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Business Notes Feb. 2

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■ Brainerd Dispatch

wins MNA awards

The Brainerd Dispatch won seven awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) Better Newspaper Contest. The awards were recently given at the annual MNA Convention in Minneapolis.

The Dispatch is in the 10,000 and larger circulation category for daily newspapers in Minnesota. The Dispatch won:

• First place for the use of photography as a whole.

• First place for its classified ad section.

• Second place for its editorial page as a whole.

Individual winners recognized for their talents include graphic designer Lisa Henry who won first place in the self-promotion or house ad category, as well as first place in the use of color in advertising category.

Dispatch photographer Kelly Humphrey won first place for the portrait and personality photo category. Photographer Steve Kohls won second place in the sports photo category.

■ MNA elects Mohs board president

Echo Publishing’s publisher Pete Mohs was elected the 2014 Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) board of directors’ president at the annual convention Jan. 24, in Bloomington.

Mohs is the 134th president in MNA’s history, but only the second from the Brainerd lakes area. The other president was A.J. Halstad of the Brainerd Tribune in 1907.

After working for the Brainerd Dispatch for 21 years, Mohs was promoted to publisher of Echo Publishing in 2004. Mohs has served on the MNA board since 2008.

■ Coldwell Banker Burnet honors Connaker

Holly Connaker, a specialist in residential real estate affiliated with Coldwell Banker Burnet, was named as a Multi-Million Dollar Producer for 2013.

“This award is based on a combination of top sales, high professional standards and outstanding service to clients during the year,” said Neil Henney, Plymouth sales manager at Coldwell Banker Burnet in a news release. “Holly is one our top producing agents and has earned a reputation for offering her clients the highest level of support.”

A Brainerd native and a graduate of William Woods University with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Connaker has earned other honors, including certifications with Cartus Relocation Team, Cartus Network Inventory specialist, Cartus Network Buyer specialist, Cartus Network Marketing specialist, Coldwell Banker Burnet Hospital Relocation Team, Greater Lakes Area Realtors’ Realtor of the Year, Business Network International Notable Networker, Sertoma Rookie of the Year and is an active member of the Realtors Political Action Committee and Minnesota Arabian Horse Breeders Association.

■ Comfort Keepers gains franchise recognition

Comfort Keepers of Brainerd lakes area gained national recognition with Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise 500 rankings for 2014.

The magazine recently recognized Comfort Keepers as the No. 1 franchise within the senior care category as well as No. 59 among the top 500 franchises.

Jay Vasek, owner of Comfort Keepers of Brainerd lakes area, said this kind of recognition among all franchises, nationally, is rare. There are 700-plus locations with the franchise around the world. Vasek said Comfort Keepers helps seniors live independently within the comfort of their own homes.

Entrepreneur’s 35th Annual Franchise 500 ranking reveals the impact of the newest trends and the industries poised for growth. All companies, regardless of size, are judged by the same criteria: objective, quantifiable measures of the franchise operation. The most important factors include financial strength and stability, growth rate and size of the system. According to Entrepreneur, the Franchise 500 shows that many of the most competitive companies are those that go after a specific demographic. Among the top growing demographic categories, nationally, is senior care. The continued growth of the senior population bodes well for franchise organizations like Comfort Keepers.

■ Frey-Brown joins psychiatry department Essentia Health-Brainerd Clinic

Nurse Practitioner Barb Frey-Brown has joined the Psychiatry Department at Essentia Health St. Joseph’s–Brainerd Clinic in Brainerd.

She will care for both adults and children ages 7 and older.

Frey-Brown has a long history with St. Joseph’s, having worked as a registered nurse at the hospital in Brainerd for 24 years before becoming a nurse practitioner. She spent the last two years working for Essentia’s Urgent Care and Convenient Care Clinics in Baxter. In 2013, Frey-Brown earned her psychiatric-mental health certificate supported by clinical experiences at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center Grace Unit and Lakeland Psychiatry as well as the pediatrics department at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.

Frey-Brown earned a master’s in nursing degree from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. She is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

■ Larson Boat Group announces partnership

LITTLE FALLS — Larson Boat Group (LBG) announced its partnership with Lake Union Sea Ray.

Lake Union Sea Ray’s three locations; Seattle, Tacoma and Bellingham, will now serve Washington state as the authorized Striper dealer.

Lake Union Sea Ray has served the western Washington boating community for more than 28 years. Its three locations have employees who together have more than 1,100 years of experience in the boating industry.

