BITN – February 2022

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.

Funding Bolsters Already Bright Future for Software Company

Minneapolis-based Traction Capital has invested $500,000 into ControlBright, a Hermantown, Minn.-based industrial control software company enabling remote access to lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and alarm and automation systems using a 4G LTE device linked to the cloud to allow technicians to perform maintenance and services remotely. The funding will be used to increase hiring, production and sales. ControlBright says its remote access portal clients include Walmart, Walgreens, Home Depot, Tesla and most major U.S. airports. MORE

Red Cow Advances Expansion to Rochester

Recently submitted City of Rochester, Minn., building permits include those for award-winning restaurant company Red Cow of Minneapolis, which plans to develop a 6,000-square-foot restaurant in Rochester at a cost estimated at $1.4 million. With four locations in the Twin Cities, Rochester will mark the first time Red Cow is opening a restaurant outside the metro area. Initial plans were disclosed in July 2021, with hopes of being open by this month. MORE

How TikTok Helped Save a Business

Jeremy Littel runs a small business called Kickass Beef Jerky in Winona, Minn., and began posting fun videos on TikTok about two years ago. After the pandemic hit, orders for his beef jerky plummeted. He mentioned this to his then 1 million TikTok followers and within three days, had 2,000 orders. Little estimates his business has grown five-fold since then. He also now has nearly 13 million followers on TikTok. MORE

Business Conditions Index Dips

A loss of manufacturing jobs combined with other factors to slow growth in the regional economy of nine Midwest and Plains states during January, according to Creighton University's monthly Mid-America Business Conditions survey. Business leaders polled also cited continued supply chain problems and growing inflation as reasons why growth slowed. The overall index for January fell to 56.2 from December’s 64.6. Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. MORE

“Brewtel” Almost Ready in Duluth

Lake Superior Brewing Co. continues to build out a hybrid concept in Duluth where 2,000 square feet of its 7,000-square-foot brewing facility will consist of one studio and one two-bedroom apartments. The brewery is still at least four months away from opening but requests are already coming in to rent the apartments, according to its owners. They also own a two-bedroom vacation rental home behind the brewery. MORE

$155 Million in Public Funding Invested In Destination Medical Center Thus Far

Slightly more than a quarter of the $585 million in public funding anticipated for Rochester’s Destination Medical Center district (DMC) has been allocated or spent thus far. The City of Rochester has led the way, providing $73 million within the first six years of this 20-year project. The state is expected to provide $411 million; it has pitched in $68.4 million. On the private funding front, the state says it certified $1.1 billion in private DMC investments through 2020. MORE

US Bank Stadium Manager Now to Manage Bemidji’s Sanford Center

The Bemidji City Council has agreed to enter a contract through which ASM Global will manage the city’s Sanford Center. The job was previously done by VenuWorks, which will vacate the center in March. The move follows years of leadership turnover and annual losses averaging $300,000 a year. ASM Global is the world’s largest venue manager and also manages US Bank Stadium and the Target Center. Sanford Center provides an arena and convention center for hocky games, concerts, expos, rodeos and graduation ceremonies. It’s also home to the men’s and women’s Bemidji State University Beaver hocky teams. MORE

Want Your Company’s Name on a Sports Complex?

The City of St. Cloud, Minn., is considering hiring Victoria, Minn.-based Front Burner Sports and Entertainment to sell the naming rights to the city’s Municipal Athletic Complex. The move follows receipt in 2020 of $10 million in state bonding dollars to help renovate the facility, where more than 200 sporting events take place each year. Recently, Front Burner helped Elk River acquire seven sponsorships for its ice arena, Rochester to get three partnerships for its arena, and set up a 15-year partnership for a sports center in Ramsey County. MORE

Cirrus Seeks $1.2 Million in Tax Abatements

In return for expanding in the Duluth area, Cirrus Aircraft is requesting St. Louis County and the City of Duluth to each forgo $600,000 a year in tax revenues over the next 10 years. Over this period, Cirrus expects to triple its production output in the area, creating at least 80 additional jobs and bringing its total area workforce to 1,286 as it expands into a maintenance and repair facility originally built for Northwest Airlines. Cirrus is already Duluth’s largest manufacturer. The company also is looking to purchase an incubator building it occupies and eventually invest about $25 million into expanding its headquarters campus. MORE

Marten Transport Reports Record Year

Mondovi, Wis.-based Marten Transport says it just brought in its highest operating profit in the company’s 76-year history. In turn, fourth quarter net income came in at $24.7 million, 26% higher than in the same period one year earlier. Annual net income came in at $85.4 million, 23 percent higher than in the previous year. Annual revenue was $974 million. Marten Transport is publicly traded on NASDAQ and provides time- and temperature-sensitive transportation services. It ranks as the nation’s 42nd largest for-hire trucking company. MORE

Century Old Bismarck Trucking Company Sold for $150 Million

Midwest Motor Express of Bismarck, N.D., was recently sold for $150 million to Phoenix-based Knight-Swift, a publicly traded carrier listed on the NYSE. Midwest plans to continue to operate from its Bismarck headquarters under the same name. Its sister company, Midnite Express, will do the same from its Fargo location. Midwest began in 1918 as a stable of horses and a fleet of wagons that delivered coal, gravel, freight and cream. Today its 800 employees and 446 trucks provide freight service for clients whose orders are less than full loads throughout the Upper Midwest and the Northwest. Knight-Swift operates 20,000 trucks and serves mostly the truckload sector. MORE

Entrepreneur Center Opens in Park Rapids

Heartland Lakes Development Commission (HLDC) recently opened “The Hanger” in Park Rapids, Minn., providing entrepreneurs with access to office space and equipment. Funding for the center came from Industries of Park Rapids and Sanford of Bemidji. It aims to serve entrepreneurs just getting started, small business owners who need to create a report or have somewhere to meet a prospect or client, and remote workers needing to get out of their homes for meetings or just to bounce ideas off others. Costs run from $20 for a day pass to $250 for a month’s worth of unlimited access and $30 worth of printing. The Hanger occupies one part of a building; the second part is occupied by HLDC, which provides free resources to business owners and entrepreneurs. MORE

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Ranks #1 for Online MBA, Master’s Programs

Saint Mary’s University is Minnesota’s best provider of online MBA and business master’s programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. It came in 191st in U.S. News’ 2022 “Best Online MBA Programs” category and is the top Minnesota school listed. It also ranked number 103rd in the “Business, Non-MBA Master's” category and #1 in Minnesota. The university’s undergraduate college campus is in Winona, Minn., and most of its MBA and graduate programs are provided via its Minneapolis campus. [Full disclosure: the author of this article served on the university’s Graduate and Professional Programs’ Council of Regents for eight years through 2020.] MORE

Petro Pump & Meter Service Acquires Stewartville Facility

Hopkins, Minn.-based Pump & Meter Service Inc. has acquired a 19,400- square-foot Stewartville, Minn., industrial facility for $1.2 million. The office and warehouse building is home to Rochester Petroleum Equipment, which Pump & Meter acquired in 2020. Stewartville is located just south of Rochester, Minn., on I-90. Pump & Meter also has locations in Bemidji, Duluth and Chippewa Falls, Wis. MORE

300 Grants Provided to Central Minnesota Organizations

A total of $2.6 million was awarded through 300 grants during the fourth quarter of 2021 by the Initiative Foundation of Little Falls, Minn. The nonprofit seeks to improve the quality of life and to build stronger communities in 14 Central Minnesota counties by offering business loans, nonprofit grants, leadership training, and donor services. MORE