Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has signed what may be the largest banking partnership deal in the history of the organization.

Bremer Bank has stepped in to be the primary partner for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s new Home Loan Impact Fund, the backbone of the group’s 2020 strategic plan.

Last summer, Twin Cities Habitat said it would set up a new loan fund that would get approximately 500 working-class families into new homes over four years. It set about searching for partners to seed the new fund.

Bremer has stepped in and agreed to purchase all 500 mortgages. St. Paul-based Sunrise Banks, another longtime supporter of Twin Cities Habitat, has agreed to provide the origination services on the mortgages.

“We are a community bank,” said Jeanne Crain, CEO of St. Paul-based Bremer. “We are really invested in the health and welfare of communities in which we do business.”

The partnership agreement calls for Bremer Bank to purchase up to 500 below-market Habitat mortgages over the next four years. Taking on all the mortgages greatly simplifies the plan and allows Twin Cities Habitat to focus on other aspects of the plan.

“This partnership with Bremer is probably the largest banking partnership a Habitat affiliate has ever had anywhere in the country,” said Sue Haigh, president and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat.

In the first 32 years of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, the organization helped approximately 1,200 families. Under the new plan as many as 500 families and 2,500 family members stand to benefit and achieve their dreams of homeownership.

Among the ambitions of the Impact 2020 plan is to reduce Twin Cities disparities in minority homeownership. Approximately 90 percent of Twin Cities Habitat’s applicants are people of color.

Patrick Kennedy

Ex-Regis executive rolls out Better Pillow

Minnesotans who have tried Mike Lindell’s My Pillow and still ache for the perfect night’s sleep can now try another locally made product, the Better Pillow. Developed by former Regis executive Rob Ribnick, the Better Pillow uses a gel memory foam called Serene Foam, cut into z-shaped pieces.

Lindell’s patented pillow is filled with shredded foam pieces that interlock. Ribnick said Lindell’s company makes a fine pillow, but his own product has the exclusive z-shaped foam pieces. “They don’t go flat,” Ribnick said. “Many pillows out there are filled with pieces of foam, but no one has done zs before. That’s what makes it patentable.”

No ubiquitous, early-morning infomercials are planned, but a commercial for the Better Pillow is in the works. To gear up, the people at Better Pillow will be distributing 25 pillows to various firefighters, police and teachers in Sleepy Eye, Minn. Ribnick is in talks with former Sleepy Eye resident and former WCCO-TV sports reporter Ralph Jon Fritz to interview residents for testimonials.

Before putting his pillow on the market, Ribnick performed a blind test with 50 people trying out a foam pillow, a feather pillow and his z-filled pillow. More than 40 of the testers had a strong preference for his Better Pillow, Ribnick said.

The new Better Pillow sells for $69 and comes with a 60-day money back guarantee, although the consumer pays return shipping. The product is at www.thebetterpillow.com or at www.sleepsherpa.com/showroom/.

Ribnick has sold about 2,000 pillows so far that he describes as more lumpy than fluffy. “My Pillow [Lindell’s product] sells about 177,000 every month,” he said laughing. “We’re still working to get it in a national retailer and on Amazon.”

John Ewoldt

Mortenson to build huge Xcel wind project

Mortenson has been selected to build Xcel Energy’s Rush Creek wind project in east central Colorado, the largest single-phase wind farm in North America.

Rush Creek will host 300 wind turbines capable of churning out 600 megawatts of electricity when the wind is blowing. To put that in perspective, Xcel’s nuclear plant in Monticello has a 617-megawatt capacity. A megawatt is 1 million watts.

Golden Valley-based Mortenson has built portions of larger U.S. wind farms that are multiphase projects, but Rush Creek will be its biggest single-phase wind endeavor.

It’s the largest wind contract ever for Mortenson, one of the nation’s biggest renewable energy construction and engineering firms.

Minneapolis-based Xcel is the nation’s leading utility for wind generation and the $1 billion Rush Creek project is its biggest effort yet. Construction is expected to begin in May, and Rush Creek is scheduled to start producing power in October 2018.

Mortenson is a national, family-owned construction company, and its projects include U.S. Bank Stadium and TCF Bank Stadium, both in Minneapolis.

Mike Hughlett