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Local view: When entrepreneurs thrive, our communities will thrive

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and living in the Northland.

If you had any doubt, take a look at the companies that will be honored today at the 22nd annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards. The list of 42 nominees in five categories is impressive. It includes a butcher, an accounting firm, an art-glass studio and a women’s health and birth center.

All are in Northeastern Minnesota. All are businesses operated by our friends and neighbors. All are companies that involve significant risk-

taking, difficult decision-making and lots of patience and persistence.

The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in our region. It will keep us strong, but only if we support it. That’s why Park State Bank is a longtime sponsor of the Labovitz Awards. Entrepreneurs in our region put everything on the line every day with their businesses. We need to honor their efforts by buying their products and services.

I’m pleased to say I see more entrepreneurial spirit now than I have in a long time in the Northland. Young people especially are stepping out and starting up companies in a place they want to call home — our community. But it’s never easy. The hurdles can seem never-ending. The nights can be sleepless. And the capital can become elusive.

Remember that we are just a few years removed from the last economic downturn. Many of the businesses that will be honored today started in the teeth of the Great Recession. Everyone believed his or her company would make it. Many firms did not. Every day is a new adventure and a new risk for an entrepreneurial business owner. Just ask one. The rewards are not just financial.

In my business, I have the pleasure of working with many local entrepreneurs. It’s an honor to be part of their dreams and to help make those dreams realities.

Entrepreneurs put everything they have on the line. They believe so much in their products or services that they often pledge all their assets to come up with the money to launch their businesses, to keep them going and to make the next payroll.

That devotion doesn’t cease after a few months or years. The life of an entrepreneur brings a sense of accomplishment constantly blended with uncertainty and anxiety. Yet they somehow put away the fears to focus on the business. For most, that means all of the business, including the bookkeeping, the technology and sweeping the floors. It’s true that entrepreneurs get to set their own hours — up before dawn and well into the night.

So what can we do to support entrepreneurs? It’s wonderful that for 22 years the University of Minnesota Duluth and its Center for Economic Development have honored entrepreneurs with the Labovitz Awards. They are named for Joel Labovitz, who helped grow Maurice’s from a single-location store in downtown Duluth founded by his father to the company that now operates more than 800 women’s clothing stores nationwide.

The recognition that comes from a Labovitz Award or nomination is nice. But more important is the support all of us can show local entrepreneurs every day. Seek them out. Buy their products and use their services. The best award any entrepreneur can receive is the honor of your business.

Know, too, that doing business with local entrepreneurs is good for everyone’s business. Entrepreneurs give back from their profits to local charities and other good causes. It’s their town, too. They also spend their money on other local businesses, strengthening our local economy.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and living in the Northland. As we honor entrepreneurs today, let’s all remember to do what we can to keep their businesses strong all year long.

Dale Lewis is president and CEO of Park State Bank in Duluth. You can reach her at or at (218) 722-3500.

Handing out hardware

The 22nd annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards is at 11 a.m. today in the Harbor Side Ballroom at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. To read through the list of 42 nominees in five categories or for other information go to umdced.