Greater MSP Annual Meeting

This event brings together the region’s leaders of industry each year to celebrate the successes of the past year and set out goals for the future.
This year’s meeting was held at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN and led by the Chairman of the Board, Richard Davis and CEO, Michael Langley.  Guest speakers included newly elected mayor’s of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter as well as representatives from big businesses and entrepreneurs.  Entertainment was provided by members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
The theme focused on one very important topic: the region’s economic future.  I couldn’t agree more…a bold vision, alignment, a plan, and communication are needed for region. There were areas of regional growth (the number of airlines increasing) and decline (Fortune companies and workers leaving) shared. This is a region rich with assets. What we do with them in the very near future will be a key indicator of Minnesota’s future. I will be tracking the outcomes of upcoming meetings and looking for the action and new partnerships that come out of this vision.

International Water Technology Summit

The 4th Annual Water Technology Summit was held on at the Metropolitan Club in Target Field Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. A cool glass of water. It’s what some take for granted and others die for.  While dramatic, unfortunately true.  When those in the water industry get together, the opportunities for impact are many. Below are some of the key issues related to water resources and drivers of the agenda for this year’s summit:
  • Declining availability
  • Increasing demand
  • Declining water quality
  • Inadequate infrastructure
The water technology topics discussed ranged from water reuse, global water opportunities, and smart water technology. This agenda was developed by leaders in the industry including:  Ecolab, Dow Water and Process Solutions, Pentair, Tonak Water, Aeration Industries, Wenck, Faegre Baker Daniels, University of Minnesota, Greater MSP, The MN Trade Office, the U.S. Commercial Service, The Metropolitan Council, U.S. Water, Summit Envirosolutions, Cartwright Consulting and Lenz Consulting.
Keynote presentations were delivered by:
  • Ken Thompson, Global Practice Lead Smart Cities/Smart Sensors and President SWAN Council
  • John Stauch, CFO, Pentair
Specific panel topics included:
  • Water Reuse Panels:  Taking reuse mainstream:  state and industry perspectives
  • U.S Commercial Service:  Global opportunities in water
  • Smart Water Panel:  Intelligent business methodologies to modernize innovation in water
  • University of Minnesota student lightning rounds
Networking was also an important part of the event. I engaged in a variety of interesting conversations with attendees including several of the international presenters, the President of the Finnish American Chamber, a representative the UK Consul, and the President of Uponor North America. This growing network is focused on continuous learning and is driving to create solutions in this critical area.


8:30 am – 9:00 am: Registration & Networking
9:00 am – 10:30 am: Water Reuse Panels: Taking reuse mainstream: state and industry perspectives 
Everyone likes reuse, so how do we get more of it here? Our multi-agency panel shares the results of their 2+ year effort to find opportunities and barriers in Minnesota law and their next steps. Industry representatives have a great deal of experience in areas further along the learning curve and can help us understand the business case challenges their customers to consider and the solutions they’ve implemented to meet these challenges.
  • Steve Woods,Executive Director, Freshwater Society
  • Rebecca J. Flood, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Paul Allwood, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health
  • Kelly Lange-Haider, Dow Water and Process Solutions
  • Blake Schomas,Director of Marketing – Total Plant Assessments
  • Nalco Water, an Ecolab company
11:00 am – 11:45 am: U.S. Commercial Service:  Global Opportunities in Water
  • Monica McFarlane Scott, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service Minnesota
Presentations by:
  • China: Aimee Jia,Commercial Assistant U.S. Consulate Guangzhou
  • China: Shiqiao (Sophia) Chen,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Shanghai
  • Philippines: Bebe Montesines,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy Philippines
  • Singapore: Chan Yiu Kei,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy Singapore
  • India: Arup Mitra,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Kolkata
  • New Zealand: Dhiraj Mani,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Auckland
  • Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Shajaddin,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Dhahran
  • South Africa: Mohammed Essay,Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Johannesburg
  • Brazil: Teresa Wagner,Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Consulate Sao Paulo
12:00 pm – 12:45 pm: Lunch Keynote
  • Ken Thompson, Global Practice Lead Smart Cities/Smart Sensors and President SWAN Council
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Smart Water Panel: Intelligent business methodologies to modernize innovation in water
As technology development in the water industry continues to advance at an ever faster pace, business innovation is often left behind, struggling to keep up, creating an innovation gap. Companies are feeling the disruptive pressure to adapt to this change in pace and are exploring new ways to develop business agility through creative investing, strategic partnerships and ecosystem alignment. In this panel session, 3M, Uponor, and Toro will share how they are bridging the innovation gap between technology and business through differentiated business models and methodologies.
  • Jen Nowlin, Principal, Accredent


