent move to new headquarters fueled growth as Chowgirls works to continue wowing customers with delectable food, seamless events, and superb service.
CRAVE Catering | D’Amico Catering
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota has long been ingrained in Minnesota’s culture, educating and improving lives through innovative research, outreach, and public service. The comprehensive university offers 150 majors in seven undergraduate-admitting colleges and 200 graduate and professional degrees. The campus offers a diversity of options—organizations, athletics, arts, and activities—keeping its 51,000 students engaged, educated, and entertained. Students know that leaders in business, government, nonprofit, and education circles share their love for the maroon and gold, giving them a world of opportunity to apply their education and passion for contributing.
St. Cloud State University | University of St. Thomas
University of St. Thomas
Customization is the watchword when it comes to University of St. Thomas’ MBA programs. Students find the business education they need, at the pace and format that best suits them. From an executive MBA for seasoned professionals to full-time and health care MBAs, the Opus College of Business meets students where they are. This year, Opus launched an online version of its part-time program. Most programs offer extras like a short-term study travel experience, graduate certificates in strategic growth, and more. Graduates enjoy connections with the Tommie network, members of which are seeded throughout many Minnesota Fortune 500 companies and beyond.
Augsburg University | University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Nearly a decade in the audiovisual industry showed David Throldahl multiple ways he could improve the customer experience. He started Avex in 2002 and set the firm apart with a high bar for service, transparency, flexibility, and doing the right thing. A full-service event and design company with offices in Fridley and North Carolina, Avex works with clients on live event design and production for every budget, while it serves as venues’ in-house audio-video partner. Avex launched with a bedrock foundation of investing in employees and treating them right. In turn, staff members enthusiastically earn customers’ trust with every interaction while contributing to events that shine.
AV For You | metroConnections
MEETING AND EVENT VENUE: HOTEL
For 27 years, Hilton Minneapolis has helped customers execute memorable events. As one of the largest hotels close to the Minneapolis Convention Center, Hilton Minneapolis certainly could rest on its laurels. But it doesn’t, to the delight of its many business customers. The 821-room hotel recently redesigned and renovated its lobby, function spaces, and menus, providing versatile options for every kind of event. It has 77,000 square feet of function space that works for groups from 10 to 2,800 people. Small meetings don’t get small attention, thanks to dedicated event managers, while large conferences, parties, and weddings utilize expert in-house coordinators and caterers.
JW Marriott Mall of America| Radisson Blu Mall of America
MEETING AND EVENT VENUE: NONHOTEL
Aria Event Center
Steeped in Minneapolis Warehouse District history, Aria Event Center offers a distinctive space for diverse gatherings. Its storied past as a theater works to its advantage, with an open, versatile floor plan, pristine acoustics, and myriad architectural details. From its exposed-brick walls to 30-foot ceilings, Aria contrasts its historic vibe with contemporary art and furnishings. Since 2012, it has hosted varied functions including weddings, parties, corporate events, and concerts. Aria’s clients appreciate that its staff operate as industry experts, not just venue managers. Aria’s netted Minnesota Bride’s Best Venue award for five consecutive years.
The Hutton House | Machine Shop
MEETING AND EVENT PLANNER/COMPANY – TIE
Amy Zaroff Events + Design
For 15 years, Minneapolis-based Zaroff has partnered with corporations, brands, nonprofits, and others on meetings, events, and weddings, guided by the mantra “Because all you have is your name. Use it wisely.” The firm creates memorable experiences for any and all life celebrations, impressing clients and guests with event planning, design, and experiential marketing. Some of the biggest brands in Minnesota, including Target, Mall of America, and the Minnesota Twins, turn to Zaroff for their most important gatherings. The firm recently garnered International Live Events Association (ILEA) awards for its work on Super Bowl LII’s Big Game Big Give.
Events by Melody
Events by Melody creates one-of-a-kind weddings, celebrations, and corporate events that will be remembered for years. The Savage-based company handles everything for wedding clients, from planning and design to day-of coordination. Such high-pressure settings are not for everyone, but Events by Melody thrives in stressful situations with creativity, a hands-on approach, and a focus on communication. The firm recently won an ILEA award for best wedding with a budget over $75,000. Events by Melody works with clients big and small, whether a couple, nonprofit, or small business.
