In the vision of former General Mills marketing exec Mark Addicks and other members of a local bid committee, the 2023 World’s Fair would have been held at what is now a Bloomington sheep farm, centered on a health care theme to reflect Minnesota’s leadership in the field. After losing out to Buenos Aires, Addicks still thought the idea was too good to pass up: He quickly pivoted to repurpose the pitch into a global “expo” around health care market changes, this time partnering with Medical Alley to produce an annual event known as the Manova Summit and nabbing Walmart and the Mayo Clinic as its chief sponsors.
Alan Arthur is one of the busiest developers in town. But Aeon, the nonprofit he leads, isn’t building fancy luxury apartments: It develops, owns, and manages affordable rental units—a market where demand seems only to increase. Arthur has been with the organization for 30 years, when it was called Central Community Housing Trust, and is recognized among the region’s leaders of affordable housing. In 2017, Aeon significantly grew its portfolio by acquiring about 1,200 existing properties to stabilize and preserve as affordable. Today, Aeon serves more than 8,000 residents in approximately 4,000 units.
As the population as a whole ages, medical real estate is a healthy business. Mark Davis founded his eponymous company, formerly Davis Group, in 1986. The company does more than just lease medical office space, however: Davis is an increasingly prolific medical office developer and investor in the Twin Cities and beyond, and he has a national reputation as an expert in the genre. His firm entered the Iowa market this summer with the $22 million acquisition of a property in the Iowa City area. Davis hopes to develop a new $14 million Planned Parenthood clinic in Uptown Minneapolis as well.
No local company holds greater sway over the Twin Cities live entertainment scene than First Avenue. But it wasn’t always that way. About 15 years ago, Dayna Frank’s father, Byron, who spent years as First Avenue’s accountant and eventual co-owner, was embroiled in a bankruptcy suit with fellow co-owner Allan Fingerhut. After the dispute was settled, Byron suffered a stroke and called on his family to save the club. Since leaving her executive gig at VH1 in 2009, Dayna has helped transform First Avenue into an entertainment empire that now includes the Fine Line CafÃ© and Fitzgerald Theater, a proposed riverfront amphitheater set to break ground around 2021 in North Minneapolis.
Split Rock Ventures
The Twin Cities is not Silicon Valley; the venture capital community here is comparatively small. Eden Prairie-based Split Rock Partners is the largest of the pack, with more than $1 billion in capital under management. Gorman, one of the firm’s co-founders in 2004, steers the ship as managing director. Split Rock primarily focuses on software and Internet services startups and has a solid track record. It backed Minneapolis-based call-center software firm Calabrio, which sold to private equity giant KKR in 2016 for a reported $200 million. Split Rock is also an investor in Minneapolis-based data protection firm Code42, one of the fastest growth local tech companies. Gorman sits on the Code42 board.
Victoria Holt made headlines years back with her claim that Protolabs, a manufacturing company specializing in quick-turnaround prototypes, would one day become a $1 billion business. At the end of 2017, the Maple Plain-based company was already over a third of the way there, and in 2018 it was beginning to show signs of reaching the halfway point after posting record sales growth in its first and second quarters. Boosted by recent expansions in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Europe, Protolabs is positioned to remain at the forefront of the fast-growing 3D printing, injection molding, and additive manufacturing movement that’s helping companies innovate faster.
Sleep Number Corp.
After honing her retailing expertise at Target, Macy’s, and Marshall Field’s, Shelly Ibach joined Sleep Number Corp. (then known as Select Comfort) in 2007 and worked closely with then-CEO Bill McLaughlin to turn around the struggling airbed maker’s fortunes during the depths of the recession. Since succeeding him in 2012, Ibach has further cemented her place as a business titan by continuing Sleep Number’s upward trajectory—its 2017 sales were a record $1.44 billion. Ibach’s key innovation was positioning the beds as must-haves for healthy sleep, with a laser focus on the consumer experience.
