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Limberg named Entrepreneur of the Year, second class Hall of Fame inducted

The history of Steele County is rich with innovative leaders and powerhouse entrepreneurs.

aharman / By ANNIE HARMAN OPPeditor@apgsomn.com 

Brad Meier, president of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, introduces each Entrepreneur of the Year nominee and Hall of Fame inductee during the special Entrepreneurship Week celebration Wednesday. The celebration was delayed from February 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Annie Harman/southernminn.com)

Though the second National Entrepreneurship recognized by the Owatonna Area Business Development Center took place in February 2021, it wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon the past and present leaders in entrepreneurship were celebrated, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

aharman / By ANNIE HARMAN OPPeditor@apgsomn.com 

Scott Limberg, owner of Limberg Productions, accepts the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year award during a special celebration Wednesday. (Annie Harman/southernminn.com)

The most anticipated recognition was the naming of the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year. This year, Scott Limberg of Limberg Productions was given that honor. He was nominated along with Dan Kubista, of Wagner’s Lunch, Scott Hagland, of Straight River Coffee, and Roger Warehime, of Foremost Brewing Cooperative.

“I appreciate the award; it’s been a lot of work,” Limberg said, acknowledging that Limberg Productions wouldn’t be what it is today without his staff of 24. “Thank you to all the businesses that have supported me through the 10, 11 years we’ve been at this … We still have a lot of big plans ahead of us.”

Also recognized during the celebration was Scott Pierce, the business education teacher at Owatonna High School. Superintendent Jeff Elstad hailed Pierce for his dedication to inspiring the entrepreneurial minds of Owatonna’s students.

aharman / By ANNIE HARMAN OPPeditor@apgsomn.com 

Owatonna Superintendent Jeff Elstad (left) presents business education teacher Scott Pierce (middle) with a special award during the Entrepreneurship Week celebration Wednesday at the Steele County History Center. (Annie Harman/southernminn.com)

“One of the things I like to tell my entrepreneurship students — we talked about failure — is that sometimes it is better to be humbled by failure than to be arrogant from success. Just keep trying, if it doesn’t work, try the next thing,” Pierce said. “Being in Owatonna, obviously talking about all the different entrepreneurs that have come through Owatonna, I have a lot of great examples that I can bring to the table.”

Pierce plans to retire from teaching at the end of the current school year.

aharman / By ANNIE HARMAN OPPeditor@apgsomn.com 

Chad Lange accepts the honor of being inducted into the Steele County Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame. Lange’s philanthropic family is best known for their businesses Owatonna Canning Company and Festal Farms. (Annie Harman/southernminn.com)

As was done in the 2020 inaugural event, five more influential players in the area’s business community were inducted into the Steele County Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame. This year, the inductees include the Gandrud family of Gandy Company, the Kaplan family of Owatonna Tool Company, Otto Josten of Jostens, Carol Nelson of National Hydro-Ax and Cybex International, and the Lange family of Owatonna Canning Company and Festal Farms.

The Gandy Company

Though E.S. Gandrud held about 80 patents, it was his invention of the Gandy wheel that put the Gandy Company on the map. Using two pairs of pliers and a coil, the resulting wire model progressed into a rod measuring wheel that enabled one person to accurately measure acres where previously it had taken two. Approved by the Agriculture Adjustment Administration in 1936, the Gandy wheel instantly came into high demand to meet the measurement of field acres to qualify for farm programs.

Gandrud brought his firm to Owatonna in 1937 starting in a garage on Mill Street before relocating to a basement near the rear of the current Wells Fargo Bank in downtown. The firm eventually moved in 1945 by building a plant on the east side of Main Street to produce fertilizer spreaders for the military.

In 1980, Gandrud received the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Awards and was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1984.

The Gandy Company is now located on Rice Lake Road in Owatonna and continues to be family owned and operated.

The Gandrud family will be accepting the honor at a later date.

Owatonna Tool Company

The foundation for the Owatonna Tool Company’s success was created by a simple but effective gear puller patented by Reuben Kaplan called the “Grip-O-Matic.” By 1934, the company was selling a variety of mechanic’s tools to farmers and service stations. When World War II began impacting the United States, the Owatonna-based company sold large quantities of tools to both the Army and Navy.

In 1953, R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan began looking for new products for the company to manufacture while another company approached them about producing hardware for window awnings. Instead of just producing the hardware, the company’s engineers redesigned the device, creating the patented lever lock operator.

