The Minnesota Business Encyclopedia of 2010

A look at 142 of the most notable people, places, companies, topics and trends affecting the greater Minnesota business community this year.

By Drew Wood (with additional research and reporting by Cory Hertog, and the advice, opinion and counsel of a bevvy of others)


agitators (see also: MOJO Minnesota)
When things are going wrong, whether it be with the economy or your favorite sports team, people are going to get ornery. In 2010, we've seen plenty of it. The key? That it remains productive.

Alvenda, Inc.
Although the Minneapolis-based company has been around since 2008, with a $5 million injection of venture capital funding by Split Rock Partners in January, 2010 was its break-out year. The ground-breaking digital retail concept works on the notion that "peo­ple shop more when not required to leave their pre­ferred online experience." Therein, "mer­chants part­ner with Alvenda to enable in-stream shop­ping in Facebook's news feed, fan pages and via ban­ner ads on thou­sands of cer­ti­fied pub­lisher websites" (alvenda.com). Put another way, you can now book a flight on Delta, one of Alvenda's early merchants, entirely through Facebook. Pretty cool.

angel tax credit (see also: economy)
Meant to, well, stimulate investment in an economy where it's waning, it was signed into law on April 1, 2010, and gives qualified investors a tax credit for investing in the early stage of "innovative" businesses. To earn the credit, angel investors must invest at least $10,000 and the credit is equal to 25 percent of the cash investment.

apps (see also: revenge of the nerds, smart phones)
Not appetizers or the Alan Parsons Project, although we really like both of those things as well, we're talking about the computer application variety. We champion the kind that make your life easier-think banking apps that let you check balances and pay your bills anytime, or something like Text'nDrive or Dragon Dictation, both of which enable you to check and respond to emails and texts using only your voice. But the kind that simply make life more amusing aren't so bad either-try Angry Birds and you'll see what we mean. Best of all? The Twin Cities has some stellar app developers.



bacon (see also: cupcakes)
Consider this listing the beginning of the end of the bacon juggernaut. Although 2009 saw St. Michael-based No Name Steaks' chocolate and bacon Conan O'Brien receive national acclaim,  Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/St. Paul's bacon-hungry masses boom, and was arguably bacon's best year, 2010 marks its last hurrah as even the most outspoken bacon advocates seem to have had their fill. As for the next bacon? Austin product SPAM, perhaps?

bankruptcy (see also: economy)
Sadly, more people and businesses have needed to pay close attention to bankruptcy lawyer Jack Prescott's commercials these days:
By March 2010 alone the numbers were this dismal:

  • Nationally - 14,607 business filings, 373,541 non-business filings
  • Minnesota – 186 business filings, 5,367 non-business filings

And the numbers were similarly abysmal in March 2009:

  • Nationally – 14,319 business filings, 316,158 non-business filings
  • Minnesota – 209 business filings, 4,667 non-business filings

(source: U.S. bankruptcy courts)

Barrie D'Rozario Murphy
A trifecta of advertising veterans band together to slay the coastal [m]ad men from their Minneapolis perch. Upon doing just that in winning the 2009 Association of Advertising Agencies O'Toole Award for Creative Excellence (small agency), Stuart D'Rozario pens a war cry directed at the agencies that won in the best large and mid-sized categories. BDM places D'Rozario's cry as a full-page ad in the New York Times. bdm.net

Minneapolis is the No. 1 bike city in the country (so says Bicycling magazine) and the estimated economic impact of cycling on the Twin Cities is roughly $315 million per year. But you know this already; we've told you.

Here are just seven (of the many) reasons why:

  1. a'Velo Business Bike Club – a corporate biker gang of sorts
  2. Erik's Bike Shop – one of the largest cycling retailers in the world eriksbikeshop.com
  3. Handsome Cycles – an upstart frame designer, just beginning to make waves handsomecycles.com 
  4. Hed Wheels – locally-made, world-class wheels  hedcycling.com
  5. Quality Bicycle Products– you name it (Surly, Salsa Cycles, All City), they make it; better than just about anyone in the world qbp.com
  6. Nice Ride Minnesota– the first-of-its-kind public bike share program taking over the Twin Cities and beyond niceridemn.org 
  7. Twin Six Alternative Cycling Apparel– a fresh take on cycling apparel from a couple former ad guys twinsix.com

Bite Tech
Did you know that a mouthguard has the potential to store and play music, directly into your head? Well, the guys behind Minneapolis-based Bite Tech do. And while the company isn't quite to that point yet, they're already converting droves of professional athletes who notice less fatigue, stress and generally enhanced performance and flexibility simply because they're wearing a Bite Tech mouthpiece. bitetech.com

Some of the most important news and opinion feeds of the past year have come from the keypads of bloggers. Although in a still relatively untamed Internet world there will still be charlatans, it can't discount the fact that bloggers have become a functioning part of mainstream media. In fact, in September the Associated Press recognized bloggers as a credible news source.

