This issue of Twin Cities Business is packed with successful people who are improving our community—leading innovation, creating prosperity, addressing inequities. But there’s another recurring character: the city.
You’ll see it come up in our conversation with Janel Dressen, CEO of downtown Minneapolis law firm Anthony Ostlund. She made a conscious decision to bring employees back three days a week and to renew the firm’s office lease downtown—and not just because it’s close to the courthouse. “There’s something energizing about being downtown,” she says. “It’s important to stay; hopefully the energy will come back.”
One restaurant Dressen and her team can be sure is ready to serve is Fhima’s. Restaurateur David Fhima is on our TCB 100 list because he’s leading by example—putting his own business on the line. His decision in September to reopen for weekday lunch service may seem like an act of futility to some business-savvy readers. He didn’t do it to cash in; he did it to make a point to the much bigger companies around him that have not returned.
As of October, the Minneapolis Downtown Council pegged the city’s reanimation at slightly under 45%. Fhima, who is there every day, begs to differ. The council’s estimate might apply, he says, if they’re including workers returning only part of the time. Otherwise, he says, “Right now, downtown is at 25 to 30% [occupancy]. We make more progress by telling the truth.”
The truth, as he sees it, is that downtown Minneapolis is the heartbeat of our state’s economy. “If we become downtown Detroit in the 1980s, it will affect everyone. We as a community have a responsibility to come back and take care of our city. We need a safety plan. We need a business community.”
Also on the TCB 100 list of leaders we think will make an impact in 2023 is Cedric Alexander, the city’s first safety commissioner, whose very presence and pedigree instill confidence. He takes a holistic view of the work ahead: improving the culture in the Minneapolis Police Department, making the streets feel more friendly, and working hand in hand with the business community.
‘‘We as a community have a responsibility to come back and take care of our city.’’
—David Fhima, restaurant owner
Bringing vitality back to the city was on the minds of our editorial team as we discussed who to recognize as our 2022 Person—or People—of the Year. There’s perhaps no greater symbol of optimism and faith in the future of downtown than the gleaming new RBC Gateway tower. To be fair, construction began pre-pandemic, in 2019. But the Pohlad brothers, owners of United Properties, which developed the office tower and the Four Seasons Hotel and luxury condos within, didn’t delay or scale back. They remain steadfast in their belief that to make Minneapolis a world-class city, you’ve got to invest and you’ve got to show up—which they do, every day.
Self-made the Pohlads are not. But no one is more cognizant of their good fortune than they are, and how they’ve chosen to use it is where you really learn something about who they are—as Minnesotans and as humans. Executive editor Adam Platt gives us a rare look inside their business enterprise and foundation work, which is where their hearts are.
If you’ll allow me just a moment of inside baseball, the MVP of this issue on the TCB team is the talented Platt, who not only wrote the cover story, but also spearheaded our TCB 100 list, edited the Agenda section, and still managed to bring us a forward-looking conversation with racial justice advocate Don Samuels as well as his no-holds-barred take on working from home. (Spoiler: He’s not a fan.)
Looking ahead to 2023, we hope learning about the 100-plus citizens featured here leaves you confident about our potential and inspired to do your part. You can start by joining us downtown for our People of the Year and TCB 100 celebration on Dec. 8. And next time you take in a Timberwolves game or go to the theater, get dinner or drinks nearby. And make a point to do some holiday shopping at the Dayton’s Project Winter Market, where 67 local brands, established and new, are selling an enchanting array of goods. That includes Santa Bear, who is back this year for the first time since the heyday of the downtown department store. If Santa Bear is back, you should be, too.