Features

2015 Community Impact Awards

No matter their size, these Minnesota companies have found a way to make a big difference

It’s easy to assume that it takes a large group of people to make a big impact. But the results of our 2015 Community Impact Awards suggest otherwise. Selected for their overall impact, many of the finalists are small and midsize companies. What really matters, it seems, is having the desire to make a difference — to leave the world around us a little better than how we found it. Whether it’s raising money for a local food bank, donating pro bono hours to a nonprofit organization, or developing social enterprise businesses to create opportunities for urban youth, the companies on this list find a way to help others. Here we applaud their successes in doing so.

Meet the Judges
Q+A: Jennifer Ford Reedy
Best in Class: Small Company
Best in Class: Midsize Company
Best in Class: Large Company
Youth Initiative
Health Initiative
Sustainability
Professional Services
Creative Campaign
Long-Term Achievement
Social Enterprise
Workplace Giving
Good Leader
Hiring Veterans

Meet the Judges

Terri Barrerio provides consulting expertise in the areas of strategic planning, nonprofit organization development, and philanthropic planning. She has garnered 35 years of leadership in the nonprofit sector and currently serves as board chair for the Minnesota Social Impact Center.

Brad Brown serves as vice president of impact investment and philanthropy at Cheetah Development, a nonprofit that provides micro-venture capital investments to solve underlying causes of rural poverty. Brown has also been involved in many social enterprise organizations across the state.

Ashley Bennett Ewald is a corporate litigator and trademark prosecution specialist at Gray Plant Mooty. Ewald also serves in an advisory role with tech startups, acting as liaison between entrepreneurs and corporate attorneys.

J. Marie Fieger leads advertising and public relations agency Nemer Fieger. Fieger has spearheaded a number of marketing initiatives, public relations programs, event products, promotions, and grand openings during her 20-plus years with the agency.

Daniel Gumnit is the CEO of People Serving People, an organization dedicated to getting homeless families back on their feet. Previously, he held executive level positions at TPT National Productions, Zemnott, and Intermedia Arts.

Carson Kipfer is chief evangelist at Sport Ngin, a company that provides a suite of easy-to-use, time-saving tools to provide online sports organization management, which he co-founded in 2008. He also serves as co-commissioner of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

Jonathan Weinhagen is vice president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on a number of boards, including Mounds View Public Schools, Mounds View Schools Education Foundation, Pollen, and the Shoreview Area Housing Initiative.

Q+A: Jennifer Ford Reedy

President of the Bush Foundation and emcee of the 2015 Community Impact Awards

Each company that gives back to the community does so in its own way. Any advice for emerging business leaders trying to figure out the best way for their own companies to give back?

That’s a good question. Generally it makes sense to try to get involved in some way that either fulfills a true passion for the employees and owners of a business or to find a way that is adjacent to what they’re trying to do from a business perspective. That can have a compounding positive impact in helping you think about your own business and your contributions in a different way. It can become a really terrific virtuous cycle strategically.

How can businesses help create sustainable solutions to tough public problems, and why should they be involved at all when they already pay taxes — and organizations like the Bush Foundation exist?

The reason the Bush Foundation exists is because of 3M. Archibald Bush was a 3M executive, and he and William McKnight went up the ranks of 3M together and helped build it into the company it is today. McKnight and Bush started their foundations here. It has had an amazing effect.

We have been just incredibly fortunate to, one, have very strong companies, but, two, have a business community that really emphasizes and promotes civic involvement. It’s resulted in having a much stronger social sector here than most any other community in the country.

As for why businesses should care, first, there’s the simple argument that people live here, so they should care about the community as much as any other person who lives here. Second, there’s a pretty clear business argument that the economic and social health of the community you’re in has big ramifications for your own success, whether it’s the ability to recruit talent or being able to sell your products or services.

What impact will the Minnesota Public Benefit Corporation Act have on the state and its communities?