Event Lab | metroConnections
MEETING AND EVENT RESORT: GREATER MINNESOTA
Grand View Lodge
Grand View Lodge has called families, couples, and groups to the shores of Gull Lake in Nisswa for relaxation and recreation for 100 years plus. This summer, it opened North, a boutique hotel and conference center, to welcome groups for events, team building, and meetings. North offers 60 hotel rooms and four meeting spaces, along with all of the other revered Grand View amenities. Guests enjoy championship golf, fine dining, spa services, boating, and year-round entertainment in the NorthPark recreation center. At Grand View, generations of families, friends, and co-workers build memories and connections amid the beauty of Minnesota.
Madden’s on Gull Lake | Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge
The eighth-largest accountancy firm in the country, CliftonLarsonAllen attracts and retains its customers by creating opportunities in their personal and professional lives. It lives by its mantra “We promise to know you and help you,” with robust integrated services. Clients rely on CLA for audit, tax, and consulting, as well as outsourcing and wealth advisory—all with a firm grounding in public accounting. This approach fuels growth at CLA, which now has 120 locations, 6,100 employees, and revenue of $1.1 billion. Its advice covers evolving issues like tax reform and tariffs, helping clients adjust their operations as needed.
Froehling Anderson | Lurie, LLP
BANK FOR BUSINESS
As the fifth-largest bank in the country, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank has the bandwidth to provide business customers with all of the financial services they need. For most companies, that’s table stakes; what distinguishes U.S. Bank is strong operations and ethics. Ethisphere Institute has recognized U.S. Bank annually since 2015 as one of the world’s most ethical companies, and major credit rating agencies consistently name it one of the highest-rated banks because of its consistent returns and conservative risk management. U.S. Bank’s strategy to simplify banking and innovate has delivered record net income and earnings per share for the eighth consecutive year.
TCF National Bank | Wells Fargo
Life can be complicated, but U.S. Bank has a mission to make banking easy. Last year it introduced several new fully digital products that provide customers with seamless, quick tools for their needs. They include a digital mortgage portal to provide instant borrower credit approval and “simple loans” for unexpected expenses, with real-time approval and quick access to funds. Customers also like that U.S. Bank stays responsive to financial services innovations, such as offering the Zelle digital app for moving money, geolocation for fraud prevention, tools for preventing cyber-attacks, and automated investor services to help customers meet their financial goals.
TCF National Bank | Wells Fargo
CREDIT UNION – TIE
SPIRE Credit Union
In the spirit of self-help during the Depression, the founders of Spire Credit Union pooled their resources and loaned money to each other. This Midwestern spirit and values are still embedded in the Falcon Heights credit union, which is rooted in integrity, giving back, and improving members’ lives. Spire meets these objectives through traditional financial services for individuals and businesses, plus programs like merchant services and health savings accounts. Spire’s Visa card allows members to direct 0.25 percent of purchases to a Spire partner charity, which is expected to generate about $225,000 in contributions in its first year.
TopLine Federal Credit Union
With the philosophy of “people helping people,” TopLine Federal Credit Union provides financial services and banking to more than 40,000 members. It started as a credit union for Bell System employees in 1935, expanding to additional employee groups and becoming a federal credit union in the 1990s. Today, it serves the seven-county metro area. Maple Grove-based TopLine, with $400 million in assets, says it works to improve the lives of neighbors and area businesses with diverse financial products, advisory services, and insurance. In 2015 it started the TopLine Credit Union Foundation to contribute to its communities with financial education, scholarships, and support for local nonprofits.
Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union | Wings Financial Credit Union
Bell Bank Mortgage
Bell Bank Mortgage is well versed in mortgages, having been in the business since 1880. Minnesota’s oldest and largest independent mortgage company, Bell joined North Dakota’s State Bank & Trust in 2011, bringing to the company its expertise and name. Bell is one of the country’s largest privately owned banks, with more than $2 billion in annual mortgage originations, about 1,250 employees (400 bank and mortgage staff in Minnesota), and 47 mortgage offices in the Midwest and Southwest. Its emphasis is on a smooth mortgage process and motivated employees. It landed eighth on Fortune’s 2019 list of the best financial services and insurance workplaces.
U.S. Bank | Wells Fargo
WEALTH MANAGEMENT FIRM
RBC Wealth Management
For 90 years, RBC Wealth Management has provided financial advice to Minnesotans, first as J.M. Dain & Co. and now in its current form after acquisition by the Royal Bank of Canada. RBC is now the fifth-largest wealth management firm in the world, with $908 billion in assets under control and nearly 5,000 financial consultants, advisors, and bankers. It helps high- net-worth individuals, families, and retirees meet financial goals throughout their lives. The firm also partners with business owners, corporations, and institutions on diverse investment options. In 2018, Private Banker International honored RBC as an outstanding global private bank and outstanding wealth planning and trust provider.
Accredited Investors Wealth Management | Ameriprise Financial
STAFFING, RECRUITING, EXECUTIVE SEARCH
For the third year in a row, Salo is TCB readers’ top choice for help in hiring accounting, finance, and human resources professionals. The Minneapolis firm specializes in placing senior-level leaders in interim, project-based, or permanent placements. Salo differentiates itself by deploying business development directors to partner with clients throughout a project cycle, tackling needs ranging from mergers and acquisitions to risk management. It focuses on the Twin Cities and Chicago regions, with 584 total employees and consultants, including 75 local employees, and reports revenues of $65 million to $75 million annually. The company has fresh leadership in president Lisa Brezonik after founders Amy Langer and John Folkestad stepped away from day-to-day operations.
Oggi Professional Services | Versique Consulting & Search
LAW FIRM – TIE
Fox Rothschild made its mark in the Twin Cities when it merged with Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly in 2016. That firm had a 130-year legacy in Minnesota, with strengths in commercial litigation, mergers and acquisitions, and financial services. After combining with Fox Rothschild, the firm offers clients a national footprint and expertise in 70 practice areas. Its 80-strong roster of lawyers in Minneapolis helps businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies with all manner of legal advice, including litigation and transactional matters. Fox Rothschild boasts a nimble and entrepreneurial approach to legal work, providing the resources and expertise clients need to grow.
For more than 50 years, businesses and individuals have turned to Messerli Kramer for comprehensive legal advice. Its attorneys take the time to fully understand companies’ legal issues in the context of their business model, developing sound, reasoned, and pragmatic solutions that help clients navigate complex issues. The firm represents a diverse roster of clients, including large corporations, banks, and closely held businesses. Its lawyers also counsel individuals who need help with divorce, family law, and estate planning. The firm’s 65 attorneys are regularly honored for excellence on Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers lists, winning respect and recognition from their peers and clients.
Briggs and Morgan | Faegre Baker Daniels
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
By building lasting relationships with tenants and partners, Doran Cos. has grown to manage nearly 2 million square feet of commercial property. Whether managing retail, office, or mixed-use properties, Doran deploys sharp attention to detail that clients recognize. Property owners and retailers benefit from Doran’s operational knowledge and market expertise gained from managing properties such as Tamarack Village in Woodbury. More than 200 employees engage in development, design, architecture, construction, and property management from offices in Bloomington and Denver. Recently, founder Kelly Doran sold partial ownership to new CEO Anne Behrendt and CFO Ryan Johnson.
