Inside Track: Elvin Safety spreads the wealth

It's good to see a business uptick that results in a sharing of the wealth during lean economic times.

The 34 employees of Elvin Safety this month each received a $400 quarterly bonus, what CEO Bob Cass said is their fair share of profits.

Cass, who also is a partner in Platinum Group, which has controlling interest in the safety consulting and protective clothing company, credits the employees with a big part of a two-year turnaround. Cass cited "a higher level of teamwork and accountability among employees" as a key ingredient in new approaches that make better use of inventory, collect receivables faster and even has front-office folks heading to the warehouse to help ship product during busy times.

A quarter century

Weber Shandwick's Sara Gavin is celebrating 25 years of public relations prowess in the Twin Cities. The president of the 155-member firm got her start in 1983 when there were just five or six PR firms in town and most of the big accounts shipped their work to New York, Chicago or Washington. But the landscape has changed for Gavin and her peers as agencies proliferated in town -- some are spinoffs by former Shandwick members -- and business discovered one didn't need to travel very far for good PR talent. Indeed, some business is coming this way from great beyond.

For the last year, Weber Shandwick, which also was recently named one of the best places to work in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, has been working with the U.S. Census Bureau in anticipation of the 2010 Census. The Bloomington office of Weber Shandwick also boasts the U.S. Army as a client for recruiting campaigns.

For Gavin, PR work is in her blood. Her father, the legendary Quentin Hietpas, was a top corporate communications executive at Pillsbury, Control Data and the University of St. Thomas.

WPO grows

The Women Presidents' Organization last week launched its fourth chapter in Minnesota, keeping on pace with New York, the only other state that has four chapters. Each chapter is limited to 20 women corporate presidents in order to maintain a closeness as they discuss issues common to one another. The members are entrepreneurs who head companies that gross $2 million or more in annual revenue. Minnesota's WPO leaders include Kay Phillips of ATEK Medical, Susan Denk of White Crane Construction, Leslie Frecon of LFE Capital and the grand dame of women executives in Minnesota -- Marilyn Carlson Nelson.

Johnson returns full time

Former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson is returning to private practice full time at Gray Plant Mooty after nine years as president of the Council on Crime and Justice. Johnson, a former member of the Minneapolis City Council, has been active on Gray Plant cases, including work on the investigation of the collapse of the I-35W bridge and environmental issues involving the new Twins and Gophers stadiums.

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