Staff Directory 6134703

Lee Schafer

Columnist | Business
Phone: 612-673-4302

Lee Schafer joined the Star Tribune as a columnist in 2012 after 15 years in business, including leading his own consulting practice and serving on corporate boards of directors. He's twice been named the best in business columnist by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, most recently for his work in 2017.


Schafer grew up on a southwest Minnesota cattle farm and studied history and economics at Macalester College. He received his masters degree from Northwestern University and worked as a writer and editor for a regional business monthly before returning to business. His work included investment banking but he had the most fun advising CEOs on growth strategy. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Tanya Bell, a real estate development consultant and civic leader, and they have three adult daughters. He's also been active as a volunteer, including for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood House and Urban Homeworks.
Recent content from Lee Schafer
An affiliate of Walton Street Capital of Chicago bought the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis for $143 million, renovated part of the building and then r

Schafer: Home real estate may be immune to the pandemic, but commercial properties aren't

It's easy to guess where it's really painful, with social distancing keeping lots of people from shopping in stores or staying in hotels.
Menards employee Bob LaCasse followed protocol as he passed a sign explaining it to customers.

Schafer: We might wear our masks yet if behavioral science is correct

Making decisions, over and over throughout a day, can use up our capacity for self-control.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on stage during a video portion of the 1995 Windows 95 Launch Event on the company’s campus in Redmond, Wash.

Schafer: Stock market rising on the indispensable companies

The boomers and Xers remember when Microsoft was so dominant that a federal judge ordered it broken up. That year of peak Microsoft…
Rendering shows the Control Data Corp. Northside plant in Minneapolis before its construction in 1967 and 1968. The plant closed when the company decl

Schafer: The last time Minneapolis rioted, one large company did more than just talk about change

Reminders of the one-time giant Control Data Corp. (CDC) can be seen all over the Twin Cities, from a street named Computer Avenue in Edina…
HealthPartners headquarters in Bloomington.

Schafer: The pain of social distancing paid off for Minnesota health care providers

HealthPartners shows how the providers have had to tweak facilities, make plans for staffing and more so much still unknown about the disease.
Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, at a COVID-related briefing.

Schafer: There are no simple choices to find an exit from this lockdown

It's clear we can't go back to normal yet, and likely not for months.
This Feb. 10, 2016 file photo shows a former iron ore processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., that would become part of a proposed PolyMet copper-nic

Schafer: Naifs like me thought the PolyMet project would be decided on economics

Whether this proposed mine ever operates in the northeastern corner of our state was always about politics.
Two Mayo Clinic appointment kiosks that were installed in 2018 as part of a electronics records transition designed by Madison, Wis.-based Epic System

Schafer: Hospitals and doctors have your health records. Should app makers get them too?

What the conflict really boils down to is differing notions of security when it comes to patient information. And money, too.
"Everybody thinks of this as telemarketing, and it's just so not," said Jody Weinberg, chief executive and founder of J. Teleconnections.

Dialing the phone can still be an effective sales strategy

Jody Weinberg is a champion of using a telephone to fill a pipeline of potential sales contacts.
Target flexes its muscle on behalf of consumers.

Schafer: Will tariffs hit Target's customers or its suppliers?

Tariffs reshape economic activity in lots of different ways. It's not always easy to know who bears how much of the burden.
Chuck Zwilling and his crew worked on cutting the ice for their giant floating ice carousel -- more than 130 meters across -- on Green Prairie Fish La

Schafer: The best spot to retire might not be the warmest

It turns out that Minnesota is a contender on lots of rankings of the healthiest states.
Gov. Tim Walz spoke as he was interviewed by Minnesota Chamber President Doug Loon during the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's annual policy kickoff ev

Schafer: IT woes that haunt Walz also plague businesses everywhere

He lamented there's no real constituency championing more IT investments, at least until something goes wrong. But that's hardly unique to government.
A logo sign outside of a Shopko Hometown retail store in Kiel, Wisconsin, on June 24, 2018. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Image

Schafer: Shopko bankruptcy filing raises some questions

Shopko stores are being put out of business by competitors who are simply better at delivering what more consumers want.
C.H. Robinson provides transportation, shipping and related services, including technology for truckers shown here.

Schafer: New normal highlighted by growth of logistics at C.H. Robinson Worldwide

For those of us who have marveled at how fast business processes seem to change and technology gets adopted, that pace is only going to accelerate.
The Federal Reserve building

Schafer: Fed finding maximum employment hard to measure these days

Developer Bruce Barron walks away from a vacant lot in north Minneapolis, where he plans to build a house through a new city program incentivizing hom

Schafer: Why there's no longer such a thing as an affordable new house in Minneapolis

"In a weird way, it's not that complicated" to explain why those lots in Minneapolis are fairly valued at pretty much zero, said Chris Wilson, senior director of real estate development for the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Project for Pride in Living.
Richard Davis is the chief executive of U.S. Bank.

U.S. Bank hangs on as rates stay low

Even a little bump in rates should mean U.S. Bank won't have to follow the lead of other banks and get earnings growth by cutting the jobs of hundreds if not thousands of employees.
Great River Energy's Elk River station

Schafer: For utilities, it's all about managing uncertainty

Great River Energy has decided changes in carbon emissions rules may make its biggest coal-fired power plants in North Dakota worth nothing by 2028.
This rendering of Nicollet Gateway Plaza features landscape architecture design by David Motzenbecker of Cuningham Group.

