Jun 3, 2021

Axios Twin Cities

Good morning!

  • 🌥 It's safe to put away those sweaters. Cloudy with highs in the upper 80s.

Situational awareness: City crews are mobilizing large equipment this morning to reopen 38th and Chicago — the site of the George Floyd Square (KSTP)

Today's newsletter is 812 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: What to do about the COVID scofflaws

Alibi Drinkery opened in December despite the governor's orders. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A small handful of Minnesota businesses whose owners flouted Gov. Tim Walz's coronavirus orders are still facing lawsuits from the state, but some lawmakers are pushing to let them off the hook.

Driving the news: Republicans in the Legislature introduced a proposal to give those businesses amnesty. It's part of a larger $52 billion budget negotiation with the governor and House Democrats.

  • State lawmakers, who've been negotiating behind closed doors, are expected to hash out budget details during a special session expected to begin June 14.
  • Walz hasn't ruled out leniency for the business owners, but has said they should face consequences, according to MPR News.

Flashback: After Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close last fall, several owners rebelled. Most backed down after warnings, but not all.

  • Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, which opened in December and January, is now facing thousands in fines and a five-year liquor license revocation. The owner is trying to sell the bar and another in Northfield, according to FOX 9.
  • The owner of Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea not only opened in defiance of Walz, she skipped a bail hearing and went on the lam until she was arrested in April, the Star Tribune reports.

The case for amnesty: Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) says forgiving the owners would move the state forward.

  • "There were some small businesses that were very frustrated and didn't know if they were going to make it," Gazelka told MPR News. "This is an opportunity as we get out of the pandemic, to just take away these penalties and let everybody back to normal."

The case for punishment: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a DFLer, told MPR that letting them off the hook wouldn't be fair to the businesses that obeyed the order.

  • "I think it's a slap in the face to everybody who did all they could to protect their neighbors and their fellow workers and their customers and their employees from COVID and who obeyed the restrictions," he said.
2. Minnesota companies gain clout on Fortune 500 list

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota companies are moving up the Fortune 500 list, thanks in part to the pandemic.

Driving the news: Fortune released its annual list yesterday, and Minnesota has 18 public companies among the top 500 in the U.S., up from 16 last year.

  • Winona-based Fastenal and Mendota Heights-based Patterson both moved onto the list this year.
  • Of our 18 Fortune 500 companies, 14 moved up the list, three moved down and one was flat.

Why it matters: Minnesota's impressive lineup of large public companies — in a diverse mix of industries — is a big reason why we've had a historically strong and stable economy.

The big picture: Minneapolis-based Target and Richfield-based Best Buy, aided by a pandemic that shifted shopping behavior in their favor, moved up seven and nine spots, respectively.

  • Other big risers: Golden Valley-based General Mills moved up 23 spots, St. Paul's Securian was up 34 places and Medina-based Polaris jumped 35.
  • St. Paul-based Ecolab, which saw a steep drop in demand for its restaurant cleaning products, dropped 24 spots.

Here is Minnesota's lineup:

  • 5. UnitedHealth
  • 30. Target
  • 66. Best Buy
  • 96. 3M
  • 103. CHS
  • 113. U.S. Bank
  • 169. General Mills
  • 191. CH Robinson Worldwide
  • 219. Land O' Lakes
  • 237. Ecolab
  • 253. Ameriprise Financial
  • 272. Xcel Energy
  • 317. Hormel
  • 369. Thrivent Financial
  • 407. Polaris 
  • 421. Securian Financial
  • 479. Fastenal
  • 491. Patterson
3. Biking in the pandemic: Trails, not lanes

Bike trails have been full during the pandemic. Photo: Marlin Levison/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Minnesota's bike trails have been buzzing during the pandemic, but bicycle lanes on streets have been quieter.

The state of play: Bicycle use on trails was up 39% in 2020, but it was down 15% on roadways and road shoulders, according to an analysis by University of Minnesota professor Greg Lindsey.

  • Lindsey's team looked at daily counts from 16 trails in Minnesota and eight roadways/shoulders, using data from the state's Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources.

The big picture: People weren't biking to work on streets as they hunkered down at their home offices, but they used the trails much more for exercise, especially since gyms were closed or limited.

  • "It's our hypothesis that the different trends in bike use on different facilities are associated with changes in trip purposes," Lindsey wrote. "That means fewer utilitarian trips for work and shopping and more trips for exercise, recreation and mental health."
New job opportunities in the Twin Cities

Get started on your next opportunity, today.

  1. Business Development Representative at Suma Brands
  2. Design Consultant at International Design Center
  3. Business Valuation Analyst at Shenehon Company
  4. Thought Leadership Marketing Strategist at ECMC
  5. Emergency Response Initiative Member at ServeMinnesota

Looking for a specific industry? Let us know what you’d like to see.

4. Catch up quick: Land of lakes that need oxygen

Lakes need more oxygen, according to a new study. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

💧 Oxygen levels in freshwater lakes are falling, likely due to climate change and development, according to a global study that included 84 Minnesota lakes. (MPR News)

🛒 Wedge Table, the Eat Street bodega/cafe/commissary kitchen run by Twin Cities Co-op Partners, is closing after six years. (Star Tribune)

Are authorities going to charge the suspected "Umbrella Man," who was seen on footage busting windows at an AutoZone store during last summer's riots? (Minnesota Reformer)

⚖️ Derek Chauvin's attorney is asking a judge for probation for his client, arguing that he's a product of a broken system. Sentencing is June 25. (Star Tribune)

5. A new pool for sea lions and seals

Como Harbor is a new exhibit for seals and sea lions at the Como Zoo. Photo courtesy of Como Zoo

After a decade of work, the $21 million Como Harbor at Como Zoo is holding its grand opening today.

  • The new exhibit, home to the zoo's seals and sea lions, features two saltwater pools with above and below-water viewing, shaded amphitheater and a stage.
Sparky the Sea Lion in his new home. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Zoo

Seal ya later!