Jamil Ford and David Witt, owners of what is believed to be the only commercial architectural business in north Minneapolis, plan a significant role in the area’s long-sought-but-slow-in-coming commercial revitalization.

Their three-year-old Mobilize Design & Architecture on W. Broadway has designed several significant projects over its lifetime. More are in the pipeline.

“I think we’ve made it through the hard times,” said Ford, a North High and University of Minnesota graduate who lives on the North Side. “There are opportunities here. And we need more professionals, more homeowners, more businesses, small and large.”

Ford and Witt, who also lives in north Minneapolis, worked together at two Minneapolis firms before striking out on their own on W. Broadway, the frayed-edge main drag that once was one of Minnesota’s biggest commercial arteries. The neighborhood is ripe for redevelopment, but big plans for Broadway were scuttled by the recession.

A few small developers have focused on one building at a time, and often have had to scramble for commercial tenants in a low-income area hard hit by the residential real estate implosion and related mortgage fraud. Crime also has made economic stability a block-by-block challenge. But, as we learned on rebounding E. Franklin and E. Lake streets in south Minneapolis, commerce and customers trump crime. And that’s the vision up north.

Ford and Witt are planning and designing the retail-residential complex on Penn Avenue N. and Golden Valley Road planned by Devean George, the North Side native and Augsburg College graduate who has returned home from the NBA to start nonprofit and for-profit real estate ventures. And they designed the refurbished Five Points complex at W. Broadway and Penn, the Venture North Bike Shop and several other renovated buildings in the area.

“We’ve put our roots down, and we’re in north Minneapolis for the long haul,” Witt said. “We’ve got projects that will keep us going. We could use more. We put our money where our mouths were … just as the economy went bust for architects in 2010. But we see in north Minneapolis … a renaissance in the early stages. We want to be at the forefront.”


Talk about your Minnesota Nice.

Minneapolis ad agency Periscope is reuniting forces with prodigal daughter Jenifer Anhorn as the agency’s new vice president assigned to promote the Periscope brand with existing and new clients and in the worlds of traditional and social media.

Anhorn was on Periscope’s management team for 16 years until she joined Papa Murphy’s International in 2010 as chief marketing officer for the Vancouver-based take ’n’ bake pizza chain.

Under Anhorn’s watch last year, Periscope was replaced as Papa Murphy’s advertising agency of record after a nearly eight-year run with the takeout chain.

But all is forgiven.

“We’re thrilled to have Jenifer back at Periscope,” said agency CEO Greg Kurowski. “She’s a hands-on collaborative leader.”

“This [was] an easy decision for me,” said Anhorn.



After a successful in-store promotion assignment for big mattress maker Sealy Posturepedic, Little & Co. has signed on as the marketing agency of record.

Sealy Chief Marketing Officer Jodi Allen said Little, which has roots in design, was instrumental in changing Sealy’s in-store approach through a successful “relaunch” of the brand that brought the “product story” to life through innovative headboard displays, point-of-purchase information and other pieces that helped the sales force peddle mattresses.

Little Chief Executive Joe Cecere said: “Top brands such as Sealy, working with the nation’s leading retailers, struggle to reach the consumer with a simplified, consistent brand story every day. Using our design principles, we were able to break through the noise, engage the sales force, and deliver.”

Several Twin Cities marketing firms have national mattress accounts. This is no sleeping matter. Little, with about 20 employees, has seen revenue grow from about $3 million a decade ago to an estimated $10 million this year.


• Robert Buss of Diversified Growth Investors reports that 150 investment professionals, up from 120 last year, are signed up for the Aug. 1 InvestMNt 2013, the second annual bazaar that will bring together several dozen Minnesota public companies and their managements with investors. The CFA Society of Minnesota, the sponsor, last year brought back the sort of regional investment conference that hasn’t occurred often since the days of Dain Rauscher and Piper Jaffray and the former IDS Financial Services, which had their own versions of regional-company conferences. However, this conference is not a brokerage-sponsored conference, limited to client companies. It’s sponsored by the local investment society to put public companies in front of professional investors for a small fee without a third party and without the pressure of commissions, Buss said.

• Social entrepreneur Jim Rettew has launched www.barnraisings.com, which has been described as a Kickstarter-type crowdfunding approach for nonprofits. Rettew said he got the idea from the Amish tradition of mobilizing neighbors to build a barn together, as well as the cooperative approach to building a house by Habitat for Humanity. This promising work in progress features an initial group of about a dozen nonprofits and microbusinesses trying to fund projects. Barnraising charges the recipient 6 percent of the money raised.