Neal St. Anthony
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Uponor opens Hutchinson plant early

Uponor North America beat its construction deadline and has begun making plastic piping at a born-again plant in Hutchinson, Minn., that wasn’t scheduled to be completed until 2019.

The 237,000-square-foot facility was acquired, renovated and received regulatory approval in less than a year’s time, allowing the fast-growing manufacturer to start production sooner than expected, Uponor officials said.

More than 64 employees and crew leaders spent 23,000 hours bringing the project to fruition.

Finland-based Uponor, which has its North American headquarters in Apple Valley, announced the $6.4 million investment in the Hutchinson plant in July 2017.

Officials said orders for its PEX piping were growing so quickly, the company needed a big manufacturing space to fill the bill.

The piping being made at the Hutchinson plant will be used in plumbing, fire sprinkler, radiant heating and cooling systems.

The company has grown by about 100 local employees over the past couple of years and now employs more than 700.

The factory opening marks Uponor’s 11th expansion since 1990.

The previous 10 occurred at its headquarters campus in Apple Valley.

DEE DEPASS and NEAL ST. ANTHONY

pensions

Toys ‘R’ Us draws pension board scrutiny

The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) voted this month to halt new investments in private equity firm KKR pending a review of its investment in failed retailer Toys ‘R’ Us.

The Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy is expected to cost the jobs of 30,000 employees. KKR and Bain Capital took Toys ‘R’ Us private in a debt-fueled buyout in 2005.

Toys ‘R’ Us has been struggling for years. And critics, led by New York’s populist-leaning Center for Popular Democracy, accused the huge equity-investment firms of making hundreds of millions in fees and dividends on the company over the years.

Owners of Toys ‘R’ Us, including the state pension fund, lost hundreds of millions on the bankruptcy, which ended in liquidation.

Gov. Mark Dayton, chairman of the SBI, asked SBI Executive Director Mansco Perry to look into the matter, saying he was concerned about private-equity investments. Perry will report to the board at its next quarterly meeting.

About 10 percent of the $93.5 billion in pension and other state funds managed by the SBI is in “private market vehicles,” including private equity, energy investments and real estate.

In 2017, SBI and its contracted investment managers provided an 18.3 percent return, thanks partly to a buoyant stock market. Over the past 30 years, the SBI has provided a compounded annual return of 12 percent from private investments, 9.2 percent from stocks and 6.4 percent from bonds.

The state board, which invests employee pension funds and other state money, has been among the nation’s better performing operations.

Neal St. Anthony

Employee ownership

Pillsbury heir furthers the cause

The late George S. Pillsbury, a Pillsbury executive who went on to distinguish himself as a bipartisan-oriented Republican in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1970s and 1980s, also was interested in spreading the wealth.

He and his late wife, Sally, who died this year, were actively engaged philanthropists.

George Pillsbury liked to see employees become owners of the companies for which they labored, now a growing trend through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).

Pillsbury’s son, Charlie, has established a research fellowship in employee ownership and profit-sharing in honor of his dad at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, the first academic institute dedicated to researching capital shares and their impact on the economy. and a leader in the ESOP-study space.

The recipient of the 2018-2019 George S. Pillsbury Fellowship is Carla Ilten, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She will study the support systems needed for employee-share ownership.

“George Pillsbury enthusiastically supported broader employee share ownership and he understood its relevance to addressing economic inequality,” Joseph Blasi, a national scholar in the employee-ownership world, said in a statement. “George’s grandfather, Charles A. Pillsbury, established a world-famous profit-sharing plan at the Pillsbury flour mills in Minnesota in 1882.

“He also advised and supported a local employee-owned barrel industry, which produced shipping containers for the Pillsbury mills with local worker cooperatives. The Pillsbury family later introduced one of the first broad-based stock option plans.”

Said Charlie Pillsbury, who lives in the Boston area: “My father believed in universal capitalism. As a beneficiary himself of capital ownership, he thought that everyone should benefit from ownership. Not just the very few.”

Neal St. Anthony