A Place of Business

Stephanie Braun (’04), Curt Fisher (center), and Dain Fisher in the lower level of the Hubbard Building.

 

An early economic powerhouse for Mankato, Hubbard Milling produced flour, animal feed and jobs for the area throughout the 20th century. In 1968, the company built a four-level office building on a 2-acre stretch downtown. Time passed, the company changed hands, sold its flour mill and in 1998 the building was bought by Mankato developer and Minnesota State Mankato alumnus Curt Fisher.

Fisher in 2016 struck a unique partnership with the University, positioning the building to be the hub of a new generation of business thought and action for the Mankato region.

Fisher donates building space and covers some costs for the University’s Strategic Partnership Division, which focuses on building partnerships with businesses, community organizations and schools worldwide.

Under its umbrella are the Continuing and Professional Education and the Small Business Development Center.

The Hubbard Building  also houses the College of Business’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The CIE represents the University’s latest idea in fostering real-world business education, its environment designed for conversation, seminars and shared ideas. Whiteboard walls, tall tables, high tech tools and open spaces are the new desks and chairs.

To fully realize his vision of having a hub of creative business activity, Fisher said, the University was essential.

“The interest of innovation, collaboration and retention of talent are important and common needs to communities,” Fisher said. “Mankato has all the assets in place and by bringing the University into downtown, the talent of students and faculty can be connected with businesses to collaborate and innovate,” Fisher said.

Implementing this vision by way of fresh interior design and new perspectives is Fisher’s son, Dain. Dain Fisher’s touch addresses an appetite for creative space layout as well as new, emerging thoughts toward how business leaders can interact.

“His ideas are quite different than the conventional ideas in my brain,” Curt Fisher said, “and he has created a very cool atmosphere that is innovative and supports the collaborative energy in the building.”

Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Robert Fleischman, said the University’s long-awaited presence downtown puts the University in an ideal position to contribute to the community while benefiting an array of students.

“This is an incubator,” Fleischman said. “It weaves our mission into the fabric of the regional Mankato community, and southern Minnesota. It gets us closer to the decision makers we work with. They can drop by here, have a cup of coffee to discuss their ideas, to see how we can support them and bring benefit to our students, and the University’s partners.”

As relationships grow, Fleischman said,  the vision is that the building becomes a  one-stop resource “that  large and small businesses, start-ups, community-based groups and our own students can utilize for organizing their businesses, tax and legal advice, securing intellectual property rights and bringing new products and ideas to market.”

John Ruprecht graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology and is working toward his master’s in manufacturing engineering technology. He is the owner of Cubic 3D, a digital printing operation in the lower level’s shared office space project, The Mogwai Collaborative. Mogwai offers day passes and monthly leases for individuals to work among others or on their own in an environment clearly designed for innovation and movement.

Ruprecht works alongside another small business with University roots, The Social Butterfly, operated by Brandon Poliszuk. Poliszuk formed the idea for his social media marketing firm while a student at the University. Social Butterfly has since worked with the University on a number of projects that raise both the profile of the business and word of the University’s role as real-world incubator for student ideas and energies.

Other tenants in the building include Bolton and Menk Engineering firm, AB Financial and others that interact with and advise students. As collaborative activity continues under one roof, outside attention will follow. And imitate. And continue.

“It starts internally,” Fleischman said. “And it’s in the process. Once we build that culture, that culture will grow.”

– Joe Tougas