Mike Carrel, CEO of Cincinnati-based AtriCure for about a year, will open what looks like a shadow headquarters and R&D facility for the atrial fibrillation products company in Minnetonka in March.

“The executive team will be split,” Carrel said in an interview. “I told the board [when hired] that I wasn’t moving to Cincinnati. It’s also important to set up research and development in the Twin Cities where we’ll partner with the University of Minnesota. We’re hiring engineering, marketing, a vice president of business development. … There’s a lot of talent in the Twin Cities. We’re not moving the whole company here. Manufacturing is well-established there.”

AtriCure (ticker: ATRC), has seen its stock price double to nearly $19 per share over the last year, a market value approaching $400 million. There’s growing revenue from surgical to minimally invasive products that solve the problem of an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body.

Carrel stayed on as the boss at Vital Images to handle the integration after he sold the medical imaging-software firm to Toshiba Medical Systems in a $273 million deal in 2011.

Carrel said he expects to employ up to 20 people in a leased facility in the Carlson East office park.

AtriCure was a medical start-up company that went public in 2005.

First light manager likes AtriCure, other small med-techs

AtriCure is one of the 10 biggest holdings in the portfolio of Matt Arens, CEO and senior portfolio manager at First Light Asset Management of Bloomington.

Arens, who spent 15 years at Kopp Investment Advisors before opening his own shop in September, has hit $120 million in assets with a portfolio guided by his longtime belief that “a disproportionate number of health care innovations tend to come from smaller, more agile companies with disruptive technologies.”

The Arens representative portfolio was ranked the top-performing small-cap growth fund in the nation for five-year performance by PSN/Informa, which tracks investment performance. The health care portfolio is up about 30 percent annually over the last five years through September.

“The stock market has been strong this year and health care has been in favor and that combined to make 2013 a good year,” Arens said. “And there will be years when health care is out of favor.”

Arens manages money through private, separately managed accounts of customers who are brought to him by brokers at outfits such as RBC Financial, Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. The minimum investment is $100,000. Most customers are affluent investors who diversify their investments through a number of money managers. Arens has no plans to start a retail-investor mutual fund and get big because he’s comfortable with the small companies that are often overlooked or which are too small for the Vanguards and Fidelities that own the Medtronics and Johnson & Johnsons.

“We’ve had some local names which have been acquired over the years, which is a high-class problem,” Arens said.

Those include the former Medtox Scientific, Rochester Medical, ATS Medical and American Medical Systems.

Arens kicks himself for not investing in Cardiovascular Systems Inc. (ticker: CSII), which more than doubled in value this year on the strength of good results and a promising application approved by federal regulators in October.


Felons get second chance at employment

Minnesota’s “Ban the box” legislation takes effect Wednesday. Employers can no longer include a box on job applications that would require applicants to reveal criminal history.

Carl Lehmann, who chairs Gray Plant Mooty’s employment law group, has worked with the Minnesota Council of Crime and Justice and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which had a hand in the 2013 legislation that gives convicted felons a second chance and which also can be good for employers.

“The Minnesota Department of Human Rights will enforce the law, and, in the first year, unless an employer willfully violates this law, there will be no penalty,” Lehmann said.

“This is a growing social issue and employers must be involved in the discussion or there will be solutions foisted upon them. The Minnesota Chamber was involved in crafting language that protected business.

“It’s always been public policy in Minnesota to give ex-offenders a second chance. Recidivism rates drop when an individual can get a job. Ex-offenders can turn their lives around and be good employees. They are very appreciative when they get a job.”

Anytime Fitness grows all over, gets a salute

Hastings-based Anytime Fitness expects systemwide revenue to grow 30 percent this year $630 million.

The company has opened more than 250 clubs in each of the last six years and boasts 2,300 clubs in 16 countries on five continents. That rate of growth led to Anytime’s ranking as No. 1 on ­Entrepreneur Magazine’s just-released annual “Franchise 500” list.

“This designation as No. 1 is a credit to our fabulous franchisees,” said CEO and co-founder Chuck Runyon. “In addition to operating convenient and affordable gyms, our franchisee [owners] and their staffs provide our members with personal service that gets results.”

At the corporate level, franchiser Anytime Fitness employs 140 people, 125 of them in Minnesota. Revenue from franchisee fees and other income will be $71.5 million this year, the privately held firm said.