Torben Rytt, a Danish computer scientist, was about to quit his job in 2007 at a Copenhagen firm called Site­improve to move to the Twin Cities to woo a Minnesota woman he had met in a Copenhagen bar.

Siteimprove President Morten Ebbesen didn’t want his young, 10-employee company to lose a valuable employee.

So he asked Rytt to work from the United States.

This deal has worked pretty well for all parties. Rytt married the woman, Victoria, and they have a 4-year-old son, Walter. And Siteimprove’s U.S. headquarters in Bloomington has grown to 80 workers under Rytt’s direction.

“I moved to the Twin Cities and became the first U.S. employee,” Rytt said last week.

Ebbesen, a one-time IT troubleshooter examining client websites for broken links, started Siteimprove.com in 2003 after concluding there was a market for a software package of diagnostic tools that could eliminate the need for manual fixes on client websites. Siteimprove says its web-governance software helps customers better maintain websites through quality assurance, web analytics, search engine optimization and more.

The firm has grown markedly since the Great Recession, employing 160 workers in Bloomington, Copenhagen and several European capitals. Rytt said the chance move to Minnesota worked spectacularly for love and business.

“If I had gone to New York City or San Francisco to open an office, … it’s just so much more expensive and there is more competition for talent,” Rytt said. “Minneapolis has a fantastic pool of candidates. We’re growing [customers] because, basically, we change the way people look at website maintenance. From a tedious, manual task to something that’s automated, finds mistakes on websites, highlights them and how to change. We give customers the time back to focus on [business].”

St. David’s ready to work through expansion

Minnetonka-based St. David’s Center, one of the Twin Cities’ venerable providers of child development services and training for mental health professionals, embarks this spring on the final phase of its $13.7 million campus renovation and building expansion.

“We will remain open during the project thanks to the wonderfully creative staff at McGough Construction and Pope Architects,” Executive Director Julie Sjordal said last week.

The St. David’s expansion and last fall’s construction by Mortenson of the new Washburn Child Guidance Center in north Minneapolis don’t have the gravitas or public price tag of sports colosseums. But they are significant for thousands of Minnesota families annually who need healthier families. And healthy people make for a more capable workforce and vibrant economy.

The renovation and expansion at St. David’s will create next-generation early education, intervention and treatment facilities, a children’s mental health clinic, autism day treatment program, and more that will double the number of families who benefit. The expansion will increase the building footprint by 6,800 square feet, or about 13 percent, improve safety and integrate an adjacent 2 ½-acre woods for educational and therapeutic services.

The $13.7 million is nearly raised from individuals, foundations and corporations. It includes $3.75 million from the 2014 Minnesota Legislature. About half of St. David’s clients are seen at remote sites around the Twin Cities.

Lawyer Rob Mairs heads to namesake firm

By September, there will be a “Mairs” in management once again at Mairs & Power, the employee-owned St. Paul investment firm that was founded 84 years ago.

Robert “Rob” Mairs, 45, an attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, will join the firm founded by his grandfather, George Mairs Jr., as general counsel and assistant to Chief Executive Jon Theobald. Rob Mairs also is the nephew of George Mairs III, the gentleman investor and quiet philanthropist who worked at the firm from 1952 until his death in 2010.

“I grew up knowing the firm because of my uncle and grandfather, but I’m not an investment professional,” Rob Mairs said last week. “Jon talked to me and said there’s an investment team and an executive management team.

“I’m honored that Jon called me. This is a great opportunity for me.”

 

Africa business conference on May 7

There’s still room to register for a May 7 forum on business and political trends in Africa that will feature Donald Teitelbaum, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs and Oliver Wonekha, the Ugandan ambassador to the U.S.

The program is sponsored by St. Paul-based Books for Africa and the University of Minnesota.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing regions and is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing markets in the world, according to the Minnesota Trade Office. U.S. trade with Africa has tripled over the past decade and the U.S. exported $22.6 billion in goods and services to the region last year.

More information on the Africa forum is at http://mn.gov/deed/business/exporting/events.

 

Oak Investment closes Minneapolis office

Oak Investment Partners will close its Minneapolis office due to the death last year of Jerry Gallagher at age 73.

A spokeswoman for the Silicon Valley-based capital company said Gallagher “simply cannot be replaced.”

Oak had a Minneapolis office solely to accommodate Gallagher. Gallagher, a former Dayton Hudson executive, joined Oak in 1987 as a retail venture capitalist and was engaged in Oak retail investments, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Office Depot, PetSmart and Whole Foods. Gallagher, a philanthropist, funded 150 low-income kids with full college scholarships.