MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Dennis Frandsen was the skinny kid who stuttered, the one who got bullied when he was growing up on a farm near Luck, Wis.
But Frandsen grew up to be a driven entrepreneur. He hired his neighbor, Bob Scheffer to cut timber in 1953, the start of Scheffer's 40-year ride in jobs with several of the companies Frandsen bought and built.
Frandsen's first enterprise -- selling timber to the Duncan yo-yo factory in Luck -- has evolved into a small conglomerate. The manufacturing arm has $110 million in sales; his banks hold $900 million in assets.
"Maybe it was because of his childhood," said Scheffer, the first employee of what became the 1,000-employee Frandsen Corp. "He was kind of the weak kid on the block. But he showed 'em."
Frandsen, the average student and average athlete from a poor farm family, will receive the annual John F. Cade Award Wednesday from the John M. Morrison Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas. The award is presented annually to an outstanding entrepreneur and is named for a deceased St. Thomas alumnus who founded Cade Industries, a Michigan manufacturer.
Frandsen, 69, said he's getting an award for doing what he loves to do -- and will continue to do as long as he lives.
"I don't need to make money for myself anymore," Frandsen said. "But every day is a kick for me. Why would I want to do anything else?"
Frandsen is still a small-town guy at heart, say those who know him. Even though he spends four months in California, his permanent home remains tiny Rush City, just 50 miles from where he grew up near Luck.
He said he's learned over the years that good entrepreneurs don't have to stray far from home to succeed and, in fact, can find opportunities in their own back yards.
That's what Frandsen did when, as a high school student, he cut maple trees from his father's land to provide Duncan with another source of yo-yo wood. After buying a truck with his profits, he looked for more timberland and found it near Rush City, across the Minnesota line. That move was the real beginning of his empire.
Tom Pesek, president of Frandsen Corp., attributes Frandsen's success to conservative business practices that call for pouring profits back into businesses to generate more profits that can be used to buy other companies without incurring heavy debt. The profits from Plastech, his flagship manufacturing company, have fueled the growth of Frandsen's collection of plants and banks.
Those banks include a bank that turned him down for the $13,000 loan he needed to buy his timberland near Rush City.
"I went to the bank in Luck, Wisconsin, and the banker tells me that was too far out of his territory. With a certain amount of frustration, I said, 'I'm going to own that bank some day.' Guess what? I do: Rural American Bank at Luck."
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