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Biz Buzz for May 5, 2014


* Tracy Podpeskar was promoted to partner with the Trenti Law Firm in Virginia. Podpeskar focuses her practice on domestic relations including divorce, custody, adoption, paternity and modifications regarding parenting time, child support and maintenance. She holds a law degree from the William Mitchell College School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

* Praveen Aggarwal accepted the position of associate dean at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics after nearly two years as interim associate dean.

Aggarwal joined UMD in 1998 as an assistant professor of marketing. He earned his doctorate in marketing from Syracuse (N.Y.) University. He served as chairman of the marketing and management studies departments for seven years and authored more than 100 scholarly and trade publications.

Aggarwal also earned numerous teaching service and research awards, including the 2011 LSBE Faculty Service Excellence Award for exemplary academic, professional and community service and the 2007 Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.

* DSGW Architects announced the following hires:

Jarrid Houston was hired as a specification writer and cost estimator based in Duluth and will write specifications for projects managed there as well as at the offices in Virginia, Grand Rapids and Lake Elmo, Minn. With his background and education in construction management, Houston also will assist with the construction administration process. He has more than a decade of construction management and labor experience and holds a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Bemidji State University.

Matt Smith joined the firm as an architecture intern. He holds a master’s degree in architecture and a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from North Dakota State University in Fargo. Smith is working on the Y Store retail project on the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa reservation near Tower and also a drug and alcohol treatment center project in Virginia. He is based in the Virginia office.

Peter Stauduhar was hired as an architecture intern. He holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. He is  involved in a project that will transform the former Lincoln Park School in Duluth into apartments.

Jacob Zikmund joined the firm as an architecture intern. He holds a master’s degree in architecture and a bachelor’s degree in environmental design, both from North Dakota State University. Zikmund has two years of experience in the industry, having worked as a designer and an architectural project manager at firms in North Dakota and Colorado. He is working on a project to renovate and expand the Itasca County Family YMCA in Grand Rapids.

* Kory Schleif joined Architectural Resources Inc. as a project technician. He earned an associate degree in architectural construction technology and his education focused on learning about the construction industry along with becoming proficient with computer-aided drafting skills.

* The Northland Foundation announced Bradley Sandnas was hired as director of assisted living. Sandnas will oversee the foundation’s charitable initiative, Northland Assisted Living, which operates facilities in McGregor, Buhl and Hoyt Lakes. Sandnas holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of St. Scholastica and a nursing degree from Hibbing Community College.

* LHB Inc. announced the following hires in the Duluth office:

Jared Kemp joined as a mechanical lead in the industrial group. He is a mechanical engineer licensed in Minnesota with more than 18 years of design experience in project management, material handling, dust collection systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and piping systems, as well as commissioning in the mining and industrial mineral processing fields.

Spencer Wilenius and  Amanda Isaacs were promoted to full-time technicians with the pipeline group. Both joined LHB in 2013 as computer-aided design interns.

  Matt Turner and Jacob Lepisto were promoted to full-time intermediate survey crew chiefs with the public works group. Turner joined LHB in 2013 as a survey technician. Lepisto spent two summers working on LHB survey crews since 2012.

Jeffrey Smith and Lee Carson joined as survey technicians for the public works group.

* Hilary Hodgman and Matt Hodge joined Wells Fargo Home Mortgage as mortgage consultants.

Hodgman has 21 years of experience in the financial industry, including 11 with Wells Fargo. She is an ambassador with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and serves as board chairwoman for the Duluth Edison Charter School’s Legacy Foundation.

Previously, Hodge was a banker with Wells Fargo for more than two years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the College of St. Scholastica.


* Jo Ann Hoag, president and CEO of Lake View Hospital and St. Luke’s vice president of regional development, was honored for her leadership excellence in the health care industry by Women’s Health Leadership TRUST during the TRUST’s April 29 forum and dinner in Minneapolis.

Hoag has been with St. Luke’s for 39 years. She was named interim president of Lake View in 2012 and officially named to the position in 2013. She  chairs the Health Share and Kitchi Gammi Club boards and is a member of the Wilderness Health Collaborative Executive Committee and Apex.

Hoag received her registered nurse diploma from St. Luke’s School of Nursing, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and her master’s degree from the

College of St. Scholastica.

* Andrew Wheeler, an independent financial adviser affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Network and a partner at Wheeler Associates in

Duluth, achieved Commonwealth President’s Club status for the third straight year in 2014. This distinction recognizes the top 7 percent of successful financial advisers among Commonwealth’s network of 1,487 financial advisers.

