The Power of Connections
Step aside, Kevin Bacon. Six degrees of Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) was the unofficial theme of TCB’s annual Community Impact Awards in May. It became a running joke in on-stage conversations with the 2023 honorees; almost all of them mentioned a connection with NDC, the St. Paul organization that provides training, lending and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from underinvested neighborhoods. NDC was a 2022 Community Impact award winner.
Allianz Life, awarded for corporate leadership, partnered with NDC on a program for Black and Latina women entrepreneurs. Thanks to a $450,000 investment by Allianz, the program is providing resources to its first cohort of business founders. And at our event, Allianz director of community engagement Kenna Poppler talked about how corporate giving benefits not only the recipients, but the company and its employees themselves. “What we see is when we have a thriving community, a place where employees want to live and work, they’re excited to get involved.”
Minneapolis architecture firm Studio BV was recognized for its pro bono design work, a growing portfolio of 40 projects that includes the new St. Paul headquarters of NDC. Studio BV’s commercial designs have garnered many awards, but, from the wattage of CEO Betsy Vohs’ smile, you might have thought a Community Impact Award was her first recognition. “This is the work we love to do,” she told me. “Design can change things for organizations that do amazing work.”
Leaders of other organizations in attendance went home with Vohs’ card, I’m pleased to report. And I really hope the Studio BV formula—creating a pro bono division and treating its clients as they would commercial clients—encourages other firms to do the same. In that vein, I know this year’s Minnesota Business Hall of Fame inductees will prompt many of us to reflect on how we can use our station to do more for the greater community.
It’s a theme that runs through our 25th anniversary class of Hall of Fame honorees: a track record of leadership driving success beyond their own companies.
- Target executive Laysha Ward, pictured on the cover, embodies that ethos as a national leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion work. When you’ve finished reading TCB, take a look at her 2020 article for the Harvard Business Review, “What an Anti-Racist Business Strategy Looks Like.”
- Throughout his career with the Minnesota Business Partnership, Charlie Weaver raised the bar on teamwork, bringing CEOs and politicians together to boost the economy and solve social problems.
- If you’ve ever attended a business networking event around town, you’ve likely met Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Family Cos. trucking business, who is always looking to support and advocate for other women in business.
- George Goldfarb may be retired from Maurices, but he’s as passionate as ever about the vibrancy of his hometown of Duluth and continues to serve on boards, volunteer, and promote the northern city’s assets.
- SPS Commerce’s outgoing CEO Archie Black has often been quoted in the magazine in recent years about his work to create a more equitable and diverse leadership team, which in turn, has made the tech company a more desirable place to work.
And, by the way, SPS is also a place where you’ll find more employees returning to the office in downtown Minneapolis. In March, SPS implemented a requirement for most employees of two or three days per week in-office, which senior vice president and chief customer success officer Karin Lucas says has been well received. “It’s good for people, good for business, and good for the community.”
In May, the Minneapolis Downtown Council announced a robust summer lineup of events including “Downtown Thursdays,” when parking will be free at the Plaza Ramp on Twelfth Street and buses will be routed off Nicollet Mall to make way for markets, mini golf, and concerts. Don’t have a downtown office? Take advantage of complimentary
Thursday lounge access at Life Time Work in Minneapolis.
As we were wrapping up our interview and photo shoot with Laysha Ward at Target’s downtown headquarters, we talked about how a thriving downtown is good for business, and for the community as a whole. “A vital downtown is a role all of us are called upon to be part of,” she says. “But I also want to make sure we don’t lose sight that there are other parts of this community that also demand and deserve that same attention.”
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For inspiration, start by scheduling your next meeting at social enterprise coffee house Flava Coffee & Café, located on University Avenue, in the lobby of—you guessed it—NDC.