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Labovitz Award Winner Announced

April 26, 2017

The 25th annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award recipients were honored on April 26, 2017.

The UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) had its largest-ever attendance (more than 500 people) and most-ever nominees (76) during its 25th annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards, which were announced on Wednesday, April 26, during a lively and inspirational luncheon at the DECC.

Joel Labovitz

Joel Labovitz

Among the speakers were event namesake Joel Labovitz and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who proclaimed April 26 as Joel Labovitz Day in the City of Duluth.

Since 1993, the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards have recognized business owners who have dared to dream, taken risks and invested in the region. This year's award recipients, honored as part of U.S. Small Business Week, were selected from nominees from throughout the Twin Ports and Arrowhead Region.

The 2017 Recipients are:

Clover Valley Farms
Cindy Hale, Clover Valley
In 2012, the idea of a farm business built around a unique product like fruit vinegars was untested. Since launching its line of culinary vinegars in 2014, Clover Valley Farms has established its brand, rapidly grown production capacity, tripled sales and is solidly positioned for long-term success.

Vikre Distillery
Emily and Joel Vikre, Duluth
Vikre Distillery sustainably handcrafts gin, aquavit, vodka and whiskey. It favors recyclable packaging, uses all organic and/or local grains, and is working to become a zero-waste facility. Its products have won multiple national awards, and Vikre Distillery was also voted USA Today's Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery.

The Tongue and Groove Store
Ann and Kyle Anderson, Hermantown
This wood component manufacturer has grown revenues and space, successfully emerging from dramatic industry shifts. The nature of the business requires hiring entry-level employees and providing training to develop their skillsets, giving them a quality career path and adding to the local economy.

The Blackwoods Group
Bryan Flaherty, Duluth
Growing up in the hospitality business, Flaherty branched out further, adding Black Woods Grill & Bar locations, the Greysolon Ballroom & Moorish Room, Black Water Lounge, Tavern on the Hill, and catering. Flaherty and his team have developed consistent and steady growth as well as longevity in an industry where others come and go frequently, which is a strong indication of success.

Yker Acres
Sara and Matt Weik, Carlton
Yker Acres annually produces more than 80,000 pounds of pork while growing 75 percent of its own feed. The company, which will install solar power this summer, has its pork featured at Duluth restaurants and grocers, and through direct sales. Yker Acres has won several awards, including the 2016 Mpls/St. Paul Magazine "Best Pork Chop."

L&M Fleet Supply
Erik Andersen, Del Matteson, Shawn Matteson, Grand Rapids
Now managed by its third generation of owners, L&M Fleet Supply is an established, general merchandise retailer with a history of steadily growing its store size and numbers. With a corporate office in Grand Rapids and nine locations in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, the company employs more than 650 people. L&M not only competes strongly against national big-box retailers, it continues to successfully go against statistics that say fewer than one percent of all businesses reach a third generation, let alone stay in the same family.

View all of the 2017 Labo Nominees and to learn more about the Awards.



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