BITN – December 2021

BITN GraphicBITN is a compilation of business stories from around Minnesota and neighboring states usually not reported on by Twin Cities media. These stories are curated by Platinum Group to provide business leads, trends and insights we hope you will find useful.

November Midwest Economic Index Falls, But Confidence Gains

Business leaders in nine Midwest and Plains states indicate the region’s economy remains healthy and have seen their confidence in the economy over the next six months improve, according to the November Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions report. But about half of supply managers surveyed expect supply chain disruptions to get worse for the first six months of 2022. States polled by this survey are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. MORE

Cirrus Seeking Employees and Expansion Opportunities

Duluth’s largest manufacturer, Cirrus Aircraft is running out of room and contemplating temporarily expanding into the mostly vacant former Northwest Airlines maintenance base. Cirrus also says it’s in immediate need of more employees: 130 in Duluth and about 70 elsewhere—it has a pre-assembly production facility in Grand Forks, N.D., and research, training and delivery facilities in other locations. Cirrus makes highly stylized, comfortable single-engine airplanes with parachutes built into them, and in 2016 introduced the world’s first single-engine personal jet. It employs 1,900 people, 1,300 in Duluth. MORE

Fastenal Moves into New Headquarters That Looks Old

Fastenal Co. earlier this month opened its doors to a new 97,600-squre-foot corporate headquarters in downtown Winona, where 450 employees will now work. Besides the boost it brings to the downtown economy, Fastenal’s new building was designed to look as though it is a hundred-year-old building from afar, to blend into Winona’s historic landscape. It was built using timber framing, cross-laminated timber flooring and locally sourced stone materials. Fastenal is a publicly traded, international business generating $693 million in net earnings on $4.479 billion in revenue through the first nine months of 2021 selling fasteners and other construction supplies to manufacturing and non-residential construction customers. MORE

Carbon Capture Pipeline Project is Out to Connect 31 Upper Midwest Ethanol Plants

Ames, Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says it plans to develop a $4.5 billion, 2,000-mile pipeline that will eventually send 12 million tons of CO2 a year to an underground storage facility in western North Dakota. An offshoot of Summit Agriculture Group, it claims this will be the world’s largest carbon capture project. However, it has yet to apply for permits in the states through which such a pipeline would run: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The company plans to pay for the development and recoup its investment through long-term agreements with the ethanol plants that will share some of the premium price they will receive for selling ethanol on the low-carbon fuel market; and a federal program that will pay $50 per ton of CO2 stored underground at least 12 years. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is pursuing an increase in that amount to $85 a ton. The five ethanol plants in Minnesota that would be served by the pipeline are Granite Falls Energy, Granite Falls; Green Plains, Fergus Falls; Green Plains, Fairmont; Heron Lake Bioenergy, Heron Lake; and Highwater Ethanol, Lamberton. MORE

Mayo Clinic, Other Businesses Pump $364,196 Into Rochester Retail Community

Due to the pandemic’s impact on retailers last year, Rochester’s Mayo Clinic agreed to encourage its  managers to purchase local, budget-friendly thank you gifts for staff through a private, curated, pop-up online store called Gift Rochester. Its efforts led to $280,000 in spending on 14,000 gifts from local businesses. This year, Gift Rochester curated pop-up stores for a few other businesses including Think Bank, but Mayo Clinic remained the largest participant. A total of $365,196 was spent locally this way on 22,178 items purchased online between Oct. 18 and Nov. 19. Gift Rochester was founded by marketing firm White Space, which is also based in Rochester. MORE

American Crystal Sugar Reports Good Year

Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar Co. reported at its annual meeting earlier this month that its 2021 beet crop surpassed expectations. It’s projecting it will pay $660 million for nearly 12 million tons of sugar beets produced by its coop members in 2021, 16 percent more than what was paid for 2020’s crop, according to Agweek. The company says it is seeing “considerable strength” in demand for beet pulp and beet molasses products. Meanwhile, factory efficiencies have improved, including with the installation of natural gas service to its facilities in Drayton and Hillsboro, North Dakota. This also brought natural gas to the 2,500 residents in those communities for the first time. Its labor contract is set to expire July 31, 2022. MORE

