Paul Fate plans to retire later this year, after seven years at the helm of CommonBond Communities, Minnesota's largest nonprofit developer and manager of affordable housing.

Fate, 63, has led CommonBond to "dramatic growth" and stakeholder success, said board Chairman Tom Jasper, a TCF Financial executive.

Fate, amid the recession, led a $21 million capital campaign, the first for CommonBond, that raised nearly $30 million by the time it concluded last year. That allowed CommonBond to preserve or build nearly 2,500 units of housing for immigrant families, the working poor and elderly. And $7 million went to establish an endowment for CommonBond's Advantage Services, which focus on education, counseling and training that help families advance economically.

The St. Paul-based organization owns a $500 million portfolio of buildings that encompasses 5,400 affordable rental apartments and townhouses for disadvantaged individuals and families whose annual household income is less than $20,000. Fate said last week that it's been great to expand and stabilize the housing portfolio, but the real reward for him has been seeing families get stable and gain employment skills and better incomes.

"Nothing is more important than the work we do with kids," said Fate, who, with his wife, is a longtime youth homework helper. "We serve 2,500 kids. And being a study buddy helped keep me grounded." Fate, who joined CommonBond from Wilder Foundation, plans to consult and teach.

Meanwhile, CommonBond, which had considered building a new headquarters, instead will spend about $3.3 million to buy and refurbish a vacant commercial building on a three-acre campus on Montreal Avenue in St. Paul. Fate said purchasing and fixing up a used building will cost a third of the $9.5 million estimated cost of new construction for 75 central-office people. CommonBond will vacate its 42-year-old headquarters in the cramped basement of a former Catholic school near the Cathedral of St. Paul.

"The new headquarters will give us our own identity, and it better fits our mission more than building new," said Fate, who was paid about $197,000 in 2012 for running an outfit with revenue of about $62 million.

Minnesota gets a little less green

The Algae Biomass Organization, which represents producers and users of oil and other products made from algae, says it plans to move its headquarters from Minnesota to Washington, D.C. No timetable was announced. The organization's sole employee, Preston, Minn.-based Executive Director Mary Rosenthal, who helped build the nonprofit to 300 members over five years, left Dec. 31. She will be replaced and more staff hired.

"Mary and the board agree that the time is right to take the organization to the next level," Chairwoman Margaret McCormick wrote in a letter to members last week.


Microsoft connects with Lutheran Social Service

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) has received a software grant from Microsoft valued at $5 million that will transform the nonprofit organization's IT infrastructure and add new technologies. Will Mayhew, senior director of information technology, said this is the largest grant ever bestowed on LSS.

"With Microsoft's help, we not only have the incredible opportunity to update our entire software infrastructure statewide, but we'll also be able to create a virtual workplace for employees who are not sitting at a desk but are out working with people in the community."

Mayhew said the new technologies will create an opportunity for employees to more effectively share ideas, resources and best practices across all 160 sites with computer access.

"We'll also keep pace with a broader array of communications methods relevant to the people we serve, especially young people," Mayhew added. "If we can establish a relationship with youth through technology, we are more likely to establish a strong, in-person relationship to help them navigate their crisis.''

LSS serves more than 11,000 children each year, including those who are homeless or awaiting adoption in foster care, and those who are struggling with mental health or other issues. The agency, with 2,300 employees and 10,000 volunteers, says it touches more than 100,000 Minnesotans annually. More information at:

Ethanol lobby churns out letters to the EPA

Biofuel supporters in Minnesota say they have collected 7,000 letters from farmers and others opposing a federal proposal to scale back the ethanol mandate in the nation's fuel supply.

The letter-writing campaign was organized by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is lobbying against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to cap the 2014 ethanol blending requirement at 13 billion gallons instead of 14.4 billion anticipated under a 2007 law.

The EPA is accepting comments on the proposal until Tuesday. In proposing a reduced mandate, the agency cited obstacles to expanding ethanol beyond the 10 percent "blend wall" and other factors.

Corn-state politicians also are lining up against the proposal, including Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan.

U of M furthers technology partnerships

The University of Minnesota is expanding the Minnesota Innovation Partnerships program to provide easier access to already developed U technologies and solutions.

Since 2011, the program, now called MN-IP Create, streamlines the process of sponsoring research and licensing intellectual property and attempts to establish "industry-friendly terms" up front, granting companies an exclusive worldwide license to the resulting IP. To date, MN-IP Create has resulted in 83 partnerships to develop products and services across industries including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, according to the U last week. The industry partners range from small Minnesota start-ups to large multinational companies.

As part of the MN-IP program expansion, the U is introducing MN-IP Try and Buy, to provide a low-cost, low-risk method to determine the commercial potential behind existing university-developed technologies. Companies may take available technologies for a "test-run" under a low-cost or free agreement to analyze technology under pre-negotiated licensing terms for a trial period without incurring any U.S. patent costs until a patent issues, and without paying royalties on the first $1 million in revenue. More information: