Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Airport e-gambling still largely grounded

Crop conditions good,  prices less so; pro bowlers to roll in; Best Buy’s quiet layoffs; Cargill acquiring malt producer; first Sex Offender Program suicide; some colleges report lower enrollment; and more.

Juuuuuuuuust a little low … Jean Hopfensperger of the Strib says: “The MinneapolisSt. Paul International Airport became one of the first airports in the nation to launch electronic gambling in January, projecting that the iPad games in bars and restaurants would rake in $3 million in 2013 to help fund the Minnesota Vikings stadium. Six months later, however, passengers have spent $33,586. The disappointing returns are the latest indication of problems with the state’s original plan for funding the state’s $348 million share of the stadium. … Of the $33,586 spent so far on the games, 85 percent was returned to players as prizes, said [Jana Vaughn, executive director of the MSP Airport Foundation]. After paying rent to the bar, rent for the equipment, and taxes to the state, the foundation earned about $1,900 for its projects at the airport, she said.”

And how are the crops looking? Bruce Falk at the Minnesota Farm Guide reports: “Jim Nelson, crop watcher for southwestern Minnesota, reported receiving 0.10 of an inch of rain July 22 and 0.08 of an inch Aug. 2. With that, he said, ‘Crops in my immediate area are looking good yet, but are falling behind with the cool weather we have had. Corn has had good conditions for pollination as we are getting toward the end of pollinating, but we could use some rain and warmer weather to keep things moving along. Insect and disease pressure in corn has been minimal from what I have seen and heard,’ he added. Things aren’t much different on the soybean front.”

But “good” is bad … . Mike Hughlett of the Strib explains: “This year’s crops are looking decent, overcoming a sodden spring and late planting. The weather has been good. In fact, everything is so good it may be too good, or so goes the logic of farming economics. With big grain crops expected through much of the nation, the price of corn has dropped to levels not seen since 2010. That means farmers who’ve sunk more money into land and equipment during boom times — thus increasing their costs — are looking at thinning margins this year if corn prices stay where they are.”

A PiPress story says: “The Pro Bowlers Association will hold its first Minnesota event since 1971, a PBA50 (formerly senior tour) stop Aug. 18-21 at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Welch, the PBA announced Monday. The season-ending event for the 50-and-older circuit will be known as the Treasure Island Resort and Casino Open and take place at Island Xtreme Bowl. Walter Ray Williams Jr., the reigning PBA50 Player of the Year, leads the points race for the honor again this year. The top three in the points race will compete in a new PBA Tour Finals event in November, the PBA said. Minnesota’s last PBA event was the 1971 U.S. Open at St. Paul’s Drkula’s 32 Bowl.”

Article continues after advertisement

Apparently it’s a big deal out at Best Buy if you make it to Hump Day. Thomas Lee of the Strib says: “Best Buy Co. has been quietly laying off employees in small groups at its Richfield headquarters over the past several months, incrementally reducing a corporate staff already hit hard by cuts. The recent wave of cuts is spread across all departments and ranges from single digits to as many as 25, Best Buy confirmed Monday. The reductions follow 400 layoffs of corporate workers in February and another 400 workers last year. The consumer electronics giant, which is working to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses, has been trimming its staff on such a regular basis, usually on Tuesdays, that employees have nicknamed the day they receive layoff notices ‘Tornado Tuesdays’ or ‘Termination Tuesdays,’ according to multiple sources within the company.”

Also in business, Gillian Tan of the Wall Street Journal reports: “Glencore Xstrata PLC is selling Australia’s biggest malt producer to rival commodities trader Cargill Inc. for around 420 million Australian dollars (US$373 million), a person familiar with the matter said Monday. The unit, known as Joe White Maltings, was acquired through Glencore’s US$6.2 billion takeover of Canadian grain handler Viterra Inc. last year. It marks Cargill Malt’s first Australian investment, and adds to the company’s portfolio of ten malting plants in markets like North America and Europe, which supply malt to global brewers. … The unit produces more than 550,000 metric tons of malt annually. That makes it the largest exporter to Asian brewers including those in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Singapore, according to its website.”

Frankly, I’m surprised this was the first … . Rupa Shenoy at MPR says: “A man committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program took his own life this weekend, Minnesota Department of Human Services officials said Monday. It was the first suicide in the program’s history. DHS Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry said the 45-year-old man died Saturday at the program’s Moose Lake facility after an apparent suicide attempt Friday.”

We truly have reached a point where there’s a service for every need … . Curtis Gilbert of MPR reports: “A company called Insomnia Cookies has applied for a license to deliver baked goods until 3 a.m. from a location in Dinkytown. The Minneapolis City Council holds a hearing on the application today. The company, which has more than 30 locations spread across nine states, is on a rapid growth trajectory. ‘With limited late night food options, especially on the sweeter side, there definitely is a market for the cookies,’ Marketing Manager Renee Sarnecky said. Insomnia may take a small bite out of Tank Goodness, which has been baking and delivering cookies in the Twin Cities since 2003. But that competition will be limited, because Tank Goodness caters to daytime snackers and doesn’t deliver past 4 p.m.”

Better economy = falling college enrollment. In the Duluth News Tribune, Jana Hollingsworth writes: “The University of Minnesota Duluth expects smaller numbers overall, the College of St. Scholastica expects a smaller freshman class, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College expect little to no growth. Officials point to a climb out of the Great Recession as one reason why many institutions are seeing a second year of lower enrollment numbers. ‘We’re seeing now the result of what’s happened over the past couple of years,’ said Andrea Schokker, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at UMD, referring to a large drop in freshmen the previous year. ‘I’m sure it’s related to the economy and tuition and talk in the media about what’s the value of higher education.’ “