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Kenny Nelson, Chuck Hofius win entrepreneur awards

Three area individuals, including two from Perham, have won Entrepreneur of the Year awards through M-State’s Business and Entrepreneurial Services program.

Perham Health CEO Chuck Hofius and KLN Family Brands owner Kenny Nelson, along with Fergus Foods owner Rob Fuglie, will be honored at an awards banquet at M-State in Detroit Lakes next Friday, according to a press release.

Each represents a different entrepreneurial niche:

-Nelson has been named Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year for his outstanding display of leadership, success and accomplishment within his company, the community of Perham, and beyond.

-Hofius is Community Entrepreneur of the Year for his efforts at making Perham Health a preeminent medical facility that is highly respected in the industry and continually strives to improve patient care.

-Fuglie, of Fergus Falls, has been named Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year for his inventive creation of “Nots” – nearly a nut, but not – a snack alternative to peanuts for people with peanut allergies.

Family, friends and business associates are encouraged to attend the banquet to honor these three individuals. It will be held April 26 at 6:30 p.m. There is a cost to attend. To register, contact Nicole Ballard at 218-844-5420 or Nicole/

Chuck Hofius - Community Entrepreneur of the Year

Hofius has been CEO of Perham Health since 1997, during which the community-based non-profit medical center has undertaken several major ventures that has kept the facility at the forefront of the healthcare community:

-Construction of 28-unit senior housing, Briarwood, in 1998

-Construction of a 96-bed Perham Living nursing home in 2006, which has received industry-wide acclaim for its patient care model. More than 100 organizations have toured Perham Living since it opened

-Named Top 100 U.S. Hospital for its size in 2004

-Construction of $35 million Perham Health Hospital and Clinic, opened in January 2012

Since opening, Perham Health has seen growth in all of its patient services, additional services have been added, the number of primary care providers has increased from 13 to 17, and 40 new employees have been hired.

Hofius spearheaded the vision and planning for the new hospital, a facility grounded in the emerging science of patient and family centered environments and care.

He led the team as they incorporated research, site visits, patient and family input, and staff and physician involvement to design a state of the art healthcare facility.

Hofius is highly active in the Perham community, including the Chamber of Commerce and Perham Rotary. He is also active in the medical industry, serving on several committees including Aging Services of Minnesota and Minnesota Hospital Association. He recently became a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, earning the distinction of board certification in healthcare management.

In an email to the Focus, Hofius said, “I am surprised and honored to receive this award. I am fortunate to work with an amazing team that is not afraid to tackle new challenges and a very progressive board of directors.”

Kenny Nelson - Entrepreneur of the Year

From the outside, it’s easy to see the impact KLN Family Brands has made on Perham. With the town’s population at just under 3,000, current employment numbers stand at more than 1,250 in KLN’s four companies:

-Tuffy’s Pet Food, started by Kenny and his father, Tuffy, in 1965

-Barrel O’ Fun Snack Foods, started in 1973

-Kenny’s Candy Company, started in 1987

-Nutheads, started in 2011.

KLN Family Brands has a significant impact on the local and state economy, and the company philosophy has always been to buy Minnesotan first. Located in rich, commodity-growing areas, KLN utilizes 15 truckloads of potatoes daily at Barrel O’ Fun and 4.4 million pounds of sugar yearly at Kenny’s Candy.

KLN has been fortunate to see tremendous growth and success in recent years, and employees – many of them with 10, 20 or 30 years of experience – play a crucial role in that. The management team includes individuals who started on the production lines in the early days, and the company is brimming with family involvement.

From the inside, KLN is the story of a family who has chosen to give back more than they could ever receive.

Kenny Nelson is known as a visionary man who, along with his wife, Kim, has an intense desire to help others. The Nelsons have been instrumental in helping build the Perham Area Community Center, the Perham Public Library, the ITOW Veterans Museum, the Angel of Hope Memorial Park, and other valuable community assets.

Behind-the-scenes, the family has also helped scores of individuals launch their dreams.

Rob Fuglie - Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year

It was less than two years ago that Fuglie launched Fergus Foods to create a snack alternative to peanuts for individuals with peanut allergies, including his own young son.

His creation is called “Nots,” because it’s nearly a nut, but it’s not.

After discovering that sunflower seeds were too tiny for youngsters to easily handle, Fuglie sought help from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute to come up with a more viable alternative to peanuts. The product that emerged is similar in size, texture and taste to peanuts. But of course, there are no peanuts.

The tasty “Nots” are created with sunflower seeds joined and roasted with olive oil, cane sugar, syrup and brown sugar. They avoid the ‘big eight’ allergens – peanuts, gluten, dairy, egg, soy, fish and shellfish.

A commercial kitchen was available in the former PioneerCare and Productive Alternatives building in Fergus Falls, and Nots was on its way. As sales have grown, Fuglie has expanded his product line to include various flavors.

Fuglie has immersed himself in the community of Fergus Falls, championing community development assets and making himself available to help foster greater community awareness of the town’s business community.