Following a disastrous sale and a quick tour through bankruptcy a decade ago, the Star Tribune’s fate seemed sealed: a slow decline into irrelevance and penury, like most of its newsprint peers in medium-sized markets across the country. Instead, thanks to a benevolent owner (Glen Taylor) and a savvy publisher, the newspaper/information company is among the few regionals actually thriving amid the current media bloodletting. The paper breaks even or a little better, so we’re not talking a growth story, and the future remains uncertain, but Klingensmith’s leadership is deemed essential by most of the rank and file if the paper is to be one of the survivors when Facebook and Google have finished chewing up the rest of the media landscape.
Equals 3 LLC
For serial entrepreneur Scott Litman, the hits keep coming. (He sold his previous company, Magnet 360, in 2016 for $50 million.) Litman is working once again with longtime business partner Dan Mallin as founders of St. Louis Park-based Equals 3. As is their pattern, Equals 3 arose from the intersection of marketing and tech. The company’s digital assistant, Lucy, uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Lucy isn’t an android; it’s a program that pulls out useful purchasing patterns and insights from the vast ocean of data generated by computers, smartphones, and other digital sources, rewriting algorithms as it incorporates more data.
Community banking Upper Midwest lead region president/MN CEO
Laurie Nordquist, a Twin Cities resident, was promoted in August to serve as Upper Midwest regional president of Wells Fargo. A 28-year veteran of the company, Nordquist oversees bank operations in an eight-state area. Wells Fargo, which has more than 150 branches in Minnesota, is still recovering from 2016 revelations that it had created fake accounts. In her new role, Nordquist has been traveling her eight-state region meeting with customers and employees.
Cushman & Wakefield
As the managing principal of a top Twin Cities commercial real estate brokerage, Cushman & Wakefield’s Mike Ohmes is riding herd on one of this surging economy’s best-performing sectors during one of its most profitable booms. But he’s not only making sure his shop stays at the forefront of a historic market—he’s doing so under new ownership. The venerable firm traces its roots to 1916 with the Hamm family, and it was passed to the Pohlad family in 1998. Last year the Pohlads sold their stake to Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield, and Ohmes was tapped to remain its leader.
Hennepin County Board
Political reporters watch the state Capitol and city halls, but they usually don’t pay as much attention to the seven-member Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and Hennepin County’s $1.7 billion budget. Opat is a veteran; he was first elected in 1992 when he ousted John Derus to represent the northeastern suburbs in District 1. Opat was a key player in the construction of Target Field, helping engineer a countywide sales tax to help finance the stadium. Opat brings a down-to-earth, pragmatic, and collaborative approach to board business. He is currently leading efforts to build the $1.5 billion Bottineau LRT. That project faces some big roadblocks due to objections by BNSF Railway, but it’s tough to bet against Opat, who has a knack for getting deals done.
Longtime Sunrise Banks CEO David Reiling has plenty of bona fides as a socially conscious entrepreneur: Under his direction, for example, Sunrise became the first Minnesota bank certified as a B-Corp., which designates for-profit companies as public benefit corporations to signify their commitment to helping the community. Reiling’s latest demonstration of “walking the walk” for social change came in June when Sunrise partnered with nonprofit Prepare + Prosper to set up an alternative to abusive payday lenders for thousands of “unbanked” low-income families, giving them access to affordable checking, savings, and small-loan programs.
Twin Cities market manager/VP
Dan Seeman helped birth now-dominant radio juggernaut KFAN, then moved to Hubbard radio to manage a powerhouse signal (KS95) and two afterthoughts, the innovative female-driven FM 107 and legacy flagship ESPN 1500. FM107 is now a national success story, while 1500 is being retooled for a post-broadcast era. What that means is anybody’s guess, but Seeman and acting program director Phil Mackey need to figure out, in a digital era, how to create platform-agnostic content in a sports-glutted marketplace. It’s an ambitious agenda where success is hardly assured, but Seeman has been exposed to enough compelling content over the years to know what people want. Now the question is how they want it.
Executive vice president/general manager
St. Paul Saints
For the last 14 years, Derek Sharrer has been providing the day-to-day leadership for the St. Paul Saints, a remarkable period during which they have consistently emerged as the most successful minor league baseball team in the country. His accomplishments include being named the American Association Executive of the Year for three straight seasons (2015-17), and it’s hard to argue with that honor when the Saints have filled CHS Field at a higher capacity than any team in not just the American Association but all of U.S. minor league baseball: 115 percent (with standing room) in 2017.
