Finding Minnesota

Finding Minnesota

Why it’s always worth it.

My kids help keep me current with movies, which can be both good and sometimes, well … A few years ago one of the movies I watched with my daughter, “Final Destination 2,” had the scariest, most realistic, don’t-want-to-see-it-in-reality chain-reaction car accident scene ever produced on film. If you’re curious, here it is, but I warn you up front, it’s disturbing.

This April, I had a flashback to that scene when a semi-truck alongside my car began to jackknife toward me on a snow-packed I-94 in whited-out northwestern Minnesota. I was returning from Thief River Falls after a fantastic visit with 2014 Hall of Fame honoree Mark Larson at Digi-Key, and happened to hit our last major winter storm of the year (see photo below, the left one). The truck driver miraculously regained control, and all was fine. Weeks later, after a trip to Red Wing to talk with 2014 Hall of Fame honoree Bill Sweasy at Red Wing Shoes, a tow truck’s tow dolly—basically an axle with two wheels used to prop up a car that’s being towed—hit a pothole, slipped out from underneath the car and came bouncing down the road toward my windshield. It slammed into the side of my car instead.


We go to great lengths to bring you the stories shared on this website and on the pages of our monthly magazine. (Did I tell you about the deer on the way to Warroad last year?) Seriously, we do go to great lengths—and at times, distances—to cover business news, issues and personalities from around Minnesota, because we always enjoy the result.

I also mention these stories to remind our readers that we are a statewide business magazine, though our name references the metro area. The Twin Cities are the state’s most concentrated area of commerce, economic output and political clout. But they’re connected with, and in many ways dependent on, the rest of the state. To cover “Twin Cities business” we also need to go to and get to know leaders in other communities throughout Minnesota. In the last 12 months this has meant driving to Warroad, East Grand Forks, Duluth, Thief River Falls, Ely, Brainerd, St. Cloud, Mankato, Winona, Rochester and other communities—and coming across the occasional road hazard along the way. And we love it.

Through our daily online news, twice weekly e-newsletter, monthly magazine and live events, we have the rare opportunity, and the privilege, to talk with the business leaders who create and grow jobs, give back to our communities and help keep political excesses in check. There is no other statewide business magazine covering the topic as Twin Cities Business does. But then, there’s no state as deserving of such coverage as Minnesota.

You might say I’m biased. Perhaps. But I do study business issues and the economy every day. And I watch what is said about other states, as well as ours.

Recently I came across a video clip that hit the nail on the head, when New York Times foreign affairs columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman spoke at Stanford Graduate School of Business’ “View From the Top” series in March. He reflected on the values he learned growing up in Minnesota. Here are a few excerpts (see his presentation here):

“What I took away from Minnesota, in the ‘50s and ’60s, that has influenced me my whole life, was a strong sense of belonging to a community and a certain optimism about how a community can come together through politics and philanthropy to make people’s lives better.

“In 1971, the year I graduated from high school, Time magazine wrote a story with our governor, Wendell Anderson, on the cover, holding up a walleye under the headline ‘Minnesota: The State that Works.’ When your senators growing up are called Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey, when the big companies around you are 3M, Dayton Hudson and Control Data . . . and corporate social responsibility is something they practiced long before it was invented; when your congressmen in your overwhelmingly Democratic districts are two liberal Republicans, and when your congressman today is the only African American Muslim in the U.S. Congress, Keith Ellison, you grow up believing politics can actually bring people together, bridge differences and solve problems.

“And that is the gift I took from my 18 years growing up in Minnesota, the belief in the possibility—not the certainty, but the possibility—that people will do the right thing and the outcome will be win-win for everyone. . . . So that’s why the title for this chapter, and maybe to my whole career, is always looking for Minnesota. Always looking for the middle ground . . . I know the world is not Minnesota. I recognize the pessimists are usually right. But I also recognize that all the great change in history was done by optimists, those who saw the possibility for win-win outcomes.”

What Friedman talks about is evident statewide, and we find it every time we meet with the likes of Mark Larson and Bill Sweasy—eternal optimists and great business leaders, but also caring community stewards who have played pivotal roles in helping Thief River Falls and Red Wing thrive during the last three decades.

In the Twin Cities, we find the same Friedman-sought virtues in Mark Sheffert, who’s made a career out of helping troubled companies; Pat Fallon, first to prove to companies elsewhere that Minnesota’s work ethic and creativity allow it to produce world-class advertising; and Lynn Casey, who led her firm through tough times and then through a smart acquisition—all while providing what seems like a limitless amount of help to community organizations and others who simply ask for it.

You can read more about all five in our Hall of Fame coverage. Better yet, I invite you to join us July 23, when we honor them at an awards banquet. Videos at the event will offer even more context and insight into their accomplishments. And the honorees’ speeches are always incredible—you’ll hear substantive, personal and insightful comments straight from the source.

Join us as we continue to find Minnesota.

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