BrandLab, The (see also: OLSON)
The Minneapolis-based initiative seeking to "create opportunity in the marketing industry for [high school] students with diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds," is in its fourth year and perpetually picking up steam. thebrandlab.org

business ethics (see also: corporate social responsibility; George, Bill; Philanthrocapitalism)
It seems that the decidedly unethical behavior that got us into this mess three years ago, is finally giving rise to a decidedly more ethical type that just might get us out of it. Here are two local reasons why:

  • Caux Roundtable – A St. Paul-based global ethics think tank that has been the champion of such things at the MBA Oath.
  • Integrated Governance Solutions – Crusader with a corporate background Bill Bojan launched this consultancy to restore trust in big business by restoring, among other things, a legitimate system of checks and balances.

It's no longer just for garages:

BYOB (see also: millennials)
Build Your Own Brand. A concept popular with young professionals, the premise of BYOB is simple and a tad narcissistic: If you're not building awareness about the brand that is you, then you're never going to be able to leave your current job behind. To those interested in building their own brand, we offer you some advice. First-and least preferable-if you can't resist BYOB, don't let your employer know you're doing it, since it's pretty much telling them you're looking out for you, not them. Second-and more preferable-don't focus on BYOB at all. Do your job well, work hard, be respectful, be innovative and your brand will be built for you.



Carmichael Lynch
The agency that claims to have dumped one of the most recognizable brands on the planet-and their client of more than 30 years-Harley Davidson. carmichaellynch.com

Catalyst Community Partners (see also: corporate social responsibility)
Out to stimulate economic growth and revitalize Minneapolis one down-trodden corridor at a time, commercial real estate developer Stuart Ackerberg's nonprofit Catalyst Community Partners completed their North Minneapolis keystone project, the Five Points Building, new home to KMOJ radio station, in March.

Among the hardest hit of American car manufactures was Chrysler, and the shockwaves were felt mightily in Minnesota. Although 17 local dealerships were originally slated to close, three managed to avoid getting the axe.

corporate social responsibility
(see also: business ethics; Catalyst Community Partners, George, Bill; Philanthrocapitalism)
Corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model; idea being that if a business forces itself to support laws, ethical standards and international norms, the business would, in turn, be mindful of the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and members of the public sphere. It would thus eliminate practices that might harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. The CSR-minded business's bottom line? People. Planet. Profit.

And you know what? There are some serious Minnesota contributors to the CSR conversation: Jacquie Berglund's nonprofit beer company Finnegan's Irish Amber, Bill George and Haberman Media and Marketing, to name a few.

For people and companies not keen on leasing office space but sick of working from home or the coffee shop, coworking is the perfect solution. The idea is you pay a membership fee to use all or select portions of a third-party space, complete with all the trappings-and camaraderie-of the real thing. Try these two local coworking pioneers:

CRAVE Minneapolis
A local collaborative of women business owners finding power and inspiration in their collective success stories.

cupcakes (see also: bacon)
Like bacon, cupcakes have enjoyed a much-ballyhooed, if not unexpected, rise to prominence in 2010, and you can see it in the local business landscape with cupcake stands popping up faster than whack-a-moles: Cake Eater Bakery, Franklin Street Bakery, Cocoa and Fig, and Cupcake are just a few from around the metro. However, like bacon, we think that the cupcake train is pulling out of the station. The next cupcake? Why, doughnuts, of course.



Denali Marketing (see also: OLSON)
Formerly the biggest loyalty marketing firm in town. Now, the reason that OLSON is the biggest agency in town. olsondenali.com

digital divide
The term we've given to the growing rift between people in business and education who are savvy in the ever-evolving wave of digital tools and trends, and those who are not. For the sake of your own relevance, we think it's important that you pay mind to said divide and make sure you're on the right side of it. So, which side are you on?

Duluth (see also: Dynamic Structural Steel)
A town that's not just for tourists anymore.

Just some of the reasons:

Dynamic Structural Steel (see also: Duluth)
The type of company indicative of the Duluth area's resurgence, the Proctor-based commercial construction steel fabricator was founded and is run by a 29-year-old, employs precise, state-of-the-art technology, boasted sales of $15 million in 2009 and is likely to keep rising. dynamicstructuralsteel.com



economy (see also: this whole list)
It's possible you've heard about this one already.

