Columnist | Business

Lee Schafer joined the Star Tribune as a columnist in 2012 after 15 years in business, including leading his own consulting practice and serving on corporate boards of directors. He's twice been named the best in business columnist by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, most recently for his work in 2017.

Schafer grew up on a southwest Minnesota cattle farm and studied history and economics at Macalester College. He received his masters degree from Northwestern University and worked as a writer and editor for a regional business monthly before returning to business. His work included investment banking but he had the most fun advising CEOs on growth strategy. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Tanya Bell, a real estate development consultant and civic leader, and they have three adult daughters. He's also been active as a volunteer, including for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood House and Urban Homeworks.


Schafer: Here's why Minn. doesn't have enough hospital beds

One update from state officials this week on the COVID-19 epidemic included details on facilities to house more hospital beds. So far five usable sites…


Schafer: How one Twin Cities business owner views the path through the downturn

Had Pete Scherer and his colleagues in the family business not managed to survive the Great Recession, they wouldn't be as confident as they are now.


Schafer: Stay home, Minnesota, and wait for the economic payoff to come

The Minneapolis Convention Center is not even half the size of the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, now being turned…


Schafer: Finding a way out means keeping the workers and the recipes

A neighborhood restaurant is a perfect way to illustrate something for both business leaders and policymakers to heed in the brutal downturn ahead.


Schafer: This whole thing would be easier if it weren't so uncertain

There is a lot of bad news this week in the economy. More is coming when the formal measures of consumer spending, jobs and the like start getting reported for March.


Schafer: Abrupt closing of Edina cabinet seller shows the rough times and hard decisions ahead

There's unlikely to be severance pay, unused vacation pay and maybe even no last paycheck from CliqStudios.


Schafer: Minnesota may never see another business leader like Whitney MacMillan

MacMillan was an almost perfect spokesman for Cargill, although he wasn't easy to reach.


Schafer: Social distancing is a matter of workplace safety, public health

It's difficult to imagine a full schedule of professional conferences, trade shows and the like resuming any time soon.


Schafer: People want to travel and trade, which means risk

There are a lot of people around the world on the move all the time.


Schafer: So many rankings put Minnesota near the top, but this one finds a quandary

The paradox: To enjoy the highest living standards, people may want to move out of states with high per-person incomes.