Public relations power Weber Shandwick is paying account executive Keith Grauman to follow his passion -- writing comic books -- as part of a two-year-old internal incentive program called No Boundaries. The theory is to give employees time off -- five days-- and a stipend -- $1,000 -- to pursue an avocation or calling that will make them better at their jobs and improve interaction with clients.
"I'm a huge comic book nerd," Grauman said last week. "Public relations at its most basic is storytelling. This is a personal love and a professional push to think more visually for clients."
Grauman is one of three employees in Weber Shandwick's Bloomington office selected for No Boundaries scholarship this year. The others are Lauren Melcher, who will travel to China to study social media and digital public relations in that country, and Andy Ybarra who will travel to Mexico City for a Spanish immersion experience.
Sara Gavin, president of the Minnesota Weber Shandwick office, said the No Boundaries program is a plus for employees and their supervisors, as well as clients.
"No Boundaries provides a springboard across the office for all colleagues to talk about their professional hopes and dreams," Gavin said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. "The program stimulates a dialogue among employees and their supervisors about where they want to grow and what they want out of their careers."
Rachael Lybeck, a Weber Shandwick graphic designer, won one of two No Boundaries opportunities last year. She used her time and money to learn the ins and outs of digital photography and then documented her new skills with photos and a blog during a weeklong road trip across South Dakota to the Black Hills.
"I learned how to take the camera off of auto. I learned about lighting sources. I learned about taking photos of people," said Lybeck. "It was so worthwhile. This was a great opportunity with the time and money."
FORD PLANT REDEVELOPMENT IN ST. PAUL STILL STUCK IN LOW GEAR
Attempting to figure out timelines related to the redevelopment of the former Ford plant site in St. Paul is sort of like trying to stand up on a rubber raft in a pool. The footing is a little bit squishy.
The Ranger truck plant, which shut down late last year after 86 years of production, is on the edge of the Mississippi River in one of the Twin Cities' most desirable neighborhoods. But how the redevelopment of the 150-acre site will play out is anyone's guess.
So far, all the equipment left in the plant that was requested by other Ford operations has been removed. The rest will be sold or disposed of in other ways.
Structural demolition was expected to begin this summer, but it's been pushed back to October, according to information discussed at the Ford Site Planning Task Force meeting last Monday. The old paint shop on the site will be the first to go down, probably in early December.
Once buildings are taken down, the remaining slabs underneath will be removed and the soil tested for contamination.
Environmental assessment of the soil on the site is ongoing, and should be completed by March 2014. Remediation of tainted soil will start in January and continue through June of 2015.
A master developer for the site probably won't be named until mid-2014, maybe even 2015, to iron out an agreement between Ford, which owns the land, and the developer.
While a zoning framework study is underway, the key "Alternative Urban Areawide Review" won't begin until late 2014. Any needed zoning amendments will begin mid-2015 and continue until the site is redeveloped.
BRANDLAB CITED FOR DIVERSITY
BrandLab, the Twin Cities-based nonprofit designed to expose minority students to the world of advertising and marketing, is on a publicity roll. Late last month the trade publication Advertising Age referred to BrandLab as "one of the more progressive diversity programs in the nation."
At the same time, BrandLab was chosen by the American Advertising Federation as a recipient of its 2012 Mosaic Award as "Best Multiethnic Student Program."
"BrandLab is a brilliant program that addresses creating a bigger pipeline of talent," said Mosaic award committee member Maurice Coffey, who is director of marketing for Procter & Gamble.
Created in 2007 to provide mentoring and internship opportunities to an ethnically diverse student population, BrandLab's ultimate goal is to help diversify the agency workforce of the future. BrandLab served more than 400 students during the last school year and provided 32 internships at 21 area agencies and companies this summer.
STATE'S OLDEST LAW FIRM CLOSES
Minnesota's oldest law firm, Moore, Costello & Hart, quietly ceased operation last week. A message on the firm's voice mail said only, "Our offices are currently closed." Managing partner J. Patrick Plunkett did not return phone calls or e-mails to explain the decision to dissolve the firm, which counts Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger among its alumni. Moore, Costello & Hart traces its heritage to 1855 when Minnesota was still a territory and New Yorker George Otis arrived in St. Paul and hung out his shingle there.