Explore Minnesota, the state tourism agency, is flush with cash from the Minnesota Legislature and has launched a campaign that reaches to Chicago in the east and Denver in the west.
“I got a $5.5 million increase annualized, so we’re at $13.9 million a year, for a couple of years,” said John Edman, director of the state tourism department. “The majority of the dollars are being used for advertising and promotions in the spring and summer season. We estimate that the new dollars will return $8 million in new taxes to the state for every $1 put in, based on a past study of Minnesota and non-Minnesota residents.’’
The nonresidents stay longer and spend more, Edman said.
“I’m excited that we’re able to reach farther markets,’’ he said. “We have focused on Minnesota [and keeping vacation dollars here] and surrounding states. Now we’re going to Omaha, Chicago, Denver and even international markets. This is huge for us. We don’t have a product problem. People are impressed. We have an awareness problem.”
The new campaign, produced by Colle+McVoy, is titled “Only in Minnesota” and celebrates travel adventures, activities and attractions that can only be found in Minnesota. The campaign, using TV, social media, outdoor and digital ads, provides an opportunity to differentiate Minnesota from other Midwest destinations.
In addition, Explore Minnesota has rebranded with a new logo, courtesy of design firm Little, and a redesigned website at www.exploreminnesota.com.
Tourism generates $12.5 billion in sales, provides 245,000 full- and part-time jobs, and delivers $811 million in sales tax revenue annually in Minnesota, Explore Minnesota said. The state ranked 30th in state tourism spending last year. The budget this year still is less than will be spent by Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois, among other states.
Borton Volvo ready for Golden Valley
Kjell Bergh, the Borton Volvo owner who has sold his facility on Lyndale Avenue S. after “57 happy years” to expand at the larger Golden Valley location, put some numbers to the story last week.
Bergh has sold the Lyndale site to a developer for an unspecified sum. He plans to invest up to $7 million in real estate expansion, construction and remodeling in Golden Valley. Construction is expected to commence in early 2015. But he expects it will be a few years before Borton Volvo achieves record sales at its consolidated operation.
“The total number of employees will be approximately 50 starting out, but we expect to have to increase that fairly substantially after Volvo launches our all-new product program beginning in the first quarter of 2015,” Bergh said last week. ‘‘Generally speaking, because of the financial and product constraints Ford subjected Volvo to [before Ford sold Volvo to Chinese automaker Geely], we are roughly two years behind the rest of the U.S. auto industry and do not expect to reach record numbers again until about 24 months from now.”
South Minneapolis will get a new taxpaying development near the bustling corner of 54th Street and Lyndale Avenue S. while Golden Valley will get an expanded, quality business.
Getting A boost in Downtown East
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, a Minnesota farm boy who has done well, flew in from San Francisco for the groundbreaking last week of the $400 million Downtown East project that will include two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo on what were a couple of Star Tribune parking lots and a vacant building.
Developer Ryan Cos. is at work on a total of five blocks, west of the $1 billion publicly financed Minnesota Vikings football stadium. Suddenly there’s a lot of private and public money flying around what has been a pretty quiet end of downtown. The neighborhood also is home to People Serving People, which has provided shelter, education and job training to homeless families for 30 years.
“I welcome our new neighbors and look forward to working with our partners at Wells Fargo and Ryan during construction,” said PSP CEO Daniel Gumnit. “This project is an important investment in our neighborhood, and we hope the jobs it will generate will provide opportunities for our guests.’’ PSP has a number of successful job-training programs. More information: www.peopleserv ingpeople.org.
Walker’s daughter headed to prison
Another former employee of Bixby Energy Systems, the fraud-riddled promoter of clean-coal technology, is going to federal prison — for tax evasion. Melanie Lynn Bonine, the daughter of company co-founder Robert Walker, was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to three years for not paying taxes on $700,000 in income in 2009 from the sale of securities in the defunct Ramsey-based company. She pleaded guilty to the tax crime last year.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson tacked on a year to the recommended maximum prison term of two years, agreeing with federal prosecutors that Bonine had misappropriated money from Bixby. She was never charged with fraud.
Walker, the former Bixby CEO, was found guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Paul in a 17-count verdict of cheating 1,800 investors out of $57 million. He awaits sentencing. Two other men who participated in the fraud were sentenced earlier to multiyear prison terms.