* Lake Superior College’s Public Affairs and Advancement Department received three Paragon Awards from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations during its national conference. The awards recognized LSC’s single print ad, computer generated illustration and e-card creative work.

NCMPR’s Paragon Awards recognize outstanding achievement in communications at community and technical colleges.

*Dr. Michael Zakula received the Minnesota Dental Association’s 2014 Guest of Honor Award during the MDA’s Star of the North Meeting in St. Paul.

Zakula operates MZ Orthodontics in Hibbing and earned his dental surgery degree from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. His long-term dedication to organized dentistry includes serving as president of the Minnesota Dental Association and the Northeastern District Dental Society; chairman of the State Dental Education Committee; a delegate to the American Dental Association House of Delegates; executive board member of the Minnesota Association of Orthodontics; chairman of the Minnesota Chapter of the American College of Dentists; and chairman of the Hibbing Community College Dental Assisting Advisory Board.

* A.G. Thomson House Bed and Breakfast in Duluth was one of six Minnesota destinations named to the 2014 Midwest Living Magazine Bucket List.

* Overhead Door Co. of Duluth, owned by Overhead Door Co. of Hibbing, won the Eagle Award for 2013, awarded by Overhead Door Corp. The Eagle Award represents the “Best of the Best” Overhead Door dealers.

* The Radio Television Digital News Association honored WDIO/WIRT-DT with a regional 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence. The award is based on the quality of the station’s newscast as well as examples of other journalism that “reflects the depth and scope of the news organization.”

In addition to its newscast, WDIO was judged on reporting examples including hard news, breaking news, series reporting, live coverage, feature reporting, sports stories and the station’s website. This is WDIO/WIRT’s ninth Murrow Award in the past 11 years in the Small Market Station category.

Regional winners move on to a national round of judging. National Edward R. Murrow Award winners will be announced in June and will be presented their awards in New York City in October.

* GPM Inc., headquartered in Duluth, received three awards for performance in 2013 during the Flowserve Corp. distributor’s meeting in Jacksonville, Fla. In the top bookings category, GPM was the 10th-ranked Flowserve booking distributor and first in the West Chicago Service Center. GPM also was ranked third in the best percentage increase in bookings category. On hand to accept the awards for GPM were Bob Gemuenden, GPM vice president of sales, industrial products and solutions, Jonathon Urbach and Jason Kroll.


* Dr. Mustafa al’Absi, a University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School professor, was named president-elect of the American Psychosomatic Society. The American Psychosomatic Society is dedicated to promoting and advancing the scientific understanding and integration of biological, psychological and social factors in medicine.

New Ownership

* Bixby’s Café announced Pat Heffernan, Andy Wheeler, Ryan Boman and Ben Norton recently became the new owners of the restaurant at the Mount Royal Center, 1608 Woodland Ave., Duluth. The phone number is (218) 724-8444 and you can find them on Facebook at


* Dr. Laura Jonker is now practicing at Jonker Chiropractic SC in Duluth. Most recently, Jonker was at Lake Superior Chiropractic Office in Superior. She holds a certification from the Academy of Chiropractic Family Practice and specializes in prenatal, postnatal and pediatric care.

Jonker Chiropractic is in the lower level of the Morning Star Women’s Health and Birth Center at 1730 E. Superior St. The phone number is (218) 269-1124 and the website is

* Kristina Polzin opened Superior Being Acupuncture and Wellness in Suite 2 at 1730 E. Superior St., Duluth.

She is a licensed acupuncturist in Minnesota and board-certified in acupuncture and Oriental medicine by the National  Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The phone number is (218) 461-8611 and the website is

* Jake Boyce and Matti Erpestad recently opened Day Tripper of Duluth, a business offering guided outdoor experiences by foot, bike, canoe, kayak, ski, snowshoe and stand-up paddle board in the greater Duluth area. Catering both to local residents and visiting tourists, Day Tripper of Duluth arranges opportunities for its participants to enjoy being active outdoors year-round. The phone number is (218) 590-9735 and the website is

Expanded Service * Doucette’s Tool Rental, a division of Doucette’s Special Events Rental, is officially open today at 3931 E. Calvary Road in Duluth. The Doucette’s branch carries a variety of tools available for renting. The phone number is (218) 728-3858 and the website is

Biz Buzz is a collection of business news tidbits from around the region. Send your business openings or closings, personnel changes or other news of interest in the business community to Biz Buzz, Duluth News Tribune, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802, e-mail, or fax (218) 720-4120. The deadline for submissions is noon Friday.