In the early days, logging and farming were the primary drivers of the Minnesota economy. Saw mills and grain mills located by the Mississippi River fueled the growth of the Twin Cities for many decades. Over the past 100+ years, the economy has diversified and the major industries now include health care, retail, and manufacturing (mostly food processing).

The following is a listing of individuals who were born (or raised) in Minnesota and have left their mark in the Business world.

  • Dwayne Andreas (Worthington, MN)
    Former CEO of ADM, one of the world’s largest food and biofuels processors. Andreas is credited with transforming the firm into an industrial powerhouse.
  • Edward W. Backus (Jamestown, N.Y. – moved to Minnesota at age 2)
    Timber baron, dam builder, mill owner, financier. His plans to build a series of seven dams in Northern Minnesota in the 1920’s was strongly opposed by environmentalists. His over-zealousness led to passage of the Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act which protected the Superior National Forest.
  • Edward F. Baker (Born Chicago,IL – moved to Minneapolis at age 6)
    Architect; presented the AIA Gold Medal for his work with Philip Johnson to plan & design the IDS Center. Baker also worked on sketches and designs for a second floor city (skyway system) and designs for the Nicollet Mall. He was the architect for the Northstar Center, which included the first skyway ramp built in Downtown Minneapolis, and later went on to help design and develop another 15 skyway ramps.
  • James Binger (St. Paul, MN)
    Businessman/Lawyer. Binger joined Honeywell in 1943, and became its President (1961-1965), Chairman of the Board (1965-1974), and executive committee chaiman (1974-1978). He led Honeywell through a remarkable expansion into the defense, aerospace, and computer industries. He was married to Virginia McKnight, daughter of 3M’s William L. McKnight. Binger was a 1938 Yale graduate and donated over $20 million to the Yale Center for New Theatre. It is now known as the “Binger Center for New Theatre”.
  • Thia Breen (Benson, MN)
    President of Est�e Lauder North America. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Breen was also one of the earliest proponents of Flextime (job sharing) in the workplace. In 2007, she received a CEW Achiever Award, honored as a leader in beauty. She serves as a board member on the National Mother’s Day Council and Cosmetic Executive Women.
  • John S. Campbell (Owatonna, MN)
    Founded the Campbell Cereal Company in 1919, which would later become the Malt-O-Meal Company, the fifth largest cereal manufacturer in the United States. Headquartered in Minneapolis, MN – privately owned.
  • Curt Carlson (Minneapolis, MN)
    Founder of Carlson Companies, owners of Radisson Hotels and TGI Fridays. Created first customer loyalty program (Gold Bond Stamps). Namesake of the Carson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
  • H. David and Dotty Dalquist (Minneapolis, MN)
    Entrepreneurs; founders of Nordic Ware; invented the Bundt cake pan, the world’s best selling cake pan, 1950
  • Donald Dayton (Minneapolis, MN)
    Businessman, Grandson of George Dayton founder of Daytons Dry Goods. Named president of Dayton Company in 1950. Built Southdale, first enclosed shopping mall in the world. Started Target Stores in 1962.
  • Bob Emfield (Orono, Minnesota)
    Co-founder of Tommy Bahama clothing with business partner Tony Margolis. The fictional character Tommy Bahama was created while vacationing in Florida. Later on they started to wonder what kind of clothes this character would wear and thus was born the Tommy Bahama line. Emfield lives in Minnesota and Florida.
  • Jean Paul Getty (Minneapolis, MN)
    Oil Executive/Philanthropist; founder of Getty Oil Co.; billionaire, reported to be the richest man in the world when he died.
  • Harry Wild Jones (Schoolcraft, Michigan)
    Architect of many buildings around the Twin Cities, including the Lake Harriet Pavilion. Schoolcraft moved to Minneapolis at age 24 and lived his entire life here. He is credited with introducing Shingle Style architecture to Minneapolis.
  • Frederick Kappel (Albert Lea, MN)
    A former chairman of the AT&T Corporation for 11 years before it’s break-up in 1974. Kappel was on the cover of Time Magazine on May 29, 1964 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. He was appointed governor of the U.S. Postal Service and was its chairman from 1972 to 1974. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1924.
  • Joan Beverly Kroc (St. Paul, MN)