Schafer: Empty or full, 80-story tower would be a talker

State officials bring boxes into the offices of the Community Action of Minneapolis during a raid on Friday, September 26, 2014. ] LEILA NAVIDI leila.

Schafer: Being a good board member just requires some common sense

Recent scandals may give the impression that the nonprofit community is out of control, but the basic financial oversight of nonprofits seems to be improving.
The Minneapolis skyline from I-35W south of Minneapolis.

Millennials would like Twin Cities if they considered it

Schafer: Innovation culture is inherently Midwestern

Schafer: Innovation culture is inherently Midwestern

Schafer: College grads aren't immune to stagnant wages

Schafer: College grads aren't immune to stagnant wages

Movers from Matt's Moving Company carried out items from Lee Anderson and William Fehrenbach Edina home on 7/11/14. The two are moving to a downtown M

Cheapest place to live is one that you own

The Zillow home value index for the Twin Cities is up nearly 25 percent from the postrecession bottom, but Zillow economist Skylar Olsen said in a conversation last week that the housing market appears to be entering a period of price stability.
Schafer: Activist shareholders' demands now a fact of life

Schafer: Activist shareholders' demands now a fact of life

Schafer: Success is about more than what you own

Schafer: Success is about more than what you own

GENERAL INFORMATION: Bloomington, Mn., Tues., May 1, 2001--New bandshell on Normandale Lake.
IN THIS PHOTO: The bandshell seen from Bush Lake Road whi

Schafer: Starved for returns, investors turn to real estate

The last time prices like these were paid for investment real estate was just before the Great Recession.
Pankaj Ghemawat

Schafer: Global ties fuel regional success

U.S. Rep. Eric Paulsen, R-Minn., (wearing glasses) listened to testimony at a hearing on a proposal to tax medical technology companies to generate re

Schafer: Killing tax on devices won't bring back jobs

State can't afford to wait for feds on crowdfunding

State can't afford to wait for feds on crowdfunding

Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab

Schafer: Getting real about the true cost of water

Schafer: Software firm bound for Eden Prairie offers lesson

Schafer: Software firm bound for Eden Prairie offers lesson

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2010 file photo, an Amazon.com package is prepared for shipment by a United Parcel Service driver in Palo Alto, Calif. Michiga

Schafer: Amazon's spending spree spells dilemma for Target

Schafer: Mayo Clinic surgeon, scientist team up as entrepreneurs

Schafer: Mayo Clinic surgeon, scientist team up as entrepreneurs

Schafer: Buying back stock can be a company's best option

Schafer: Buying back stock can be a company's best option

Schafer: Suffering is a good sign for rental developers

Schafer: Suffering is a good sign for rental developers

Schafer: Health care providers readying for a wave of nurse retirees

Schafer: Health care providers readying for a wave of nurse retirees

Schafer: Alfalfa sprout lawsuit put Jimmy John's in a pickle

Schafer: Alfalfa sprout lawsuit put Jimmy John's in a pickle

John Stumpf, Wells Fargo CEO, was in Minneapolis for the groundbreaking of the new office project near the Vikings stadium. and posed with the Wells F

Schafer: Wells Fargo missed mark after worker requested $10,000 raises for all

Wells Fargo is in the business of helping people manage their money to live better lives. What a blown opportunity when an employee made national news by asking for a raise.
Schafer: Breaking down Medtronic's tax move

Schafer: Breaking down Medtronic's tax move

Schafer: Corporate power is no match for pro football

Schafer: Corporate power is no match for pro football

Schafer: Tax changes are behind Medtronic's contortions

Schafer: Tax changes are behind Medtronic's contortions

Schafer: Computer power fuels advances in medicine

Schafer: Computer power fuels advances in medicine

Fiber optic cables are connected to a server at Telefonos de Mexico SAB (Telmex) headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico, on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Telc

Schafer: Rural high-speed Internet takes Paul Bunyan-size effort

Schafer: Strategic error led to exit from MNsure

Schafer: Strategic error led to exit from MNsure

Schafer: Stadium naming rights deal gives CHS much-needed visibility

Schafer: Stadium naming rights deal gives CHS much-needed visibility

CHS is the nation's largest farmer-owned cooperative, but it's not exactly a household name. That's what's behind a savvy playto put its name on a little baseball stadium under construction in St. Paul.
Schafer: Despite recovery, stagnant wages are here to stay

Schafer: Despite recovery, stagnant wages are here to stay

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Pay product on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Schafer: Big news from Apple was the payment scheme

Schafer: Piper's stock guru says bull market is here to stay

Schafer: Piper's stock guru says bull market is here to stay

Kendall Powell, CEO, General Mills

Schafer: General Mills aims to think like a smaller company

The company's idea of innovation is changing, and increasingly focuses on reinventing the process itself to create more new products in less time.
Medtronic Inc. signage is displayed at the company's office in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. Metronic Inc, the world's larges

Schafer: Medtronic had no choice but to cover the excise tax

Columnist Lee Schafer says the question surrounding Medtronic's handling of executives' excise taxes in the Covidien deal was how, not whether, to do it.
Rusty Taco by Becca Dilley

Schafer: Buffalo Wild Wings invests in 'fast casual'

Schafer: Shrinking a small firm can be the right plan

Schafer: Shrinking a small firm can be the right plan

A Stillwater cafe has added a "minimum wage fee" to all tabs to account for the higher minimum wage.

Schafer: Small raise for workers means a big cut for owners

Schafer: Downtown East plan 30 years in the making

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council were all smiles Tuesday when the Ryan Cos. announced a multi-block mixed-used development adjacent to the new…