Brenda Kyle
St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce

When the chamber was looking for a new CEO, its board chose someone who knew St. Paul well and had good working relationships with businesspeople and public officials. Brenda Kyle, with 11 years of experience at the St. Paul Port Authority, is now in a position to leverage her knowledge and contacts to expand St. Paul’s economy. Named to her new job in the summer, she was involved in efforts to redevelop the former Macy’s and is working with city leaders on a strategy to add 2,000 tech jobs by 2020.

Tim Dixon
Fe Equus Development

Developer Tim Dixon has literally changed the face of downtown Milwaukee over the last decade and now has his sights set on Minneapolis. If you were wowed by the stunning Hewing Hotel, which rose from an empty North Loop warehouse, or have dined at Milwaukee’s Wolf Peach or stayed at the award-winning Iron Horse Hotel, you already know Dixon’s capacity to revive derelict structures. Fe Equus has been acquiring property on the 400 block of East Hennepin for its next project, an “approachably priced” condominium development. The city will be well served if it can keep Dixon busy.

Elizabeth Ross

Back in the 1980s, Minneapolis built a reputation for world-class advertising agencies; today none of those firms are still locally owned. Minneapolis-based Periscope, however, now ranks among the five largest independent agencies in the U.S. Periscope tapped Liz Ross, with 20 years of industry experience, to succeed long-standing CEO Greg Kurowski. Ross is bringing in best-in-class talent from across the U.S. to build what Periscope calls the “agency of the future.” Periscope grew again with its June deal to buy Chicago-based Anthem Marketing Solutions, its first acquisition.

P.J. Fleck
Head Football Coach
University of Minnesota

P.J. Fleck shocked Minnesota’s reticent culture when he came on the scene last winter to run the Gophers football program. Fresh from a 13-1 record and a Cotton Bowl berth at Western Michigan, the high-energy coach arrived in Minnesota with an abundance of motivational slogans and a commitment to make Minnesota an “elite” program. Though the team’s 2016 record was credible, several players were accused of sexual misconduct during the season. Now Fleck will be judged on his ability to lead on and off the field. Expectations are high—fans want Big Ten titles and major bowl games.

Jacob Frey

In the City Council, 36-year-old attorney Jacob Frey presided over four years of meteoric growth in the third ward, which encompasses part of downtown, but more notably the North Loop and lower Northeast. He parlayed that success into a dynamic campaign for mayor—taking down an incumbent, while successfully thwarting efforts to define his liberal policies as “right-wing” and “conservative” due to an occasional propensity for consultation and moderation. He is avowedly pro-development/density and wants to tackle downtown safety/perception issues. The business community backed him, but also complained at times about what they saw as a malleability in his positions. Still, merely an open mind on business topics would separate him from the incumbent.

Marcus Lemonis
Camping World Holdings Inc.

In the early spring of 2017, Marcus Lemonis, best known as the struggling small-business reviver from his CNBC show The Profit, purchased one of Minnesota’s largest brick-and-mortar brands, Gander Mountain. Only a few months later, he double-dipped in the state’s retail scene, scooping up TheHouse.com, another all-things-outdoors company based in St. Paul. With a name change (to Gander Outdoors) and store count a fraction of the size (from 162 to about 60), Lemonis is set to spend more time in Minnesota in 2018 engineering Gander for long-term profitability.

Brandon Sawalich
Starkey Hearing Technologies

It was a long road to Starkey’s No. 2 spot for Brandon Sawalich. As a lifer at the Eden Prairie-based hearing aid manufacturer—he joined in 1994 at just 19—Sawalich has been in the eye of the storm. Legal filings have revealed that, with others, it was Sawalich who tipped off Starkey CEO (and Sawalich’s stepfather) Bill Austin about certain Starkey C-suiters’ alleged plot against the company, which included a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme. Now, as president, he hopes to right Starkey’s ship.

Jace Marti
August Schell Brewing Co.

Jace Marti represents the sixth generation of the iconic August Schell Brewing, and, like his father, he’s taking the brewery to new levels. Marti is the mastermind behind Schell’s Noble Star collection of Berliner Weisse sour beers, which he learned to brew while studying techniques in Berlin. In March, Marti’s sour series got its own taproom in New Ulm with the opening of Starkeller Brewing Co., a subsidiary of Schell’s. It’s the first sour-only brewery in Minnesota, but it likely won’t remain so, with sours quickly gaining popularity. In the long run, it will be Schell’s traditional German-style beers that will set it apart.

