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A new center designed to spur innovation, collaboration and commercialization of University of Minnesota research has opened in the McNamara Alumni Center.

The “Discovery Nexus” features collaboration stations, meeting and presentation spaces, as well as state-of-the-art electronics. It is designed to be an intersection among entrepreneurs, economic development leaders, alumni, and student and faculty researchers.

Fred Friswold, volunteer chair of the $4 million project, said Discovery Nexus represents a gift to the U from the University Gateway Corp., the private nonprofit group that built the McNamara Center, and corporate and individual donors who want to advance U research and inventions.

It’s mostly private money … from individuals and businesses,” Friswold said. “That’s how we built the Alumni Center itself. We want to help create excellence at the university but not compete for legislative funds with academic programs.

“The purpose of the Discovery Nexus is to advance the creation, development and commercialization of discoveries emanating from the university,” Friswold said. “The university’s research already is highly productive. It has worldwide impact and typically generates more than $900 million each year in research funding. U of M discoveries have been the basis for more than 100-plus startup companies over the past decade. The Discovery Nexus is designed to enhance that success.”

Discovery Nexus is a collaborative effort of University Gateway Corp., Office of University Economic Development, Office for Technology Commercialization, Educational Technology Innovations, Technological Leadership Institute, University of Minnesota Foundation and the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, all of which office in the McNamara Center.

Friswold, 80, is the retired CEO of the former Dain Bosworth and a former owner of Tonka Water. In semiretirement, Friswold led several university-support initiatives. He also is past chairman of the Twin Cities YMCA. He said Discovery Nexus is likely his last community project.

“That’s an opinion not a promise,” quipped Friswold, a U graduate.

Neal St. Anthony

investment banking

Longtime M&A vet Hunt Greene cashes in

Hunt Greene is doing his last deal this fall.

Greene, 66, a Twin Cities-based investment banker for four decades, plans to retire this month. Last year, Greene and eight partners sold their 28-employee mergers-and-acquisitions boutique, Greene Holcomb Fisher, to expanding BMO Capital Markets.

“I’ve been at this for 42 years and I committed to BMO to help them with their transition to make the deal successful and they’ve pretty much done that,” Greene said. “And it’s hard to buy a group of professionals and integrate them. Then I had to decide whether to keep working. And I decided I’ve been doing this long enough.”

Greene said he will focus on business interests and philanthropy. Greene and a son, Brennan, a brewmaster, own Birch’s on Long Lake, a restaurant and brewpub. They are expanding to a downtown St. Paul location next spring.

Greene leaves at the top of the market, in terms of record high transaction and volume numbers in the business of buying and selling companies.

“I think there’s a real danger in terms of what happens next in the M&A market and the stock market,” Greene said. “It’s an unprecedented sellers’ market. People are paying very strong prices for businesses. And there’s still a lot of cash that wants to go to work.

“There will be [a down cycle]. I just don’t know if it’s going to be next week or in three years.”

Greene’s last deal also was announced this week. The Minneapolis-based team at BMO Capital Markets, of which Greene is a managing director, is representing Ecolab in the sale of its equipment care business that generates $180 million in annual revenue to Audax Private Equity of Boston.

Before forming his own firm 22 years ago, Greene worked in corporate finance for Piper Jaffray. A native of Texas, he moved to Piper after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Neal St. Anthony

plastic recycling

Plastic-sheeting collection on farms takes off

Revolution Plastics has collected its 3 millionth pound of used farm plastics for recycling, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said.

The haul is a milestone celebrated by state officials who tried for years to find a way to recycle farmers’ crop-covers and feedbags into new products.

Enter Arkansas-based Revolution. It distributed 1,450 collection dumpsters to Minnesota farmers this summer. Finally, miles of used agricultural plastic sheeting are being collected and recycled into new trash bags, bale wraps and crop covers. The new use is a much better option than seeing the materials getting buried or burned as has been the custom on many Minnesota farms, said MPCA Recycling Market Coordinator Wayne Gjerde in an interview Tuesday.

If the state gets its way, the ag recycling program will eventually expand, from 30 counties to 87, Gjerde said.

Dee DePass