Inside Track: Mortenson has the wind at its back

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2013 - 9:01 PM
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Mortenson Construction says 2012 was its best year for wind-farm construction, cementing its position as the nation’s No. 1 wind energy contractor.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Mortenson Construction says 2012 was its best year for wind-farm construction, cementing its position as the nation's No. 1 wind energy contractor.

The Golden Valley-based company's U.S. wind energy group erected about 1,200 turbines at 21 wind projects in eight states, the company said. That's an 83 percent increase, based on total output, compared with 2011.

The boom, and a coming slowdown, result from the U.S. government's stop-and-go incentives for wind power. Last year, wind developers pushed contractors to complete projects before a tax credit expired on Dec. 31. But turbine manufacturers cut back, fearing slack business in 2013.

Tim Maag, vice president and general manager for Mortenson's U.S. wind energy group, said he is pleased that Congress extended the tax credit on Jan. 2. But he said wind farm construction probably will lag for a few months, then pick up later in the year.

"The supply chain for the turbine manufacturers has been severely disrupted by the lack of clarity and uncertainty," Maag said in an interview.

Since it entered the wind industry in 1995, Mortenson has built 124 projects across North America, including most of the wind power in Minnesota. Its latest wind farm was EDF Renewable Energy's Bobcat Bluff, serving about 45,000 households in Texas.

The trade journal Engineering News-Record in September named Mortenson the top U.S. wind farm contractor with $725 million in construction revenue for 2011-- more than twice that of its closest competitor. Mortenson also builds wind farms in Canada.

DAVID SHAFFER

SHOW AND TELL FOR HEALTH TECH START-UPS

Minneapolis entrepreneur John Brownlee is looking for potential health technology start-ups that need funding. They can apply to give a show-and-tell Jan. 29 at Worrell Design in northeast Minneapolis, an event sponsored by health-industry accelerator HealthXL, based in Dublin, Ireland.

"There have been 101 applications submitted by entrepreneurs," said Brownlee, who is the local organizer. "We're going to pick 10 or 12 to present at the event, and there will be 20 to 25 'mentors' who are local and international executives, investors and veteran entrepreneurs. They are there to help judge the entries."

An unspecified number of budding entrepreneurs with promising ideas will earn an investment from HealthXL, which is funded by IBM, Silicon Valley Bank and others, and go to Dublin in February for a three-month, expenses-paid "bootcamp" on starting a company.

HealthXL, which also is visiting Boston and San Francisco, is targeting ideas and start-ups with potentially breakthrough technology, such as mobile apps, focused on health and well-being, rather than on medical devices or equipment. For more information contact Brownlee at jbrownlee@clear.md or see www.Healthxl.org

AN 'AMICABLE' SPLIT FOR SEARCH FIRM MCkinley group

One of the area's leading headhunter firms, McKinley Group and McKinley Finance, has split into two competing executive search operations.

Termed "amicable," the split has spawned Versique Search & Consulting, led by Tony Sorensen and Chris Ohlendorf; and Skywater Search Partners, led by Kurt Rakos, Tony Fornetti and Paul Beard. Skywater places executives in fields such as information technology, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, consumer packaged goods, engineering and human resources. Versique (pronounced ver-seek) places executives in human resources, sales, information technology, marketing and engineering.

McKinley Group was once named a top workplace in the Star Tribune's annual workplace survey and was the top search firm as ranked by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. "It's not about right or wrong," said Sorensen. "We simply have a different vision."

Said Skywater's Beard, "Our staff [all from McKinley] has a proven track record of consistently delivering highly qualified candidates to our clients."

DAVID PHELPS

SHORT TAKES

Craig-Hallum, the research-and-investment banking boutique, has added a dozen traders, analysts, investment bankers and sales people in recent weeks, bringing total employment to 100. CEO Brad Baker, who has hired many former Piper Jaffray and Dain Rauscher (now RBC Financial) employees, said trading revenue was down last year because of lower market volume, but the deal business grew.

Craig-Hallum focuses on institutional research of promising local and other companies. It also completed 27 equity and M&A transactions last year. Clients included Compellent, Proto Labs and Titan of North Dakota. About 2013, Baker predicted a better year than last, but he admitted he does so every year.

Murphy Cos., the warehouse and logistics operation, reports that it added 40 employees at several locations and has added a new Eagan facility that is twice the size of a couple of Target stores. In total, the Minneapolis-based company added nearly 25 percent more storage space, including a Kansas City facility. The family-owned, 175-employee outfit said revenue was up 16 percent over 2011 and income grew 9 percent, despite the one-time expansion costs.

The $750,000 grant to affordable housing developers announced last week by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines is just part of a $15 million package that will finance renovation and construction of 107 housing units in Minneapolis, according to the partners.

The single-largest project will be CommonBond's W. Broadway Curve workforce-housing project on the north side, one of several housing developments planned for the neighborhood. The rest of the money will fund Habitat for Humanity projects. The financial partners include Bremer Bank, Western Bank, private investors, Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis.

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