Minneapolis has surpassed the $1 billion mark in the value of construction projects for the second year in a row. This year and last year were the first billion-dollar construction years since 2000.

The milestone was reached at the end of October, a month earlier than in 2012. There have been 10,371 building permits issued to date for new buildings, additions, remodels and miscellaneous work.

That includes 130 permits covering 2,880 housing units, according to Minneapolis Community Planning & Economic Development. The city is expected to have under permit by year’s end up to 3,900 new dwelling units, about the same number of units as in 2012.

The priciest 2013 construction projects in Minneapolis by building permit valuation are: A Mill Apartment Building at 315 SE. Main St., valued at $68.1 million; The Nic, a 26-story apartment building located at 465 Nicollet Mall, $68.1 million; UTEC Apartment Building at 1313 SE. 5th St., $59.9 million; Stonebridge Condominium at 1102 S. 2nd St., $48.3 million; apartments at 2828 Dupont Av. S., $36.1 million.

MHTA participation, aspirations on rise

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of the Minnesota High Tech Association, said membership is back to prerecession levels of more than 300.

More than 900 people attended the annual Tekne Awards ceremony Wednesday night at which 15 small and large organizations were recognized for innovations in manufacturing, agriculture, health care, education and other categories. MHTA also has stepped up support of undergraduate scholarships for students who excel in science and math, internships and outreach.

A new award for “STEM” education and digital learning went to the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering for its no-cost camps over the past 14 years that have hosted 3,000 schoolgirls in workshops covering electronics, physics, renewable energy, computer programming, as well as weaving in art and creative applications with technology. A lot of these were disadvantaged kids who have gone on to college degrees in technical fields.

Gray Plant scores in trade-secret case

The Minneapolis law firm Gray Plant Mooty scored a huge win last month on behalf of dairy system and equipment manufacturer RELCO against two former employees and their Wisconsin-based employer over the theft of trade secrets. Following a nine-day trial in Kandiyohi County District Court, a jury awarded Willmar-based RELCO $22.7 million in damages for the misappropriation of proprietary company material relating to dairy processing systems and cheesemaking equipment.

Most of the award will be paid by Custom Fabricating & Repair for receiving and using computer disks belonging to RELCO that were stolen by two ex-RELCO employees who subsequently were hired by the Marshfield, Wis., firm. The jury said the two employees are on the hook for about $2 million in damages.

“It is very gratifying to see justice done in this case,” said Dean LeDoux, Gray Plant Mooty’s lead attorney for RELCO. “The legal system worked as it should in protecting RELCO’s rights to its confidential and valuable technology.”


Boulder muni effort advances

Boulder, Colo., citizens seem more determined to create a municipal electric company to replace Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc.

The city’s voters faced two ballot questions last Tuesday to alternatively pursue or kill the effort. They approved a pro-municipalization question by 2-1, while an Xcel-backed measure lost by nearly the same ratio. That’s more support for municipalization than on the 2011 ballot question whose passage — with a 51.8 percent margin — started Boulder’s process to oust Xcel.

But the deal is far from done. The city likely faces lengthy regulatory and court battles over the cost of acquiring Xcel’s power poles, lines and other assets. The city has modeled the cost at $150 million to $455 million.


Short takes

• Veteran businesswoman Betsy Buckley will succeed nonprofit entrepreneur Joe Selvaggio as president of MicroGrants, which has funneled $300,000-plus this year in small grants to struggling entrepreneurs and working-poor “people of potential” in need of capital or training en route to economic self-sufficiency. Said Buckley: “The opportunity to work with partner agencies like the African Development Center, the Jeremiah Program and Twin Cities Rise and with visionary donors to support people of potential draws on my life’s experience and passions for fundraising, innovation, leadership and growth.”

Buckley most recently was interim CEO of the Downtown Council. Selvaggio is the 1972-vintage founder of Project for Pride In Living (PPL). Steve Cramer, PPL’s 16-year CEO, will soon lead the Downtown Council, the business organization that promotes downtown. Microgrants has granted more than $3 million, mostly in $1,000 amounts, over the years.

• Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Opportunity International CEO Vicki Escarra and global volunteer Mary Lynn Staley will explain how female entrepreneurs through microcredit help millions of families escape the worst of poverty in developing nations in a program at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the Whitney MacMillan Auditorium in Hopkins. There are still seats left for the event sponsored by Riverbridge Partners at www.opportunity.org/mnwomen. Women, studies have shown, tend to be more giving, more diligent care givers and more collaborative than men.

• The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia has awarded Bill George its 2014 Bower Award for Business Leadership, one of the oldest of the national business ethics awards. The award citation recognized the former Medtronic CEO, who now teaches at Harvard “for his visionary leadership of Medtronic, his promotion and writings on corporate social responsibility and leadership” and his philanthropy.