Tasha Byers, a graduate of Minneapolis North High School and the University of St. Thomas, in some ways felt more a sense of “community” and “belonging” as a professional who is black when she lived in London, where she attended the London School of Economics, and in Philadelphia where she worked for a while.
Byers who recently joined the staff at the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, knows the Twin Cities’ bad rap as a tough place for minority professionals to settle. She said a recent University of Minnesota study estimates that the Twin Cities ranks 14th out of the 25 largest metropolitan areas for retaining professionals of color.
Losing talented, trained people is bad economics. Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Chamber, hired Byers, who was working as a lobbyist, to start connecting with employers and affinity groups, whether the local chapter of the National Black MBA Association Inc., Asian professional groups or the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. She also will work with Twin Cities Diversity Roundtable, the Forum on Workplace Inclusion and Make It. MSP in 2016 and produce a report that examines how the Twin Cities can improve retention.
Byers, 28, already has brought together disparate minority group associations to start brainstorming issues and earned herself the nickname “The Matchmaker.” And there are more than 70 professional groups and social groups in the area affiliated by race and ethnicity.
“These groups often are volunteer-led and the leadership generally doesn’t have time to update websites, social media pages and plan a series of events,” she said. “They often work in silos … and often don’t collaborate. And the employee resource groups of color at many of our Fortune 500 companies … interact within companies but not always across companies, which also diminishes the potential for a robust community.”
Byers was also a leader of the North High Lady Polars basketball team that won three state championships.
Recon Robotics will get a second chance
Shareholders of struggling Recon Robotics will meet Tuesday to consider a restructuring plan that the acting CEO says is the only alternative to liquidation in bankruptcy court.
A group of Twin Cities financiers that plans to invest about $600,000 in the reconstituted company purchased a discounted loan to Recon from a bank and has persuaded creditors owed more than $11 million to take stock in the company.
About 180 individual and other shareholders would get a fraction of their initial investment.
Privately held Recon peaked in revenue around $20 million in 2012 amid strong demand by the military and police agencies for its lightweight “throwbot” video-eye robots that see around corners and enter buildings that may pose a threat. It got into trouble due to 2013-14 government spending cuts and an ill-fated diversification plan by a former CEO and board.
Employment has fallen from 60 to about six and sales were about $3 million last year. New CEO Mack Traynor said Recon’s licensed technology from the University of Minnesota, the inventor who remains with Recon and a willing contract manufacturer in Winona, who is among the consenting creditors and recapitalization group, can drive an independent recovery.
Traynor, a workout specialist who would stay on as CEO, said the creditors and new investors would get 90 percent of the new stock.
Nonprofit business execs paid six figures
In today’s Star Tribune business section, we feature the state’s largest 100 nonprofit organizations, their revenue and the compensation of their CEOs, as well as a story about the struggles of several smaller organizations since the recession.
Here’s the compensation paid to several CEOs of some of the largest business associations, based on their most recent regulatory filings, some of which are more than a year old:
Charlie Weaver, Minnesota Business Partnership, $612,127; Todd Klingel, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, $238, 132; Matt Kramer, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, $227,128; David Olson, the late CEO of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, $478,276.
Former Faribault exec must pay back workers
The former CEO of Faribault Woolen Mill has been ordered to pay $67,800 in restitution and interest to compensate workers whose health care premiums were deducted from their paychecks, but not paid to the insurer in early 2009.
The judgment against Michael Paul Harris was issued last month by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul after a nonjury civil trial in June. Harris left the historic milling company before its 2009 shutdown and liquidation and has had no role in the successful 2011 revival under new owners.
The case brought by the U.S. Labor Department revealed that 42 employees, including some with families, had health premiums deducted from their pay but later found their insurance had been canceled for nonpayment, resulting in nearly $9,300 in unpaid claims.
Harris “breached his fiduciary duties” in not paying the insurer, the judge wrote in a 31-page order. He could not be reached to comment.
Cookie Cart hits the spot on the Today Show
Dominique Nelson, 22, who started her business career at nonprofit Cookie Cart on W. Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis as a teen, studied baking and business and is now the production manager of the expanding 27-year-old enterprise that is a favorite at business parties this time of the year.
Martin appeared last week on the Today Show for a segment on popular holiday cookies, thanks to loyal fans who raved about the product on Cookie Cart’s Facebook page. Martin presented a tray to 10 a.m. hour hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford and described the products as well as the jobs the business provides local teens.