Elaine S. Hansen, Director, University of Minnesota (UMD) Center for Economic Development, has been named the Women in Business Champion of the Year for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office. The UMD Center for Economic Development is the Small Business Development Center in Northeastern Minnesota serving St. Louis, Carlton, Lake, Cook, Koochiching, and Itasca Counties.
The Women in Business Champion is selected annually to honor individuals who have fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of women’s business ownership. Richard E. Braun, Assistant Director of the UMD Center for Economic Development, nominated Hansen for this award.
Since 2003, Elaine Hansen has served as the Director for the UMD Center for Economic Development and the Regional Director for the NE Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC). She is also a certified public accountant (CPA) licensed in the State of Minnesota and in 2003, completed her Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. She has had extensive experience in the public and private sectors working with businesses of various sizes, and had continually worked to promote women in business and women in non-traditional careers.
In the Fall of 1992, Elaine and a friend developed the Professional Women’s Network (PWN). The mission of the PWN is mentoring, networking, and sharing information. The network has grown over the past 15 years, one woman at a time. Each year the PWN bring together between 300 and 400 women to network and share information. Each monthly meeting is currently attended by 50 to 70 women.
Over the years, many of the women have made ongoing friendships, mentored each other on business issues, shared information on their businesses, found resources to continue or expand their business, gained encouragement and support through difficult times, and found business and employment opportunities.
The survival of the organization is amazing since it is an all-volunteer organization, with little structure. Realizing that women are very busy and have multiple roles in their lives, there are no attendance requirements and leadership roles are voluntary and continue indefinitely, or until someone steps into the role. Besides being the co-founder, Elaine has provided continuing leadership and has served as the Chair and treasurer for the past 8 years. While many other business-related organizations are struggling to survive, this one is thriving. Without Elaine’s interest and continuing involvement, this organization would more than likely not continue to be able to provide the ongoing support that it does for women in business.
Additionally, Elaine has been a frequent speaker in secondary and post-secondary schools on topics of women in non-traditional careers, financial management, and entrepreneurship. She is also known for being a one-person resource and referral network for people looking for information, and resources for the business or career.
Richard B. Beeson, Jr., President of Park Midway Bank, has been named Minnesota Financial Services Champion of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Financial Services Champion award is presented annually in each state to individuals who assist small businesses through advocacy efforts to increase the usefulness and availability of accounting or financial services.
Beeson has been president of Park Midway Bank for fifteen years. During that time, Park Midway has grown from a small neighborhood bank to a vibrant $260 million organization with a strong community presence. This growth can be attributed to Rick’s leadership and vision in developing a focus on the needs of small business.
In his role as president, providing banking services to small businesses is an integral part of Beeson’s job. Park Midway has been designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), an honor earned for lending to small businesses in low income communities. The Bank is also participating in a pilot program to provide New Market Tax Credits financing to small businesses located in the most distressed areas of the Twin Cities. Most importantly, it was through Beeson’s vision and leadership that Park Midway started an SBA lending division, which has approved more than $150 million in SBA 7(a) and 504 loans since 1998.
Prior to his time at Park Midway Bank, Beeson worked for the City of Saint Paul’s Department of Planning and Economic Development, where for ten years he successfully implemented financial plans and redevelopment efforts for the capital city. He also worked for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
Beeson is a committed volunteer. His community service resume, dating back to 1980, outlines leadership and participation in fifty different organizations ranging from community, civic, human services, business groups and trade associations. Recent notable involvement includes: Chair of St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Managing Co-Chair of Central Corridor LRT Partnership, and now University of Minnesota Board of Regents.
Andrew Wells III, President and CEO of Wells Technology based in Bemidji, Minn., has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Small Business Person of the year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects. Sherri Komrosky, Program Director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), nominated Wells for this award.
Andy Wells is a member of the Red Lake Ojibwa Tribe and still maintains his family farm on the Red Lake Reservation. Andy graduated with a Master of Science degree from Bemidji State University in 1969 and spent 17 years teaching in public schools and universities. During this time, he authored several text books on electronics and received U.S. patents on 7 new products. From 1986 to 1989, Andy served as an Automation Consultant to Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis. In 1989, Andy began Wells Technology with an investment of $1,300 to manufacture industrial tools and fasteners for customers while also creating jobs for economically disadvantaged people. To serve the Native American people of Northern Minnesota, the Wells Technology facility was located between the three reservations of Red Lake, Leech Lake, and White Earth. In 1994, Andy began precision manufacturing with CNC machining equipment and BAE Systems was one of the first major aerospace companies to begin doing business with Wells Technology. As the business grew in the early years, Wells Technology worked with the MMSDC, SBA, and PTAC agencies to obtain the certifications of SDB, 8(a), HUB Zone, and MBE.
In 2004, Andy realized he needed management training to grow the company beyond 14 employees. Therefore, he worked with the Fastenal Company to develop an SBA-approved mentor-protégé agreement. With mentoring from Fastenal, Wells Technology developed a growth strategy by expanding manufacturing and beginning national distribution of industrial supplies. As business grew through 2008, Wells Technology had added many new jobs for a total of 32 employees.
However, new jobs required industrial skills that Native American people did not have. Therefore, in 2006, Andy began using profits to invest in the Native American people by creating Wells Academy, a 501c3 non-profit school for industrial training. This is an apprentice program which respects Native American cultural values while providing marketable technical skills and achieves a 92% retention rate.
Andy also supports his community through his roles on several local and state boards, community councils, economic development efforts, and as a mentor to other entrepreneurs. In 2007, Andy received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from the Metropolitan Economic Development Commission which is located in Minneapolis. Then, in 2008, Andy received the “American Indian Business of the Year” from the National Center for American Indian Economic Development which represents all 560 tribes in America. Andy believes that success in life also brings a responsibility to be significant by doing good things to help other people.