Minneapolis City Council
Barb Johnson isn’t worried about being popular. The Fourth Ward rep and president of the Minneapolis City Council is perhaps the last of its old-school DFLers, holding a seat that has been in her family for 46 years. She received considerable tut-tutting from fresh-faced lefty colleagues and community activists when she was the sole vote against repealing spitting and lurking laws, but she’s nothing if not steadfast. Though some have called for her head, Johnson believes she’s representing the best interests of her ward and Minneapolis as a whole. Like her or not, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
This Duluth company, publicly though lightly traded, has operated quietly for decades, producing screen-printing chemicals and films for electronics and textiles industries globally, as well as photo-sensitive films for the awards market. Recently it has been pursuing the manufacture of carbon fiber composite panels for the aerospace industry. With these promising lines of business, Bill Ulland calls 2016 a “pivotal year” for his roughly $18 million company, which is adding 27,300 square feet of production space. Will 2016 be the year that Ikonics takes off?
Pope Francis is a tough act to follow for any Christian leader, but Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent, is running a close second by breaking new ground for the Minneapolis-based fraternal benefits organization. In 2013, the nonprofit opened to all Christians, rather than just Lutherans. The move was made to help grow membership and to spread the organization’s products across a wider swath of believers. In 2015 Hewitt also appointed the 113-year-old firm’s first woman president, Teresa Rasmussen.
Kraus-Anderson, which traces its history back to 1897, has grown with the city of Minneapolis. The firm has been privately owned and managed by the Engelsma family for more than 70 years. Industry legend Lloyd Engelsma bought the company in 1938; he tapped son Bruce to lead it when he retired in 1997. (His brother Dan is vice chairman.) The diversified firm is home to construction, development, realty, insurance and financing divisions. Bruce continues the family tradition of community service and is active on many local boards. Kraus is floating a plan for a new headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, a mixed-use concept that also calls for a hotel and apartments.
Carl Casale, a former CFO of Monsanto, has been leading the nation’s largest member-owned cooperative since 2011. He has presided over tremendous growth. CHS—an agriculture and energy business that formed from Cenex and Harvest States—is a Fortune 100 company based in Inver Grove Heights. Its revenue has jumped from $25.3 billion in fiscal 2010 to $42.7 billion in fiscal 2014. The company raised its profile in 2015 through buying the naming rights to CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team.
City of St. Paul
Three-term mayor Chris Coleman long has advocated for infrastructure spending, including the Central Corridor (Green Line) light rail that links St. Paul and Minneapolis. After years of struggles, downtown St. Paul is experiencing a resurgence, with the opening of CHS Field, new restaurants and housing units. This year, a development plan finally emerged for renovating the vacant Macy’s property. In the Midway district, Coleman secured development of a Major League Soccer stadium, which was originally targeted for Minneapolis. Buildout of the former Ford site in Highland Park also is high on his agenda.
Chuck Kummeth spent more than two decades working for Maplewood-based 3M Corp., serving as vice president of the company’s medical division from 2006 to 2008. In 2013 he took the top spot at Minneapolis-based Techne Corp., renamed Bio-Techne in 2014. Since Kummeth took the helm, the biotechnology company has been on a buying spree, with six notable acquisitions. The numbers tell the story: For fiscal 2015 (ending in June), Bio-Techne reported sales of $452.2 million, up more than 68 percent from two years earlier.
President (North Region)
Maybe the guy on the street doesn’t know Collin Barr’s name, but during his career Barr has done much to shape the landscape of the Twin Cities. Back in the 1990s, Barr led store development for fast-growing Caribou Coffee. He joined Minneapolis-based Ryan in 1997 as a developer, playing a key role in downtown Minneapolis projects including U.S. Bancorp Center and Target’s corporate headquarters. As part of Ryan’s executive leadership team, Barr helped steer the construction and development firm through the recession. Today, Ryan is busier than ever as it wraps up its major Downtown East redevelopment.
