Gary Smaby, the former securities analyst, is a consultant, philanthropist and a thoughtful guy.
The Washburn High grad, class of 1967, also has that Norwegian-bred calm and global outlook.
Smaby mused last Sunday at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis about the important intersection of human rights, peace and capitalism. Speakers and respondents from around the globe at the conference decried or explained how they were combating crony capitalism, human trafficking, violence in the name of God or man and denial of education and civil rights to women or a targeted minority. Such problems are bad for people and business, whether in Minnesota, Moscow or Mogadishu.
“On the flip side, we heard first-person accounts of reconciliation between bitter combatants in both Northern Ireland and [West Africa] that give one hope that multigenerational ethnic and religious hatred can be moderated or overcome through painstaking, nonviolent mediation and peacemaking,” said Smaby, whose family foundation sponsors the conference along with host Augsburg College and other business, academic and nonprofit underwriters. “It goes without saying that commerce cannot prosper without ‘domestic tranquillity.’ ”
American businesses did not get off scot free at the conference, as evidenced by the showing and lively discussion of the recent documentary film “Food Chains,” about exploitation of Florida farmworkers that you won’t see in ads for your local grocery. It’s also further evidence of why Americans need to scrutinize the industrial-food economy, and not just get fat off it.
Many of the speakers and sessions can be seen on video at www.nobelpeaceprizeforum.org. A few highlights for me included:
• Ingrid Stange, a Norwegian with an MBA from University of California, Berkeley, who started out as a McKinsey & Co. consultant in the 1980s when females weren’t invited to happy hour or golf outings. Stange, founder of Norway’s Partnership for Change, makes a compelling case for why Norway and other democracies owe economic growth as much to freedom, innovation, women and immigrants as to oil. Natural resources usually are looted by governments and industrial cronies in totalitarian states where human rights are eroded.
• The Rev. James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, two religious leaders in northern Nigeria, more than a decade ago threatened each other with death and essentially controlled youth militias. Today, they are in the vanguard in a growing peace-and-reconciliation movement in a neighborhood where religious extremists kidnap and kill children and the Army seems impotent. Nigeria is a resource-rich country, but its wealth is squandered and controlled by a powerful minority amid corruption and religious strife.
• Paul Walker, an Army veteran and one-time senior staffer to the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, who works to reduce chemical and nuclear weapons globally as a director of Green Cross International.
Six energy-saving operations claim Xcel awards
Xcel Energy drew more than 700 companies to its annual Energy Efficiency Expo at the St. Paul RiverCentre last week.
The big utility also recognized six varying-size Minnesota business for outstanding energy-saving work.
Karen Rhodes, Xcel’s energy efficiency marketing manager, said the winning companies saved the equivalent of the amount of electricity and natural gas needed to power 1,500 homes over the past year. Xcel rebated $1 million to those companies, which invested millions in more efficient equipment and processes. The biggest losers (energy savers) were:
Industrial: Liberty Paper ($585,000), American Crystal Sugar ($350,000).
Commercial: U.S. Bancorp ($340,000), Winona State University ($134,000).
Small: Schmidt Artist Lofts in St. Paul ($205,000) and St. Paul’s Lowry Building ($10,000).
Job-hungry CarMax lands in Brooklyn Park
CarMax, the publicly owned company that is the nation’s largest used-car retailer, has opened its first Minnesota store, in Brooklyn Park. It plans to employ up to 75 people.
Virginia-based CarMax last month paid up to $5,000 at the 40,000-square-foot facility for hard-to-find technicians, another indication of revved-up auto sales and the job-driving economic recovery, now in its sixth year. The store usually will stock about 240 used vehicles.
In a nice touch, CarMax’s CEO said last week that the CarMax Foundation will invest nearly $100,000 to build a community playground in Brooklyn Park with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and KaBOOM!, the national nonprofit for healthy kids.
People we know
• Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined President Obama last week to announce that our fair city is one of a couple of dozen that are part of the “TechHire” initiative. The program will help high school graduates develop IT skills through various training programs.
Minneapolis will work with: Prime Digital Academy, created by the Nerdery and other employers, which offers an 18-week training program; Concordia University Bootcamp, a 12-week software development training program; and IT-Ready, an eight-week classroom training program operated by the Creating IT Futures Foundation. Financial assistance is available for qualifying students.
Minnesota’s 120,000 tech workers make an average of $79,000. Within the next decade, Minnesota will need to replace and add something like 200,000 IT jobs, not including those in the huge health care sector.
• Dennis B. McGrath, a dean of the local PR trade for the past half century, is back as a senior adviser at Himle Rapp & Co. in downtown Minneapolis following a yearlong recovery from bladder cancer surgery. McGrath, a founder of what became Weber Shandwick’s Minneapolis and Tokyo offices, says he’s cancer free and 50 pounds lighter. Good to see him striding the skyways again.
The 24-hour RedEye Rebrand of StoneArch marketing this month benefited Magic Arms for the World, a nonprofit that has developed a 3-D printed device to treat children born with a rare disease that restricts normal arm movement. Without the device, children are not able to lift their arms, limiting everyday activities such as playing, drawing or even hugging a parent. More info at www.redeyerebrand.com.