  • Bill Gray, CEO, Uponor North America
  • Sunidh Jani, Manager, 3M Ventures
  • Dana Lonn, Managing Director, Center for Technology, The Toro Company
2:00 pm – 2:15 pm: University of Minnesota Student Lightning Rounds
  • Paige Novak: Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in Environmental Engineering, Co-Director, MnDRIVE: Environment
Student Speakers:
  • Xue Zhen
  • Michael Schwab
  • Jovan Popovic
  • David Goldfeld
  • Hanna Miller
2:30 pm – 3:15 pm: Afternoon Keynote
  • John Stauch, CFO, Pentair
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Networking Reception

Destination Medical Center – Rochester Real Estate Development & Investment Summit

Zumbro River in Rochester, MN

DESTINATION MEDICAL CENTER.  The sun was shining as we strolled along the Zumbro River in Rochester, MN on this beautiful day in May. I was part of a small group on walking tour hosted by the Rochester Destination Medical Center (DMC). Over 200 real estate and economic development professionals would come together within the next hour for the Real Estate Development & Investment Summit; however, I had the opportunity to start my day exploring the four DMC districts and learning about the businesses that were contributing to the growth of this vibrant city.

Each district (Downtown Waterfront, Discovery Square, Heart of the City and St. Mary’s Place) had its own unique characteristics with a common theme of community.  We learned of the new buildings that will be built and the historic ones that were being preserved and repurposed. 

Rochester continues to find ways to welcome its numerous visitors and entertain its residents.  Outdoor concerts are prevalent all year round and this evening would be no exception.  The festivities celebrating the opening of the newly renovated Mayo Civic Center would include live music and fireworks.

By their own definition, “DMC is a unique 20-year economic development initiative.  The $5.6 billion plan is the largest in Minnesota history.”  Innovation is one of the nine key attributes of the city and Discovery Square is the “first-of-its-kind urban research campus, fostering innovation in the life science industry.”

Rochester’s focus on innovation is creating competitive advantages for the city, region and state.   The Summit highlighted DMC’s role in driving the economic growth through 18+ identified development projects and the impact on industries such as construction and finance as well as on entrepreneurs.  Rochester has many assets and their ability to focus is cultivating opportunities for residents, industry, and entrepreneurs.



The Summit began with a warm welcome from Mayor Brede and the agenda included:

12:05 PM State and Regional Market Forces and the Impact on the Rochester Real Estate Community
Doug Holtan, Chair, Department of Facilities and Support Services, Mayo Clinic
• Why Mayo Clinic will continue to grow as a World Health care destination and what will the future real estate needs be to support this
• Mayo Clinic’s Major Infrastructure Updates recently completed and what other updates need to happen to help continue the growth in Rochester
• How Mayo Clinic has become a regional power for business and commerce
• How the increased number of Mayo Clinic visitors has impacted the real estate market in Rochester

12:45 PM Rochester Attributes: Understanding the Rochester environment
Brad Jones, Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau
• Community Characteristics
• Community Profile
• Economic Profile
• Education/Transportation Profile

1:45 PM Destination Medical Center Plan: Game changer for Rochester
Lisa Clarke, Destination Medical Center, Economic Development Agency
• Why the emphasis on Destination Medical Center
• How did the market research inform the plan
• Land use plan and effects on downtown real estate market
• Financing tools for promoting growth
• Current State of the Market – Commercial & Residential Real Estate
• How will Discovery Square impact growth in Rochester

2:30 PM Destination Medical Center Progress and growing momentum
Jon Buggy, RSP Architects
Richard Freese, City of Rochester
Jeremy Jacobs, Mortenson
Patrick Seeb, Destination Medical Center, Economic Development Agency
• Case Study 1: How the plan is being used in private development and investment
• Case Study 2: How the plan is being used to redevelop key public spaces in the city
• Case Study 3: How the plan is being used to shape short- and long-term transit and transportation decisions

3:15 PM Rochester’s New Developments & Opportunities and the Impact to the community
• Developer Spotlights
• Construction Spotlights
• Organizational Partner Spotlights
• Entrepreneur Spotlights
• Capital/Finance Spotlights

4:00 PM Adjourn

4:00 – 5:30 PM Reception

5:30 PM Mayo Civic Center Ribbon Cutting

“The landscape of real estate and development in Rochester is changing,” says Patrick Seeb, DMC’s director of economic development and placemaking. “People from around the world are now seeing the city as a viable place to start, grow, and expand a business.”

Innovation at Optum


Optum hosted the most recent Product Management and Development Association (PDMA) meeting. The event was well attended by product development and management practitioners, academics and service providers in a variety of industries and knowledge areas, including new product process, strategy innovation, market research, tools & metrics, organizational issues and portfolio management.