It’s certainly a good enabling mechanism, but I don’t know whether it’s going to trigger a lot more activity. I hope it does. I hope that it brings some visibility and some clarity to what it means to be a social-purpose business and inspires a lot more people to imagine their careers and their own entrepreneurial activity in that way.

This is actually what I wrote my master’s thesis on a long time ago. I’ve always had a real passion and interest in combining business with social purpose within a single institution, and I think there’s so much more room for us to use that approach than we are right now.

What qualities do you look for in a leader?

What makes a great leader can differ in different contexts, but for me, the definition that has always resonated is the ability to help other people imagine and achieve possibilities beyond what they would do on their own.

What is the mission of the Bush Foundation?

We would say we invest in great ideas and the people who power them. We do a lot to directly invest in people, which is pretty unusual for a foundation. We talk about inspiring, equipping, and connecting leaders to be more effective at making change in their communities.

Tell us about the Bush Connect event coming up on May 4 in Minneapolis.

We created Bush Connect for the explicit purpose of having people meet each other. It’s about getting people to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t and to hear ideas that they otherwise wouldn’t. The best ideas come from collisions of disciplines, and collisions of concepts from different fields or with different purposes. How do we in this region create more possibilities for those kinds of collisions? Bush Connect is part of that.

Best in Class: Small Company

Recognizes small companies (up to 50 employees) for overall excellence in creating a positive impact on Minnesota communities

Winner: Hanratty & Associates

At insurance agency Hanratty & Associates, the spirit of giving back has grown organically within the employee ranks. In recent years, employees have initiated campaigns that have raised a significant amount of money for local charities. In 2011, the Plymouth-based firm developed an internal team called the Hanratty Community Crew, responsible for initiating community outreach. The initiatives started out small but have since grown to include a much larger effort. Some from 2014 include an annual fundraising initiative for JDRF (a diabetes research foundation) that raised more than $10,000 and an inaugural charity golf tournament that raised more than $25,000 for Lifeworks Services.

Finalist: Brenny Transportation

Though Brenny Transportation in St. Joseph may employ just 35 employees, it’s impact on the local community has been great. Every month, the transportation broker designates two volunteer team members to choose a local organization for which to raise money. Brenny intentionally picks smaller, local organizations so it knows that it’s making a strong impact on those affected through the organization. Brenny also facilitates a team assistance fund to help team members that need help for different things. In 2014, Brenny raised more than $34,000 for various charities.

Finalist: First & First

Minneapolis-based First & First isn’t your typical real estate company. With a distinctive flair, it transforms historically significant (yet often neglected) urban sites in the Twin Cities into inspired places that facilitate creative and cultural experiences. In doing so, it makes a positive impact on a specific neighborhood. This year the firm will cut ribbon on its renovation of the Vandalia Tower site in St. Paul, transforming a former factory into a dynamic campus (seven buildings and an old water tower) housing an array of tenants, including woodworkers, graphic designers, and artists.

Best in Class: Midsize Company

Recognizes midsize companies (51 to 250 employees) for overall excellence in creating a positive impact on Minnesota communities

Winner: Sunrise Banks

As a Community Development Financial Institution, Sunrise Banks has a primary mission of community development and accountability to provide at least 60 percent of its services in low- and moderate-income communities. The bank also values community outreach and nonprofit involvement, and even allows its office space to be used for various board meetings. Notable initiatives in 2014 included an employee book drive benefitting Le Creche Early Childhood Center in north Minneapolis, financing the expansion of Seward Community Co-op grocery store, and a boutique party to support Breaking Free in its mission to help women escape violence and commercial sex trafficking.

Finalist: Clockwork Active Media

Since its inception in 2002, the interactive agency Clockwork Active Media has supported a variety of causes: raising money for marriage equality, assisting high school students with an app idea, and building a website for an organization that expedites international assistance to countries in need, to name a few. The Minneapolis-based agency has donated significant time and resources to the Family Equality Council, serving as its digital and creative partner and helping build its website and advertising and promotional materials.

