Veteran business attorney Steve Wellvang, who once served medical-technology clients, believes the Twin Cities' vaunted "entrepreneurial ecosystem" can become just as supportive of education-technology innovation.

Wellvang, who returned in 2013 as a partner to Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly after a decade at St. Paul education nonprofit ECMC Group, is one of the movers behind "Educelerate Twin Cities," a monthly networking discussion forum of 125 industry and education partners devoted to innovation in education.

Wellvang also is behind "Startup Weekend EDU" May 2-4 at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to bring entrepreneurs together in a collaborative environment and develop new business ideas over an "intensive weekend of activities," according to Wellvang.

The weekend will bring together educators, technologists, designers, business professionals and financiers for 54 hours for idea sharing, team projects design and start-up launches. The weekend begins Friday night with 60-second pitches that will lead to small team formation around what are considered the most viable concepts. Teams spend Saturday and Sunday focusing on user research, customer development, idea validation and prototype development, with the assistance of experienced educators.

The weekend is hosted by the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School. For more information, go to:

Green start-up is seeking green on

Rochester-based Envirolastech has launched a $2.5 million equity-raising campaign on, on top of debt financing commitments it has to build a $13.5 million commercial-scale plant to produce green building materials from recycled plastic, glass and fly ash.

Envirolastech, a winner of the 2012 Minnesota Cup Clean Tech Award, has developed a variety of composites that can be calibrated to the customer's specifications and that don't get brittle in cold weather, said CEO Paul Schmitt. The technology also has been recognized by the Polymer Solutions Independent Testing Lab for breakthrough innovation.

Schmitt is a veteran carpenter and contractor who started experimenting with recycled plastic years ago as an alternative to wood or concrete stalls he built for owners of large animals. He's spent more than a decade working with plastics scientists, customers and manufacturers on prototype products.

"We have customers, established manufacturers, ready to use our material to strengthen and improve their green building and landscape products as soon as we get into production," Schmitt said last week.

Schmitt, who has the backing of the city of Rochester and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Envirolastech combines unique blends of recycled resins, recycled minerals and other solid waste materials to create products that are 100 percent recyclable, weather resistant and structurally sound.

Navigant Research has projected that the global market for green construction materials will more than double to $254 billion by 2020. More information:

New Schneiderman's doubles size, shrinks carbon footprint

CEO Larry Schneiderman of family-owned Schneiderman's Furniture reports completion of a seven-figure expansion of the Woodbury store that doubles the size while decreasing the environmental impact of the 20-year-old store.

Schneiderman, 64, said he only could have added about 10,000 square feet through a typical horizontal expansion, given the property constraints. Instead, Schneiderman's, using a new construction technology, added 35,000 square feet by jacking up the 35,000-square-foot roof and reusing it atop the new second floor.

In addition to several energy-saving technologies, Schneidermans' is working with Ideal Energies to install solar arrays on the roofs of its Woodbury and Plymouth locations.

"I'm one of those environmental people," Schneiderman said. "But I'm also motivated by economics. And this was the smartest way to increase our square footage, and we retain the roof instead of sending it to a landfill. The Woodbury store always has been an excellent performer."

Schneiderman's, started by Larry's parents as a grocery store on the Iron Range in the 1940s, operates five stores in the Twin Cities and Duluth. The company, which employs 200, plans to add a showroom in Duluth this year. Larry's son Jason, 41, the president and a 20-year veteran, runs day-to-day operations and eventually will be the third generation to oversee Schneiderman's.

Quality performers recognized

The Performance Excellence Network (PEN), formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality, last week honored four recipients of the 2013 Performance Excellence Award. They are: Cardinal of Minnesota, Winona Health, LifeSource of St. Paul and Austin Public Schools. These four organizations join 123 others recognized since 1991 for systematic improvement efforts and superior outcomes.

The award is based on the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and is the culmination of a rigorous evaluation of an organization's management system, including leadership, strategic planning, customer-focused processes, measurement systems, workforce engagement and operations.

"These organizations all have one thing in common," said Brian Lassiter, president of PEN. "They … are continuously striving to improve outcomes for their customers, workforce and other stakeholders."