The NDDC’s most recent board visit was with Granite Equity Partners. We had a very intellectually stimulating conversation with Partner Art Monaghan.
Granite Equity Partners was formed in 2001. It operates 11 companies with a total of 1,500 employees within the region. The focus is on the acquisition of family businesses looking to keep the control of the companies local and the direction of the companies based on Midwest values. The headquarters is in St. Cloud and the firms located in Southern Minnesota and Iowa are managed out of the Northfield office.
Art moved the office down from the Twin Cities. He was attracted by Northfield’s character: the historic downtown, the agricultural envelope, and the welcoming people. He noted that the two colleges were a particular draw with all the activities, opportunities, experiences, and people that they offer the community. Art believes that the presence of the colleges contributes to the town’s openness to new people and the agrarian history contributes to the community’s well-rooted values.
Northfield works for Granite Equity Partners for a number of reasons. It has great proximity to the airport within an authentic small-town atmosphere. Its location is also perfect for Art’s regional responsibilities. Art notes that it’s a great place to host board meetings, with the historic Archer House for guests, the colleges’ facilities for meetings, and the great downtown experience and choice of dining options for entertaining.
As for potential improvements, Art suggested a few more varied restaurants or, as he referred to it, “a deeper repertoire of cuisines”. He also noted the number of small office-based businesses in the downtown and speculated on the market for a provider of shared services.
When asked how Northfield could increase the quality of life for his workers, Art started with the positives: good schools, safe neighborhoods, and rich culture. One thing that did come to his mind was recreational facilities for young families, where energetic kids could let off steam during the winter.
Although it wasn’t on our standard list of questions, we talked quite a bit about branding. Art advised increasing leverage from our existing assets and strengthening our community by building on those assets. He said we should focus our energy on the pieces of the market that our customers want and that we’re more capable of delivering than our competitors.
Cows, colleges, and character?