New Board Members
Two top female executives will bring diverse experiences to Enterprise Minnesota’s board of directors
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
Two prominent female executives related to Minnesota’s manufacturing community have joined the board of directors at Enterprise Minnesota. Julie Whitney a vice president of business banking in the St. Cloud office of Bremer Bank and Laura Ekholm, owner, L&M Radiator in Hibbing.
Whitney replaces Jeanne Crain, president of Bremer. “Big shoes? No doubt,” Whitney says. “Where Jeanne’s focus is broader, mine is a little narrower. I am in a position where I can focus on manufacturing." As a commercial banker, Whitney works with manufacturers in a wide range of banking needs, from real estate financing, equipment financing, international trade, foreign exchange, fraud prevention, and other financial services.
Whitney came to Bremer with a deep background in manufacturing. Her father is a machinist, and she worked as a machinist during her college years. Her father-in-law owned a machine shop. “It was a natural gravitation for me,” she says. “I’m fascinated by those who make all of the things that we use in everyday life.”
She is an adamant supporter of Enterprise Minnesota, which, she says, helps manufacturers operate cost-effectively, so that we can compete with international forces, and so that we can attract talent.
“Regardless of your size, you’ve got an expert at your disposal for a reasonable cost to help you be as sophisticated as you can possibly be. And you wouldn’t have those resources internally otherwise.”
Bremer Bank is a part of the St. Paul-based Bremer Financial Corporation, a privately held, $11 billion regional financial services company. Prior to joining Bremer, Whitney served as finance manager for Marco Technologies in St. Cloud and as vice president, commercial relationship manager for US Bank in St. Cloud. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from St. Cloud State University.
Ekholm brings to the board the expertise of an executive who has had to ride the dramatic sales cycles of the mining economy that L&M Radiator contends with and which have enabled (or forced) it to try a wide variety of employee leadership development strategies.
Almost fantastic surges in sales growth in the mid-2000s forced Hibbing-based L&M Radiator to make speedy and drastic personnel moves to keep up with the demand from oil and gas companies for its prestigious Mesabi® line of industrial radiators.
Over a three-year period, the company quadrupled in size, growing from $50 million in sales to about $200 million. It opened two more plants, one in Independence, Iowa, (2005) and another in Yankton, S.D. (2007). L&M moved its existing plant in El Paso, Texas, to a larger facility in Las Cruces, N.M., and also eventually expanded its plants in Iowa and South Dakota. In 2011, L&M opened a plant in Chile.
It also increased its workforce by some 400 percent.
“We pretty much immediately expanded to three shifts in all four of our U.S. plants,” company owner Laura Ekholm told a recent meeting of business executives. “We needed first-line supervisors like right now.”
But now, almost as quickly as the fickle worldwide energy market had once pressed L&M’s facilities to the limits of their production capabilities, that same marketplace has contracted dramatically, lowering L&M’s sales to about $70 million.
Now, the mining economy is back.
As a consequence, Ekholm and L&M, she admits, has become “very agile.”
“We’re not the kind of company that’s going to grow five percent or 10 percent a year steady. We’re up and down 30 or 40 or 50 percent sometimes in a particular period,” she says. “Hopefully that experience in our case is something that can help other people in the manufacturing community.”
She joined the Enterprise Minnesota board in part because she admires how the organization can provide suggestions and guidance to small manufacturers about all the things that get thrown at them in the marketplace. “Everybody learns from listening to what other people have done. Enterprise Minnesota has some really good folks that come in and look at your operation and offer suggestions,” she says.
The other reason? “(President and CEO) Bob (Kill) kept twisting my arm!”
Accelerate Your Revenue Growth
**Exclusive to Manufacturers**
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Pine Technical & Community College - Rooms 50 & 51
900 4th Street SE
Pine City, MN 55063
What to Expect
What steps do successful businesses take to actively grow revenue? Do you know your company’s most important drivers of future growth? How do your existing and prospective customers see your business?
Revenue growth can be created and sustained by implementing a strategic growth plan.
Attend this event to learn seven steps that will accelerate your business on the path toward measurable and sustainable revenue growth. Steve Haarstad, an Enterprise Minnesota strategy and marketing expert, will share an action-oriented approach to crafting a revenue growth plan that will become an integral part of your company’s overall strategy.
A formal strategic growth plan will help you:
- Increase top-line revenue growth
- Define key growth objectives
- Identify and prioritize market priorities
- Grow your customer value
This event is exclusive to manufacturers and is free of charge. Registration required.
To register please contact email@example.com