Today, Owatonna Tool Company – or OTC Tools – is a global supplier of vehicle electronic diagnostic instruments, fuel systems service tools, special service tools, general purpose tools, pullers, heavy-duty tools, shop equipment, and hydraulic components.

Kristin Kaplan Holsworth, granddaughter of Buzz Kaplan, accepted the honor on behalf of the family.

Otto Josten

What started as a watch-repair business, Otto Josten’s company founded in 1900 has become a household name for any American family who has a child go through high school. The Josten Manufacturing Company first produced scholastic pins, but as Josten recognized early the growing trend in the country for students requesting rings specifically designed for their graduation class, Jostens took off.

Josten founded the American Yearbook Company in 1950, later merging it under the Jostens brand. For over 100 years the company has been the preeminent supplier of class rings, yearbooks, graduation products, and photographic services to schools throughout North America.

Jostens is also the primary supplier for Super Bowl rings.

Todd Bridgeman, plant manager for Jostens, accepted the honor on behalf of the company.

Carol Nelson

Always interested in starting his own business, Carol Nelson has founded several.

His company National Tree Expert contracted with utility companies to clear new and existing right-of-ways. When the machines weren’t fast enough, Nelson decided to find a more efficient way to do the job. The single brush mower attachment and brush cutter head developed by Nelson is still being used today.

Nelson is known as one of the true entrepreneurial spirits of Owatonna. If he wasn’t building a forestry product line, he was investing in two brothers’ dream of creating a new exercise equipment line – what would eventually be known as Cybex.

Nelson was present to accept the honor.

The Lange Family

In 1911, L.C. Lange purchased a pea cannery in Owatonna. That first purchase was the beginning of what would be known as the Owatonna Canning Company and Lange family philanthropic dynasty. Developing new ways to create fresh, healthy and local produce was always part of the family tradition, in one year the company processed crops grown on approximately 200 acres.

About a decade later, the organization was incorporated and came to notoriety with the highly acclaimed Festal Pumpkin – the gold standard for pumpkin pie during the holidays.

In 1997, the Owatonna Canning Company was purchased by Chiquita Brands International, later acquired by Seneca Foods and later again to Lakeside Foods, Inc. The Lange family remains an important part of the business through the ownership of Festal Farm Company, which consists of 7,500 acres of agricultural land leased to Lakeside Foods.

Chad Lange accepted the honor on behalf of the family.


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spotlight
Carnahan canvasses area for special election
  • Updated

Jennifer Carnahan handed out flyers in Le Sueur ahead of the special Republican primary on May 24. The former Minnesota Republican Party Chair is running for her late husband Jim Hagedorn’s seat representing Minnesota’s First Congressional District. (Carson Hughes/southernminn.com)

As the race for the Republican nomination for Minnesota’s First Congressional District heats up, former Minnesota Republican Chair and congressional hopeful Jennifer Carnahan launched a door knocking campaign in the city of Le Sueur last Thursday.

While the city and the rest of Le Sueur County is poised to be redistricted into the 2nd Congressional District for the November midterm elections, voters in the area are still eligible to participate in the primary and special election to replace the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, Carnahan’s husband, who died in February.

“We didn’t want to leave Le Sueur behind,” Carnahan said of her decision to canvas the area. “When my husband was in office, I actually came to Le Sueur and door-knocked with him in the 2018 election cycle.”

Whoever wins the Aug. 9 special election will hold the seat through the end of 2022, but they will need to run again at the regularly scheduled midterm election in November to keep the seat through the 2023-24 term.

Her campaign has targeted different pockets of Republican voters around the district in places like Faribault, Owatonna, Laverne, Worthington, New Ulm, Jackson, Mankato, Winona and Rochester. As she prepares for a Republican primary, she hasn’t spent as much time in majority-Democratic communities, like St. Peter and Northfield.

As the former Republican Chair and Hagedorn’s widow, Carnahan is positioned as a major player in the May 24 primary. But the field of 10 GOP candidates is stacked with prominent rivals, including: Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, a founding member of the hardline conservative New House Republican Caucus; former New Ulm legislator and Trump-appointed Minnesota Director of USDA Rural Development Brad Finstad; and President of A.B. Systems, Inc. and Rochester Rep. Nels Pierson.

