Creating jobs and generating economic development have been on the minds of many public officials in northeastern Minnesota, and a recent look at a Minnesota demography database reveals that economic conditions in this region remain challenging, despite efforts to create more jobs.
Keith Polister isn’t an old dog, but he is learning some new tricks. After a career in the film and printing businesses, in 2006 Keith purchased two businesses—Arrow Embroidery and Photo Express—that aligned with those professional interests. In the past 10 years, a lot has changed.
“The technology changes in the photo industry and garment industry have really been game changers for me,” said Polister. “I bought these two businesses housed in the same building on a contract for deed, which made it real easy for me to get started.
For anyone concerned with maintaining information technology network security, a recent report from Verizon on data breaches is not good news. In a story published by the Information Security Media Group, the new Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations report notes that phishing attacks have become more successful. Malware continued to be the dominant way that organizations got hacked. The number of ransomware infections increased. And organizations continued to get exploited via vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure that were months or sometimes even years old.
It began with an early morning phone call and instant fear for the technology director of Horry County, South Carolina's school district. Computer servers were acting unusual, and Charles Hucks listened as his administrators described frozen computers and a cryptic message spreading across computer screens.
Hucks raced to shut down the system before the unidentified virus could spread, but in minutes, up to 60% of the school district's computers were frozen. Hackers had encrypted the school's data, and that cryptic message was a ransom note.
The UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) announces that 52 businesses have been nominated to receive honors during the 24th Annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards program, which recognizes entrepreneurs and business owners from throughout the Twin Ports and Northeastern Minnesota. Award categories include Micro Entrepreneur, Emerging Entrepreneur, Established Entrepreneur, Mature Entrepreneur and Environmentally Engaged Entrepreneur.
Rick Harding has an interesting office vantage point. Looking through the south-facing window in his office on the second floor of the Northbank Professional Building, he can see the Mississippi River flowing serenely (at this time of year, anyway) past his building, the library and the KAXE studio.
By the end of February, many northern Minnesota residents are infected. Although bouts of flu come and go, the infection in late February is often related to “cabin fever,” an “unhappy and impatient feeling” that comes from being indoors for too long. For some people, dreaming and planning home or cabin construction projects for the coming season is a relief for that pent-up feeling.
As attentively as any doctor listens to a patient describe their ailments, Mike McLynn carefully nods and takes notes as a woman reads from her notes about the issues with her vehicle.
“Now I’m talking about the fan under the hood, not the fan blowing heat in the car,” the customer says.
“Yes, I understand,” replies Mike calmly. “It sounds like it might be a thermostat that needs replacing,” he adds after hearing a few other symptoms the customer has noted on her carefully-prepared list.
Jessica Tunbridge was hired at Grand Rapids State Bank on January 19, 2016, as a part-time teller. She follows in her mom’s footsteps, Tracy Tunbridge, who also worked at GRSB in the Item Processing Department a few years back. Jessica stated, “It was my mom, in fact, who urged me to apply for the teller position.” Jessica is happy she followed that advice.
Phishing campaigns, which are the gateway to many data breaches, are becoming far more sophisticated as fraudsters use information available on social media to target their schemes, says Jim Hansen, chief operating officer at online security firm PhishMe.
As a result, organizations in all sectors need to educate staff about how to recognize these increasingly deceptive schemes and take steps to ensure they have simple processes in place for immediately reporting suspicious emails, he says.
Despite headline-grabbing data breaches that have proven costly to organizations in many sectors, the purchase of cyber-insurance to cover potential costs remains relatively rare.
Cyber-insurance policies vary widely, but they often cover notification expenses, credit-monitoring services, and, in many cases, legal defense costs and even government penalties.
There is no sure-fire, foolproof path to starting a new business. Eric Wourms knows that. He started up Rides, LLC in June 2013, a one-stop shop for auto accessories. This is his second foray into the auto accessories business after working at Car Tunes and Alarms, another former Grand Rapids-based car accessories company for 14 years.
“I don’t like to sit still,” explained Eric. “We strive to create happy customers since they seem to be the best advertising we can buy.”
Hackers use phishing and other social engineering tactics to target organizations with legitimate-looking e-mails and social media messages that trick users into providing confidential data, such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, account numbers or passwords. These attacks are at the heart of many of today’s most serious cyberhacks and can put your business and your customers at risk. With a few basics and ongoing vigilance, businesses can be aware and defend against these attacks.
Cierra Moehling smiles readily. Her smiling demeanor is an asset in her new job as a teller at Grand Rapids State Bank. And if you believe that you get what you give in life, then she’s receiving that friendliness back from coworkers and customers.
“What I really like about Grand Rapids State Bank is how friendly everyone is,” said Cierra. “I started working here on September 28, and I haven’t changed my opinion about that. My boss is also very understanding of my family situation, which makes working here a lot easier.”
“I am the complaint department!” That phrase summarizes a big portion of Andy MacDonell’s job as president and owner of Itasca Utilities. “Actually, I have several titles depending on what day it is.”
Andy is a second generation business owner. His father, Randy, formed the business in 1976 with partner Irv Biersdorf. Randy Mac, as he is known, became the sole owner in 1986. Andy began working in the business part-time during the summer after his junior year in high school. He attended Itasca Community College and UMD before returning to the business sooner than expected.
Cyberattacks aren’t limited to just data breaches these days—there are a litany of prevalent cyber risks threatening banks. To help illustrate the extent to which community banks go to be sure customer data is secure, reprinted below with permission is a checklist for financial institutions provided by the company Grand Rapids State Bank uses for “managed security.” Data breaches like those affecting Visa cards used at Target stores around the country are getting the most attention, but banks face many kinds of cyber risk.
