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By Dawn Zimmerman, The Write Advantage // Photos by
After watching their 93-year-old family business struggle, the Blattner Energy leadership team decided to take a chance on wind energy...with spectacular results.


By John Pepper // Photos by
We used to think of hacking as distant and vaguely juvenile. Not anymore.


By Kelli Radi, Radi to Write // Photos by
Companies that want to grow will find that filling their workforce needs requires good communication and a posititive company culture.

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  • Travel doesn’t have to mean unbalanced, calorie loaded meals.  One nutritionist offers several suggestions, including eat small amounts every three hours, seek high-protein snacks, and stick with your exercise routine.
  • The social landscape today looks a lot different than it did last year ... or even last month. As soon as you figure out a successful strategy on one channel, another one shows up and begins to demand your attention.  Before you start spending time on the next great social media platform, consider these nine questions posed by Hubspot.
  • Almost everything that crosses our desks these days is contained in a digital file. Like their paper ancestors, these files need to be put somewhere safe where they can be found and referenced easily.  Small Business Trends looks at 24 cloud storage options and helps you sort out which ones might work best for you.
  • Whether you’re an employer or an individual taxpayer, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service has several tools available to assist you in estimating credits and payments related to the Affordable Care Act. The Taxpayer Advocate Service recently added a tool to help employers understand how the employer shared responsibility provisions apply to their organizations.
  • The oldest boomers became eligible for full social security retirement benefits in 2012, signifying what many predicted as the beginning of a mass exodus of labor from the workforce. Many factors beyond turning a certain age affect a senior’s ability and willingness to retire.  Minn. Department of Employment and Economic Development explores Minnesota’s Retirement Reality.
  • Gaining a competitive edge in today's marketplace is a constant challenge.  Some companies are finding the answers in secret shoppers.  Selecting the right secret (or mystery) shopping company for your company will take some research. Companies belonging to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association go through an approval process and agree to uphold ethical standards. You can learn which companies are members at the MSPA website.
  • Stayin' Alive*
    Can Brick-and-mortar stores compete with ecommerce?  Oh, yes we can*…
    Traditional brick-and-mortar stores continue to feel the effects of the Internet as digitally mesmerized online shoppers patronize popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Apple, eBay, Staples, and Wal-Mart. Some retailers have cried “uncle” and taken a final breath. Others have closed locations and streamlined operations in efforts to compete within the e-commerce environment. Brick-and-mortar stores can compete by becoming omni-channel marketers, finding their technology “groove,” and offering customers a more human touch.
    Following are the sources used in this story:
    1. “Brick is the New Black,” Keynote Speaker: Baljit S. Dail, CEO of JDA Software, National Retail Federation Big Picture Conference 2015, < >
    2. “Site speed: case studies, tips and tools for improving your conversion rate,” by David Moth,, < >
    3. “Two Trends for Retailers to Watch in 2016,” by Jennifer Overstreet, February 9, 2016, National Retail Federation, < >
    4. “Amazon to open 2nd physical bookstore, this one in Southern California,” by Jennifer Van Grove and Shan Li, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2016, < >
    *Our title and introduction is a 1970’s flashback to the BeeGee’s (1977) and the Pointer Sisters (1974).
  • Even though Minnesota’s economy has performed well, challenges to future growth and opportunity still exist.  That’s according to a report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution called Pillars of Prosperity: Leveraging regional assets to grow Minnesota’s economy.”  The report analyzes the opportunities and challenges facing seven regions across Minnesota and the state as a whole. The report contains profiles of the state’s seven distinct regional economies, including Central Minnesota.
  • The federal government is far behind on its goal of awarding prime contract dollars to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB).  Read about it in Utilization of Women-Owned Businesses in Federal Prime Contracting.
  • Reducing Childhood Obesity
    The obesity and overweight rate in the St. Cloud area fell from 17 percent in 2008 to 13 percent in 2015 among 12-year-olds, a 24 percent relative decline.  This result is due in part to the collaborative initiative BLEND (Better Living: Exercise and Nutrition Daily), led by CentraCare Health, and supported by Stearns County Public Health through a grant from Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program.  BLEND was recently recognized in an online report by the Robert Wood Johnson FoundationU.S. Rep. Tom Emmer applauded the success on Capitol Hill, as captured in this short video.

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