Town Hall Ventures
United States of Care
Andy Slavitt’s presence helps to shine a national spotlight on Minnesota, and not only because he tweets about local politics and companies. Since returning from Washington, where he served as acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the final years of the Obama administration, Slavitt has made Minneapolis the home base for two new health care initiatives: a nonprofit called United States of Care, which aims to provide non-partisan thought leadership on solutions that improve the quality and affordability of health care, and an investment firm, Town Hall Ventures, which is looking to invest in businesses that can transform health care delivery to underserved populations. “Minnesota was part of the original wave of health care innovation,” the former chief executive of Optum told TCB earlier this year. “I think we’re at a time now [when] we need 2.0 of that.”
Executive vice president/chief merchandising officer
He’s the man behind the nearly two dozen new brands that have bolstered Target sales and shifted the retailer’s focus from limited-edition, celebrity-driven partnerships to sustainable owned labels. Mark Tritton left Nordstrom to join Target in 2016 with a goal to reimagine the customer’s connection to Target, whether online or in-store. His strategy: building brands that last through individual personalities and values—“sparks of joy,” as he describes it. That ranges from Heyday, Target’s first owned electronics brand, to Prologue, a line of trend-forward women’s essentials that seems designed to rival millennial favorite Everlane. Following the successful 2016 launch of new children’s collection Cat & Jack, which hit $2 billion in sales within a year, three more brands are on pace to generate more than $1 billion each in annual sales, according to Target’s 2017 annual report.
Minnesota Business Partnership
For the first time in eight years, Charlie Weaver will be working with a new governor on policy issues that are important to Minnesota’s largest employers. The 2019 legislative session will be an opportunity for Weaver, a former state legislator, to forge a strong relationship with the new state leader as a workforce shortage poses challenges for companies seeking to grow here. Weaver, who joined the partnership in 2003, will be advocating for education policies that help companies meet pressing needs for employee skills. He’ll also be pursuing tax, health care, wage, and other policies to attract workers and businesses to the state.
Rob and Ryan Weber
Great North Labs
Brothers Ryan and Rob Weber have been the kings of St. Cloud’s tech scene ever since launching their screensaver business 18 years ago while at St. Cloud State. Having sold their latest company, NativeX, in 2016 for $26 million, they’re now looking to grow the population of their kingdom. In fall 2017, the Webers, building on their past history of tech investment, launched Great North Labs, a venture fund that is seeding Midwestern tech startups.
Polaris Industries Inc.
Scott Wine has kept Medina-based Polaris roaring since becoming its leader of the pack in 2008. This year, the company joined the Fortune 500 for the first time, with $5.5 billion in revenue ranking the sport-vehicle manufacturer at 496. Under Wine, Polaris has continually introduced new products. In 2018 alone, Polaris entered the pontoon boat business and introduced its Ranger line of small off-road vehicles for law enforcement. A couple of potential speed bumps ahead: a trade war that could close markets and raise component prices, plus a big class-action suit rooted in the company’s past product recalls.
The $2.1 billion electrical company with a headcount of 9,000 won’t celebrate its one-year anniversary until the end of April, but in its first year, nVent Electric has so far performed on the high end of investor expectations. CEO Beth Wozniak, a Honeywell veteran who worked as president of Pentair’s electrical business before the company was spun off, believes St. Louis Park-based nVent has, well, electrifying potential. Whether its growth is powered by data centers, equipment, or the infrastructure needed to power electric vehicles (including charging stations), Wozniak is building up nVent to supply products that will be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Passport Hospitality, Intuitive Content, Food Works
Now that Andrew Zimmern has conquered global celebrity and media, he is returning to his roots in restaurants. He won’t be cooking, but with business partner Michael McDermott (Kona Grill, Rojo Mexican Grill) he plans to bring authentic Chinese food and its trappings to cities that don’t necessarily offer them. First up: home base at the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, where his restaurant concept Lucky Cricket is scheduled to debut as this issue publishes. Announced plans for up to 200 Crickets around the country is a tall order and probably unrealistic, but the food world and local fans are eager to see if Zimmern’s television magic will transfer to the small platter.