We asked and you answered. People in Duluth are proud of their workplaces.
From great benefits, to volunteering as a team, to nice perks, here’s an overview of Duluth’s top spots to work and the reasons people stay put at their jobs.
As a Duluth-based business whose product soars above the clouds each and every day, Cirrus’ name is undeniably fitting. According to Merriam-Webster, the word Cirrus is defined as:
A high wispy white cloud usually of minute ice crystals formed at altitudes between about 20,000 and 40,000 feet (6,000 and 12,000 meters).
Besides its cool history and globally-recognized name, Cirrus is a pretty great place to work. In addition to all the regular workaday perks and amenities, they offer unique opportunities such as the Cirrus Employee Flying Club.
Flying a plane. At work.
CLEAR VISION; HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Cirrus Aircraft was founded in 1984 in a barn near Baraboo, Wisconsin on the rural farmland of the Klapmeier family. It began as the dream of brothers Dale and Alan Klapmeier, who wanted to pursue the design and construction of their own airplanes.
Cirrus has grown into a general aviation manufacturing company with more than 6,700 SR-series aircraft in 60 countries and an immense network of sales, training partners and service centers around the globe. More recently, the company expanded beyond piston aircraft to launch the Vision Jet – the world’s first single-engine Personal Jet.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Back in Baraboo, the Klapmeier brothers began their journey by restoring old planes. Their first original design was the VK-30, a pusher- propeller homebuilt plane, sold as a kit.
Design and innovation continued, and by 1994, Cirrus was continuing work on what would become their first FAA certified aircraft, the SR20. The company was expanding, so they opened up shop in Duluth with 49 employees.
Today, Cirrus has campuses in three locations: Grand Forks, North Dakota (with about 200 employees, where initial composite fabrication and lay-up work happens), Duluth, Minnesota (with more than 900 employees, where the majority of the production and finishing is completed) and Knoxville, Tennessee at the new Cirrus Vision Center™ (with more than 60 team members, where training and delivery for Cirrus aircraft occur).
In 2002, Cirrus’ SR22 became the world’s best-selling single-engine aircraft, a ranking it retains today. Fast forward to 2016, which was the monumental year Cirrus delivered the world’s first Personal Jet, the Vision Jet, to a customer and expanded its portfolio.
Dale Klapmeier is Cirrus’ co-founder and current CEO. He has been flying since the age of 15 and has accumulated well over 6,000 hours of flight time during his career, as well as many industry accolades. The company and its leader have certainly come a long way since their humble beginnings in Baraboo.
THE EARLY DAYS
Robbie Stevens is manager of the Duluth Factory Service Center, where he oversees 17 employees. He has spent almost 24 years working for Cirrus. “In the early days, we all did a little bit of everything, including Dale,” he said. “We all worked side-by-side, getting our hands dirty, working as a team. I remember the buzz in the crowd as we introduced the SR20 at AirVenture in Oshkosh in 1994. It was our first certified aircraft and the introduction of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System® (CAPS®), which really changed general aviation forever, safety-wise. It has been amazing to be a part of it all.”
Cirrus is proud to offer its employees a long list of benefits, including paid time off, and medical, dental and vision insurance options. A 401k investment with matching opportunities, as well as short and long-term disability, are also available.
It also offers Cirrus University, a company-wide training and progression program, an employee discount program and a clean, safe, engaging work environment. Beyond these perks, the company created the Cirrus Employee Flying Club, a truly unique opportunity to affordably learn to fly (in a Cirrus, of course) and rent aircraft for personal travel after obtaining a private pilot certificate.
Other cool groups include the Canoe/Kayak Building Club, Running Club, Recreational Hockey Club, Motorcycle Club, Scientific Club, and Whitewater Club. The organization hosts employee and family picnics, monthly birthday and recognition celebrations, and many other events.
Cirrus currently employs 30 people who have surpassed the 15 year mark, and 34 who have surpassed 20 years. Dale Klapmeier notes some employees have been on board since day one and have literally done almost every job around – from pushing the broom to helping build and test the aircraft.
There are many things that have kept Robbie Stevens at Cirrus for the last 24 years. “I love the growth and look forward to what’s next,” he says. “I’m always looking for ways we can keep spreading the Cirrus culture and customer experience – the Cirrus Life. I’ve been able to stay and grow along with the company, and contribute to a lot of different things and projects along the way. It’s been an awesome experience.”