Finalist: Western Bank

A staple in the Twin Cities since 1915, Western Bank continues to live out its dedication to giving back and revitalizing the community. Each year it holds an employee giving campaign, which includes educating employees about social needs and how different nonprofits meet those needs. During the 2014 campaign, the bank raised more than $21,000 in charitable donations. Western Bank also facilitates a formal volunteerism program, encouraging employees to become personally involved in civic organizations that positively enhance the community.

Best in Class: Large Company

Recognizes large companies (251+ employees) for overall excellence in creating a positive impact on Minnesota communities

Winner: Affinity Plus Credit Union

The Plus It Forward program at St. Paul–based Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union has one goal: encourage people to do kind things for others. Affinity held the first Plus It Forward Day in 2013. Employees and members performed various Plus It Forward activities, including rebuilding Maplewood Park in Grand Rapids, building and planting a new peace community garden in Faribault, and collecting donations to bring back the 4th of July fireworks in Fergus Falls. In 2014, Affinity continued its new tradition and held its second annual Plus It Forward Day, with the theme being to “scatter kindness.”

Finalist: Bell State Bank & Trust

Though simple in its goal, Bell State Bank & Trust’s Pay It Forward giving program has continued to make a huge difference in the lives of both the recipients and the employees involved. Completing its sixth year in 2014, many success stories can be attributed to the program — on both a local and global level. One such story comes from a team of employees that recently gave more than $14,000 to Project Ignite Light, and also made fleece blankets and bought hundreds of pairs of pajamas for children. Based in Fargo, North Dakota, the bank’s growing presence in Minnesota can be felt in many ways.

Finalist: Pentair

Through its philanthropic foundation, technology and manufacturing company Pentair has donated more than $50 million to various causes focused on providing safe water to those in need, supporting local communities and driving engineering innovation and education since 1998. With its main U.S. office in Minneapolis, Pentair has invested more than $2.5 million in helping to prepare a diverse, well-qualified workforce in Minnesota and making sure that all communities have access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Pentair employees and leaders also give their time and talent to engage with STEM partners and student learners with the hope of inspiring students to pursue future science and technology careers.

Youth Initiative

Recognizes companies for creating or supporting programs designed to develop abilities in areas such as leadership, social responsibility, skilled trade, education, and community involvement

Winner: Rêve Academy

North Minneapolis school Rêve Academy is helping students explore digital-based careers, including website development, content management, design, and social media, to name a few. Through its academic program, it combines out-of-school time with immersive curriculum and activities like student-run businesses to help youth build marketable talents in the digital realm. In the past three years, the school has scaled to accommodate 2,000 students and give them opportunities they may not have otherwise had.

Finalist: Securian Financial

St. Paul–based financial services company Securian Financial holds by its volunteer slogan: “Doing good works — one child/student/youth at a time.” This thought is at the center of the eight mentoring programs it supports. Collaborating with many partners, nonprofits, and schools, the company’s mentoring programs serve a broad spectrum of children, youth, and college students. One example is the company’s partnership with the St. Paul–based Urban Academy Charter School, in which Securian initiated and jointly created new programs to meet the unanswered needs of urban students. Currently, more than 180 employees volunteer in one of the company’s mentoring programs.

Finalist: Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company

Financial services company Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company has made a commitment to bring up the next generation of certified public accountants. The Minneapolis-based firm has a passion for helping develop Minnesota youth, and has been making an effort to feed and grow the talent pipeline. In 2013, it began sponsoring the Minneapolis Math League with the nonprofit Save Our Schools. Not only does the company fund the program, but employees also volunteer and act as mentors at each meet.

Health Initiative

Recognizes companies for creating or supporting programs designed to combat disease or improve Minnesota’s overall health and fitness

Winner: PrairieCare

With locations in Chaska, Edina, Maple Grove, Rochester, and Woodbury, PrairieCare Medical Group designed its new Psychiatric Assistance Line to offer free consultations and triage to any primary care health professional in the state. The Minnesota Department of Human Services provided an exclusive grant to help fund the program. Launched in July 2014, the service extends the expertise of child psychiatry beyond the walls of the medical center and into hundreds of primary care and pediatric offices. So far, the program has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the medical professionals who have used it.