Ideal Systems Solutions
Elise Hernandez just made it big. Her company, Minnetonka-based Ideal Systems Solutions, was one of 65 firms recently awarded a stake in a $20 billion, 10-year federal contract for information technology. The award was the largest ever given to a Minnesota firm owned by a Hispanic woman. She’s in good company—AT&T, Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard share in the award. Hernandez expects to nearly double her head count with the new business—from 35 to about 60—and says the award could lead to hundreds of millions in new revenue over the next decade.
After five fiscal years in which Minneapolis-based Valspar returned an annualized 28.7 percent to shareholders, the firm lost business from Lowe’s in 2015 to competitor Sherwin-Williams. But CEO Gary Hendrickson was able to grow Valspar’s other product lines within the big-box retailer by putting 400 of his own employees in Lowe’s stores. To compound Hendrickson’s woes, the rising dollar cut into international sales. But business is looking up. The firm’s raw material costs are plunging, and Hendrickson says gross margins are set to expand.
Commercial real estate veteran Gina Dingman has a long track record brokering property sales. When the industry was at a low point after the recession in 2010, Dingman launched her own firm, initially known as Everest Real Estate Advisors, now NAI Everest. Although she runs a boutique shop, Dingman does plenty of big deals. Earlier this year she brokered the $40 million sale of the multi-building Parkdales office complex in St. Louis Park, near the I-394/Highway 100 corridor that has drawn new projects and redevelopment.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that the last act of Greg Kurowski’s legendary 16-year career as the president and CEO of Periscope was naming his own replacement (Elizabeth Ross, previously global CMO of IPG Mediabrands). After all, it was Kurowski’s drive and talent that spurred the creative agency’s growth from a mom-and-pop shop of around 100 employees to its current headcount of more than 500 and revenue of $70 million, so it’s likely his choice will reflect those same qualities. In 2016, Kurowski, 53, plans to kick back as part-time vice chairman.
Jacqui Coleman runs fast-growing Plymouth-based InGensa, a firm that is projected to double its revenues in 2016. A black- and woman-owned firm, InGensa leverages multiple funding sources to provide innovative solutions for obsolete school facilities. Six months after opening, InGensa scored its first contract, and in 2015, InGensa helped five Minnesota school districts update facilities. Coleman believes that K-12 students deserve not only first-rate teachers and curriculum but also comfortable, safe and energy-efficient learning environments.
Jeff Gau didn’t found Marco, a provider of outsourced IT services, but he’s so dramatically changed it that it might as well be his. He has a keen sense of where the market is going and acts decisively. Since Gau joined the company in 1984 as a sales rep, Marco has been unstoppable, posting average annual revenue growth of 36 percent. Since 2010, annual profits have jumped an average of 84 percent. That’s been a boon for workers at the employee-owned company (just weeks ago acquired by Norwest Equity Partners). But it’s not just about the cash: Gau says he promotes a culture that values family time. “We don’t give out awards for most hours worked,” he says.
Restaurant Technologies Inc.
There are new owners at Restaurant Technologies Inc., but CEO Jeff Kiesel remains at the helm after guiding the cooking-oil system maker through solid growth under the previous owner, EQT Infrastructure, a European private equity group. RTI’s buyer, Aurora Capital of Los Angeles, cited Kiesel’s record from 2011 to 2015 as a big reason for the April purchase. He was credited with increasing RTI’s overall customer base by more than 30 percent and growing EBITDA by more than 65 percent during the four-year period.
International Dairy Queen
The beloved soft-serve treat brand celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015 with the introduction of DQ Bakes, a hot-sandwich line that IDQ hopes will be its biggest product launch since the Blizzard in 1985. John Gainor, DQ’s CEO since 2008, has guided the Edina-based franchisor to major growth overseas, particularly in the Middle East and Asia/Pacific regions. Growth in U.S. franchises has been stagnant, but DQ Bakes might change that.
