Chef/Owner, Madison Hospitality Group
After reaching top-five finalist rank on Bravo’s Top Chef, Justin Sutherland came home to invest his fame and winnings in St. Paul. He bought a controlling interest in the group that owned his restaurant, Handsome Hog, along with seven other properties, making him the Twin Cities’ first African-American to own a multi-unit restaurant company. He’s been slowly revamping the concepts with his own vision, turning a flagging neighborhood pub known as Fitzgerald’s into deep-dish pizza joint The Fitz and launching new concepts like Obachan, a noodle stand in Rosedale, as homage to his Japanese grandma. Besides representing the Twin Cities and young black chefs at national events, his next big move is to reopen Pearl & the Thief—his first Minneapolis restaurant. It will no doubt serve as his signature spot, propelling the Sutherland brand forward.
Any feelings of inadequacy that Minnesota lags behind similar markets in startup formation and investment capital should be assuaged by the arrival of Mary and Steve Grove. Former Google employees based in Silicon Valley, the couple with Midwestern roots (and twin toddlers) arrived in 2018 and quickly immersed themselves in the local startup community and economic development. After taking office in January, Gov. Tim Walz appointed Steve to his cabinet as DEED commissioner, where he is focused on growing the state’s workforce and closing the opportunity gap. Mary is a partner in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest, a VC firm founded by AOL billionaire Steve Case with a mission to invest in businesses outside of Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston. “There’s a lot more momentum and activity in Minnesota than the narrative that’s told nationally,” Mary says. “It is a capital-efficient place to start and scale.” Six years ago, the Groves founded Silicon North Stars, a nonprofit that helps youth from underserved communities in Minnesota pursue careers in technology. They used to fly a cohort out to Silicon Valley each year, but in 2019, they decided to keep its programming here at home. “Minnesota has arrived,” Mary says. “You don’t need to go to Silicon Valley to be inspired.”
Executive Director, Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency
The Destination Medical Center plan for Rochester is big, bold, and ambitious. The $6 billion vision calls for growing the Mayo Clinic’s campus while also drawing other development such as hotels and housing. The tab is being paid by Mayo, private investors, and $585 million from the state of Minnesota. Lisa Clarke, a 17-year veteran of Mayo Clinic, has been leading the charge. She’s a high-energy cheerleader for the city but also has a reputation for a get-it-done focus. Changes are starting to show with a new $125 million Hilton Hotel and the $35 million One Discovery Square, a life science center.
Founder/CEO, Field Nation
Mynul Khan is a big champion of the oft-heralded gig economy. A St. Cloud State graduate, Khan founded Field Nation in 2008 to connect IT freelancers with contract work. Since its launch, Field Nation has been used by numerous Fortune 500 companies, including Target Corp., Walmart, FedEx, and McDonald’s. The platform now works with more than 7,000 partner companies and has 97 local employees
Executive director/CEO, Metropolitan Airports Commission
Brian Ryks became CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission—which manages Minneapolis-St. Paul International and six other Minnesota airports—in 2016, just after the start of the multiphase $400 million MSP Airport expansion project, set to wrap in 2023. It includes a new hotel, concessions overhaul, and a third parking ramp. These developments come in response to increased passenger traffic and airline activity, not to mention potential climate change impacts. Of most immediate concern: the Hwy. 5 rebuild slated for 2020, portending a spring and summer of road headaches for fliers.
Jennifer Melin Miller
Broadway Producer/Founder, North Star Theatricals and Stone Arch Theatricals
Lifelong theater enthusiast Jennifer Melin Miller first put her money where her heart was with an investment in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in 2014. Soon enough, the Minnesota native founded a production company and a theater investment group. She and two partners invested in and ultimately earned co-producer credits for the 2019 Broadway Best New Musical, Hadestown, which is set for a national tour. Other upcoming projects Miller has a hand in include Jagged Little Pill, based on Alanis Morrisette’s album of the same name; the Elton John-scored Devil Wears Prada, to premiere in Chicago; and further development of a potential Broadway appearance for the already-launched adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees.
Owner/CEO, Cry Baby Craig’s
Craig Kaiser sees a future where his Minnesota-born Cry Baby Craig’s hot sauce is a staple as ubiquitous as sriracha. Now that production is about to settle into a roomier home in Faribault (boasting a fully automated bottling line), Kaiser has his sights set on signing more distributors, sourcing all his habaÃ±ero peppers locally, and establishing his unique pickled hot sauce in Chicago and then markets from coast to coast.