Anudeep Parhar
Entrust Datacard Corp.

Anudeep Parhar was brought on as Entrust Datacard’s CIO in 2016 to lead the company’s expansion to the cloud, as well as lead global IT and customer operations teams. This year, Parhar has helped oversee the launch of Entrust’s IntelliTrust authentication, a cloud service with mobile-smart credential technology, plus the introduction of its internet of things (loT) security technology, ioTrust. It delivers a secure digital infrastructure that safeguards data between devices, sensors and platforms connected within an IoT ecosystem. In 2018, Parhar will lead Entrust’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, a recently formed incubator-like internal organization developed to drive innovation and growth.

Lisa Bender
City Councilmember (10th Ward)

Arguably the most influential and aggressive of the Minneapolis City Council’s progressive caucus, in her first term Lisa Bender has aligned with Mayor Betsy Hodges to pursue a pro-density, pro-bike, social justice-driven agenda. She even openly advocated for the electoral ouster of non-likeminded colleagues in last month’s city election. If one or two nemeses lost their races (results unavailable at press time), Bender could find herself council president—or merely the most influential city pol, thanks to Minneapolis’s weak mayor system.

Neel Kashkari
Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank

Even though his office is in downtown Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari gets national attention from media such as the Wall Street Journal and CNBC. Since he started as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in January 2016, he’s drawn notice because he’s been a consistent contrarian on big-picture economic issues. He cast the lone dissenting vote against raising interest rates in both March and June, pointing to weak inflation and other factors. A WSJ story in July said that Kashkari has “emerged as a surprisingly prescient voice on monetary policy this year.”


Sarah Spiegel
Coffee and Bagel Brands

It was a quick trip to the top for Sarah Spiegel. After less than a year as chief operating officer and president of U.S. retail for Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels, Spiegel took over the helm in mid-summer, leading the nation’s second-largest retail coffee chain. Within weeks of her entry, Spiegel expanded the Brooklyn Center-based coffeehouse’s footprint by acquiring the 270-unit Bruegger’s Bagels. Given Caribou and Bruegger’s familiarity—the two first operated a co-branded space more than 20 years ago—Spiegel is well situated to bring about a new era of cohabited shops for Caribou, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Co.

James Hereford
Fairview Health Services

The health care landscape continues to change. James Hereford, who had been chief operations officer for California-based Stanford Health Care, started as the new president and CEO of Minneapolis-based nonprofit Fairview Health Services in late 2016. It’s been a busy first year on the job. In March, Fairview announced its merger with St. Paul-based HealthEast Care System; the combined operation is now the largest health care provider in the Twin Cities. Hereford has brought a new chief operating officer, chief nursing executive and chief medical officer to Fairview’s senior leadership team. He also brings a reputation as a strategic and collaborative leader, as providers everywhere look to improve care while trimming costs.


Derick Prelle
Mills Fleet Farm

Derick Prelle was appointed CEO of Mills Fleet Farm in June by KKR & Co., the private equity firm that purchased the retailer last year. Prelle is leading efforts to double the company’s footprint over the next six years and expand into new markets; he’s already helped open a long-awaited location in Monticello. (Mills had added only six stores in the last 10 years.) To position the company for growth, Mills is building a 1.1 million-square-foot distribution center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., slated to open in 2018.

Pascha Apter
Giant Voices Inc.

This summer, Duluth marketing firm Giant Voices moved from cramped offices on Canal Park to a stylish, high-profile storefront on Superior Street. It’s another sign that the city’s marketing industry is coming into its own. Apter, who co-founded Giant Voices in 2012 following marketing stints at clothier Maurices and other Duluth companies, saw that regional businesses were seeking the kind of integrated marketing firepower that Twin Cities agencies are known for. While Giant Voices provides integrated marketing in its home region, it also has been soliciting clients in New York.