The evening began with a tour of the impressive Optum® Experience Center in Eden Prairie.  The high-tech space is used to highlighted the changing health care landscape while demonstrating new partner and customer-focused products and services. Some of the Center’s features included: (1)  a media wall using multi-touchscreen technology, (2) the Showcase, featuring 270-degree projected imagery and video, (3) an Optum Operations Center providing real-time access to Optum activity worldwide, and (4) a range of collaboration spaces.

Next, a panel of product development professionals shared the essential need for the convergence of product development and data analytics in order to improve the customer experience, and in turn, the acceptance and profitability of a new product in the marketplace.

The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) is a community of more than 2,000 members whose skills, expertise and experience power the most recognized and respected innovative companies in the world.  It specifically focuses on the unique set of integrated activities involved in the full lifecycle of product development and management, including innovation.

Target Startup Accelerator

One of the ways Target has chosen to pursue innovation is through the development of startups. This is a common strategy employed by companies looking to find the next technology, products and services to advance their initiatives and give them an competitive edge.  Accelerators by definition provide startups with mentorship, office space and often capital.
Today I had the opportunity to tour Target’s Startup Accelerator and meet Kirsten Nielson, director of innovation.  When asked why Target had chosen this path, reasons included:
  • Maintaining the pulse on retail innovations and innovators
  • Exposure to startups
  • An opportunity create the future of retail
Target selected Techstars Retail as their partner to drive the three-month intensive startup accelerator focused on bringing new technology, experiences, products, and solutions to retail. Techstars provides startup companies with funding, mentoring, office space, exposure and access to their worldwide network of entrepreneurs.  According to their website, this includes more than 2,700 investors, 1,200 alumni companies and 180 staff.
The Target Accelerator began in October when the application process opened.  In this case, Target cast a wide net.  They wanted to reach out to retail technology companies to see what they could attract.  Areas of particular interest were consumer products and consumer internet.  What they were not interested in selecting were companies just looking for distribution through Target.  The search efforts paid off with over 500 applications received from 45 countries.  The interview process ran from November to March and 10 companies were selected by June.  Companies that did make the cut, were provided feedback and in particular those that ranked 11-20.
The accelerator ran 13 weeks from June to September.  There are three phases of the program: (1) mentor and engagement feedback, (2) guidance on product and market fit and (3) preparation for fundraising.  Entrepreneurs were encouraged to share their biggest challenges so they can be connected to the right mentors.  Alignment of resources is a strategic priority.
The 8,000 square foot space dedicated to the accelerator initiative is located on the skyway level of 33 S 6th Street, connected to the Minneapolis City Center.  Work and meeting areas, internet and whiteboards are provided.
Atif Siddiqi shared the story of his company, Branch Messenger, and how he used the Target & Techstars program to build a business case. He leveraged the network to get feedback at every level at Target.  He then piloted his product in 10 Target stores to get key metrics.  Solving a problem for Target, they are now in 133 stores. Branch Messengers is an employee self-service platform that empowers hourly shift workers to manage their work lives in real-time and enterprises to instantly address staffing and operational needs at scale.
Speakers at this Product Development & Management Association (PDMA) sponsored event included:
  • Ryan Broshar, Techstars, managing director
  • Atif Siddiqi, Branch Messenger, founder and ceo
  • Kirstin Nielson, Target, director of innovation

Workforces That Can Integrate Insights


The newly hired CEO of a growing company recently shared that one of her key challenges is finding leadership talent.  She is specifically looking for executives that have the skill to use data and analytics to lead them into new areas. In getting to know her executive team, she asked a senior leader how he used data to report productivity and business metrics, collaborate with colleagues, support customers and engage the right partners.  This executive showed the CEO a PowerPoint that was periodically used to communicate with the executive board; however, it lacked key analytics and insights.  Further requests for a presentation utilizing standard integrated data have been unsuccessful.  Delivering this type of reporting has been a real struggle for this executive.  The CEO is concerned and believes the lack of this capability will impact the organization’s ability to be agile and make decisions.

What are the specific skills and competencies needed to lead in a data-driven culture?

How can companies find a workforce with this talent?

A recent Gallop article stated that “Companies that seek to generate meaningful business insights need to shift….to a culture capable of integrating insights into day-to-day business process and decision-making.” The article’s main focus is on the importance of ascertaining the right data that will inform business decisions and how it will be analyzed. But it also alludes to the enormous challenge companies are facing finding this critical workforce.

A key challenge is identifying the right talent which can create and work effectively in this culture. It is worth noting that this culture is transparent at its core; a freeing aspect compared to many closed organizations.  And the benefits can be astounding for both individuals and the company.  Individuals are empowered by improved access to information and an open, collaborative, and continuous-learning environment.  Companies become more focused as decisions are fact-based and priorities are better defined.