Grand Rapids State Bank occasionally participates with other community banks to help fund loans that one bank on its own cannot or chooses not to finance alone. Earlier this year GRSB agreed to work with the North Shore Bank of Commerce (Duluth) to finance a new ski lift at Lutsen Mountain, a popular winter skiing operation 90 miles northeast of Duluth and 20 miles south of Grand Marais.
All small-business owners need a little financial help to run and grow their enterprises at some point, whether it's to hire more employees, buy new equipment or market a recently launched product.
But how to meet these ongoing capital requirements — with a business credit card, term loan or line of credit — can be confusing.
Credit cards: easier approval, perks and flexibility at a cost
Home is a place where one lives with total freedom and independence. For the frail elderly, aging takes away much of this independence, especially when one is no longer able to live alone.
When managing your network, developing an app, or even organizing paper files, sound security is no accident. Companies that consider security from the start assess their options and make reasonable choices based on the nature of their business and the sensitivity of the information involved. Threats to data may transform over time, but the fundamentals of sound security remain constant.
The Grand Rapids Entrepreneurism Task Force was convened in the summer of 2014 around the belief that for a sustainable future, Grand Rapids needs to establish a culture that fosters entrepreneurs of all ages. The group participated in a training activity in November 2014 sponsored by the Blandin Foundation. In March 2015, the Task Force organized an open “World Café” meeting to solicit public input about three questions:
The Fraboni name on the Iron Range is synonymous with flavorful meat. Of course, the Fraboni business name conjures up other things for other people. As you listen to Mark Thune, president of Fraboni’s Wholesale Distributing, you understand there is a lot more to this Hibbing-based business than tasty sausages, hams and other delicacies.
Sammy (Samantha) Swanson was hired on June 1 as a marketing intern. Julie Birkey, her manager, explained that her primary role for the summer would be staffing the GRSB payments booth at the Farmers Market. As it turns out, however, Sammy contributed far more than expected during what turned out to be a very busy summer.
The belief that small businesses face less risk from hackers is not only false but dangerous, according to Kaspersky Lab, the world’s largest privately-held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. Cyber-criminals often target small businesses expressly because small businesses generally pay insufficient attention to data protection.
Heidi and Gene Pehrson love fixing things for people, especially buildings damaged by one of several disasters: windstorms, fire, floods and just about anything else you can think of.
“Seven years ago Gene and I began looking for a business we could operate together,” said Heidi Pehrson, co-owner of the Grand Rapids-based SERVPRO franchise.
Forest Jam, Grand Rapids State Bank’s outdoor summer music festival at the Minnesota Forest History Center, is back. What turned out to be the centerpiece of the bank’s year-long celebration of its 100th birthday during 2014 will feature an encore performance on Friday, July 3.
“We were overwhelmed with the turn-out for last year’s Forest Jam,” Julie Birkey, marketing director, said, “and the feedback that followed convinced us there was enough interest in the event to offer an encore.
Tammy Johnson was hired as a GRSB teller on January 28, and interestingly she was referred by another new employee, Senior Vice President-Lending Jeff Lee.
“This is small world stuff, I know,” said Tammy, “but my cousin from Hibbing sits on the Blue Line Booster Club Board with Jeff. Jeff mentioned that Grand Rapids State Bank was looking to hire a teller, so I applied. And here I am.”
“It’s amazing how this business has grown and changed, when you take time to think about it.” Todd Gabrielson added that comment while answering questions for this interview about his business, Pokegama Lawn & Sport.
In the past few weeks northeastern Minnesota has received several announcements about layoffs among employees of three taconite plants on the Iron Range: Mesabi Nugget, Magnetation, US Steel-Keetac and US Steel-Minntac. Roughly 1,200 people will be affected directly by these layoffs which will begin as mid-May, and no one has yet calculated the indirect impact on jobs among companies that supply the taconite industry across the region.
Recent surveys of GRSB’s business customers show that some owners and managers are unaware of the breadth of insurance coverage available through the bank’s affiliate, the Grand Rapids State Agency (GRSA).
“Insurance is not always the first thing a business owner wants to invest in when they start up the business, but prudent managers know they need to manage risk,” said Mike Olson, Agency manager. “In today’s business climate, a few key insurance policies may be essential prevention against substantial liability issues down the road.”
Grand Rapids State Bank has rolled out an update of its online banking service effective Monday, February 23. Business and individual customers alike will benefit from the new platform.
“We’ve been working on this for months,” explained Lynn Acheson, vice president-operations. “We worked hard to make sure the transition from the former system to this one would be as seamless as possible, and I think we’ve accomplished that for the most part. We selected a vendor who offered a consistent user experience from a customer’s desktop to their mobile device.
Jeff Lee hit the ground running when he joined Grand Rapids State Bank on December 9 as senior vice president-lending. Considering that he has 28 years’ experience making loans and running banks, hitting the ground running really should have been no surprise.
“After I learned how to turn on the computer and find the bathroom, I dove right in,” said Jeff.
In the universe of family businesses, some struggle to keep the family dynamics in check and others function seemingly effortlessly. The Benders seem to have things figured out pretty well.
Craig and Brian Bender downplay the success their family business has sustained over the years, but their story is remarkable. Let’s turn the clock back to 1973.
Rachel Selmser joined Grand Rapids State Bank in October 2014 as a teller. Prior to joining GRSB, Rachel had been a stay-at-home mom for seven years. She and her husband, Brian, have four children: two girls, ages six and 11, and two boys (ages 14 & 17). Brian is an electrician at Keetac/U.S. Steel in Keewatin, MN.