Egotist, The MPLS

The understated champions of our local advertising scene in the form of an in-depth, industry-insider blog. themplsegotist.com

Element Six (see also: green)
It's what you get when you combine a Dutch expat
(Maikel van de Mortel), an Icelandic expat (Björgvin Sævarsson), a passion for sustainability and the desire to transform how companies reach consumers. They "provide a green alternative to traditional advertising and branding communications through the use of sustainable earth resources." You might know them as the guys who stomp logos into snow, wash them onto dirty windows or cut them into cornfields. elementsixmedia.com

energy (see also: green, ethanol; Gulf oil spill; Kelly, Dick; wind power)
We can safely say that this topic should be on every list like this, every year.

Enrico, Dick
The fact is, we haven't talked about Dick Enrico in a really, really long time and that alone is reason enough to talk about Dick Enrico.

Minnesota's fuel of the future-still.



Favre, Brett (see also: Vikings, Minnesota)
You've probably heard that he's back with the Vikings, and, although this year's not quite going as well as last, he's making $13 million base salary for his efforts, with a $3 million signing bonus, $4 million in incentives and $8 million deferred from his 2009 salary; which is enough to make a fairly sizable economic ripple on its own.


Folliard, Kieran (see also: lifestyle centers)
The man behind a local pub empire that started with one, namesake pub, Kieran's (downtown Minneapolis) in 1994.  Subsequently Folliard added the Local (downtown Minneapolis) and the Liffey (downtown St. Paul), but didn't really get serious until 2010 with the opening of his first suburban effort, Cooper, in the St. Louis Park lifestyle center, the West End and the relocation of his original pub, Kieran's to the massive Block E spot formerly occupied by Bellanotte, making it a mega-pub.

Fallon Worldwide
Formerly the gold standard of Twin Cities advertising, Fallon seemed stricken with a bout of averageness for a time, but the hiring of its second-ever CEO in March of 2008, Chris Foster, began changing the tide. The company is currently innovating their way to new accounts (Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Totino's, Boston Market, Nestle beverages, Alpo, Charter Communications, Cruzan Rum and most notably landed, then dropped, Chrysler and picked up Cadillac) and back to prominence. fallon.com

Fallon, Pat
For the first time since 1981 Pat Fallon is not the CEO of Fallon. But adjusting to a scaled-back role, the rejuvenated leader is still the agency's chairman and appears as dedicated to its success as ever before.

funemployment (see also: economy)
Taking a little too much advantage of being laid off in the form of obtaining unemployment benefits with no real desire to try and find a new job. As UrbanDictionary.com says, your government-funded free time is used "to do other things, like travel, chill, etc."

Although we see its potential merits, we do not condone this trend whatsoever.



GeaCom (see also: Duluth, med-tech)
A Duluth-based med-tech company that developed the Phrazer, a multilingual handheld device that displays video clips explaining various procedures and diagnoses. In August, GeaCom's Phrazer was awarded top honors in the high-tech division of the Minnesota Cup. myphrazer.com

generational shift (see also: millennials)
Although we've seen it coming for decades, 2010 is the year that people finally began to articulate the transition of power from America's largest generation, the baby boomers. Alas, the first of them find themselves nearing retirement and the rest are close behind. Equally notable-and downright scary for some-is who they will be handing the keys to the world off to: Their kids, gens X and Y.

George, Bill (see also: business ethics)
When most people retire as CEO of one of the world's most dynamic medical device manufacturers, they do so to retreat into obscurity and live out their lives sipping mai-tais on beaches unknown to normal people. The former Medtronic CEO, however, is doing monumentally the opposite. George, who currently teaches at the Harvard Business School and contributes to the Harvard Business Review, is arguably a bigger public figure now that he's "retired" than ever before.

green (see also: Element Six; Ionator; wind power)
It's something we all say we want to be, but for the most part-seriously, did you really just toss that soda can into the garbage because the recycling is too far away?-we probably don't really act like it yet.

gross domestic income (see also: Recession, The Great)
It used to be said that, when calculated, the gross domestic product of a nation and the gross domestic income should be equal. Ah, if it were only so simple. In an era of grossly deflated GDPs, many economists are beginning to rely on the GDI as the real indicator of where a country stands economically.

group buying
Turning the power in numbers into consumer savings-and 2010 has seen group buying explode. Although the most prominent purveyors of the group buy (Groupon chief among them) are not locally based, for better or worse their presence is felt by a bevy of local businesses. Here's one of our most notable contributions: The UForce. theuforce.com

Hecker, Denny
Petters, Tom

Gulf oil spill
It will be remembered as a colossal disaster. It should not be forgotten that it was a result of a series of colossal failures.



health care reform
It's confusing, gigantic and a tad idealistic, but as of March 23 the Affordable Care Act is also law (although, with the dramatic right turn after midterm elections, it might not be law for long). Aimed at expanding health coverage to 32 million Americans and generally making good coverage more affordable, the Congressional Budget Office says the bill will cost $940 billion over the next 10 years, but could reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the same period due to the taxes it adds, including on individuals earning $200,000, couples earning $250,000, drug manufacturers, health insurers and medical device manufacturers.



The Minneapolis-based research marketing firm was acquired by the decidedly less cool-sounding Corporate Executive Board Co. for $18 million in May. The Arlington, Va.-based Corporate Executive Board has no plans for relocating Iconoculture from Minneapolis and has not made significant changes to the company's personnel.iconoculture.com

Ignite Minneapolis (see also: revenge of the nerds)A community-driven event comprising a series of speed presentations about topics that tend to skew towards the geeky and wonkish, yet remain innovative, fresh and, with a beer sponsor at each event, usually well-lubricated. ignitempls.org


Ionator (see also: green)
A machine that can clean and disinfect virtually anything by activating the ions in plain tap water. It is the first offering of Rogers-based Activeion Cleaning Solutions and it is superb. activeion.com

innovation (see also: MOJO Minnesota)
Minnesota has long prided itself on having innovative people and companies, but lately that innovation has seemed to have been stifled. However, with groups like MOJO Minnesota "agitating" a return to the times of Earl Bakken and people like Generate Company's Uri Neren immersing themselves in the concept (Neren is building The World Database of Innovation, a resource for the "comprehensive collection of innovation people, methods, research, literature, and trends" aimed at helping "the world gain a better understanding of what works in innovation" [generatecompany.com]), it seems as though Minnesota is innovating its way back to being innovative.

interest rates (see also: economy, real estate, Recession, The Great)
Turns out one of the great benefits of a Great Recession are some of the lowest interest rates-prime currently rests at 3.25 percent-in history. The problem is, it doesn't seem to be helping all that much.



Jacobs, Irwin (see also: Recession, The Great)
Alright, so this item should probably be titled "Genmar," but hey, we needed a "J" and the truth is, the most notable aspect of boat manufacturer Genmar's bankruptcy is the fact that the company is owned by one of the Twin Cities' most stalwart business icons, Irwin Jacobs. The fact that bankruptcy can touch even a Jacobs company is a testament to the negative pressure of this recession.




Kelly, Dick (see also: energy)
When the CEO of the state's largest energy services provider calls for carbon tax-a.k.a. a tax on his own industry-it's worth mentioning on any 100 list. Kelly is not alone, either. With the expectation that Congress will pass cap-and-trade legislation (effectively placing a tax on carbon emissions), Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers and other utility executives have begun modernizing coal-fired plants, switching to wind and natural gas and implementing conservation programs. The idea is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25 percent by 2025 and meet state mandates to reduce pollutants that climate scientists say lead to global warming.



lifestyle centers
Whether it has been revivals of flagging ones (Calhoun Square just completed a $20 million, two-year expansion, which included the addition of the much-ballyhooed Uptown Cafeteria) or the creation of new ones (The Shops at West End, which once looked doomed, is perpetually packed and emerging as a dining and nightlife destination), this was the year that proved that maybe Minnesotans do want lifestyle centers after all.



Mad Men
Regardless of whether you watch the dizzying portrayal of the 1960s Madison Avenue ad biz and the personalities who drove it or not, it is influencing you in that it is influencing many of those at the influence controls. From fashion to advertising itself, Mad Men is helping usher in a new era of business by paying homage to a bygone one.

manufacturing (see also: economy)

Things seem to be looking up for manufacturing as the Star Tribune reported a 19 percent second-quarter jump in exports from 2009, which is close to matching two years previous. Total numbers for Minnesota's computer, electronics, machines and other manufacturing exports were $4.3 billion through June, up from $3.6 billion for the same period of 2009, and nearly matching the all-time-high second-quarter mark, $4.4 billion, set in 2008.

And, as manufacturing goes, so (hopefully) goes our economy.

