HEART OF STEELE
The big Federated Insurance monument sign visible off southbound I-35 was my introduction to entrepreneurship in Owatonna.
I drove past it a few times thinking... well, that’s nice, a big company like Federated having offices here. Because I’ve been covering local government for more than 30 years, I wondered how big an incentive the city gave up to bring them here.
It wasn’t long before someone set me straight. Federated started here, with a group of local folks who pooled their resources believing they could get better insurance coverage. What’s more, there are dozens of stories just like that one in Owatonna and throughout Steele County.
Entrepreneurship thrives in this community and even better, it’s celebrated.
Last week, the Owatonna Area Business Development Center honored four nominees for its Entrepreneur of the Year award, won by Scott Limberg of Limberg Productions. The company promoted local businesses, worked with Steele County to share COVID-19 information, and livestreamed funeral services for Michaelson Funeral Home, using a private website.
Inductees to the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame included Josten’s, the company that made my high school class ring, and Owatonna Canning Company, whose Festal Pumpkin cans sat on my mother’s kitchen counter every Thanksgiving.
I took all those things for granted, never gave a thought to the people behind the products who took risks and brought their dreams to life. I’d never heard the story of how, in 1897, Otto Josten opened a watch repair business in Owatonna. Or how Louis Christian Lange launched Owatonna Canning in 1911 by purchasing a pea cannery.
Today's entrepreneurs are creating legacies like those today and, in doing so, they’re building the heart of Steele County.