For nine consecutive years, Boating Industry magazine ranked Lake Union Sea Ray in the Top 100 dealers in North America.

Larson Boat Group designs, builds and markets 58 models of boats within three brands: Larson, Triumph and Striper. The 100-year-old company headquartered in Little Falls sells its boats through dealers located throughout the United States, Canada and worldwide.

■ Evanson Baxter Insurance Group agent

BAXTER — Jason Evanson is now an independent agent with Baxter Insurance Group.

Evanson was previously with Jake Brandt State Farm and joined Baxter Insurance Group last March, recently becoming an independent agent.

Evanson said he made the change to further advance his career in the insurance industry, obtain his own customer base and have access to more than 30 companies in which to place business.

■ Record year for Lakewood’s

obstetrics department

STAPLES — Lakewood Health System reported its obstetrics (OB) department had a record 468 deliveries, with four sets of twins, bringing the total number of babies to 476.

This number is up from 2012’s 443 deliveries.

In a national healthcare patient satisfaction survey conducted by Press Ganey, Lakewood’s OB department ranked in the 96th percentile nationwide. It had a 20 percent cesarean section rate, which is lower than the national average of 31 percent. Along a similar line, Lakewood had 25 of 30 successful vaginal birth after cesarean attempts.

■ Kurilla Real Estate

awards top agents

Kurilla Real Estate awarded three of its top agents for excellent performance, commitment and professionalism.

Award winners were John Pecarich, Brett Anderson and Debbie Hibbard.

Pecarich joined Kurilla Real Estate in 2006 along with is son Matt, creating the Pecarich marketing team. The team has been a consistent recipient of Kurilla’s top producer awards given at year’s end. The duo volunteers in youth programs, Central Lakes College Foundation and Brainerd Sports Boosters.

Anderson joined Kurilla in 2000. He has also been a consistent winner of the top producer award. He has more than 15 years of real estate experience. The company noted his knowledge of the area, perseverance and commitment to clients.

Hibbard joined Kurilla in 2002 and has received the top producer award in residential and lakeshore properties. A Gull Lake resident, Hibbard has lived in the community since 1996.


■ Edward Jones, Midwest Machinery

to host Business After Hours

LITTLE FALLS — The Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce will conduct its next Business After Hours networking event 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 6 at Midwest Machinery Company (John Deere), 16069 Highway 27 E., Little Falls. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided.

This event is free and open to all chamber members and their employees. Sponsoring is Edward Jones Investments and Midwest Machinery Company.

For more information, call the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce at 320-632-5155. No RSVP needed.

■ Little Falls Chamber to host Kresha, Gazelka

LITTLE FALLS — The Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce invites all chamber and community members to a legislative dialog with Rep. Ron Kresha and Sen. Paul Gazelka 9:30-11 a.m. Feb. 7 at Little Falls City Hall in the Council Chamber, 100 Seventh Ave. NE.

Participants will have the opportunity to direct questions and comments regarding issues that will impact the 2014 legislative session.

Please direct question about the legislative update to the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce by calling 320-632-5155.

■ MMBA to host product showcase event

The Mid-Minnesota Builders Association (MMBA) is putting together its first Builder’s New Product Showcase Event. This event is set 4:30-7 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter.

This is an industry specific trade show for associate’s to exhibit the latest products and services to local builders and remodelers.

Participating businesses will have the opportunity to network. Booth space is open to all MMBA associates members and non-members. Invitations will be sent out to more than 500 licensed builders. Booth space is $200 for members and $250 for non-members. For more information, contact Colleen Faacks at the MMBA Office 829-4982 or


■ Thrivent presents free

estate planning seminars

Carlyle Olsen, Thrivent Financial associate, will be presenting basic estate planning seminars.

The seminars will be exploring wills, trusts, power of attorney, health-care directives, burial insurance, rollovers, beneficiary designations, POD, TOD, estate tax basics, best ways to transfer real estate, long-term care planning, and how to keep the farm in the family.

Seminars will be 2-3 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Little Falls Senior Center, 510 Seventh St. NE.

No products will be sold at the free seminars.

For more information, call Carlyle at 320-632-1655.

The Dispatch welcomes business notes submissions via email to, or fax to 218-829-0211, mail to Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401 or use the drop-off box in the alley next to the Dispatch building on James Street. Questions are welcome to Renee Richardson at 855-5852. Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889