Finalist: Lakewinds Food Co-op

In addition to selling a variety of local and organic food products, Lakewinds Food Co-op is taking its support for local organic farming a step further through its Lakewinds Organic Field Fund, an annual grant program to support local farms and organic farming practices. Since its inception, the program has raised approximately $75,000 to help support local agriculture and has helped more than 14 local farms. Recipients have used their funds to become organic certified, improve food safety and quality, and build community-based food systems.

Finalist: ASPIRE Beverage Company

Natural sports drink company ASPIRE wants to improve not only the health and performance of athletes, but also the public health of Minnesota. One way it has done that is through the Friday Night Lights/Tackle Cancer events, which were hosted at high school games through the football season to raise money for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. The Edina-based company has also helped raise money for a number of other health-related organizations, including the American Heart Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Sustainability

Recognizes Minnesota companies for implementing or supporting programs designed to help the environment, or adopting more eco-friendly practices in the office

Winner: Ecolab

At water, hygiene, and energy technology company Ecolab, sustainability is part of both its mission and business strategy. Using what it calls eROI, St. Paul–based Ecolab documents operational, economic, and natural resource savings to quantify its impact and make continuous improvements. By linking environmental and social metrics to cost savings, the company has demonstrated the bottom-line benefits of sustainability to its customers. For example, Ecolab’s water-saving technologies and on-site service helped customers save more than 428 billion liters of water in 2013 alone.

Finalist: RBC Wealth Management

The Minneapolis-based RBC Wealth Management Group is a major participant in the RBC Blue Water Project — a 10-year global commitment of $50 million to help protect fresh water. In 2014, five RBC Blue Water Community Action Grants, totaling more than $30,000, were awarded to organizations in Minnesota. Such grants help support their efforts to protect the environment and its natural resources. RBC has also taken action in making its business practices more environmentally friendly. It recently expanded its paper and printing initiative, reducing the size of its carbon footprint by, for example, using printing technology featuring low or no volatile organic compounds.

Finalist: Solution Blue

To civil engineering and landscape architecture design firm Solution Blue, water matters — so much so that it registered the motto “water matters” in 2013. Understanding that water will continue to become more regulated, less available, and more expensive, the St. Paul–based firm collaborates with others to design environmentally beneficial solutions for plazas, parks, streets, parking lots, and other outdoor features by utilizing local materials and eco-friendly products. Solution Blue also engages in eco-friendly practices, including recycling, carpooling, water conservation, and involvement with various organizations focused on sustainability.

Professional Services

Recognizes companies for professional services provided to Minnesota nonprofits or other worthy causes on a pro bono basis (examples could include tech, legal, or accounting services)

Winner: Maslon

Law firm Maslon takes its commitment to pro bono work seriously, participating in the Pro Bono Challenge — a pact formed by the nation’s largest law firms to significantly increase the amount of pro bono work performed by their organization. Maslon is also a participant in the Minnesota State Bar Association’s North Star Lawyers program, which recognizes members who provide 50 or more hours of pro bono legal services per year to those who could not otherwise afford representation. Based in Minneapolis, Maslon encourages its attorneys to pursue pro bono work in line with their own concerns, and as a result, they have garnered long-standing relationships with the ACLU-MN, serving on the board and offering pro bono representation for many noteworthy Minnesota cases.

Finalist: Fish & Richardson

At legal firm Fish & Richardson, all legal professionals are encouraged to take on pro bono matters. With funding for legal services and access to justice for low-income individuals at an all-time low, Fish & Richardson’s attorneys have played an important role in providing access to justice for these people. In 2013 alone, the firm’s attorneys donated more than 13,500 pro bono hours representing clients in need of legal representation. And on average, each attorney spends about 41 hours a year on pro bono matters. With its Twin Cities office located in Minneapolis, the firm has helped its pro bono clients make significant and meaningful gains. And through its participation in LegalCORPS, it’s served under-resourced inventors in Minnesota.

