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.

“Minnesota aims to attract more visitors as they select destinations in the highly competitive travel market,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism.



• Jackie Berglund, the one-time international economic troubleshooter who became a beer-based social entrepreneur a decade ago, reports that Finnegans had revenue growth of 50 percent in 2012 and that it donated $100,000-plus in profits to local food charities.

“Our brand and our mission are tightly aligned with growing trends, such as craft beer, community-supported agriculture and the social enterprise movement,” said Berglund, CEO of Finnegans and its nonprofit arm, the Finnegans Community Fund. “As we continue to build a community of talented staff and business partners, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”

Meanwhile, Finnegans sold more than 7,500 barrels of beer in 2012, making it the fifth-most-popular Minnesota brand behind Schell’s, Summit, Cold Spring and Surly, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Finnegans is brewed under contract with St. Paul’s expanding Summit Brewing.

Partners include many businesses and the Twin Cities Beer Fest (sponsored by Chicago Lake Liquors), which donated its profits to the Finnegans Community Fund.

• Northeast-based Indeed Brewing, one of several local microbreweries, plans to invest $250,000 in additional production equipment and cellar tanks, and add more employees. Indeed plans to double production to 6,400 barrels annually. The company, which opened in 2012, employs 12 people and has attracted 10,000 visitors to its taproom in what was once a tire warehouse and Sears Roebuck distribution center. Indeed is part of the burgeoning development of the Northeast arts-and-hospitality scene.

“By adding tanks on an aggressive schedule we hope to stay slightly before demand, which should help ensure the high quality and consistency of our beers while giving us some room to experiment with interesting ingredients and styles of beer,” said Indeed co-founder Tom Whisenand. “This is really a dream come true ... it seems like just yesterday we were sitting around the kitchen table discussing our business plan and now we are doubling capacity.”