Kam Talebi left the technology sector for hospitality nearly a decade ago. His prolific company (in 2013 described as a $60 million business) is best known for its glam, female-centric Crave restaurants now located throughout the country. Still, Kaskaid has shown a penchant for growth and risk in recent years, experimenting with concepts right and left, buying into others, quickly disposing of what hasn’t worked. Little else has stuck beyond Crave, though that hasn’t stopped the company from trying. Next up: Italian and burger concepts at Mall of America.
Kathryn Correia inherited a debt-laden organization in 2012 when she took the reins of HealthEast—the state’s 10th-largest hospital system—as its first new CEO in 22 years. Health care reforms and beefed-up competition didn’t make her job any easier. Since then, she’s worked to put the nonprofit back on firmer financial footing. According to Fitch Ratings, Correia has reduced annual long-term debt service expenses from $37.4 million to $22.6 million, with improving liquidity expected after last year’s implementation of a crucial new health records system.
The Grand Rapids-based charitable foundation, which celebrates 75 years in 2016, wants urban Minnesota to understand the crucial importance of rural Minnesota’s economic contributions. While Blandin continues to make major investments in education and community leadership development throughout the state, focusing on its home base in Itasca County, its highest-profile project is rural broadband, which it sees as essential to Greater Minnesota’s educational options, health care and economic opportunity. The state of Minnesota has provided some funding, but much more is needed. Kathy Annette and Blandin will be working for more.
Daughter of founder Bob Menne, Lori Melbostad is giving the firm’s pontoon business a hip makeover. Under her guidance, Wyoming-based, family-owned Premier Marine continues to introduce innovations, including self-retracting ladders, triple engines and luxury walk-on upper decks. But what good are lake views if the lakes are infested with zebra mussels? To prevent the spread of this invasive, Melbostad’s team not only offers a unique design that prevents the bivalves from hiding on pontoons, it’s sharing the design with its competition.
Megan Remark took the reins of St. Paul’s Regions Hospital this year and is focusing on strengthening patient care while making the facility more cost-efficient. A 20-year HealthPartners veteran, she holds master’s degrees in business and health care administration from the University of Minnesota. As she leads Regions, a Level I trauma center and teaching hospital, she’s also taking steps to retain and attract the personnel she needs to effectively operate it. Remark previously led the HealthPartners Specialty Care Division, which managed development of cancer care centers.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Michael Guyette—now in his third year at the helm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota following a period of leadership instability there—is continuing to work at connecting the insurer with consumers in the new era of customer choice. This year he announced the opening of a second bricks-and-mortar Twin Cities retail store, meant to coincide with 2016 open enrollment. Meanwhile, Guyette is still facing plenty of challenges: For 2014, Blue Cross reported an operating loss of $8.2 million on full-year revenues of $10.1 billion.
Based in downtown St. Paul, design firm BWBR traces its history to 1922. After 93 years in business, the company is enjoying a growth spurt. Pete Smith joined BWBR in 1987 and was tapped as president/CEO in 2012. Under Smith, the company opened an office in Madison, Wis., and has grown its staff by nearly 50 percent to more than 150 employees. This year BWBR is being honored with the 2015 AIA Minnesota Firm Award for its contribution to the design profession. Smith says BWBR’s work for many mission-driven nonprofits clients has drawn mission-driven designers to the firm.
Kaplan, Strangis and Kaplan
Known for his longtime behind-the-scenes work with TCF Bank, prominent Minneapolis attorney and dealmaker Ralph Strangis was a critical player in helping secure the Target Field site through negotiations with Hennepin County. This year, it’s horses. As chair of the Minnesota Racing Commission, Strangis could prove instrumental in whether Canterbury Park is ultimately allowed to sell a portion of its land to make way for apartments and a business park via a pending restructuring. He has also been working with the consortium to bring a soccer stadium to Minneapolis, one venture where he appears not to have delivered.