Finalist: Bellmont Partners

For almost 20 years, Minneapolis-based public relations firm Bellmont Partners has been helping companies tell their stories for the benefit of community and societal causes. Offering pro bono work and reduced nonprofit rates, Bellmont Partners makes its strategic communication services accessible for a number of organizations that may not normally be able to use them. Since 2011, it’s been providing such services to the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation and its fledgling Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial. As a result, the campaign drove more than $720,000 in donations to the memorial, and garnered extensive media placement.

Creative Campaign

Recognizes a Minnesota-based creative agency for campaigns or other marketing services provided to nonprofits or other worthy causes on a pro bono basis

Winner: Clockwork Active Media

For interactive agency Clockwork Active Media, good design and an effective digital presence is essential when thinking about any business marketing today. When the Minneapolis-based agency started working with Nice Ride MN in 2010, the nonprofit’s bike-sharing concept was still relatively new in the U.S., so it had to develop a website that was used both as a marketing tool and as an instructional one for users. With Clockwork’s help, the Nice Ride website set a standard to which similar services aspire. Clockwork has helped the organization maintain a strong brand and provide a good user experience. Nice Ride has expanded from 65 locations in 2010 to about 170 today.

Finalist: Knock

Utilizing its strategic design expertise, Minneapolis-based creative agency Knock helps give a voice to nonprofits through brand awareness campaigns, marketing materials, and special events. For nine years, Knock has been the lead agency for the nonprofit Children’s Theatre Company. Throughout that time, Knock has provided a comprehensive brand framework, and marketing materials. It’s helped refocus the season brochure on selling season subscriptions to both parents and children. With help from Knock, the theater has surpassed its subscription goal of 1.5 million.

Finalist: Risdall

As a full-service digital marketing agency, Minneapolis-based Risdall is able to give back to the community in unique ways. Recently, it worked with Northern Star Council, Boy Scouts of America, to help increase enrollment in 2014. What it came up with was the one-day Rocket Into Scouting event. Located at elementary schools across Minnesota and Wisconsin, the event encouraged boys in kindergarten through fifth grade to kick off their journey as Cub Scouts. Each boy who signed up that day received a free model rocket to launch at his first pack meeting. With help from Risdall, enrollment jumped by 43 percent compared to 2013.

Long-Term Achievement

Recognizes a Minnesota-based company for demonstrating a long-term commitment (at least 10 years) to positively impacting the state’s community of nonprofits or other worthy causes

Winner: Securian Financial

Whether financial services company Securian Financial is talking about its business or its philosophy on giving back, its employees believe that real impact occurs through long-term commitment. For instance, Securian has provided funding and volunteers to BestPrep and Junior Achievement for more than 30 years. This durable commitment has benefited thousands of children and helped them understand the importance of education. Over the past decade, St. Paul–based Securian has contributed more than $20 million in cash gifts to the surrounding community. Additionally, Securian encourages all of its employees to volunteer time, talent, and energy to community organizations.

Finalist: Enventis

Philanthropy and community involvement have been long-time values for communications provider Enventis, which has offices throughout Minnesota. In 1963, the company founded the Enventis Community Fund. Over the past 50 years, the fund has provided $5.2 million in grants, student scholarships, and employee matching gifts beyond continued corporate giving. In 2013, Enventis contributed more than $500,000 to nonprofit organizations and community programs. In addition to monetary donations, Enventis takes time to research funding requests to help increase its impact through funding, in-kind donations, and employee volunteers.

Finalist: C.H. Robinson

Since 2004, transportation and logistics company C.H. Robinson has been supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in its work to drive research for a cure and support those living with multiple sclerosis. Its employees have shown their support for the cause through participating in the two-day MS 150 bike ride for the past 11 years. Starting with just a small group of people, the team has grown significantly and the ride is now one of the company’s largest community events of the year. C.H. Robinson has served as the title sponsor for the event since 2010. In 2014, the company’s team was inducted into the Circle of Distinction — recognition of the more than $1 million it’s raised for the nonprofit.

