Attention, college graduates of 2012. Here's a bit of (edited) advice that Inside Track has obtained from several local chief executives:

"Be curious. Be open. You don't need a road map for your life. Find a life's work that you are passionate about and that asks you to bring your best stuff. Your reputation is your top asset (think Facebook)."

Mary Brainerd, HealthPartners

"The newest, youngest members of a team often bring new energy with fresh ideas and perspectives. My advice is don't wait for someone to hand you your title. Lead from where you are. It's not about having the authority. A leader is someone who takes action to help to move an organization forward."

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota High Tech Association

"Expand your understanding and improve your capabilities, whether through the guidance of others or through the hard-earned lessons you can derive from your own experiences. When your career begins, your position on the company organization chart is not very lofty. Remember that there is a difference between the hierarchy of authority and the hierarchy of leadership ... leaders understand that they can drive progress at any level."

Walter White, Allianz Life of North America

"As daunting as this next step may seem, know that it's just the first step of many ... and that your path will lead you somewhere you're not even imagining today. Work hard, take care of your health, treat all people well, be true to your values, and continue to learn and grow. This is the key to personal and professional mastery and will lead to a career that you love, and to making a difference in the world."

Marti Morfitt, River Rock Partners and former CEO of Airborne Inc. and CNS Inc.

"No matter the economic climate ... the power of a higher education degree -- coupled with a strong belief in yourself -- creates limitless possibilities for you, for your career and for our country. Further, at times of economic stress, we need leaders, optimistic leaders, more than at any other time. Lead with optimism and believe in yourself and those around you."

Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp

"Find something you are passionate about and then work hard to become the best, personally and professionally. Be curious ... a lifelong learner and improving storyteller. Establish a reputation for getting things done. A career is a long period of time with ups and downs. Take assignments out of your comfort zone that challenge, stretch and develop you to round out your skill set and add to your wisdom."

Lee Schram, Deluxe Corp.


A University of Minnesota business school graduate quit his day job as a business consultant to purse his entrepreneurial passion to help subsistence farmers in India. The result is a for-profit business that provides low-cost drip irrigation systems.

MyRain CEO Steele Lorenz, the business grad, and his chief operating officer, Sri Latha Ganti, a University of Minnesota engineering graduate, were part of the 2010 Acara Challenge, a course and competition sponsored by the U of M's Institute on the Environment, which helps budding social entrepreneurs create businesses designed to make an environmentally sound buck.

Lorenz said the team partnered with Indian engineering students on a drip irrigation system for "small-plot farmers" that efficiently delivers water directly to the roots of crops through perforated tubes. The technology replaces the typical "flood irrigation" that takes so much precious water, strips nutrients, requires tons of fertilizer and often stunts growth and yields.

"This has become more widely used in industrial agriculture, but has really not been widely adopted by subsistence farmers cultivating 1 to 5 acres," Lorenz said. "And that's 60-70 percent of India's total population. We've developed a retail distribution network model that empowers local entrepreneurs to sell to their friends and families.'' The company helps with training, works with local manufacturers and micro-finance lenders and will help farmers roll out the systems. Lorenz and Ganti are based in India. An unspecified six-figure investment will stake the operation for two years.

MyRain's strategic partners include Acara and the India-based Covenant Centre for Development. More information at


•Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty topped former Northwest Airlines CEO Doug Steenland in the number of shareholder votes received for election to the Digital River board of directors at the recent annual meeting. Pawlenty, who has been whispered as a possible vice presidential choice for Republican Mitt Romney's campaign, received 26.9 million shares voted. Steenland, architect of NWA's sale to Atlanta-based Delta Airlines a few years ago, received 19.2 million shares. Both were elected.

•Wind turbine manufacturer Suzlon predicts a strong year in the United States, but has no plans to reopen its blade-making plant in Pipestone, Minn., says an industry report. Recharge, an online publication that covers renewable energy, interviewed Duncan Koerbel, interim chief executive of Suzlon Wind Energy.

He said 600 turbines will be sold this year in the United States by Suzlon and a sister company. But there are no plans to resume production in Pipestone, which has shrunk from 500 workers to a few doing repairs. India's Suzlon says the future of its U.S. operations hinges on whether a federal tax credit for wind power is extended beyond 2012.

•The Minneapolis-based Nonprofits Assistance Fund, which assists struggling nonprofits with consulting and restructuring loans, just bagged a $66,000 grant from Create Jobs for USA, a creation of the Starbucks Foundation and Opportunity Finance Network. The two have raised $5 million to fund nonprofits with staffing and mission-assistance help at a time when many are stretched. Details:

•The Advertising Federation of Minnesota will host up to 100 Minneapolis advertising types who cut their agency teeth in the 1960s, à la the AMC hit "Mad Men," at a Thursday evening event at downtown's Solera. Skinny ties, three-martini lunches, ashtrays and more information at

•Help Bremer Bank stakeholders match the $50,000 put up by the company this month raise a best-ever $100,000 for Second Harvest Heartland and Feeding America food banks. Just go to Bremer will donate $1 for each viewing of the video of Minneapolis-based Rhythmic Circus, which put a creative, inspiring twist on a serious subject.

Staff Writers Dee DePass, David Shaffer, Patrick Kennedy and David Phelps contributed to this report.