United Sugars Gains Market Share

Also during Crystal Sugar’s annual meeting this month, Edina-based United Sugars Corp. shared it now controls 43 percent of the volume of sugar purchased by the nation’s top 10 sugar users and serves about half of those customers’ product locations. United Sugars markets sugar to customers for American Crystal Sugar, Minn-Dak Farmers Coop of Wahpeton, N.D., United States Sugar of Clewiston, Fla.; and Wyoming Sugar Co. of Worland, Wyoming. One recent boost to sales came from Crystal Sugar’s 2017 installation of a sugar storage dome and transfer facility near Chicago. The move places United Sugars partners’ sugar closer to customers; bulk deliveries into the Chicago area have doubled and bagged sales have more than tripled since before building the facilities, according to Agweek. A second storage/delivery dome is now under development. Since 1985, U.S. beet sugar production has increased by more than 80 percent; cane sugar increased by only 30 percent during that time. MORE

Formerly Incarcerated Receive Help Starting a Business

Rochester-based POISD (Parents of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters) is helping those formerly incarcerated with creating a better future for themselves despite what’s happened in their past. The organization was founded in 2020 by Leslie Sutter after her son was sent to prison at 20 years old. Its goal is to help families support each other and find resources for their loved ones once they’re released from prison. POISD is partnering with a consulting firm that recognizes formerly incarcerated individuals’ potential as entrepreneurs in that they have less fear of failure, they’re familiar with taking risks, and they understand the stakes are high. That firm is teaching business planning skills amongst other things. POISD also is partnering with Woodbury-based Anytime Fitness, which is providing one-month free membership to just-released individuals. MORE

Dozens of Solar Co-ops are Forming/Banding Together to Improve Affordability

Washingtong, D.C.-based Solar United Neighbors is setting up and banding together solar co-ops in 12 states, including in Minnesota, where 13 co-ops have already been formed. The organization also is recruiting for new co-ops in Duluth, the Arrowhead Region and the Iron Range. Such co-ops are able to use their purchasing power to get better prices from solar installers and fundraise for member who otherwise cannot afford a solar array. Medium-sized arrays cost about $10,000. MORE

Tribes Fighting Oil Pipelines Receive a Boost Toward Using Electric Vehicles

An initiative to expand access to electric vehicles for Midwest native American tribes has received $6.7 million in federal funding to build out electric vehicle infrastructure in the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota and the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, according to a report published by the Bemidji Pioneer. Verbatim: “The joint grant went to the Standing Rock Renewable Energy Authority (SAGE) and Minneapolis-based Native Sun Community Power Development to install more than 120 new electric vehicle charging stations to help link the tribal communities, which are separated by about 475 miles. The project also will provide at least 19 electric vehicles (EVs) to schools, casinos, utilities and the Standing Rock and Red Lake tribal governments, and host dozens of educational events over its three-year funding period.” MORE

Forum Communications Acquires More Media Outlets

Fargo-based Forum Communications plans to acquire that city’s FOX television affiliate as well as Duluth-based KQDS. Forum is a family-owned media company with broadcast, print and digital news assets as well as commercial printing operations. It has more than 35 news, niche and broadcasting media brands across Minnesota, (including the Duluth Tribune), North Dakota and South Dakota. MORE

Group Seeks More Rail Service in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana

The Great Northwest Passenger Rail Coalition is asking the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration to formally look into restoring and providing new passenger rail service in the upper Midwest and Northwest. One goal is to bring back the North Coast Hiawatha route, which would join routes from and to Chicago and Seattle. MORE

Mankato State Receives $942,796 Grant to Help Disadvantaged Small Businesses

Minnesota Mankato State University’s Strategic Partnerships Center received the funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration to serve as a hub working with five community partners to provide outreach, education and technical assistance to disadvantaged small businesses, primarily micro and rural businesses in the food and agriculture sector. These funds are part of the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program designed to reduce barriers for small businesses seeking to access government resources. Mankato State is one of two grantees in Minnesota among 51 nationwide grant recipients. The other grantee from Minnesota is the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce in Bloomington. MORE