MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Six Minnesota CEO’s have been honored as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 Award winners in the Upper Midwest.

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The award recognizes outstanding high-growth entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

Twenty-seven finalists and winners were selected by an independent panel of judges and honored at a black-tie gala at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center on Thursday, hosted by WCCO This Morning anchor Jason DeRusha.

Minnesota winners included:

— John Barrow, CEO of Coolibar, a St. Louis Park company that creates and sells sun-protective clothing;

— Megan Tamte, CEO of Hot Mama, an Edina-based chain of women’s clothing stores catering to fashion-forward moms;

— Kenny Nelson, CEO of KLN Family Brands, the major employer in Perham, Minnesota where they make Barrel O’Fun snacks, Kenny’s candy, Nut Heads Chocolate and Tuffy’s dog food;

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— David Lenzmeier, CEO of Milk Specialties Global, a company that creates custom protein ingredients for sports nutrition products, animal products, and international markets based in Eden Prairie;

— Brad Rixmann, CEO of Pawn America, a chain of 24 pawn shop retail locations based in Burnsville that is trying to change the customer-perception of what a pawn shop experience can be;

— Craig Kruckeberg, CEO of Minimizer, the Blooming Prairie company that manufactures plastic truck fenders, toolboxes, floor mats and truck accessories.

Upper Midwest winners now go on to compete at the national level. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the National Entrepreneur of the Year Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, Calif., on November 16.

The Entrepreneur of the Year program is now in its 27th year.

In addition to recognizing regional category winners, Randall Hogan, Chairman and CEO of Pentair Ltd., was presented with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award for his business and philanthropic leadership.

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Collectively, the 2013 category award recipients grew their company’s employment by 37 percent and their revenues by 51 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Jason DeRusha