    Joan was the third (and last) wife of McDonalds CEO, Ray Kroc, who lead an active life in philanthropy. She first met Ray Kroc at the Criterion Restaurant in St. Paul; they married about 12 years later. She donated a great deal of money to NPR and other groups. On her death, she left most of her estate ($1.5 billion) to The Salvation Army, the largest charitable gift ever given to this organization.
  • Donald J. “Don” Laughlin (Owatonna, MN)
    A gambling entrepreneur, hotelier and rancher who developed the town of Laughlin, Nevada. Laughlin is now a premier gaming destination and year-round playground with nearly 5 million visitors per year.
  • Harvey Mackay (St. Paul, MN)
    Businessman/Writer; author of the New York Times #1 bestsellers “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” and “Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt”. He is also founder, Chairman and CEO of Mackay Envelope Corporation.
  • Cargill MacMillan Jr. (Wayzata, MN)
    Descendant of the founders of Cargill. In 2010 Cargill and his brother Whitney were tied for 176th on the 2010 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires. In 2010 they were ranked the wealthiest Minnesotans.
  • Whitney MacMillan (Minneapolis, MN)
    Responsible for the expansion of Cargill’s business from $10 billion to $33 billion in 10 years. He is tied with his brother Cargill on the 2010 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires at 176th with a net worth of $4.5 billion each.
  • Frank Mars (Hancock, MN) and son, Forrest E. Mars (Wadena, MN)
    Minneapolis Candy makers; Frank-founder of the Mar-O-Bar Company, eventually renamed Mars, Inc.; created the Milky Way candy bar in Minneapolis, 1923; Snickers in 1930 and M&Ms in 1941; Forrest diversified and grew the company. Mars, Inc moved to Chicago in 1929.
  • Robert Mondavi (Virginia, MN)
    Vintner/Businessman; Founder of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. Well-known for his introduction of the world’s first “Fum� blanc” in 1968. He continued to develop a number of wines that earned the respect of connoisseurs and vintners. Inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2007.
  • Earl B. Olson (Murdock, MN)
    Founder of Jennie-O Foods, now the largest producer of turkey products in the US. Jennie-O was sold to Hormel Foods in 1986, but Olson remained active in the company as an adviser and consultant until his death in December 2006.
  • Jeno Paulucci (Aurora, MN)
    Entrepreneur; founder Jeno’s Frozen Pizza; Chun King Corporation, the first United States company to market canned Chinese food nationally; and Luigino’s, Inc.; 2000 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame; Ernst & Young International Lifetime Achievement Award for Activism, Entrepreneurship and Leadership, 2004.
  • Richard M. (Dick) Schulze (St. Paul, MN)
    Entrpreneur; Founder and Chairman of Best Buy. Company was started in 1966 as Sound of Music. The company name was changed in 1983 to Best Buy. Richard Schulze is ranked 342 on the 2010 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires with $2.9 billion in assets.
  • Richard W. Sears (Stewartville, MN)
    Entrepreneur; co-founder and first president of the Sears, Roebuck and Company.
  • John Stumpf (Pierz, MN)
    Chairman of Wells Fargo. Began his career in Minneapolis with Northwestern National Bank, formerly Norwest Corporation and later merging with Wells Fargo. In 2012 he was on Bloomberg’s “50 Most Influential” list of people who have “the ability to move markets or shape ideas and policies.”
  • Glen Taylor (Mankato, MN)
    Businessman and majority owner of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves. Chairman of Taylor Corporation, a company with more than 70 divisions worldwide. He is ranked 437th on the 2010 Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires with $2.2 billion in assets.
  • Rose Totino (Minneapolis, MN)
    Entrepreneur; founder Totino’s frozen pizza; first female vice-president of Pillsbury, 1975; first female inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame
  • DeWitt Wallace (St. Paul, MN)
    Publisher; founder Reader’s Digest magazine, 1922; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1972
  • James D. Watkins (Rochester, MN)
    Business/Marketing. Watkins pioneered the development of microwave popcorn at Pillbury. In 1978 he founded Golden Valley Microwave Foods, Inc. which introduced the world to microwave popcorn with products ACT I and ACT II. In 2000, he formed Popz Holding. The POPZ® brand is the leading brand of microwave popcorn in Europe.