(see also: GeaCom; Orasi Medical)
LifeScience Alley and the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, Minnesota's two largest nonprofit organizations representing the life science industry, entered into a "strategic affiliation to strengthen the state's economy and leadership on an international scale" on November 1. The idea is that if the two powerful groups combined forces it would better equip both to overcome funding and regulatory issues, and enable them to, according to retiring LifeScience Alley CEO Don Gerhardt, "more nimbly capitalize on growth opportunities while dealing more effectively with urgent threats." The goal is to implement the BioBusiness Alliance's 20-year strategic plan and roadmap for Minnesota's six life science markets (medical devices, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, animal health, food, renewable energy, and renewable materials), Destination 2025. biobusinessalliance.org

medical tourism
There are two ways you can look at this term. The first is something along the lines of living in Southern California but going to Mexico for dental work because it's cheaper and your health insurance stinks. The second, and what we're concerned with, is people traveling to get the best health care, which in Minnesota's case most often means people traveling to Rochester's Mayo Clinic. Rochester's 2.7 million visitors every year pour $520 million into the economy. Nearly 80 percent of the patients who come to Mayo Clinic are treated as outpatients; 20 percent are hospitalized. In fact, in 2009, 125,744 unique patients traveled from outside Minnesota-were, ahem, medical tourists-to be seen at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

millennials (see also: BYOB. generational shift; revenge of the nerds)
THEY'RE HERE. Whether they are your kids, the generation you babysat or you, the moment everyone anticipated yet never really thought would actually happen, actually happened in 2010. Millennials are moving quickly up industry's ranks-picking up the torch that Father Time is forcing the baby boomers to pass on. Sure they were weaned on video games, MTV, instant messaging and high-fructose corn syrup, but that doesn't mean they need their own set of rules or a scientific formula for how to be managed in an increasingly outdated workplace. After all, their parents were hippies and they did just fine. Remember?

The crutch, reinvented. And if you've ever used a crutch for any period of time, you'll know why what Minneapolis-based Mobi, LLC did for the crutch-bound is so tremendous and long overdue. mobi-legs.com

MOJO Minnesota
(see also: agitators, innovation)
A Twin Cities-based collective of entrepreneurs and agitators bound by the desire to see Minnesota regain its economic vitality. mojominnesota.com  


The advertising shop behind some of the most iconic local work of 2010. Whether it's The Blu Dot Real Good Experiment or monoface, their vital 2010 catalogue casts a promising shadow on mono's 2011. Oh, and they just won Small Agency of the Year at the ad industry's Oscars, the O'Toole Awards. mono-1.com



networking groups [by any other name] (see also young professionals groups)
Proof that peole still want to network, they just don't really want to call it that. Here are a some:
  • Java MeetUp 612 (see also: social media)
  • Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/St. Paul (see also: social media)
  • Twin Cities Thursday Happy Hour

new normal, the (see also: economy; Recession, The Great)
The term for what just about every industry, business, household and person has been forced to define as their new barometer for success-some more than others.



OLSON (see also: Brand Lab, The; Denali Marketing)
The fastest-growing advertising agency on the planet. Kidding-or so we think. We've said plenty about these guys over the past year, so we'll take it easy here. We'd just like to add that with the acquisition of Denali Marketing, they are no longer the quirky little guy that CEO John Olson originally created; they are now the man. oco.com

Orasi Medical (see also: med-tech)
The Edina-based start-up thinks they've come up with a test that can accurately diagnose some of the most perplexing and oft-misunderstood brain afflictions in modern medicine-Alzheimer's disease chief among them. After years of development and trials of their brain mapping technology, 2010 saw Orasi attain promising pharma licenses with Lundbeck and Novartis. Look for 2011 to be even bigger.  orasimedical.com

Philanthrocapitalism (see also: business ethics, corporate social responsibility)
The name of Matthew Bishop and Michael Green's book about the movement that might transform the way we do business. Bishop and Green ask the questions on many peoples' minds: "Who is going to lead the fight against poverty, build a sustainable future for our economies free from the threat of climate change, and take on the social problems that divide even the richest societies?"

Their answer? That "a new approach to solving social problems is needed, based on innovative partnerships between business, nonprofits and government." And that there is already a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders beginning to take the initiative in creating innovative new solutions. Said entrepreneurs, according to Bishop and Green, "[reject] the idea that business is about short-term profits" and that "these philanthrocapitalists think the winners from our economic system should give back and that business can ‘do well by doing good.'"
Pretty heady stuff, eh?

Ponzi schemes
Yep. They're still happening at an alarming rate. In the past two years at least 22 Minnesotans have been accused of being involved in about 10 different Ponzi or Ponzi-like schemes in Minnesota.

But did you know that Ponzi schemes were named after a real guy? Well, they were. The namesake swindler was Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi (aka Charles Ponzi), an Italian immigrant who was busted in Boston on August 11, 1920 after taking investors for a nearly $7 million ride. Funny part is, it wasn't even an original idea. Charles Dickens detailed such a scheme in his 1857 novel Little Dorrit, 25 years before Ponzi was even born.