CBRE Group | Cushman & Wakefield
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE – TIE
The world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, CBRE knows how to make real estate work for businesses. The Los Angeles-based company has operated locally since 1974, giving it deep market expertise. Clients gain from the firm’s synergies in brokerage, land sales, corporate services, and property management, plus its 1,000 local employees. Working across geographies and industries, CBRE brokers partner with clients to overcome challenges and maximize opportunities, such as securing sustainable environments or analyzing locations. From financial consulting to portfolio optimization, with more than 12 million square feet under management, CBRE helps turn clients’ real estate into an advantage. <
Cushman & Wakefield
Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield is a global name in commercial real estate. Its local office has a strong, established presence in the Twin Cities market with a deep bench of experienced brokers, property managers, and capital markets pros. Its local roots stretch back to 1916 under various names. Today the firm manages more than 30 million square feet of Twin Cities commercial property and completes deals valued at more than $2.3 billion annually.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER
A relatively new kid on the block—opening for business in 2007—Doran Cos. has established itself as a prolific and growing commercial real estate developer. In the past decade it developed more than $1 billion in real estate, no small feat considering the Great Recession’s drastic construction slowdown. Doran got its first big break as a student apartment builder near the University of Minnesota, eventually completing more than 35 multifamily, commercial, and mixed-use developments in the greater Twin Cities, North Dakota, and Colorado. Recent projects include a 25-story apartment building near St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis and Aria, a 184-unit apartment building in Edina.
Ryan Cos. US | United Properties
DATA AND SECURITY
CEO J.D. Harris retooled a web hosting firm into Ascent Solutions, buying out its founders and focusing the Minneapolis company on solving clients’ IT and cybersecurity problems. Since 2015, the firm has grown to 55 employees (35 in Minnesota) and a territory that stretches nationwide. Ascent assists clients with data problems, software architecture, Microsoft infrastructure technologies, and more via its knowledgeable consultants. Ascent partners closely with Microsoft, creating services that complement its products by drawing on Ascent executives’ background at Microsoft. This year, Ascent’s revenue and sales doubled again, and it added a minority investor to power even more growth.
Atomic Data | SUCCESS Computer Consulting
DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT, PRINTERS, AND COPIERS
When essential office equipment stops working, it’s exasperating for everyone. Marco Technologies’ customers know that its dispatchers and support representatives keep downtime—and frustration—to a minimum by quickly resolving issues remotely more than 97 percent of the time. From 64 locations nationwide, Marco works with more than 35,000 customers on their business IT, copiers and printers, telecommunications, document management, and audiovisual systems. Through acquisition and organic growth, Marco has maintained a 20 percent compound annual growth rate for a decade. Though that brings challenges to its gold-standard service, Marco’s leadership is committed to providing responsive, expert consulting that keeps business flowing.
Loffler Cos. | Metro Sales
Code42 helps companies big and small protect the data essential to their business. The software-as-a-service company provides IT security and backup to the cloud by collecting, indexing, and analyzing files and file activities. This helps security teams seamlessly monitor, preserve, and recover data when necessary. Code42 recently shifted from its origins in IT infrastructure and individual endpoint protection to offer enterprise-level security with its Next-Gen Data Loss Protection service. It’s primed to continue growing rapidly beyond its 50,000 customers worldwide. This year, Code42 netted two Cybersecurity Excellence Awards: a gold for its security product and silver for best cybersecurity company.
Calabrio | ClickSWITCH
WEB DEVELOPMENT FIRM
Aktion Interactive is a small-but-mighty web development firm that wins clients by tackling all of their digital marketing needs. Businesses seeking a comprehensive strategy for their online presence have provided steady, double-digit growth. Two digital marketing veterans, Tony Tellijohn and Matt Wangsness, started the Burnsville company. They set out to offer a team approach to developing online marketing platforms that can suit everyone from one-person shops to large organizations. Aktion specializes in web development, apps, search engine and Internet marketing, and more. The firm continues to grow and innovate, including developing new software applications to help businesses quantify their digital marketing investments.
Leighton Interactive | Rocket55
MOBILE PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER
It’s hard to argue with professional evaluators who consistently rank Verizon as the best overall mobile network carrier. The company also snagged first-place ratings in five categories from independent evaluator RootMetrics, including reliability, data connections, and calling. For two years running, J.D. Power ranked Verizon at or tied for No. 1 in network quality. Verizon continually strives to stay on top of service and technology, building out its 5G home internet network and a 5G wideband network to eventually power self-driving cars and smart cities while providing customers with consistently excellent wireless service.
