The idea to establish an annual awards program to recognize the contributions of entrepreneurs in northeastern Minnesota got its start at a regional conference sponsored by the Blandin Foundation in the early 1990’s. At that meeting, Joel Labovitz, President and CEO of Labovitz Enterprises, noted that economic summits often focused on the four T’s: Taconite, Timber, Transportation and Tourism, but that small business owners deserved recognition for their important contributions to the regional economy. An entrepreneurial roundtable was formed, which included Joel Labovitz and Dr. Kjell R. Knudsen, Dean of the University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics, and at that time was serving as Director of the UMD Center for Economic Development.
In 1993, the Entrepreneurial Success Awards were launched by the UMD Center for Economic Development. Over the years, new award categories have been established, including awards for outstanding micro-enterprises and inventors. In 1997, the name of the program was changed to the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards, in honor of one of our region’s entrepreneurial success stories.
Mr. Labovitz is founder of Labovitz Enterprises, a diversified investment firm based in Duluth with a focus on the hospitality industry. Previously, Joel Labovitz was President and CEO of Maurices, the retail clothing company that was founded in 1931 in Duluth by his father, Maurice Labovitz.