WindRider International, the Minneapolis-based maker of trimaran watercraft, is profitably sailing foreign shores.
Businessman Dean Sanberg, 55, who bought the near-bankrupt company for about $250,000 a couple of years ago, said last week that he expects sales this year to grow more than 30 percent to about $1.3 million, or about 140 boats.
About half the boats, which retail for $9,295, will be sold to enthusiasts in the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Chile, Thailand, France, Aruba and Spain.
Employment has risen from two, Sanberg and his son, the chief operating officer, to an expected 10 or 11 this year at the north-end loop manufacturer.
"We're a little behind where I thought we would be when I bought this company, but more people are starting to open their wallets," said Sanberg, a former banker and entrepreneur behind several companies over the years. "The price point is very attractive. They are very stable, easy to manage and high-density polyethylene, so nothing can damage them. We're the only company who makes [trimarans] in the economy category."
WindRider last week was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce for its fast-growing success. Sanberg was put in touch with the local office of Commerce after he got an inquiry from an Australian prospect.
"WindRider International is a prime example of how innovative Minnesota businesses are tapping global markets to increase sales" and U.S. jobs, said Mary Joyce, Midwest regional director of the U.S. Commercial Service of the Commerce Department, which assists small exporters with research and connections.
WindRider makes portable, three-hulled sailboats that resemble kayaks with outriggers and are considered suitable for novice or experienced sailers.
NEAL ST. ANTHONY AND Dee Depass
2 3M PRODUCTS
3M produces about 1,000 new products a year. Two of them from last year's crop are being recognized by the Edison Best New Product Awards, which annually recognizes excellence in new product development and marketing.
3M's Kind Removal Silicone Tape, a medical tape with a silicone-based adhesive that makes it easy to remove and reposition, won a silver award. The new tape, which is being marketed to health care professionals, was developed to minimize skin trauma. Another silver award went to 3M's Aerobic Procedure for Lactic Acid Bacteria. This offers a method of testing food and environmental samples for levels of lactic acid bacteria, which can affect the shelf life, flavor and color of foods.
The Edison Awards recognize innovation in the development, marketing and launch of new products and services in 11 categories.
GETS NEW LEADER
Timothy Clark, a one-time CPA, veteran of CarVal Investors, Cargill Financial and other businesses, will succeed the retiring Art Erickson at the nonprofit Urban Ventures. The organization has been a family-and-neighborhood booster through teaching, mentoring, development and job-creation programs that have helped resurrect a once-blighted E. Lake Street area for commerce, culture, youth sports and education.
Things were grimmer when Erickson, 74, started Urban Ventures on 4th Av. S. in 1993 amid crime, empty storefronts, drugs and porn joints.
Urban Ventures, backed by Ryan Companies and other businesspeople, was a driver behind the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center, home to Urban Ventures and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, an ecumenical win for the community and hundreds of families. That one took years to get done and it was worth the effort.
"I believe we can make a big difference in this community in the years to come," said Clark, 45.
•In 2003, Alan Carlson and three other Merchant & Gould partners launched an intellectual property litigation law practice. The firm, which has grown its legal force to 30, will shorten its name to Carlson Caspers on Monday, although founders Vandenburgh & Lindquist remain.
Carlson Caspers has had significant wins, including a celebrated one for Spectralytics of Dassel, Minn., which won $22 million from a jury in a case Carlson Caspers brought against huge Cordis and another competitor over the Dassel company's aortal stent design. A few years ago, Carlson Caspers won a $24 million award for Anchor Wall Systems of Minneapolis against a competitor who copied Anchor's patented concrete blocks. "Nobody thought you could patent a block of concrete," Carlson quipped at the time.
•TCF Bank, the South Dakota-based subsidiary of Wayzata-based TCF Financial, last week opened an operations center in Sioux Falls, S.D., adding 200 jobs.
CEO Bill Cooper, who's been at the helm for most of the past 30 years, has never been shy about blasting Minnesota's business climate. Cooper, 68, who executed a turnaround of the once-failing thrift in 1985, retired as CEO and moved to lower-tax Florida in 2007. He returned to the TCF helm in 2008. The company, considered a takeover candidate as the stock trades well below pre-recession highs, has restructured its balance sheet and expanded in commercial inventory and auto finance. Federal regulatory changes crimped TCF's heavy reliance on consumer fees and check-bouncing charges. Analysts generally expect a rebound after a long four years.
• Hussein Samatar, executive director of the African Development Center, a financial-and-training resource behind dozens of immigrant businesses, has been lecturing and learning in Sweden for several days as the guest of Swedbank, one of Sweden's largest. Samatar, a Somali immigrant who got his start at Wells Fargo, delivered a presentation that spans the Minnesota immigrant experience, from Scandinavians to a couple of Somali-American Wells Fargo branch managers. The presentation and his Swedish blog are at www.startribune.com/a1259.