Not only did Regis Corp shareholders overwhelming select Starboard Value's slate of three directors at the company's recent annual meeting, they also soundly rejected management's "say-on-pay proposal." Regis is the first company in Minnesota where shareholders voted down management's say-on-pay proposal.
According to Equilar, which tracks compensation data, Regis becomes just the 43rd company out of more than 2,982 shareholder votes this year to reject management's compensation proposals. The say-on-pay votes are nonbinding.
At Regis, 72 percent of shareholders voted against the proposal, signalling displeasure with the company's executive compensation system. That was the most decisive vote against a say-on-pay proposal among the 42 other companies who got failing votes this year.
Starboard Value's pitch to shareholders went in depth on the "destruction'' of shareholder value, weak financial performance and also excessive executive compensation. In a presentation to shareholders Starboard highlighted that former CEO Paul Finkelstein collected more than $15 million in compensation from 2008 to 2010 while the share price declined 30 percent; his retirement benefits entitle him to a minimum of $800,000 per year for the rest of his life and he is entitled to $2.75 million transition payment upon the appointment of a new CEO.
Say-on-pay votes are advisory but the board of directors -- especially with three new members from Starboard -- will take the decisive vote seriously. Other companies where say-on-pay votes failed include Cincinnati Bell, Hewlett Packard Co., Janus Capital Group Inc., Talbots Inc. and Stanley Black & Decker Inc. The average negative vote at the 42 other companies was about 57 percent. Previously the most decisive vote against a say-on-pay proposal was at Cincinnati Bell, where 70 percent of shareholders voted against the measure.
PROTO LABS IPO ON TRACK
Proto Labs, the quick-turn manufacturer of custom parts for product designers and short-run production, has updated its public stock-offering documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company filed an amended registration statement on Oct. 26. The next step before a possible fourth-quarter initial public offering would be the traveling "road show" to interested brokers, investors and analysts.
The Maple Plain-based company, which employs about 425 and distributes product globally, disclosed in the filing that it has a purchase agreement to buy a 128,000-square-foot office-and-manufacturing facility in Rosemount for $3.95 million. That would be in addition to a three-building, 170,000-square-foot campus it occupies in Maple Plain, about a half hour west of Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, fast-growing Proto Labs reported that earnings rose 175 percent to $7.8 million during the first nine months of 2011 on revenue that increased 57 percent to $73.3 million, putting the company on track to top $100 million in full-year revenue.
Proto Labs, which produces plastic and metal parts, says its proprietary technology accelerates the design and prototyping process and related costs in speeding parts and short-run production runs to hundreds of companies in the United States, Japan and Europe.
Eden Prairie-based Bluestem Brands is also seeking to raise money through an IPO. The multi-channel retailer and successor to Fingerhut also filed an amended registration statement on Oct. 31 indicating the company is still proceeding with an IPO that could raise $184 million. The offering range is between $14 and $16 per share. Bluestem employs 904 and had sales of $232 million for the quarter ended July 29, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year.
NEEDED: 'RIGHT SKILLS NOW'
Darlene Miller, CEO of a Burnsville manufacturer and a member of President Obama's jobs-and-competitiveness task force, briefed Minnesota Chamber of Commerce members last month on the "Skills for America's Future Initiative," a partnership of the administration and the national Manufacturing Institute. The goal is to design to create a fast-track, 24-week training-and-apprentice program through area technical schools that will put a half-million, in-demand apprentices to work in advanced manufacturing jobs around the country.
U.S. manufacturers have added back only about a quarter of the 2 million jobs lost during the 2008-09 recession.
Miller, in an interview, estimated that three quarters of U.S. manufacturers can't find enough skilled workers.
Her company, Permac Industries, also is kind of a proxy for what's happened in increasingly productive America.
Permac expects to return to its pre-recession revenue of about $5 million this year, but with 38 employees compared with the 47 it employed in late 2008, at the time of layoffs and management wage cuts.
That said, Miller also is looking to hire computer-schooled machinists and has several apprentices on board from Dunwoody Institute and South Central Technical College in Faribault.
Miller, who did not vote for Obama in 2008, said she's taken flak along with other commission members from right-wing pundits. She believes that Obama is taking the right steps through the commission and partnerships with industry and technical schools to deliver a stronger manufacturing economy.
"I see a slow progression upward for my business, manufacturing and the economy," Millers said in an interview. "This fast-track training is a really good start for people coming out of high school, the military or even 50-year-olds. Manufacturing jobs in Minnesota average about $54,000 a year. These are not second-class careers." More information at www.rightskillsnow.org.
HEATING THE MIDWEST
The region's biomass industry has launched an association called Heating the Midwest to promote burning wood and other biomass for heating.
The Minnesota-based group also includes people from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Its founders are from the forest products industry, agriculture, the boiler and wood stove industries, pellet makers and academia.
Gregg Mast, a vice president for the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota who helped found the new association, said federal energy policy has focused largely on transportation fuel and electric power.
"Biomass thermal has been largely ignored," he said, and Heating the Midwest aims to change that. "The industry itself until a few years ago was extremely fragmented and you are seeing a lot more push to be unified to raise awareness about the sector."
The group lays out its mission on a website, heatingthemidwest.org, and plans a conference next spring.
Reporters Patrick Kennedy and David Shaffer contributed to this report.