Managing Director/Senior Financial Advisor, The Boyd Group
She’s regularly recognized as one of the top wealth advisors in the country by Forbes and Barron’s. But at her Wayzata office, Christina Boyd gets calls like this: “I hear you’re the lady who doesn’t lose money.” She says that reputation comes from conservative management, lots of research—about two hours per day—and looking beyond the numbers to consider everything from environmental concerns to philanthropic interests to family planning for her high- net-worth clients. “Early in my career I thought I had to do what the guys did,” Boyd says. “I took up golf and wore boxy suits. When I got true to myself, that’s when I started really succeeding.”
CEO, Best Buy
Most Best Buy watchers weren’t surprised when Corie Barry was tapped to replace the retiring Hubert Joly. While Joly was an outsider to the company, Barry is a Minnesota native who joined Best Buy in 1999 as a financial analyst. She worked closely with former CFO Sharon McCollam, regarded by many as a key player in the electronics retailer’s remarkable turnaround, and succeeded her in 2016. At 44, Barry is one of the youngest CEOs among S&P 500 companies. She’s sharp, savvy, and bleeds Best Buy blue.
Founder/Partner, Matchstick Ventures
Ryan Broshar is deeply connected to the Twin Cities startup scene. He cofounded Beta.MN and Twin Cities Startup Week, which launched in 2014 and keeps getting bigger. He served as managing director of the Techstars Retail Accelerator with Target Corp. for three years. But perhaps most important to local founders is his work at Matchstick Ventures—with offices in Minneapolis and Boulder, Colorado—which makes seed-stage investments in emerging companies. In September the firm announced closing on its Matchstick Ventures Fund II, raising $30.5 million—a big jump from its first fund of $5 million. That will provide essential firepower for many entrepreneurs and their startup ventures.
Co-founder/Chief Manager, Jester Concepts
Jester Concepts (P.S. Steak, Borough, Parlour) is one of a tiny number of dynamic multi-unit restaurant groups based in the Twin Cities, and it’s among the most ambitious and exacting at that. Its savvy leader, Brent Frederick, says he is undaunted by fear of recession and tight labor markets. Growth is a part of Jester’s 2020 plans, but none of three separate possibilities he’s mulling are locked in. Jester is looking at everything from a new concept to an outright acquisition. Labor—both costs and talent acquisition—remains the biggest challenge in Minneapolis. “If you’re not an employee-first company right now, you’re going to have a tough time,” he notes. His most recent opening, high-end P.S. Steak near Loring Park, was a big risk, but it’s ahead of forecast.
Since Dean Hager took over as CEO of Jamf in 2015, the software company has more than doubled in size while maintaining a substantial employee and customer retention rate. Jamf also made three acquisitions in the last year, transitioning from being solely a device management company to a provider of Apple-based tools with a variety of work and school applications. In 2020, Hager will look to complete integration of new assets and to continue building Jamf’s portfolio, particularly with investments in the education sector. With plans to increase the company’s workforce, he’ll also need to navigate the tight labor market.
Broadcaster and Influencer
Retired Vikings linebacker Ben Leber is an increasingly visible presence in the Twin Cities and nationally. Between public speaking, regular appearances on Vikings broadcasts and KFAN Radio, and a growing portfolio of Fox Sports college football telecasts around the country, the telegenic and articulate 10-year NFL veteran is growing a noteworthy brand. In a town where the leading sports pundits and insiders are mostly graying vintage figures, Leber is a new-ish face to keep an eye on.
President/CEO, Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America
Allianz Life’s legacy is permanently etched into the fabric of the Twin Cities, thanks in no small part to Walter White’s leadership. In 2017, Allianz secured naming rights for Minnesota United’s new soccer stadium in St. Paul, now known as Allianz Field. White has played a pivotal part in Allianz’s business growth, too. Under his leadership, the company has become a North American flagship operation for Allianz SE, the company’s parent company in Munich, Germany. White joined Allianz in 2009 as chief administrative officer. Three years later, he became president and CEO.
