minority businesses

MEDA working to expand minority loan fund

Gary Cunningham's Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) is raising capital to increase MEDA's loan fund to minority entrepreneurs to about $20 million.

Most recently, the Otto Bremer Trust invested an additional $1 million in capital, on top of Bremer's investment of $2 million last year that MEDA used to support loans to 40 minority businesses that support 650-plus jobs.

"We've expanded the loan fund by $7 million, with about $5 million to go," said Cunningham, who runs the nonprofit business consultant and financier that has helped launch or assist a few thousand small businesses over the past 45 years.

"Bremer has created an equity-like, longer-term fund for patient investors," Cunningham said. "Our existing loan funds make shorter-term loans. Some of our businesses needed longer-term investments. They also gave us a $200,000 grant that will help our staff support these businesses. And Bremer saw that we had not one delinquency on the resources they [previously] provided."

Two businesses that have benefited from the Bremer investment are Sole Essentials, a safety-equipment supplier of steel-toe boots and orthopedic shoes; and Native Concrete & Masonry, an American Indian-owned contractor.

MEDA, funded by banks, foundations and corporations, is a growing player in building small minority companies, many of which become successful enough to be banked by commercial lenders as they build sales and equity. And minority entrepreneurship and ownership has been identified as key to an expanding Minnesota economy.

Minority-owned businesses, including immigrants, are the fast-growing planet in the small-business universe. But they often need early-years coaching and investments to get them to operational and financial stability. The MEDA portfolio has a loan-default rate that rivals that of many community banks.

Neal St. Anthony

legal services

Abdo teams joins Fox Rothschild firm

Philadelphia-based law firm Fox Rothschild, which entered the Twin Cities market last year by absorbing Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, has hired Ken Abdo, the Twin Cities premier entertainment lawyer and four other attorneys who composed the entertainment-and-IP practice at Lommen Abdo. They include veteran entertainment lawyers Paul Bezilla and Bob Donnelly.

Abdo, who approached Fox Rothschild in search of a larger platform, has a regional-to-national practice that represents clients in the legal fight over the estate of Prince, and has included Bobby Vee, Kool and the Gang, Jonny Lang, Booker T. Jones and Steven Greenberg, who wrote the disco-era anthem "Funkytown."

Abdo and partners are joining a 23-member entertainment firm with a national practice and a Minneapolis office of 87 lawyers. However, 750-lawyer Fox Rothschild is not one of the huge coastal-entertainment players. That allows Abdo lawyers to continue serving emerging musicians who can't afford coastal mega-firm legal fees.

This was a bittersweet parting. Lommen Abdo is the only shop where Ken Abdo, 60, has worked.

He joined a predecessor firm, Abdo & Abdo, in 1983. Ken Abdo's late father, John Abdo, the son of Lebanese immigrants who ran a grocery store in northeast Minneapolis, joined a small Minneapolis firm after World War II. John Abdo was the surviving name partner when his firstborn son, Robert Abdo, joined his late father in 1970, after service as an Army lawyer. Bob Abdo still practices business-and-estate law.

"We built the largest legal-entertainment practice in the Upper Midwest, largely due to Ken," said Bob Abdo of his little brother, also a musician and singer. "He's very industrious and well-connected. He's on the board of the Grammy Awards. Most of that entertainment-law industry is on the coasts."

Lommen Abdo, with about 30 lawyers in Minneapolis and Hudson, Wis., is a business law and personal-injury boutique.

Neal St. Anthony

Minnesota Chamber

Award celebrates overcoming job barriers

The Minnesota Job Honor Awards is accepting nominations for its first event on May 10 to celebrate Minnesotans who have overcome significant barriers to employment and their employers who hire them.

The awards will be presented in partnership with a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce conference that will examine Minnesota's workforce shortage and introduce employers to often-overlooked talent pools.

"Finding qualified workers is a persistent challenge among companies of all types and sizes, said Minnesota Chamber President Doug Loon. "The Minnesota Job Honor Awards is one way to engage our state's untapped workforce by shining a spotlight on success stories."

America's Job Honor Awards was founded in Iowa in 2014. Honorees have overcome physical and mental disabilities, criminal convictions and long-term unemployment to get a good job.

More information at www.JobHonor.org or www.mnchamber.org.

Neal St. Anthony