The University of St. Thomas’ Family Business Center announced a generous gift from the McNeely family and McNeely Foundation that provides dedicated leadership for the center. This donation positions the Family Business Center to reach a broader array of family businesses, particularly those in traditionally underserved communities that have not previously engaged with the center. The center’s board has developed a pilot program to reach a diverse audience and enhance the success of a wide range of family businesses in our community.
The McNeely family, thanks to the leadership of Harry G. McNeely Jr., has played a vital role in creating and guiding the Family Business Center. The Family Business Center Advisory Board, chaired by Harry McNeely III (Paddy) ’81, will work closely with Director Jon Keimig to build the center’s programming and broaden its outreach. With this gift, the Family Business Center can provide resources to a more diverse population of family-owned businesses with a goal of strengthening the fabric of our local communities.
“Our family is honored to establish an endowed fund that will create a permanent full-time director for the Family Business Center,” Paddy said. He is the third-generation leader of the family’s business, the Meritex Company, a Twin Cities-based commercial property investment and management company. “We have benefited greatly from family business education and the connections with other families through this program. We are excited for other families to join us by investing in our family business community.”
Family businesses are the most prevalent form of business ownership in America, representing as many as 87% of businesses and 78% of new job creation. The Family Business Center is the only organization in the state dedicated to educating family businesses, bringing together about 150 families a year to work on family dynamics, succession planning, generational stability and more.
“With this lead gift in support of a permanently endowed executive director position, the McNeely family has once again stepped up to leave an impact at St. Thomas and on our community,” Sheneeta White, Schulze School of Entrepreneurship associate dean, said. “Their generosity will inspire other donors to support the growth and mission of the Family Business Center to serve the community in future generations.”
According to the state of Minnesota, about 87% of small businesses are white-owned. Historically, the Family Business Center membership makeup is over 95% white-owned businesses. This is indicative of the need for the center to grow and expand its impact to better reflect and serve the community by engaging more family businesses in BIPOC communities. To accomplish this, it must attract and retain dedicated, dynamic leadership dedicated to family business success, create accessible pathways to education, and connect families with credible, practical solutions to their unique challenges.
In January 2023, the center will start a pilot program to engage with and educate family businesses on the east side of St. Paul, with the hope of creating a family business education system that can be replicated in other communities around the state.
“I am so very grateful for Harry, Paddy, all the McNeely Family, the McNeely Foundation, the Rauenhorst family and those on our board who have generously supported the direction of our program,” Keimig said. “Together, we will spearhead positive change to influence the long-term success of family businesses in our community, ultimately increasing the economic vitality, stability and health of the Twin Cities and Minnesota.”
Gifts from the McNeely and Rauenhorst families created the Family Business Center in 1991 to provide an array of supports for family-owned businesses. In the center’s 30 years, more than 2,200 individuals from 750 family businesses have educated themselves at the Family Business Center. This year’s programming includes the popular Family Business Breakfast Series, Advisor Engagement Luncheon, five peer groups and classes for graduate and undergraduate students to study family business.