Teresa Rasmussen took the top spot at Thrivent after years in the legal profession. She started her legal career in 1984, when she worked as a trial attorney in the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She later rose through the ranks at American Express and Ameriprise Financial. In 2005, Rasmussen joined Thrivent, where she’s worked as general counsel, secretary, and senior vice president. She became president in 2015 and added CEO to her title in late 2018. The first CEO in the organization’s history, Rasmussen also sits on Thrivent’s executive steering committee, which is helping make decisions about the company’s new $125 million headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.
Co-founder/CEO, Celcuity Inc.
Serial entrepreneur Brian Sullivan co-founded filtration company Recovery Engineering, took it public, then sold it to Procter & Gamble for $265 million in 1999. A few years later, he became CEO of medical-device reprocessing firm SterilMed, which was sold in 2011 for $330 million to a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. Not long after, Sullivan co-founded Plymouth-based Celcuity, whose cellular analysis technology helps identify cancer patients who might be suitable for targeted treatments. He took it public in 2017 (Nasdaq: CELC). Investors now are looking to him to make it profitable. Celcuity posted a loss of $3.57 million for the first six months of 2019—a modest improvement over the same period the year before.
Senior Vice President of Development, Launch Properties
Mike Sims has spent decades as one of the top Minnesota brokers in retail commercial space. After many years with United Properties/NorthMarq, he set off to found the local office of Chicago-based Mid-America Real Estate in 2008. At the start, he was the only employee in a shaky economy. By the time he left, he’d built a formidable brokerage with more than 45 staffers. In February, Sims made another career move, joining Minneapolis-based Launch Properties. The switch brings him to the development side of the business. Given his track record, it’s very tough to bet against Sims.
President/CEO, Inspire Medical Systems Inc.
Tim Herbert has run Inspire, whose neurostimulation technology is designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea, ever since it was spun off from Medtronic in 2007. He’s been nothing if not dogged: It took till 2014 for the treatment to earn FDA approval. In 2018, Herbert oversaw an IPO (NYSE: INSP). The share price had climbed 50 percent as of September, suggesting that the market sees promise in the technology’s acceptance. Revenue has risen from $8 million in 2015 to more than $50 million in 2018. That noted, Inspire also posted a net loss last year of nearly $22 million. A bright spot going forward: In July, insurer UnitedHealthcare announced it would cover Inspire’s therapy.
CEO, UnitedHealth Group
CEO of the Minnetonka-based health care insurer and services company since 2017, David Wichmann is leading UnitedHealth through especially tempestuous times in his industry. He certainly knows it well. He’s been with UHC since 1998, holding executive positions including CFO and president. UnitedHealth remains the largest health care company in the world by revenue—$226.2 billion in 2018—and is ranked No. 6 on the 2019 Fortune 500 list. Under Wichmann, UnitedHealth has launched an ACA-inspired “accountable care platform” intended to lower costs by focusing on health outcomes.
Britt Gilbertson, a 2005 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, recently took on two leadership roles at the Briggs law firm. In 2018, she was named section leader of the employment, benefits, and labor group. In March, she was elected to the firm’s nine-member board of directors. That board voted to merge Briggs with the Taft law firm, which has offices in major Midwestern cities. The combined firm will have more than 600 attorneys. After the merger takes effect Jan. 1, Gilbertson will serve on the combined firm’s compensation committee. She’ll continue to work with clients and drive integration between her employment group and Taft attorneys.
Dr. Joe Hobot
President/CEO, American Indian OIC
Dr. Joe Hobot leads Minneapolis’ American Indian OIC, a nonprofit specializing in adult education and job training, in its mission to mitigate educational and employment disparities faced by American Indians living in the Twin Cities. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a contracted consultant for the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC), where he’s working to establish alternative education models in Indian communities. In 2018, international think tank Aspen Institute selected Hobot for its Ascend Fellowship, given to leaders performing groundbreaking work to advance opportunities for low-income families and children. Most recently, he’s been leading the OIC in helping citizens who’ve been incarcerated reenter the workforce, with funding from a Department of Labor grant, earning it recognition in October as a top performer across all OICs.
President/CEO, CHS Inc.
