Brooks is the business reporter at the Duluth News Tribune.
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What could one day be a ubiquitous product in freezers across the land got its first vote of confidence on a stage at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Monday. Nathan Lipinski won the school's second annual Shark Tank Entrepreneurship Competition — and its $1,500 top prize — with his Freezer Friend invention, a simple indicator meant to warn users if a freezer has malfunctioned. "It's a super-easy, cost-effective solution to a major problem," Lipinski said to the five judges and the few dozen students, faculty and others in the audience.
The Number: 37
After years of designing some well-known spaces in the Twin Ports, TKDA decided it was time to design a new space of its own here. The architecture firm has expanded to a new Duluth office and doubled its staff at the Technology Village downtown. "We realize for us to be successful up here, we need people on the ground, in an office here," said TKDA CEO Bill Deitner, who is based out of the company's St. Paul headquarters. "What this gives us is the capability to grow."
The Northland's short growing seasons mean brief farmers market seasons. Well, at least they used to. Market Day: Something Local is providing a space for makers and growers six days a week all through the year in a new brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Duluth. What started as a holiday pop-up in the Holiday Center hosting local handmade goods has put down roots across the street. "Artisans, makers, food providers in one shop — people loved it," said co-owner Lanae Rhoads. "We thought maybe we should try this permanently?"
When the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards were born a quarter-century ago, small business seemed like nobody's business. "People were paying attention only to mining, shipping — the very large industrial organizations," Joel Labovitz said last week. "Nobody paid much attention to individuals who tried hard to create things." Labovitz wanted to change that, so he did, following the creed that today still defines the entrepreneurial awards: "Nothing happens except for the initiative of a single individual."
For most businesses, simply surviving is success enough. Half won't make it five years, says the Small Business Administration, and the first few years see the most casualties. For the chosen few entrepreneurs who will grace the stage in the Lake Superior Ballroom on Wednesday, success means so much more.
The downtown Duluth building that for 131 years housed Bagley & Co. has been sold, and the new owner has big plans for the space. Bagley's, which was the oldest jewelry store in Duluth and resided in the same downtown storefront since 1885, closed last year after fourth-generation owner Rick Heimbach decided to retire. Now, Kevin Kuklis, a Hermantown native who is a real estate developer in Houston, plans to turn part of the building at 313-17 W. Superior St. into a co-working space and possibly bring in a coffee shop or fast-casual eatery.
The Minnesota Trade Office, the liaison between state exporters and the world, has a new executive director. Gabrielle Gerbaud, a former Polaris Industries manager, will take over for Kathleen Motzenbecker, the Department of Employment and Economic Development announced Monday.
Enbridge calls it "the largest project in our history." State officials say it "presents significant issues." Opponents have said it could "desecrate our lands, violate our treaty rights or poison our water." Another oil pipeline fight is heating up. Enbridge is seeking Minnesota's approval to build a new pipeline to replace its aging Line 3, which would expand capacity and carve a new path for pipelines across the state. Before that can happen, the project is going under the microscope of an environmental review.
The Number: $906,782 That's how much money Spirit Mountain hopes to pull in from season passes in its upcoming fiscal year. That would be a 7 percent jump from this past season, but already the mountain is seeing a 5 percent bump in early-bird buyers. Early forecasts from the National Weather Service say winter should be about normal, which should help, but Spirit Mountain is also looking for a sunny summer to make nearly $600,000 from weddings and banquets too. Perfect weather, in any season, equals profit for the city's slopes.