Areas to consider when searching for this critical workforce include:

  • Powerful connections.  Utilizing a revised definition of talent, companies can find currently underutilized, unidentified, hidden and combined members of the workforce.
    • Underutilized. Re-evaluate an existing workforce in new ways to find employees ready and willing to move into roles that advance the company’s ability to realize its competitive advantage.
    • Unidentified.  In addition, defining talent opens up the opportunity for leadership to tap into the connections they make at professional organizations, a non-profit fundraiser or a soccer game.  Finding talent becomes easier when the definition is clear.
    • Hidden.  This will also enable connections to the highly-skilled but hidden workforce of the experienced worker, who may or may not be currently traditionally employed, but has developed a wealth of leadership abilities throughout their career.  Their error is in not creating and communicating a robust personal brand and promoting their own abilities.  It is, however, a bigger mistake for companies not to know how to better identify it.
    • Combined.  Another commonly hidden resource is teams.  Often the answer is not in selecting one right new resource but in selecting several.  There is power in combining people’s strengths.
  • The definition of talent.  How a company defines talent is critical to its success. Does your company still evaluate leadership candidates based on achievements in a non-managerial role or tenure? By expanding the definition beyond experience and skills to include how people think, feel, and behave companies can find leaders with the capabilities needed to build teams, quickly assess data, think holistically and tell a great story.
  •  Values.  Companies need to  embrace a open and collaborative culture.  The goal being to attract and retain talent that have the ability to be these new types of leaders.  This environment brings new continuous knowledge and expertise to the leadership team.  This is essential in enabling the company to move into new markets, create new business models and expand partnerships.  The possibilities are endless as the ability for the company to invigorate its employees, engage with its business ecosystem and deliver to its customer’s increases. On the flip side, those that struggle to create this culture may also struggle to survive.
  • Partners.  Engaging partners in new ways can also open up possibilities.  I was recently meeting with a staffing agency that provides skilled talent to companies and also helps job seekers find rewarding positions where they can thrive.  As we spoke about the workforce trends and challenges they and/or their clients are seeing, four reinforcing themes emerged:
    • New jobs are surfacing that companies need filled to remain competitive.
    • The talent required is forward-thinking and focused on skills that help evaluate, consolidate, and communicate complicated information so the company can adapt and lead in competitive environments.
    • Staffing company models are often based on the efficiency of compartmentalizing talent based on past experience.
    • There are many leadership and advisory roles that are needed but not yet defined.

As the workforce needs of companies continue to expand and become more urgent, staffing agencies will need to meet this need.  To do this, they will need to be proactive and expertly extract and communicate job seeker’s essential talents to companies.

A company’s ability to compete will be based on its ability, or inability, to create a culture that embraces new types of leaders.  This highly sought after talent will bring the knowledge and expertise needed to enable data-driven decisions and in turn move companies into new spaces. Where will you find that talent? Will that talent thrive in your company’s culture?  How will your partners help you? Creating competitive advantage is time sensitive.  Today is a good day to get started.

The Caribou Coffee International Story


Caribou Coffee is an instantly recognizable brand in Minnesota and probably where you got your coffee this morning, but most are not aware of their significant international presence.

Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW) gathered at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis on October 26, 2016.  This month’s event featured the following key members of Caribou’s International Team:  Darren Miles, Vice President International; Miah Boerner, International Operations Business Manager; and Angela Moccia, International Franchise Design Manager.  They highlighted their global real estate story, focusing on the unique challenges associated with design, supply chain management, and marketing their brand in the Middle East and Asia.

International expansion has provided the team with many challenges and opportunities for learnings.  Challenges have included assuming systems that worked well in the US would work as well in other areas.   As the guest experience is paramount, areas that were noted as core included branding and platform products.  Store design and the addition of local products were areas that were adaptable.  Most unique local product – cupcakes in shakes!

Every country is unique and they learned that domestic playbook just doesn’t work.  Letting the local team lead, has been the best approach.  This has been specifically evident in the site selection process as the criteria has varied widely.  One example, terraces have been critical to store’s success in certain regions.

Caribou has about 260 store internationally.  Ms. Boerner shared that Caribou has made a very deliberate move to use better (natural) ingredients.   Just try to imagine the challenges related to food labeling and specifically, needing to label all products in native languages.

Supply chain considerations are critical to running an efficient and economical business.  They shared stories of the importance of proactively coordinating promotions with the supply chain team to ensure the products could be sourced, shipped and delivered on time.

While the time went quickly, I would have liked to learn more about how they encourage internal innovation as well as how they collaborate within their industry.  When asked what they are they famous for, Mr. Miles stated, “Caribou Coffee is deliberate about creating an experience and being agile.”  These key attributes seem to be serving them (and their customers) well.


Competitive Strategies, Ecosystem Engagement, Capability Development, Decision Support