When Tom Petters went down he almost took one of photography's icons with him. That is, until Summit Global (now PLR IP Holdings) swooped in, purchased the license to the Polaroid name and immediately began revamping Polaroid's image. Polaroid-which has even enlisted the style icon du jour, Lady Gaga, to design a line of cameras-now finds itself amidst an unprecedented resurgence in popularity and profit, albeit no longer in Minnesota. By the way, local designer Sean Tubridy is the man behind savepolaroid.com.

The most networked man in the Twin Cities, KeyStone Search's Lars Leafblad, brought his vast expanse of who's-who-and-how-they-know-you together in 2010 to create this Twin Cities networking newsletter, turned monthly MinnPost.com contribution. If you want to know what's happening to who and how, subscribe to Pollen and you will. If it's six degrees to Kevin Bacon, for someone tied to the Twin Cities business scene, it's surely only two degrees to Lars Leafblad.  


We're not sure where he went or what he has to do with business, but 2010 saw him emerge from a prolonged Paisley Park hibernation to attend some Vikings games and even release a new album, 20Ten.

Project Rev

Deluxe Corporation's effort to showcase their marketing service and expertise via offering them free for one year to nine upstart businesses chosen from around the country. Each business keeps a blog to track their progress and meets regularly with a marketing advisor and a SCORE counselor for advice. It's good for the businesses and good for Deluxe. It was launched in June 2010.



QR codes (see also: smart phones)
Bar codes that can store huge amounts of data, easily accessed by a scan with a smart phone, which then directs a user to anything from websites to videos to text information and beyond. Although they've been around for years-mainly used in Japan and Europe-it seems that the oddly graphic square bar codes are making their way into mainstream marketing, as evidenced by their mounting presence in magazines, on ticket stubs, on billboards, and just about every other imaginable place. 

Quality Bike Products (see also: bicycles)
Sure, we mentioned these guys in bicycles, but we just couldn't resist plugging them shamelessly into the letter "Q" lest there be a void. And to all the praise we've already heaped upon Quality Bike Products we'll add this: Steve Flagg, who founded QBP in 1981, received the University of Minnesota's Entrepreneur of the Year award in September at the Minnesota Cup's awards reception. qbp.com



real estate (see also: economy, interest rates, Recession, The Great)
The just in: Homes are not ATM machines, and it took us this long to find out.

Recession, The Great (see also: economy; gross domestic income; new normal, the)
Something that this list couldn't live without, but that we know you're sick of hearing about. Consider this its obligatory mention and, in the event you want more, here's a thoroughly unscientific analysis of what happened: People were greedy and made bad decisions, the economy went to hell and sent us all reeling. It stunk, still stinks, but might be getting a little better.

revenge of the nerds (see also: apps; digital divide; millennials; QR codes; smart phones)
Remember the slightly geeky people in high school? The ones who might have been more concerned about getting home to their computer than out to the football field? The ones you so affectionately referred to as, ahem, nerds? Well, while you were honing your mediocre athletic abilities, they were developing the computer genius that would one day lead to their revenge. With an increasingly digital business world, that day has dawned and the geeks of your youth have banded together, embraced their inner nerd-dom and taken their revenge by way of founding some of the most innovative and influential media and Web companies the Twin Cities has to offer. Here are four of the nerdiest (and by "nerdiest," we mean best): ***********

** Just before publication of this issue,  The Nerdery/Sierra Bravo co-founder and CEO Luke Bucklin and three of his sons were involved in a fatal plane crash in Wyoming. Rest in peace, Bucklin four; our thoughts are with you


Search engine optimization. By no means is it a new concept, but if you aren't intimately familiar with SEO, this is the year you should be because it's the reason your competitor's website dominates Google searches, while yours struggles to crack the first page.

Schell's Brewery
One of the three winners of our 2010 Minnesota Family Business Awards, the New Ulm-based brewery is the only winner with an overtly list-worthy 2010. Here are two reasons:

  1. October marked their 150th birthday-every single one of them owned by the same family (Schell, then Marty).
  2. They launched the most anticipated local beer in ages, Grain Belt Nordeast. schellsbrewery.com

shop local
The theory that supporting locally owned, independent businesses keeps more of the community's money there. The Metro Independent Business Association, one of the most outspoken local proponents of shopping local, argues that when you spend $1 at a local independent, an average of 68 cents is recirculated into the local economy, whereas if you spend $1 at a national chain, only about 43 cents stays at home. Their point? If Twin Cities consumers shift even 10 percent of their spending from chains to locals for one day, our economy gains nearly $2 million. metroiba.org

