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Labovitz Award recipients announced

Tami Lapole Edmunds and her husband, Dan Edmunds, won the Emerging Entrepreneur Award for their business Art in the Alley. (Naomi Yaeger photo)1 / 5
Nancy Libersky, director of the Minnesota District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, honored Duluth Mayor Don Ness with a Phoenix Award for his "extraordinary leadership during and after the flood of 2012." (Naomi Yaeger photo)2 / 5
Ljell R. Knudsen gives Elaine Hansen a hug, while UMD executive vice chancellor Andrea Schokker stands by. Knudsen was awarded Business Person of the Year. Knudsen is the dean of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. Hansen is the director of the University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Economic Development. Knudsen said he plans to retire at the end of the school year. (Naomi Yaeger photo)3 / 5
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and Elaine Hansen stand by as Rob Link accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award. Also honored with this award was Lee Anderson. Link and Anderson own A&L, a construction company. (Naomi Yaeger photo)4 / 5
Lucie Amundsen poses with her rubber chicken purse. She and her husband Jason are owners of Locally Laid Egg Company. (Naomi Yaeger photo)5 / 5

The UMD Center for Economic Development (CED) announced the recipients of the 21st annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards during a luncheon at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Wednesday, April 24.

UMD executive vice chancellor Andrea Schokker welcomed attendees and Mark Labovitz provided opening remarks before more than 300 business and community leaders.

Since 1993, the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards have recognized small business owners who have dared to dream, taken risks and invested in the region. This year's award recipients, honored as part of Small Business Week, were selected from 30 nominees from throughout the Twin Ports and Arrowhead Region.

2013 recipients:


Swanky Sweet Pea -- RaeAnne Conat, International Falls

Emerging Entrepreneur

Art in the Alley -- Tami LaPole Edmunds and Dan Edmunds, Duluth

Established Entrepreneur

Lake Assault Boats, LLC -- Tom Curelli and Jerry Atherton, Superior

Mature Entrepreneur

Wagner Construction Inc. -- Dennis Wagner, International Falls

E-3: Environmentally Engaged Entrepreneur

Locally Laid Egg Company -- Lucie and Jason Amundsen, who reside in Duluth and have a farm in Wrenshall.

Additional recognition awards presented:

Entrepreneurial Leadership: Nicholas Minardi, Viant Crane

Lifetime Achievement: Lee R. Anderson and J.R. "Rob" Link

Recipient Bios:

Micro Entrepreneur Award:

Swanky Sweet Pea -- RaeAnne Conat

A wholesale supplier of dessert-inspired bath and body products, Swanky Sweet Pea

provides its products to 850-plus U.S. and international retailers. Owner RaeAnne Conat started in her home and now has a 2,000-square-foot facility where she produces and packages her products and offers workshops for birthdays and special events.

Emerging Entrepreneur Award:

Art in the Alley -- Tami LaPole Edmunds and Dan Edmunds

Art in the Alley owners and artists Tami LaPole Edmunds and Dan Edmunds make many of the products they sell right in their stores. In the past year, they relocated their business from Superior to Duluth and opened an additional store. Their two downtown Duluth stores feature repurposed and up-cycled clothing, accessories, furniture, and home décor, as well as the work of 12 local artists.

Established Entrepreneur Award:

Lake Assault Boats, LLC -- Tom Curelli and Jerry Atherton

Lake Assault Boats

designs and builds mission-specific custom aluminum boats, including fireboats, airboats, search-and-rescue boats, work boats, patrol boats, and fishing boats. With a special focus on the emergency-response market, Lake Assault Boats prides itself on offering, "the last boat you ever buy."

Mature Entrepreneur Award:

Wagner Construction, Inc. -- Dennis Wagner

What started nearly 40 years ago as a small, family-owned northern Minnesota logging company has expanded to a full-service construction business in four states and Canada. Wagner Construction offers a full complement of services, from dike and road construction to utility system maintenance and building demolition.

E-3 Award:

Locally Laid Egg Company -- Lucie and Jason Amundsen

The only Minnesota commercial provider of pasture-raised eggs, Locally Laid Egg Company distributes to area restaurants and grocers. Dedicated to community and sustainability, it donates 5 percent of its profits to local organizations, operates solar-powered hen houses, and supports reforestation efforts through its carton-return program and by planting trees for each delivery.

Entrepreneurial Leadership:

Nicholas Minardi, Viant Crane

Nick Minardi has seen entrepreneurs in his family and has taken an opportunity to become one of the region's bright, young entrepreneurs. He represents the kind of entrepreneurial leadership that we need to encourage. His focus is on the future, a future to grow the industry, grow markets and find those markets that are yet to be explored. He is active in the community and his enthusiasm for life, entrepreneurship and mentoring has inspired others to take a risk and find the resources they need to be successful. He is encouraging our youth through his work with Junior Achievement, serving as president this year and as the vice president of IMPACT and participating in the voyageurs area council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Lifetime Achievement: Lee R. Anderson and J.R. 'Rob' Link

Lee Anderson and Rob Link have rebuilt portions of our communities by constructing 35 properties in Duluth alone, resulting not only in jobs, but in targeted investments that have helped create a sustainable economic base for the community. A&L began the process of redefining downtown by removing rundown, substandard buildings and replacing them with the construction of the Technology Village. Anderson and Link provided key investment in an area that had experienced years of disinvestment and neglect. They have been instrumental in the reconstruction of portions of West Duluth, and have preserved our local heritage by restoring historic landmarks such as The Duluth Athletic Club, Minnesota National Bank Building, and the Bridgeman-Russell Building. They have developed a funding model for use with the medical industry that provides state-of-the-art facilities to expand and access to healthcare services. Their commitment to the region and its people was recently recognized during the 100-year anniversary of the Jamar Company. Over a period of 28 years, their joint efforts have resulted in the investment of over $212,000,000 in regional development projects.