Honorary Minnesotans
Individuals who were NOT born (or raised) in Minnesota, but who came to Minnesota and still live here or have lived a significant part of their lives in Minnesota.

  • William (Bill) F. Austin (Nixa, Missouri)
    Businessman; Owner/CEO of Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN). By 1973 his company was the world’s largest provider of in-the-ear hearing aids. Austin then founded the Starkey Hearing Foundation in 1973 to help the impoverished with hearing problems world-wide. He is the recipient of many honors and was named one of People magazine’s “Hero’s Among Us”.
  • Herman Cain (Memphis, Tennessee)
    Businessman, Columnist. Presidential candidate in 2011-12. Cain went to work for Pillbury at age 33 and lived in Minneapolis for several years. In the early 80’s, Pillbury put him to work to revive their floundering Burger King division. He succeeded and was later moved into their failing Godfather’s Pizza division in Omaha. Pillsbury sold Godfather’s to Cain and he ran it as CEO until 1996.
  • C.N. (Carson Nesbit) Cosgrove (born Westfield, New York; came to Minnesota in 187)
    Businessman/Politician, one of the founders of the Minnesota Valley Canning Company (later to become the Green Giant Company). Helped organize the Minnesota State Fair in the 1880’s.
  • John Crosby III (Hampden, Maine)
    Businessman; Co-founder and former president of the Washburn-Crosby Company, which would later become General Mills, Inc. (in 1928).
  • George Draper Dayton (Clifton Springs, NY 1857; came to Minnesota in 188)
    Businessman, founder of Dayton Department Stores which was renamed Target Corporation in 2000.
  • William H. Dunwoody (born in Pennsylvania, moved to Minnesota at age 28)
    Businessman; Silent partner with Washburn-Crosby Co. and helped pioneer overseas spring wheat sales. Became head of the Minneapolis Millers Association, a conglomeration of Minneapolis flour mills. Dunwoody was a co-founder of Northwestern Bank (NorWest Banks), donated money to Northwestern Hospital, and started the Dunwoody Technical College, (Dunwoody), a technical school still funded by the endowment of Dunwoody.
  • James J. Hill (Rockwood, Ontario; arrived St. Paul, MN at age of 18)
    Businessman, founder of Great Northern Railway.
  • George A. Hormel (Buffalo, New York)
    Founder of Hormel Foods in Austin, MN. In 1891 and at the age of 31, Hormel established his own packinghouse on the outskirts of Austin called the “Geo. A. Hormel and Company”. In 1926 Hormel developed the world’s first canned ham.] and in 1937 they introduced a new product called SPAM®. The company is now referred to as “Hormel” or “Hormel Foods”.
  • Thomas Lowry (Logan County, Illinois)
    Real Estate/Businessman; Founder and promoter of rapid transit in the Twin Cities. Initally he became interested in public transit to increase the value of his real estate holdings.
  • John H. Macmillan, Sr. (Texas)
    Assumed control of Minneapolis based Cargill after founder W. W. Cargill died. Under his leadership, Cargill grew several fold and opened East coast offices in New York, in 1923, and the first Canadian, European and Latin American offices in 1928, 1929 and 1930.
  • William L. McKnight (born in White, South Dakota, moved to Minnesota to attend college)
    Businessman. President of 3M from 1929-1949, Chairman of the Board from 1949-1966.
  • Lucius P. Ordway (Brooklyn, NY)
    Businessman. Rescued the failing Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing from financial disaster and became majority own and President in 1906-1909). Relocated Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing to St, Paul, MN where it would later become known simply as “3M” or the 3M Corporation.
  • Charles A. Pillsbury (born Warner, New Hampshire, came to Minneapolis at age 27)