Social Enterprise

Recognizes an outstanding social enterprise in Minnesota — companies that exist primarily to address social or environmental issues

Winner: Tech Dump

The electronics recycling division of the nonprofit Jobs Foundation, Golden Valley–based Tech Dump was founded in 2011 and functions as a social enterprise focused on recycling electronics. Through its efforts, the organization protects the environment by providing secure, responsible electronics recycling, and also creates reliable jobs for people who lack job experience or have something in their past that might make them less desirable employees in the eyes of other businesses. Through working at Tech Dump, employees learn a variety of skills that will serve them well in the future. In 2014, the nonprofit employed 40 people and recycled 4 million pounds of electronics.

Finalist: Cookie Cart

Cookie Cart provides teens with lasting and meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban bakery. Modeled as a social enterprise, 100 percent of the profits from cookie sales are invested back into the organization’s youth employment program. In the first nine months of 2014, Cookie Cart injected $194,909 in youth wages into the north Minneapolis community. Additionally, as part of its strategic growth plan, last year the organization completed 26,000 hours of employment and training — more than double the hours completed three years earlier.

Finalist: Juxtaposition Arts

Minneapolis-based Juxtaposition Arts not only equips students through visual arts literacy training, but also employs them as artists through its social enterprise business model. Founded in 1994, the organization serves anywhere from 500 to 800 youth each year in its core programs. At JXTA Lab, the production arm of the organization, students can work in paid apprenticeship positions once they achieve a certain level of mastery in the visual arts. Today, the organization operates four separate social enterprise studios under the JXTA Lab umbrella: a screen-printing studio, a graphic design studio, a contemporary arts studio, and an environmental design studio.

Workplace Giving

Recognizes a Minnesota-based company for creating a focused employee-giving program or volunteer campaign

Winner: Bell State Bank

In 2014, Bell State Bank & Trust completed the sixth consecutive year of its Pay It Forward program. As part of the program, each full-time employee receives $1,000 and every part-time employee receives $500 to give away as they choose to individuals, families, and organizations in need. In 2012, the company started its community component, in which each employee chooses a customer, vendor, or community member who then has the opportunity to give away the same amount of money. Additionally, employees receive a $200 gift card and an extra day off annually to spend with friends or family members through the program. To date, between all the initiatives, the program has given more than $6 million.

Finalist: Uponor

With its North American headquarters in Apple Valley, Uponor, a supplier of plumbing and indoor climate systems for the residential and commercial buildings, has a strong culture of giving back to the community. Some of the company’s workplace giving programs include volunteer time off, charitable giving, gift matching, rewards and recognition, mentoring, and student enrichment. The company’s Volunteer Time Off program allows full-time employees to receive up to 24 hours of paid time off annually to serve at eligible nonprofits. Since its inception in 2005, the volunteer committee has helped coordinate events and log more than 10,000 hours of volunteer time off among hundreds of employees. In 2014 alone, 82 employees used a total of 740 hours to donate their time to dozens of charities.

Finalist: CSM Corporation

Seven years ago, Minneapolis-based real estate company CSM Corporation created a Cares Committee to lead its charity efforts. Since 2012, CSM has partnered with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, participating in volunteer activities, food drives, and donating children’s gifts. In 2013, it raised and donated more than $90,000 for the nonprofit’s Upper Midwest chapter. Additionally, employees volunteered more than 1,500 hours and donated more than 6,000 items for children and families.