Small Business Jobs Act
Signed into law by President Obama on Sept. 27, the Small Business Jobs Act aims "to provide critical resources to help small businesses continue to drive economic recovery and create jobs," and extends SBA Recovery loans while offering billions more in lending support and tax breaks for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
The thought is, more capital in the hands of entrepreneurs and small business owners is a good thing. sba.gov/jobsact/

smart phones (see also: apps; QR codes)
2010 makes it official: Without smart phones we'd be lost. In our increasingly wired business existence, they have become phone, calendar, email and Internet browser. Just try leaving yours at home in the morning and you'll see.  

social media

  • Facebook: More than 500 million active users
  • Twitter: More than 145 million registered users
  • Linkedin: More than 80 million users

_ And all of them have the ability to start the ripple, that builds to a wave that can either make or break your business. Really, what else needs to be said?

South Dakota
In 2009, CNN Money documented how, for the first time ever, South Dakota overtook Wyoming as the state with the best tax climate as per the Tax Foundation's annual state-by-state rankings. Having no personal or corporate income tax, not to mention no "gross receipts" business tax on revenue, pretty much anything you make you keep-a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by Minnesotans. TCF Bank, which mainly operates out of Wayzata, moved its official headquarters-only 10-15 people actually work there-to Sioux Falls in  April 2009  in a cost-saving maneuver.

St. Paul
Although the entirety of Minnesota has had a rather tumultuous 2010, St. Paul has been on an especially up-and-down ride this year. Commercial vacancy rates are at an alarming 17.9 percent in 2010 but that's actually down from 20.1 percent in 2009. Then there's late August's news that, despite pleas for mercy, St. Paul's Ford plant-in action for more than 80 years-would officially be shuttered. Tempering that slightly is Mayor Chris Coleman's robust plan to rejuvenate the city core: Rebuild St. Paul. The $15 million, 15-project initiative will leverage $100 million in investment, includes plans for a mixed-use space called Penfield, which will house a 30,000-square-foot Lunds, and hopes to create nearly 3,000 new jobs in St. Paul. stpaul.gov

stadiums (see also: Twins, Minnesota; Vikings, Minnesota)
Whether it's the Twins' first season in Target Field or their last in the Dome, the Gopher football team's inability to sell out TCF Bank Stadium (or win games) in only their second year there, or the Vikings' less than adequate Mall of America Field arrangement: Stadium talk still ran rampant in 2010 and promises to for years to come.

state budget
In case you haven't heard, there's a deficit; a rather large one. And it appears that the worst of the deficit, which shrank to $994 million (from $1.2 billion projected for 2010), according to a spring economic forecast, is ahead of us. By mid-2013 Minnesota's budget deficit, currently one of the worst in the nation, could be nearly $7 billion. Who needs public services anyhow?

(source: startribune.com, wcco.com)

street food
With the Minneapolis City Council's unanimous approval of a new section in Chapter 188 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, which relates to food, mobile food vendors officially took control of the Twin Cities. For a licensure fee and start-up cost, mobile food vendors are now allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and midnight. On June 28th, Chef Shack, the first official vendor rolled into town and the rest is lunch hour history. tcstreetfood.com



Tea Parties
Remember 2010 as the year they arrived- for better or worse.

When times are bleak people seek inspiration like they seek security, which might explain the rise of TEDxTC. TED-Technology Entertainment Design-is a nonprofit that began in 1984 with the goal of spreading worthy ideas. What it has become is a global phenomenon of powerful speeches delivered by iconic and inspiring people. TEDxTC is one of the many regional offshoots and it doesn't disappoint. At October's event-TEDxTC's third-attendees learned why they should live more dangerously, think critically about how the world's second inconvenient truth (that agriculture is killing the planet) and what exactly the term "naked civics" means (it has nothing to do with actual nudity).  tedxtc.com

Tharin, Albert
Your classic man loses it all in the recession but rebuilds his life by buying a decrepit dive bar and turning it into a gator-burger-joint success story. albertsgrill.com

Twins, Minnesota (see also: stadiums)
Three reasons they must be on this list:

  1. Mauer, Joe – Because he's a local guy making $12.5 million per year (2010), he bought his brother a car dealership and he's won three batting titles.
  2. Target Field – Because it drew 3,223,640 people during the 2010 season. That's the highest total since the franchise moved from Washington, D.C. to Minnesota in 1960.
  3. World Series – Because you've gotta figure the Yankees will miss the playoffs eventually _ and when they do, we'll be waiting.


