ANNUAL REPORT AND 2021 HIGHLIGHTS EMAILED TO GSDC INVESTORS NEXT WEEK
Due to COVID considerations, the GSDC will not hold our in-person Annual Meeting for investors and partners that had been scheduled for February. Instead, GSDC investors are invited to watch your inboxes next week for our annual report and a video with 2021 highlights, investor comments and what we’re looking forward to in 2022.
SCSU’S WACKER PARTICIPATES IN UNITED NATIONS PANEL
The United Nations observed the fourth annual International Day of Education on January 24, celebrating the role of education for peace and development around the world. Global Minnesota hosted one of the largest International Day of Education events in the United States, featuring international, national and local advocates and activists who are shaping the future of learning.
One panelist was GSDC board member and St. Cloud State University President Robbyn Wacker, who joined leaders from the U.S. Department of Commerce and elsewhere to describe the importance of international students to Minnesota.
Global Minnesota was created 70 years ago to welcome and support international students arriving at our colleges and universities. Its motto was “They’ve Come as Strangers, May They Leave as Friends.” Over the years its work expanded to include educational programs designed to reach all Minnesotans, “from Kindergarten to the C-Suite,” to fulfill Global Minnesota’s mission to advance international understanding and engagement.
GRATITUDE, A NEW BOOK ABOUT DON HELGESON
“While the family businesses – Gold’n Plump Poultry (which later became known as GNP Company) and Liberty Savings Bank – have been true legacies, locally, regionally and nationally, the story of Don’s personal life has been equally remarkable and full. But few have known it.”
That’s how the introduction of a new book about Don Helgeson reads, but it might not do him or his contributions to the Greater St. Cloud community justice.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Don vividly remembers taking long family trips. Visiting places like Florida and Mexico as a young child instilled his appreciation for different cultures and a lifelong passion for learning. On those trips with his parents, Don also learned the importance of connecting with others, and seeing firsthand how they made their livings.
This later became an important strategy when exploring the up-and-coming broiler chicken business, which was booming in the South. For example, to learn more about how to successfully raise chickens in a northern climate, Don traveled to Maine to observe the state’s broiler chicken industry. What he was able to take away helped him create a new industry in Minnesota. His humility and an openness to learning were characteristics that allowed Don to better cultivate success as a business leader throughout his entire career.
Don’s son, Mike Helgeson, was also involved in the family business from an early age and took the helm as CEO of Gold’n Plump Poultry when Don handed him the reins in 1993. Don remained Chairman of the Board for some time, and during the remainder of Mike’s tenure—until his retirement in 2014—company sales grew to nearly $500 million annually.
The two Helgesons credit strong partnerships with area farmers and their communities, and a willingness to take the road less traveled. “Innovation had been a hallmark of our company and it was something my father really instilled in all of us, including myself,” Mike said.
Both Don and Mike Helgeson continue to be actively involved in the Greater St. Cloud community. From the original impact made with Gold n’ Plump to being a founding member of the St. Cloud United Way; to being instrumental in raising funds to restore the historic Paramount Theatre and the construction of the River’s Edge Convention Center, Don’s reach has been both meaningful and community-centered.
To commemorate Don’s lifelong contributions (he’s now 94), a book about his life story was commissioned in 2017 and recently completed. On November 4, 2021, a book signing event was held at The Whit Gallery in downtown St. Cloud, where close friends, family and members of the local business community gathered to celebrate the book’s completion.
The book, titled Gratitude, reflects Don’s three guideposts to life: To love, to know, to experience. It also details the many ways in which he has made the St. Cloud area a better place to live. Don perhaps says it best in his book when he reflects: “With privilege comes responsibility” and “In order to be a responsible member of the community, you must give to the community.”
Thanks to a team of writers and designers, this book is now a part of the community’s history. GSDC investor Lexann Reischl helped Don write this book, while the team of local artist Lori Gnahn and graphic designer Barb Kettler worked to create and instill unique, artistic design elements throughout the book. Jim Barkley, founder of Sonant History, recorded audio, and visual interviews to accompany the book.
“I appreciated working with Don at GNP Company, and it’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to work with him over the past four years to put his story into words,” said Lexann. “In my mind, he breaks the mold of what it means to have integrity, kindness and to be the type of leader that anyone who knows him aspires to be.”
Don said some of the key lessons he’s learned throughout his lifetime include:
- Forever learning means endless possibilities.
- Recognizing the value of people makes all the difference.
- Living a little every day is as important as work.
- Being able to fail well fuels success.
- Practicing fair play and leading by example lay the groundwork for integrity.
- With privilege comes responsibility.
The GSDC is grateful for all Don Helgeson has done for our community, and we congratulate him on the completion of his biography. It’s quite an accomplishment for such an accomplished figure in our local community and beyond.
PATTI GARTLAND REAPPOINTED TO MAC BOARD
Gov. Tim Walz has reappointed GSDC President Patti Gartland to a third term on the Metropolitan Airports Commission, through January 2026. She was initially appointed in 2014 by Gov. Mark Dayton, then reappointed in 2018. In 2017, Patti was elected by her commission peers as vice chair of the MAC, a position she still holds.
SCTCC BUILDS UPON COMMITMENT TO THE E.P.I.C PROGRAM
St. Cloud Technical & Community College (SCTCC) continues its commitment to the Exploring Potential Interests & Careers (EPIC) initiative, a one-of-a-kind opportunity that ignites a critical first step in many high school students’ pathway to higher education and careers. The ability of students to see first-hand the opportunities that are available to them in our community, and to hear from and talk to practitioners and experts in the field, is an invaluable proposition as the doors of adulthood and life begin to open for students.
SCTCC is EPIC’s “experience partner,” uniquely positioned with the industry exposures and contacts, providing the curricula for students to actually pursue their EPIC experiences and the facilities to support the engagements. Like most organizations locally and nationally, the college has had to find new ways in which to operate during this pandemic, exploring every opportunity to engage students both in-person and virtually. So, having over 1,000 students in our region participate in EPIC and connect with SCTCC students, faculty and staff is a vital strategic initiative not only for the college but an essential service to our community as well.
Dr. Annesa Cheek, SCTCC President, acknowledged the tremendous pride taken by the SCTCC team in developing programming opportunities to provide a quality EPIC experience for students and parents. She noted this too creates meaningful pathways for exploration, learning and earning insights often for parents who have not had exposure to such a wide variety of career options. Delivering this program in new ways and engaging stakeholders connects not only SCTCC to career paths that support local families and our local economy, but also a host of other community businesses and organizations who comprise the collaborative effort required to execute such an “epic” program. SCTCC welcomes the feedback and support of all regional partners in making EPIC rewarding for students and families, with a great program tentatively scheduled for October 28, 2022.
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