Ari Silkey
Transportation Technology, Amazon.com

In June 2016, e-commerce giant Amazon.com announced plans for a “technology development center” in downtown Minneapolis. The office is led by Ari Silkey, who keeps a low media profile but is clearly a person to know as Amazon expands its Twin Cities presence and considers local proposals for its second headquarters. Silkey’s team includes software development engineers and managers who are developing applications for Amazon’s growing logistics network. The Gustavus Adolphus graduate brings more than 15 years of tech industry work, including a stint at Best Buy. The work that he and his team are doing will ultimately be deployed nationally and globally by Amazon.


Erik Forsberg
Dan Kelly’s Pub, Erik the Red

Restaurateur Erik Forsberg is becoming a force in downtown Minneapolis hospitality. This year he moved his Devil’s Advocate bar into the old Dan Kelly’s space while refining Erik the Red, his “barbarian” barbecue bar across from U.S. Bank Stadium. Forsberg has shown a knack for fresh concepts that feel authentic—and just work. Look for more from him as downtown landlords continue their search for food concepts that pay the ground-level rent.


Tom Clarke
Chief investor
Chippewa Capital Partners

Clarke is a curious, intriguing new player on the Iron Range. In the past year, this billionaire from Virginia (the state)—who made his money in health care, nursing homes and coal—has acquired the shuttered Magnetation taconite production complex near Grand Rapids and the former Essar Steel taconite facility in Nashwauk. His vision? Creating an ore powerhouse that makes traditional pellets for blast furnaces as well as specialized pellets for the electric-arc mini-mills that produce about two-thirds of American steel.

Kyu-Young Kim
Artistic Director and Principal Violin
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Very few accomplished orchestral musicians raise their hands to take on leadership duties that constitute a formidable day job. But that’s exactly what Kyu-Young Kim did. As of 2016 he’s artistic director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In his staff role he works with his colleagues and guest artists to seek out and develop concert programming and the ensemble’s innovative artistic partnerships. Then he puts on concert attire, picks up a violin and performs at the level demanded of a world-class ensemble player. The energetic Kim is worth keeping an eye on as his influence and vision take root.

Mike Ryan
Senior Vice President/North Region Market Leader
Ryan Companies U.S. Inc.

Next year will mark 80 years in business for Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos., which ranks among the largest development and construction firms in Minnesota. But it remains, at heart, a family business, and Mike Ryan represents the fourth generation at the company. (Mike’s father, Pat, is president and CEO.) Mike Ryan’s background as an architect gives him perspective and attention to detail for a wide range of projects. He led the design for Ryan’s expansive Downtown East redevelopment, and he’s also deeply involved in the community, including serving on the Minneapolis Downtown Council.

Emily Larson
City of Duluth

With the third year of her first term on the horizon, Larson is demonstrating a mix of DFL progressivism and Arne Carlson-style financial discipline. The 2018 budget she proposed in August includes property- and sales-tax increases, largely to help repair some of Duluth’s famously bone-rattling streets. Larson also wants to spend nearly $1 million on a community solar garden. At the same time, she also is seeking more than $2 million worth of staff cuts to keep the city’s expenses manageable. It helps that Duluth continues to lure more and more visitors—in 2016, tourist-paid tax revenue hit a record $11.34 million.

Mark Nerenhausen
Hennepin Theatre Trust

Tom Hoch ran the nonprofit Hennepin Theatre Trust for more than 20 years, then stepped down earlier this year to run for Minneapolis mayor. In April, the trust tapped Mark Nerenhausen as its new president and CEO. The trust is an important anchor in downtown Minneapolis as operator of the State, Orpheum and Pantages theaters. Nerenhausen lands in his new role with new competition from venues like the Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul. He also brings extensive arts administration experience and a fresh eye. The challenge will be finding a strategy to grow the trust’s programming, revenue and mission.

Andrea Walsh

As health care policy battles rage in Washington, Andrea Walsh is preparing for her first full year as chief executive at HealthPartners. An attorney who joined the company in 1994, Walsh accepted the leadership handoff from longtime CEO Mary Brainerd. But Walsh may face more difficult financial challenges. Politicians, employers and consumers are decrying the high cost of health care and insurance premiums. HealthPartners plays a dual role as an operator of hospitals and clinics and as an insurance provider. The nonprofit serves more than 1.8 million people through its health plan.