Toro CEO Hoffman started his 39-year-run with company fixing and selling machines

Mike Hoffman, who will retire after 11 years as Toro CEO at the end of this year, knows something about fixing stuff.

Hoffman, 61, joined Toro in 1977, after attending Mankato Institute of Technology, which he dubbed “MIT.” He spent eight years fixing and selling lawn and snow equipment. Hoffman, who doesn’t blow his own horn, moved into marketing and management and recalls he was fortunate to have as his mentor Ken Melrose, the 25-year CEO who preceded Hoffman.

Hoffman went to night school to earn undergraduate and graduate business degrees. The results were good on his run.

Since 2005, Toro’s net income has doubled to $202 million [in 2015], on a sales increase of 40 percent to $2.4 billion. The value of the stock over the decade rose 300 percent to an all-time high of more than $91 per share recently.

Meanwhile, Hoffman increased engineering and research spending from $48 million to $74 million. The company expanded its Bloomington headquarters and research facilities, and pulled off its largest acquisition, through the $227 million Boss snowplow acquisition.

Hoffman, who earned $11 million last year, mostly through appreciated stock holdings, engineered a profitable growth company in a low-growth trade and moved successfully into low-water irrigation systems. Toro is known as a good employer and community benefactor.

Hoffman, who mows his own lawn, was good for the landscape and Toro stakeholders.

Does Size Matter?

UnitedHealth Group, a public company, tops Cargill, America’s largest private outfit

Cargill may be the largest private company in America, according to the most recent Forbes. However, Minnetonka neighbor, publicly traded UnitedHealth Group, is now Minnesota’s largest company.

In fiscal year 2014, Cargill had annual revenue of $134.9 billion, while UnitedHealth’s annual sales were $130 billion.

After a tougher year because of lower global commodity prices and other factors, though, Cargill’s revenue in 2015 slipped to $120 billion, while UnitedHealth grew to $156 billion in sales (and analysts project that number to grow to $183 billion for 2016).

Carlson, which Forbes lists as the second largest private company in Minnesota with $4.6 billion in revenue, would barely make the 20 largest public companies in Minnesota. It would rank behind Polaris Industries, which had $4.7 billion in revenue in 2015.

Private companies are not required to publicly report their financial performance. Cargill reveals some data because it has public debt outstanding.

Forbes uses data from voluntary disclosures, Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other sources and estimates.

Forbes included the following information about Minnesota’s largest private companies:

•Carlson Cos.: $4.6 billion, moved up to 88th place from 91st, including Radisson hotels, which it has sold.

•Mortenson Co.: $3.7 billion, climbed to 115th place from 151st. The construction giant is expanding its Golden Valley headquarters.

•Holiday Cos.: $3.2 billion, which slipped to 133rd place from 106th, is a Bloomington chain of gas stations and convenience stores.

•Schwan Foods: $3 billion revenue, at 154th place from 137th. The Marshall-based maker and deliverer of ice cream and other foods is navigating the era of apps and Amazon.

•Door-and-window maker Andersen Corp. at $2.4 billion, moved up to 187th from 188th.

Patrick Kennedy & Kristin Leigh Painter

Technology firms

Piper downgrades prototyping companies

Piper Jaffray’s Troy Jensen reports 3-D printer demand is down significantly, reflected in the stock prices for both 3D Systems (DDD) and Stratasys (SSYS), which he downgraded last week.

He wrote investors that second-quarter and second-half results will probably come in below consensus expectations for both names, and speculates that sustained weakness for prototyping-focused machines — were the main reasons for the slowdown. He expects some customers will delay purchasing to assess the new offerings and warns that existing resellers for 3D Systems and Stratasys may partner with competitor HP.

He downgraded 3D Systems from neutral to underweight and lowered his price target from $12 to $10.25. And he cut Stratasys from overweight to neutral and cut his price target from $32 to $24.

“We believe the competitive landscape continues to intensify, channel relationships remain stressed and any cost cuts [3D Systems] can find will likely be offset by increased spending on R&D and service-support,” he said predicting grimmer days ahead for 3D Systems than Stratasys, which has joint headquarters in Israel and the Twin Cities.

-- Neal St. Anthony