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Lee Schafer

Columnist | Business
Phone: 612-673-4302

Lee Schafer joined the Star Tribune as a columnist in 2012 after 15 years in business, including leading his own consulting practice and serving on corporate boards of directors. He's twice been named the best in business columnist by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, most recently for his work in 2017.


Schafer grew up on a southwest Minnesota cattle farm and studied history and economics at Macalester College. He received his masters degree from Northwestern University and worked as a writer and editor for a regional business monthly before returning to business. His work included investment banking but he had the most fun advising CEOs on growth strategy. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Tanya Bell, a real estate development consultant and civic leader, and they have three adult daughters. He's also been active as a volunteer, including for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood House and Urban Homeworks.
Recent content from Lee Schafer
You are on your own financially in America, voters said once again

You are on your own financially in America, voters said once again

Those looking for a clear-cut election decision must have been disappointed last week, with more divided government both in Washington and here in Minnesota.Yet the…
Schafer: How major league teams can still make money in front of empty stands

Schafer: How major league teams can still make money in front of empty stands

Is this the year that sports moves closer to completing its transition from an in-person experience to a reality TV show?
Schafer: How to coax holdouts to don a mask? Take a page from the Spartans

Schafer: How to coax holdouts to don a mask? Take a page from the Spartans

When you think about the health of the group as a whole, wearing a mask makes perfect sense.
Schafer: Executive pay cuts are just a start in this gloomy time

Schafer: Executive pay cuts are just a start in this gloomy time

While it's never going to be possible to see a small cut on $7 million in annual pay as painful, there is a case for these cuts as one part of an authentic leadership response to crisis.
Schafer: Here's why Minnesota doesn't have enough hospital beds

Schafer: Here's why Minnesota doesn't have enough hospital beds

One update from state officials this week on the COVID-19 epidemic included details on facilities to house more hospital beds.So far five usable sites have…
Schafer: Abrupt closing of Edina cabinet seller shows the rough times and hard decisions ahead

Schafer: Abrupt closing of Edina cabinet seller shows the rough times and hard decisions ahead

There's unlikely to be severance pay, unused vacation pay and maybe even no last paycheck from CliqStudios.
Schafer: Social distancing is a matter of workplace safety, public health

Schafer: Social distancing is a matter of workplace safety, public health

It's difficult to imagine a full schedule of professional conferences, trade shows and the like resuming any time soon.
Why do so many Fortune 500 companies call Minnesota home?

Why do so many Fortune 500 companies call Minnesota home?

The country's 16th largest metro doesn't dominate the Fortune 500 list because of its size.
Schafer: Brenton's fruitless quest for an engineer indicative of the tight workforce in robotics

Schafer: Brenton's fruitless quest for an engineer indicative of the tight workforce in robotics

Here's a company designing and building automation equipment to replace human labor with the big problem of not being able to hire enough human labor.
Schafer: Minneapolis firm's Robot Fear Index shows little fear

Schafer: Minneapolis firm's Robot Fear Index shows little fear

So why publish an indicator of how much many of us fear the future with the technology of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics and virtual reality?
Douglas Machine in Alexandria, Minn., had a thriving factory floor back in 2008 as technicians tested one of their packaging lines for wrapping cases

Schafer: Manufacturing job losses, yes, but gains for trained Minnesota workers

Here's one of the ironies in looking ahead at how the nature of work is going to change — manufacturing may actually be a bright spot.
PolyMet Mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

Schafer: Automation tempers hope for new Iron Range mining jobs

The pro-mining coalition that is pushing the proposed PolyMet ­Mining project in northeastern Minnesota decided to get right to the point — by giving itself the name "Jobs for ­Minnesotans."
At the Jeremiah Program in St. Paul, Sinying Lee signed out her youngest youngest child Cattleya,3. The older kids Benjamin,4, and Pashalia,5, cam alo

Schafer: Jeremiah Program has found a way to expand nationally

Expanding outside the Twin Cities not easy for nonprofits.
As many as 1700 Target employees were laid off Tuesday morning. This is the downtown Minneapolis corporate headquarters.

Schafer: Highly skilled, highly paid Target jobs probably gone forever

Early Tuesday morning, the posts on social media and chat rooms made it clear that Target Corp. was getting on with the hard work of…