Inside Track: Chanhassen's Exlar sold to Curtiss-Wright

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 16, 2013 - 3:32 PM
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Jacquie Berglund of Finnegans: “Turn beer into food. That’s what we do.”

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The biggest local transaction announced so far this year is ailing Supervalu Inc.’s sale of most of its retail grocery operations for $3.3 billion to an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management. That deal will return Supervalu to its wholesale roots, plus Cub Foods and a couple of other retailers. Beleaguered Supervalu is getting $100 million and unloading the businesses for the debt they carry.

Meanwhile, New Jersey-based Curtiss-Wright, the engineering firm, has acquired 183-employee Exlar Corp. of Chanhassen for $85 million in cash.

Exlar is a designer and manufacturer of highly engineered electric actuators, or electric-powered motors, used in motion-control mechanisms for industrial and military products.

Curtiss-Wright expects Exlar to contribute revenue of about $50 million this year.

Exlar is “a cornerstone property serving multiple markets and addresses the growing demand for advanced, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly actuation solutions, while strengthening our existing industrial controls business,” according to CEO Martin Benante of Curtiss-Wright. Exlar’s electric actuators “significantly reduce”energy usage because they only consume power when motion is required. Score one for Minnesota-developed technology. Exlar is now part of Curtiss-Wright’s North Carolina-based controls business segment, which had $700 million in 2011 sales, or about 35 percent of Curtiss-Wright’s total business last year.

A spokesman said Exlar is growing, but there are no plans for local plant expansion for at least 18 to 24 months due to sufficient capacity in Chanhassen. Investment banker Brian Holcomb of Green Holcomb & Fisher, which represented the private owners of Exlar, said the “technology-rich” manufacturer was pursued by a number of strategic buyers.

spanlink sees 60% sales bump

 

CEO Eric LeBow of Golden Valley-based Spanlink Communications Inc. says the designer and builder of customized Cisco-technology solutions for customer-service centers is into a third year of job-adding growth following cutbacks during the Great Recession. LeBow, 42, who was promoted from vice president of marketing and operations two years ago, said last week that Spanlink grew sales from $21 million in 2011 to $34 million last year and expects to hit $40 million this year.

“Sixty percent sales growth [in 2012] was not what our competitors were seeing,” LeBow said. “Our profitability is improving. We put in a new sales and management team [in 2011], and we’ve had good execution and we’re taking market share.’’

He said Spanlink delivers “all the technology that helps business communicate and collaborate internally and with customers. We offer a full suite of management services ... and the new ‘Spanlink guarantee’ helps relieve customer stress.”

The company expects to finish the year with 105-plus employees, up from 84 a year ago. Spanlink has 60 customers under contract, including Dish Network, TCF Bank, Cargill, Medica and Best Buy.

Spanlink is owned by private equity firms Split Rock Partners and Blue Stream Ventures and its employees, all of whom receive stock options.

2013 survey bodes well for state tourism industry

 

A majority of Minnesotans spend their leisure time in Minnesota and 67 percent said they plan to spend as much or more money on travel in 2013 as they did 2012, according to a new survey by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center.

That’s good news for more than 300 attendees last week at the annual Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, many of whom own tourism-dependent businesses. Tourism spending in Minnesota has been bobbing around $11.9 billion for three years. But there’s growing optimism that 2013 could be a breakout year as confidence and employment rise, and there’s enough in the kitty for a few days at the lake.

A January survey of Minnesota lodge owners found that more than 40 percent expect spring-summer occupancy and room revenue to surpass last year.

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