    Charles moved to Minneapolis from Montreal to established a flour business. He persuaded his father (George A. Pillsbury) and uncle (John S. Pillsbury) to provide financing to expand his business (Charles A. Pillsbury & Co), later known as Pillsbury & Co, the world’s largest flour milling business.
  • John S. Pillsbury (born Sutton, New Hampshire in 1828; came to Minnesota in 1855)
    Entrepreneur/Politician. Pillsbury pursued commercial enterprises in hardware, real estate, and lumber. He provided the financing and co-founded the C.A. Pillsbury and Company, later known as Pillsbury & Co. As State Senator, he streamlined the University of Minnesota and retired its debts, and became known as the “Father of the University”. He also became Minnesota’s eighth governor.
  • Carl Pohlad (born Des Moines, Iowa 1915; came to Minnesota about 1949)
    Banker/Businessman. Owner of Minnesota Twins 1984-2009. Owned several business. In 2009 was the richest person in Minnesota.
  • Milton Reynolds (aka, Milton Reinsberg) (Albert Lea, MN)
    Entrepreneur; Reynolds was the first person to mass produce and sell ballpoint pens in the United States. He became known as the father of the ballpoint pen. He was chairman of the Reynolds International Pen Company.
  • William R. Sweatt (born in Iowa 1867, arrived in Minneapolis 1891)
    Entrepreneur; Invested $5,300 in the Consolidated Temperature Control Company. Company renamed Electric Heat Regulator Company and would eventually be merged with Honeywell Heating Specialty Company to become Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company. The company name was later shortened to Honeywell.
  • Thomas Barlow (T.B.) Walker (Born Xenia, Ohio – Moved to Minneapolis at age 22)
    Businessman. He formed the Red River Lumber Company and made a vast fortune. Was the richest man in Minnesota in about 1890. One of the main benefactors and driving force behind the formation of the Minneapolis Public Library. He was also an avid art collector and became the founder of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.
  • C. C. (Cadwallader) Washburn (born Livermore, Maine)
    Politician/Businessman. Washburn lead the development of several new technologies in flour milling, many of which were adopted throughout the world. He was was considered the “father of modern milling technology”. He took on a partner (John Crosby) to form the Washburn-Crosby Company. This company would later be transformed into General Mills.
  • William D. Washburn (Livermore, Maine)
    Politician/Businessman. Brother of C. C. (Cadwallader) Washburn. By the 1880s, he was among the wealthiest men in Minnesota. Served in U.S. House of Representatives in 1878 to 1885. U.S. Senator from 1888 to 1895.
  • Frederick Weyerhaeuser (Germany)
    Businessman; Founder of the Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company and owned more timberland than any other American by the end of the 19th century. As logging moved West, Weyerhauser moved his headquarters from Rock Island, Illinois to St. Paul, MN in 1891, at the age of 57. He died in 1914, while vacationing in Pasadena, California.
  • Carl Eric Wickman (Våmhus, Sweden)
    Entrepreneur; Founder of Greyhound Lines, Inc. Started career by transporting miners from Hibbing, MN, to Alice, MN. Through a series of business transactions, he would go on to build the largest bus line in America.

2 Responses

  1. Why are there no Hormel persons on this list of Business people born or raised in Minnesota?

    1. Hi Dave, George A. Hormel is listed on our Honorable Minnesotans page, primarily because he didn’t move to Minnesota until age 31. But, We have now added a listing for him on the business page as well. The Spam Museum is already mentioned on our Museums and Landmarks page.

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