Mary Hamel, left, is executive director of the Metro Independent Business Alliance, and Printz co-owner Stephanie Hansen is a member.

NEAL ST. ANTHONY • Star Tribune,

Metro group hosts national small-business conference

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • May 10, 2014 - 4:06 PM

Business is up at Minneapolis-based PostcardBuilder and Printz, said co-owner Stephanie Hansen of the 35-employee printing firm that expects $8 million in sales this year. In fact, Hansen and her partner last fall acquired a 25,000-square-foot building near Plymouth Avenue N. and the Mississippi River. Coloplast USA vacated the site to move to larger headquarters a few blocks away.

Hansen will take time this weekend to join Executive Director Mary Hamel of the Twin Cities Metro Independent Business Alliance to host the annual national conference of the American Independent Business Alliance (IBA), including about 125 independent-business owners and small-business leaders from more than 80 metropolitan areas and small communities.

“This will be my third conference and the first one we’ve hosted in the Twin Cities,” said Hamel, the onetime owner of the May Day Cafe and a veteran businesswoman. “I always leave these conferences charged up about the work we are doing.”

The Metro IBA, which has grown this year to a record 300-plus members, runs the gamut from Warners’ Stellian Appliances to Summit Beer, Electric Fetus, the Wedge Coop and Wet Paint. When Hamel signed on at Metro IBA ( in 2005, there were 40 members. The organization is increasing membership by 20 to 30 annually.

The Twin Cities was chosen because of “its thriving independent scene and the strength of the local host, MetroIBA,” said Jennifer Rockne of the national IBA. “Our members across the country and Canada will get the chance to visit and learn from the independent business owners and members of MetroIBA.'’

The Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance in February published an interesting report on the community economic advantage of locally owned business compared with chain operations. Read it at

Is Comcast-Time Warner deal the barbarian at the cable gate?

Comcast may be the most hated cable company in the nation, but they are not the worst,” said Christopher Mitchell, researcher and director of Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has gotten national press on the issue lately. “They invest more in their network and provide much better service, on average, than competitors like Time Warner Cable and Charter.

Mitchell opposes the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, along with some consumer groups and politicians, even after the merger partners said they would shed several million of their existing customers to Charter Communications. Comcast would sell 1.4 million subscribers outright to Charter Communications and spin off 3.5 million subscribers — including those in the Twin Cities — into a separate company co-owned by Comcast and Charter.

“Local governments should recognize that they need to do something,” Mitchell said. “At the very least, they should be analyzing the situation to see what kind of services will be necessary to be competitive in the modern economy with other metro areas moving to full-fiber networks.’’

Local governments can’t stop this deal, but can reduce their dependence on one cable company.

“I would advise Minneapolis and St. Paul to develop a plan that will immediately begin laying conduit and/or fiber-optic lines as part of other capital projects that are already tearing up streets,” Mitchell said. “Additionally, as fiber is laid to connect traffic signals for smart transportation, put in extra fiber that could be used for other purposes. This is standard operating procedure in a number of places, including Dakota County.

Minnesota small-business owners feel better

The state’s economy puts small-business owners in Minnesota at greater ease than those in most other states, according the 2014 U.S. Bank Small Business Survey. The survey reveals trends in economic sentiment, issues of greatest concern to small-business owners, plans for future hiring and capital expenditures, and innovation.

The survey, now in its fifth year, polled 3,173 small businesses during the first quarter of 2014, including 200 in Minnesota, across the 25 states where U.S. Bank provides small-business banking services. The firms surveyed had $10 million or less in annual sales.

Minnesota small-business owners feel better about the national economy and, for the first time, a majority (54 percent) said that it is in a recovery. They were significantly more likely than their national counterparts to describe their local economy as stronger than the national economy.

And 52 percent of Minnesota small-business owners described the state’s economy in 2014 as “good, very good, or excellent,” compared with only one-third (32 percent) in 2010. They are encouraged by low unemployment and discouraged about taxes.

About 25 percent of Minnesota small-business owners plan to add to staff in the next year, compared with 20 percent nationally. And 37 percent in Minnesota are likely to make a capital expenditure in the next year, compared to 29 percent nationally. More information:


• About 85 percent of Minnesota manufacturers are cautiously confident about their company’s future, according to the sixth annual State of Manufacturing Survey from Enterprise Minnesota. That’s despite the fact that a growing number of manufacturing executives think Minnesota’s business climate is on the wrong track. More information:

• There’s still room to register for the 15th annual Minnesota Business Ethics Award (MBEA), taking place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. The finalists in several categories are: Irish Titan, Spanlink Communications, Western Bank, Bay West, Doherty Employment Group, North Star Resource Group, Alexandria Industries, Marvin Windows, and Restaurant Technologies. CEO Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners is the speaker. More information:

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