During the early days of Thor Construction in the 1980s, the small company struggled. But Richard Copeland is not one to give up easily. He forged a relationship with industry powerhouse M.A. Mortenson Co., doing their first joint venture in 1995. Since then the two firms have worked together on more than $2 billion in projects, including Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium. Copeland told Twin Cities Business earlier this year that he’s expecting revenue at Thor and his other company, Copeland Truc-King, will approach $200 million in revenue this year.
Commercial real estate broker Russ Nelson is a downtown Minneapolis fixture. Who represented the Star Tribune in its land sale and big move to Capella Tower? Nelson. Who represented Xcel Energy in lease negotiations for a new nine-story building on Nicollet Mall? Nelson. He and his boutique brokerage partners (formerly Nelson, Tietz & Hoye) exclusively represent tenants. Nelson is also one of the biggest downtown boosters, serving on the board of the Minneapolis Downtown Council/Downtown Improvement District, among other groups.
Erickson Builders & Co.
Serving in the U.S. Marine Corps has been beneficial to Ryan Erickson in many ways—not only did the experience teach him to be adaptable to changing conditions as owner and CEO of Erickson Builders of Rogers, but his status as a vet also opened doors to government work for his family-owned business. Erickson’s acumen at landing road construction jobs with the Minnesota Department of Transportation has led to significant growth and recognition of his firm as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota Veteran Small Business of the Year for 2015.
It’s been a big year for Patterson Cos. president, CEO and chairman Scott Anderson, who has presided over what he calls the “transformation” of the company with the acquisition of Colorado-based Animal Health International and the divestiture of its medical supply business. His moves have focused Patterson into two roughly equal parts—its traditional dental supply business and its quickly growing veterinary side. Anderson says the nation’s growing spending on pet supplies makes the acquisition of AHI anything but a dog.
Scott Wine, a Naval Academy graduate with an MBA, was hired to lead Polaris in 2008. Annual sales for the maker of ATVs, snowmobiles and motorcycles have jumped from $1.8 billion in 2007 to $4.5 billion in 2014. The Medina-based corporation experienced a speed bump this year when it tried to save too much money on a new painting system at its motorcycle plant in Iowa. Wine told the Wall Street Journal in July that Polaris was spending millions to correct the problem and meet consumer demand. The company is aiming to achieve $8 billion in sales by 2020.
With Shelly Ibach leading Select Comfort, investors probably won’t be losing any sleep. In September, the Plymouth-based company purchased BAM Labs, the developer of Sleep IQ, a system that Select Comfort co-developed in 2012, the year Ibach took over as CEO. It measures a sleeper’s movement, heart rate and breathing, and then signals when a firmness adjustment is needed in the company’s iconic mattresses. For the 12 months ending September 30, Select Comfort maintained return on investment of 29.88 percent, far better than the industry average of 6.98 percent.
Born in South Korea, Susan Rani was not about to submit to a culture that valued men over women, and today she is founder and president of Minnesota’s largest woman- and minority-owned engineering firm. Rani has handled high-profile projects like the I-35W bridge, the Central Corridor and Hiawatha light rail lines, and the Weisman Art Museum expansion. She is thriving in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and as part of an eight-member board, she is helping direct the Mayo Clinic’s $5.6 billion Destination Medical Center expansion in Rochester, the state’s largest economic development project to date.
Hennepin Theatre Trust
Few have done more to ensure that downtown Minneapolis remains a compelling cultural mecca than Tom Hoch has. As the new chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District board of directors, Hoch will focus on leveraging downtown’s image. At Hennepin Theatre Trust, he opened the New Century Theatre to fill the needs of smaller local productions, and is leading a partnership to establish a walkable center of arts, culture and economic activity that stretches from the Sculpture Garden and Mississippi riverfront to Nicollet Mall and First Avenue.