Another potential obstacle facing Carnahan’s candidacy is the controversy surrounding her resignation from the state chair last year. The GOP chair was pressured to abdicate her position over her relationship to Anton Lazarro, a former donor who was indicted on sex trafficking charges.

Carnahan has consistently denied having knowledge of Lazarro’s activities and charged her critics with levying guilt by association.

“There was a donor who did some bad things, but we denounced that donor immediately out of the gate. We announced that we were taking all the contributions to the party and donating them to charity,” said Carnahan.

“What the media missed when all this happened is he gave to Republicans all over the state,” Carnahan added. “He gave to Tom Emmer. He gave to Kendall Qualls. He gave to Jason Lewis. He gave Karin Housley. You can go look at his report. He gave to Republicans all over Minnesota and also nationally.”

On the issues

Jennifer Carnahan knocks on doors to introduce herself to Le Sueur Republican primary voters. (Carson Hughes/southernminn.com)

In an interview, Carnahan stated her top priority was election integrity and security.

“I felt that just refusing to investigate allegations of abnormalities or fraud and things that people brought forward and affidavits was a threat to the integrity of our democracy,” said Carnahan. “I believe one of the most important things our country is founded on are free and fair elections and to be able to vote for people, but we have to have confidence and faith in the system.”

While the Congressional hopeful didn’t list any election security policies she would pursue in office, commenting that “elections shouldn’t be federalized,” Carnahan said House Republicans should be involved in pushing back against federal election laws, like HR 1.

Also known as the “For the People Act,” the bill was passed by a Democratic House majority last year and would result in a major overhaul of elections nationwide, requiring states to offer same-day voter registration in federal elections and establish automatic voter registration; hold at two weeks of early voting; use independent bipartisan commissions to draw congressional maps and grant citizens a legal basis to challenge said maps; require Super PACs and “dark money” organizations to disclose their donors and create a public fund to match small donor campaign donations among other provisions.

“Because the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi, with the HR 1 bill, are trying to federalize elections, I feel Republicans need to get involved in that fight and pushing back,” said Carnahan. “Things that I think are important are mandating Voter ID. I don’t think that should be a controversial issue at all. I don’t think showing an ID to vote is discriminatory or prohibitive, you have to show an ID to get into an airport, to check into hotels, to rent cars, to order a glass of wine.”

Carnahan also advocated banning “ballot harvesting,” referring to the collection of completed and mail-in ballots by third parties, and also reducing the windows for absentee voting.

Rural development

When asked how she would encourage rural development in southern Minnesota, Carnahan advocated for strengthening infrastructure and broadband and advancing the economic agenda of the previous administration. She highlighted the Republican-supported Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

“It created incredible opportunity and incentivized companies both domestic and foreign to invest in building their companies here, manufacturing here, innovating here and employing more people,” said Carnahan. “I think getting back to those policies that we had under (former President Donald Trump) are important specifically for this district.”

The Congressional candidate identified inflation as the greatest issue facing farmers in the district, with increasing input costs cutting into agriculture profit margins. Carnahan named the Biden administration’s energy policy as a significant contributor to rising fuel prices.

“I think one of the core inputs to [inflation] has been the war on domestic oil production by President Biden,” she said. “Under President Trump, we had energy independence and now under Biden we have the pipeline that’s been shutdown. In 2019 there were I think 800 oil platforms off the coast and today there’s something like 519. And it causes us to be dependent on other nations that might not be our allies when we’re the number one producer in the entire world.”

Child care

When questioned on child care, the former GOP Chair said Minnesotans needed more options and recent labor shortages have worsened child care accessibility in the district. She blamed Gov. Tim Walz’ COVID-era executive orders for shutting down businesses and the expansion of unemployment benefits for discouraging workforce participation.

“Gov. Walz was the one who forced all these businesses to shut down to begin with and people lost their jobs,” said Carnahan.”Then the government’s answer was ‘let’s just throw money at you.’ Why not keep the economy thriving and let business owners make the right decision for their businesses?”

Abortion

In the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion which would overturn Roe v. Wade and established federal abortion protections, Carnahan criticized the leak as “an egregious breach of the highest court in the nation.”

“I have always believed in states’ rights and government for the people, by the people and people you elect in your state,” said Carnahan. “It’s important to return decisions back to the states in this regard. I think this breach was bad, and we need to let the Supreme Court do their work and see where they land.”


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