Denfeld News

April 20, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

Amatuzio named Business Person of the Year
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 you.”

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 Development.

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 of 14.

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.

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