ST. LUKE’S HOSPITAL
Working in a hospital or clinic can at times be a brutally tough job. At St. Luke’s, employees who care for sick patients often have a front-row seat to serious illnesses and end-of- life situations, and witness families suffering through grief and shock.
But, there are plenty of celebratory events happening at St. Luke’s, too: babies are born every day, people recover from serious illnesses, and still others receive the all clear following a frightening medical test.
Whether the news is good or bad, Duluth-based St. Luke’s can handle it. Its motto, after all, is “The Patient. Above All Else.”
A RICH HISTORY IN DULUTH
St. Luke’s was founded as Duluth’s first hospital in 1881 (meaning it was here prior to the mule-drawn rail cars used as transportation at the time).
St. Luke’s has grown to include two hospitals, 14 primary care clinics, 26 specialty clinics and two pharmacies, which serve the people of northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It boasts 2,916 employees, with 465 physicians on staff, and facilitates more than 630,000 clinic visits and 158,000 outpatient registrations each year.
John Strange has been the CEO of St. Luke’s since 1996. He began his career with the organization in 1992, when he was hired as Chief Financial Officer. Strange notes there is a very specific formula to St. Luke’s success: putting people first.
“Our mission is to take great care of patients, but we also make sure to respect employees and each other,” he shares. “My favorite part of this job is taking the time to get to know our employees and patients.”
CONTINUING EDUCATION AND GREAT BENEFITS
St. Luke’s offers its employees a comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance, sick time, and a competitive retirement plan. It also offers employees the opportunity to continue their education and attend a variety of seminars. “You really have to be a lifelong learner to keep up with the trends and technology in our industry,” Strange says.
LOTS OF TENURED EMPLOYEES
Once people get hired at St. Luke’s, they tend to stay. Strange says plenty of service awards are handed out to celebrate 35 and 40 year careers, noting one employee has worked there for 52 years.
Tina Roberts is a social worker at the St. Luke’s Regional Cancer Center. With more than three decades of service under her belt, she says, “I have had the privilege of working at St. Luke’s for nearly 31 years. There are so many reasons this is such a great place to work. I love our patients and the staff. It is a real team, and every person here is valuable.”
LET’S HAVE SOME FUN
When caring for the sick, work can sometimes get a little heavy. So, St. Luke’s makes it a priority to offer up a little levity for its employees. Once per year, they serve up a Christmas tea, where senior staff serve food and beverages to all employees. There are “blue jean Fridays,” where staff who make a donation to St. Luke’s Foundation can wear jeans to work. And, there are plenty of treats and goodies to be found where employees gather.
A SPECIAL BOND
Dealing with life and death situations can often bond people together. The staff at St. Luke’s often finds itself experiencing a range of emotions, from grieving a beloved patient’s death to celebrating the birth of a rosy- cheeked infant.
Going through these experiences together strengthens the team. Roberts shares, “St. Luke’s is a trusting and loving environment, and it truly feels like a family.”
At the end of the day, nothing makes the boss happier than hearing a kind word. “I love it when patients or their family members tell us how wonderful their care was,” Strange says. “At St. Luke’s, our priority is truly the people.”
NORTH SHORE BANK
When you think of a super snazzy place to work, a brick and mortar bank may not be the first place that springs to mind. After all, most bank settings are pretty buttoned-up, conservative spaces.
But traditional businesses, such as banks, often have traditional values. This usually equates to a comprehensive benefits package, steady and predictable raises, and a value system that includes appreciation for its employees. Oh, and bonus … all major holidays off.
North Shore Bank is one such financial institution, which, after being nominated by an employee, prides itself as one of Duluth.com’s Top Workplaces in Duluth.
With locations in Lakeside, Hermantown, Downtown, and Woodland, North Shore Bank of Commerce has a wide swath of representation in the Northland. President/CEO Ken Johnson shares that most people who start working at North Shore Bank tend to stick around.
“North Shore Bank has very low turnover overall,” he says. “We have many employees who have been with the company for more than 20 years and plan on retiring from the bank.”
North Shore Bank has deep roots in the community; it has been operating in Duluth for the last 100 years. Johnson himself has been employed there for 35 of those years, starting as a teller, and working his way up to president.
