April 20, 2011
Amatuzio named Business Person of the
By Candace Renalls
Al Amatuzio — founder, president and CEO
of Amsoil Inc. — was named Business Person of the Year today
at the annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards.
Accepting the award, Amatuzio introduced his top
managers and quipped, “I just run the company, but they do
all the work.”
Later, again deferring to his team, he said: “It’s
easy being an entrepreneur when you have good people working for
But it was Amatuzio, a former Air Force fighter pilot, who came
up with the idea of synthetic motor oil for automobiles back in
the early 1970s, which led to the company’s formation. Synthetic
oil was already used in jet engines back then, improving jet performance
and extending engine life. Why not in cars, too, he reasoned.
That led to the creation of the world’s
first synthetic motor oil in 1972 and the founding of Amsoil Inc.,
based in Superior.
“We sell all over the world and have a good
time doing it,” the Duluth native told the approximately 325
business and community leaders gathered for the awards luncheon
at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
In the last year, Amatuzio also left his mark
on Amsoil Arena, the DECC’s new hockey arena, by contributing
$6 million for the naming rights.
The Business Person of the Year award has been
handed out since 1971 by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s
Labovitz School of Business and Economics. Others who have received
the award include George Goldfarb, Rob Link, Dale Lewis, Jack LaVoy,
Jeno Paulucci and John, Erwin and Manley Goldfine.
The award is separate from Labovitz Entrepreneurial
Success Awards, now in its ninth year, which recognizes entrepreneurs
and business owners in Northeastern Minnesota. Those winners were:
David A. Martin Entrepreneurial Leadership Award:
Michael J. Lalich, director of the Natural Resources Research Institute.
Entrepreneurial Vision Award: Mark R. Phillips,
commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic
Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Holly C. Sampson,
executive director of Duluth/Superior Area Community Foundation.
Micro-Entrepreneur Award: Little Neetchers, Joy
and Joshua Herbert of Duluth. The couple started this home-based
cloth diaper business in 2009 to reduce disposable diaper waste.
A percentage of their profits go to a program that helps children
and mothers in need.
Emerging Entrepreneur Award: aimClear, Marty Weintraub.
Founded in Duluth in 2007, this online business provides search
and social media marketing services to clients around the country,
including Martha Stewart and Malt-O-Meal and has grown to a staff
Established Entrepreneur Award: Scheuring Speed
Sports of Aurora was founded in 1998. Owner Steve Scheuring manages
the first truly independent snocross racing team and a machine shop
and operates a 13-acre snowmobile racing test facility at the ESPN
Winter X Games.
Mature Entrepreneur Award: Rainy Lake Houseboats,
Bill, Cathie and Tom Dougherty. Five generations have worked on
the family houseboat rental business on Rainy Lake since 1918. After
shifting focus from fishing to family vacations in the mid-1990s,
the business experienced a decade of double-digit growth and expanded
from four to 29 houseboats.
Innovation Award: New Vintage Amplifiers, Nic
Patullo. Started in Duluth in 2008, this business designs, manufactures
and sells high quality vacuum tube guitar and bass guitar amplifiers
using innovative applications of old technology. The products are
sold to amateur and professional musicians and through a growing
dealer and distributor network.