Good Leader

Recognizes a Minnesota business leader for making a positive impact through service, character, and leadership by fostering an environment of corporate giving

Winner: Andy Arlotta, Minnesota Swarm

Andy Arlotta has been and continues to be a pioneer for the sport of lacrosse in the state. President and co-owner of the Minnesota Swarm team in the National Lacrosse League, his work with the Swarm’s Youth Box League and Jr. Swarm program has helped expand box lacrosse on the youth level. Meanwhile Arlotta has helped create programs to reintroduce the sport to the Native American community in Minnesota, teaching kids important life lessons along the way. (Lacrosse has its origins in Native American culture.) Arlotta has also utilized the Swarm’s partnership with Summit Orthopedics to send a Swarm player along with surgeons visiting an orphanage in Honduras to help grow the sport there. Arlotta is a board member and vice president for the Minnesota Lacrosse Association and a board member with Homegrown Lacrosse, a nonprofit grassroots program.

Finalist: Sandy Hansen-Wolff, AgVenture Feed & Seed

After dealing with a personal tragedy in 2003, Sandy Hansen-Wolff began her ownership role at agricultural supply company AgVenture Feed & Seed, which was facing its own tragedy — near bankruptcy. With exemplary character, Hansen-Wolff helped keep the regional feed business in Watkins, Minnesota, alive, knowing that closing would be a great loss for the community. Others view Hansen-Wolff as a leader in her community, especially when it comes to giving. Not only does she give more than 10 percent of personal income to community causes, but she has also developed a Give Ten program to give back on the business level. As a result, the surrounding communities have come to rely on AgVenture as a consistent source of support.

Finalist: Bruce Langer, EPIQ Partners

When Bruce Langer received the Evans Scholarship as a young student, he probably didn’t realize the lasting impact it would have on his life. The scholarship — awarded to excellent golf caddies who have financial need, strong academics, and outstanding character — is administered by the Western Golf Association. Today, Langer is a director for that organization at Oak Ridge Country Club and managing partner of Minneapolis-based investment firm EPIQ Partners. In 2002, Langer helped raise more than $500,000 for a new scholarship house at the U of M for the Minnesota Evans Scholars organization. “There is no question that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education and being able to graduate without any debt,” he says.

Finalist: Chris Hansen, Hanratty & Associates

Last year, Chris Hansen, director of sales at Plymouth-based insurance agency Hanratty & Associates, developed, coordinated, and brought to fruition the company’s first annual charity golf tournament. The event brought out more than 90 golfers and 130 total attendees and volunteers. All proceeds benefited Lifeworks Services, a local nonprofit serving those with developmental disabilities and their families. Hoping to inspire others to give back to the community, Hansen partnered with Hanratty clients and vendors to put on the event, which raised $25,000 for a Lifeworks Services technology initiative.

Hiring Veterans

Recognizes a Minnesota-based company that is making an effort to employ military veterans

Winner: Azule Staffing

Eagan-based Azule Staffing has a corporate goal to make 80 percent of its staffing placements veterans. When a veteran can’t be found for a particular position, the company instead uses a portion of the profits from that placement for activities that support veterans. These efforts include conducting Minnesota Workforce training and meetings, resume review and interview training with the Minnesota National Guard, coordinating job training for veterans, business training for employers who want to hire veterans, and general networking meetings with various veteran organizations. In 2013, Azule received an award from the Minnesota State Council on Disability for its work in placing veterans with disabilities.

Finalist: APi Group

Hiring military veterans is a strong part of industrial and specialty construction company APi Group’s corporate culture. In fact, more than 10 percent of the New Brighton–based company’s workforce is made up of veterans. Through its leadership development program, hired veterans experience 12 rotations at seven different group companies around the nation during 12 months. The hope is that this allows them to best choose where in the organization they want to pursue their career. A similar veterans rotation program follows the same concept, but on a local Minnesota level. In 2014, APi Group companies hired more than 175 veterans. APi also facilitates a veteran support group within its workforce.

Finalist: Hiway Federal Credit Union

Hiway Federal Credit Union in St. Paul is passionate about supporting the military and partnering with other organizations that do the same. In 2013, Hiway was officially proclaimed a Yellow Ribbon Company by the Lt. Governor of Minnesota. The honor recognized the combined efforts of key areas within the company to support those affected by military deployments and enable successful transition into the workplace. Hiway also serves veterans through its Adopt a Family program around the holidays.