Johnson notes North Shore Bank provides plenty of room for advancement, through offering banking industry training, job-related educational opportunities, career training and leadership programs for its employees. Additionally, the bank is a premier sponsor of Leadership Duluth, and is committed to not only developing leaders within the bank, but also leaders in the community.
Community service is another primary corporate value there. “North Shore Bank feels strongly about giving back to our community, and we support employees who choose to serve, even if it is on company time,” Johnson says. “We have many employees who choose to serve the community as volunteers and we proudly support them.”
Judi VanDell is North Shore’s vice president, and has worked there for 17 years. She notes a bit of fun is an important part of the work day.
“North Shore is a fun place to work because people are happy to be here, which creates an enjoyable atmosphere,” VanDell says. “We are serious about getting our work done, but can take time out to have the occasional cookie baking contest, lunch catered in, or volunteer at a nonprofit.”
Arts and cultural events are occasionally offered to employees, through a few of the bank’s strategic partnerships. “The Bank supports organizations such as the Duluth Playhouse, Duluth Art Institute, Minnesota Ballet, and Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra,” Johnson says. “Through these sponsorships, our employees have the benefit of attending a number of unique arts events as a group.”
LIKE A FAMILY
Above all, Johnson and VanDell agree North Shore Bank is like a family. “Of all the things I love about my job, what I enjoy the most are the people I work with. The employees at North Shore Bank have come to feel like a family to me.”
VanDell agrees. “North Shore Bank is a special place to work because people are valued and it’s obvious,” she says. “People here genuinely care about each other.”
Whether you’re a patient or an employee, Essentia Health promises to be “Here With You.” Simply hearing that phrase is comforting, isn’t it? From the custodians to the surgeons, employees at Essentia take their roles seriously. But they also find ways to infuse their workdays with a bit of fun.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Formerly known as St. Mary’s, Essentia is guided by the values of quality, hospitality, respect, justice, stewardship and teamwork, and comprises a network of hospitals, clinics and related healthcare facilities serving patients in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Idaho.
Headquartered in Duluth and making up a huge part of the local workforce, Essentia Health combines the strengths and talents of 15,000 employees, and is known as a great place to work.
NURSE BRIDGET FRIDAY
Bridget Friday was recently named Essentia East’s “Nurse of the Year.” A Registered Nurse who is also nationally certified as an inpatient obstetrical nurse, Friday can’t say enough about her career at Essentia’s Birthplace.
She has been employed at Essentia for the past 20 years. Above all, Friday says, Essentia has always had her back.
“We all trade shifts to cover for each other when we have something personal going on in our lives,” she says. “Everyone I work with is awesome. I feel like I’ve always been taken care of here.”
Over the years, Friday has enjoyed taking part in Essentia’s various community events, which have included supporting the Boys & Girls Club, spreading the word about bicycle safety, and more. She has also continued her education, with Essentia’s support. “The Leadership at Essentia is a firm believer in advancing your education,” she says.
DOCTOR ROSS PERKO
Doctor Ross Perko is a physician specializing in pediatric hematology and oncology at Essentia. He experiences some celebratory days, when a patient enters remission, and alternately, some extraordinarily tough days, such as when a patient enters end-of-life care.
“We may not always be able to find a cure,” he says, “But a big part of my job is to provide hope to these families.” And a big part of that is receiving ongoing support from his superiors.
“Essentia has a very strong presence in education and research,” Perko says. “I’m involved in the Northern Lights Foundation, and a couple of fundraising boards. I also receive the support to attend a variety of educational conferences. With all of this, I still feel like I have a great work-life balance, where I can be a good husband, dad, and doctor.”
Essentia offers a full, comprehensive benefits package, including medical and dental insurance, a retirement package, paid time off, family medical leave, and more. Its support of ongoing education is evident through its computer skills learning labs, clinical skill-building simulation lab, e-learning, classroom and multimedia resources, tuition reimbursement, and mentoring programs.
And, when it comes to fun, Essentia is a team player. Its annual employee dinner is a huge hit with staff. Individual departments also occasionally network off-site, such as taking train rides together or attending conferences as a group.
You’re in good hands at Essentia,” Nurse Friday says. “Essentia is really like a second family.”