AT&T | T-Mobile USA
TELECOM AND INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER
From its beginnings in St. Cloud 46 years ago, Marco Technologies has grown into a top-five technology provider nationally. Customers rely on Marco to stay current with ever-changing technology, designing and implementing the systems that match their needs. It’s a one-stop shop of 750 experts and dedicated account teams who plan, design, install, and support vital IT and telecommunications systems. Companies depend on Marco for cloud and managed IT systems that power operations, plus maintenance and support. It’s a model that has served Marco well, helping it grow to a reported $358 million in revenue. Marco recently powered its East Coast expansion by acquiring Phillips Office Solutions.
CenturyLink | Comcast Business
Walser Automotive Group
Walser Automotive Group turned the typical haggling model on its head 18 years ago by transforming into a one-price sales structure with a salaried, no-commission sales force. Customers benefit from the Walser Upfront Price model that shows exactly what they would pay for a vehicle. A 10-week training program guides Walser employees in this transparent, no-negotiation approach and how to make a transaction all about the customer. Walser has grown to 1,800 employees and $1.33 billion in sales as it continues to innovate. Walser recently launched a line of branded reinsurance called Autoguard and acquired Ace Rent-a-Car, an Illinois company.
Lupient Automotive Group | Poquet Auto Sales
LOGISTICS COMPANY – TIE
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
For 115 years, C.H. Robinson has made business happen around the world. The third-party logistics company—the biggest in North America—provides transportation, logistics, and supply-chain services. About 124,000 customers worldwide take advantage of the company’s robust technology and logistics, including eight service lines that generate $16.6 billion in revenue. C.H. Robinson transforms data from its 18 million shipments and $20 billion in freight annually into actionable insights for customers. This information helps them operate efficiently and effectively. Under new CEO Bob Biesterfeld, C.H. Robinson will continue delivering its expertise to customers on five continents.
Murphy Logistics Solutions
Edward L. Murphy Sr. bought two horses and a wagon in 1904, founding the current Minneapolis-based Murphy Logistics Solutions (previously Murphy Warehouse). With operations in Minnesota and Missouri, Murphy is recognized as a savvy, reliable third-party logistics (3PL) provider for clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Murphy’s many sustainability initiatives include installing solar panels on warehouse roofs. Sadly, president/CEO Richard T. Murphy Jr., the company’s fourth-generation leader, passed away in July.
EXECUTIVE HEALTH PROGRAM
Mayo Clinic Executive Health
Mayo Executive Health patients love that they get comprehensive medical exams and preventive screenings in one thorough visit. They know they’re patients for life, forming tight bonds with Mayo clinicians and connections to its network of world-class physicians and services. Providers aren’t focused solely on tests and metrics; Mayo’s whole-person approach means executives can use extras like stress management, wellness counseling, sports medicine, and cosmetic treatments. Mayo offers a hub for busy executives to take care of all their health care needs. Then they can get back to doing the work they love—hale, healthy, and ready to roll.
Park Nicollet Executive Health
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Since 1933, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has developed novel ways to improve health. The company began as a prepaid medical plan offered by a consortium of St. Paul hospitals—the first in the country—and evolved into Blue Cross to offer health plans that now cover one-third of Minnesotans. It is still innovating today. New retail locations allow consumers to learn more about plans and take wellness classes. Blue Cross also developed online care and created employer services like maternity coaches. Evolving to meet changing health care needs and environments is a company trademark and a key reason it remains the state’s largest insurer.
HealthPartners | Medica
North Memorial Health Hospital
North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale has been a Twin Cities institution for 80 years, providing care when people need it most. At its trauma center, pediatric trauma center, and on every floor, clinicians treat patients as they would want their family to be treated. North Memorial also pitches in on community efforts, such as Second Harvest Heartland’s FOODRx program, which addresses food insecurity. NMHH forges partnerships to offer patients the best care, such as a recent alliance with Minnesota Neonatal Physicians for its NICU patients. The hospital is also focused on the cutting edge with its robotic surgery program.
Children’s Hospitals Minnesota | Fairview Southdale Hospital