University of Minnesota-Duluth, Labovitz School of Business and Economics
While the entirety of UMD's Labovitz School is impressive, what caught our eye is their Financial Markets program in which students manage an actual $300,000 investment portfolio via the Bulldog Fund, LLC. Consequently, Labovitz graduates receive their diplomas with the type of real-world experience that truly allows them to "trade the next day." In a world where everything else we use is plug-and-play, why wouldn't you want your employees to be? lsbe.d.umn.edu

Urgency Room, The  
The emergency room, reimagined. With the first location opened Oct. 4 in Woodbury, the Urgency Room (the UR) is the Twin Cities' first medical facility to offer a hospital-based ER alternative for people who feel they need urgent, acute medical care. The UR will provide the same level of care as an ER, but with faster and friendlier service at what it promises to be a more affordable price. Staffed with board-certified ER physicians, experienced ER nurses and paramedics, The UR promises great care with slim waits. urgencyroom.com



Vikings, Minnesota (see also: stadiums)
Haven't you heard? Their Mall of America Field lease is up in 2011 and unless either an adequate stadium bill passes the state legislature, the team re-ups at the stadium formerly known at the Metrodome or Zygi Wilf decides to do what no other team owner in history has done and pay for the stadium entirely on his own, L.A. will score a second purple and gold professional sports franchise whose name makes no sense to the region. The franchise's $221 million in revenue and $774 million total team value, by the way, ranks the Purple 30th out of the 32 total NFL teams.
(Source: forbes.com)



Werc Werk Works
Minnesota's answer to the motion picture industry, the two-year-old Minneapolis-based motion picture production and financing company had a banner year. The Werc Werk Works-produced, critically acclaimed Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl, starring James Franco, was released in late September and writer/director Lawrence Kasdan's latest effort Darling Companion, starring Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton, began production in the fall. wercwerkworks.com

Wiese Law Firm
A decidedly non-lawyerly group of lawyers, Wiese Law Firm takes a more casual, creative approach to the art of negotiating contracts and guiding careers, particularly creative and/or public ones (their client list includes Andrew Zimmern, Joan Steffend and Belinda Jensen). Specializing in business law, entertainment law and "contracts in general," perhaps their Twitter biography says it all:  The value of your business (and your life) is the sum total of its deals. We negotiate contracts that save you time and money. Oh yeah, we're lawyers too!

wind power (see also: Kelly, Dick)
The cleanest, most plentiful fuel of all, and it turns out Minnesota has plenty of it. In addition to the pioneering work Dan Juhl is doing at Buffalo Ridge, the home of Juhl Wind, Riverland Community College in Albert Lea and other regional community colleges now have wind turbine maintenance programs, and Xcel Energy, which plans on having 30 percent of its energy come from renewables by 2020, is looking to acquire 250 megawatts of wind power serviceable by 2012. Then again, at the time of publication, India-based Suzlan Group's Pipestone turbine manufacturing facility was in the process of laying off the majority of its workforce due to lack of orders, as the industry has seen a 72 percent dip in turbine installations so far this year, so maybe the winds of changes aren't quite shifting like we thought they would.

A great example of how the second generation can revolutionize a family business otherwise content to rest on its laurels, if you haven't heard of industrial design firm Worrell yet, you will. Now based in Northeast Minneapolis, the company was founded by Bob and Judy Worrell in 1976, and, although it grew to be successful in its own right, it transcended all expectations once their son Kai came on board and set the company's sights higher than ever. Today they are not only designing cutting-edge products (heavily skewing towards health care), they are also endeavoring to influence bigger conversations by sponsoring events like TEDxTC.  worrell.com



Whenever you make an A-Z list, you love a company like Xollai. However, even if it weren't for their masterful use of the letter "X" we'd be keen on giving the group of former college classmates props for the development and marketing of their novel technology used to land unmanned aerial vehicles safely. xollai.com


young professionals groups (see also: networking groups)
Of late, young professionals far and wide are banding together with visions of workplace and cultural domination, and the intention of pooling their collective strength to do some good. Here are a few of the most notable examples:



Zoo, Minnesota
What was touted at the "new zoo" when it debuted in 1978, the Minnesota Zoo-one of the few state zoos in the country-went from critical acclaim and high-regard to stagnating its way through the mid-‘90s. That is, until the arrival of visionary zoo director Lee Ehmke and a monumental shift in energy and focus. With a renewed emphasis on marketing and an "if you build it they will come" mentality, the zoo is in the midst of a three-phase, six-year complete makeover and proudly showcases one of the most innovative-and expensive-exhibits in the country: Russia's Grizzly Coast. With the change, attendance has increased 40 percent and memberships are up 49 percent.