Jay Debertin, who took the helm of agribusiness giant CHS in 2017, faces major uncertainties because U.S. trade conflicts have disrupted world markets. When he reported financial results over the summer, Debertin said that CHS farmer members also had been hurt by heavy spring rainfall and late planting. CHS had $32.7 billion in net revenue in fiscal 2018. In 2020, Debertin will work on reassuring cooperative members and customers that CHS has improved its internal controls. In the past 18 months, CHS had to restate its profits because of fraud involving rail-freight contracts, and it also was drawn into a bribery scheme in Mexico over rail car inspections.
Attorney/Mediator, Kubes Law Office
An attorney who has focused on construction law since 1998, Kristine Kubes holds a national leadership role within her specialty, chairing the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law. She is a thought leader on national legal issues and plans to stress ways to diversify the professionals who work in the niche. Based in Minneapolis, Kubes also is well-known in the Minnesota legal community as a mediator for construction and design disputes. In 2020, she plans to spearhead efforts to connect nonprofits to construction lawyers who can provide them with pro bono legal services.
Editor/Publisher, Wedge Live!
When John Edwards started tweeting five years ago under the Wedge Live! banner, he focused on planning and zoning issues in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood (aka “The Wedge”) in south Minneapolis. Now he’s casting a wider net across the metro. One public official’s bid to steal the “Wedge Live” brand backfired, bringing him even more attention. Edwards has an unapologetic pro-density bias: he’s also cofounder of the Neighbors for More Neighbors group. Edwards’ take is rather mainstream in the context of current city politics, but if a blogger starts rattling the establishment, that’s usually a sign he’s hit a nerve.
Vice President, Financial Operations/Corporate Controller, General Mills
A 10-year veteran at the Golden Valley-based consumer food giant, Kofi Bruce will become its CFO in 2020. He held positions at Ford and Ecolab before joining General Mills, where he has gone from strength to strength: Starting as vice president and treasurer, he next directed financial planning and analysis for General Mills’ Yoplait USA and convenience and foodservice divisions. Named vice president and controller in 2017, Bruce assumed his current title in September. Next year, he ascends to the next rung. One task he is likely to face: lowering General Mills’ debt, which nearly doubled to $15.4 billion after the $8 billion acquisition of Blue Buffalo Pet Products last year.
Executive Vice President of Operations, Thomson Reuters
Throughout his nearly two decades at Thomson Reuters, Rick King has held a number of leadership roles, including chief technology officer, chief information officer, and chief operating officer. But King also puts his leadership skills to use beyond the office: He’s a board member of the Minnesota Business Partnership, a director with TCF Financial Corp., and vice chair of Greater MSP. Since 2011, he’s been a member of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. In June, King stepped up his commitment, taking on the role of chair during Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s $1.6 billion overhaul.
Lisa Wipperman Heine
Lisa Wipperman Heine has worked in the med-tech sector for more than 25 years. Throughout her career, she’s held leadership roles at companies large and small, including Covidien, now a Medtronic subsidiary. But her primary motivator is helping patients in need. Now, as president and CEO of PreCardia Inc., she’s focused on tackling acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF), a lesser-known condition that hospitalizes more than 1 million Americans each year. The company has developed a device to help treat it. In August, PreCardia began enrolling patients in an ongoing feasibility study.
President/CEO, Caribou Coffee
In recent weeks, Caribou Coffee opened its first “cabins” off the highway in Burnsville, Jordan, and a few other exurbs. The drive-through/walk-up-window minishops aim to offer faster service for commuters, and they serve the Brooklyn Center-based chain’s newest drinks: caffeinated juices and waters. These are just a couple of the concepts launched in 2019 by Caribou’s new leader, John Butcher. He joined the coffee chain in 2017 as president and took over as CEO in January. Under his direction, stores have been refreshed, canned coffees were introduced, and order-ahead technology was added to the app. The result? “We’ve had our best couple of quarters in many years,” Butcher says, “and we’re just hitting our stride.”
President, Minnesota Farmers Union
Too much rain and prolonged trade disputes created havoc and frustration for Minnesota farmers in 2019. Their ability to bounce back in 2020 is the prime concern of Gary Wertish, who’s been leading the Minnesota Farmers Union since 2017. While the trade war with China depressed soybean prices, Wertish and his farmer members also are worried about recapturing those markets when, and if, a trade deal is finalized. Many farmers are in weak financial condition because of several years of low commodity prices, so Wertish is pushing for government policies to keep farmers on their land, especially young farmers and those with small operations.