Earth Day

April 29th, 2009

On Earth Day I had a wonderful time giving a speech at the University of St. Thomas on the emerging opportunities in the New Green Economy (NGE), including protecting the earth, creating more and better jobs, and also creating greater national security through less dependence on foreign energy sources.

I am an optimist about our future, which is why I started my new company, Tysvar, a NGE incubator of ideas, people, and organizations. The challenges we face from climate change are immense, but so are our capabilities, and the rewards and benefits to humanity are even greater in the New Green Economy.

Two parts of my presentation stick out for me. First are the key capabilities for success in this New Green Economy. My friend and former Minnesotan, Tom Friedman, lays this out beautifully in his books. The second part of my speech that I enjoyed sharing was how we can all use these key capabilities as a platform for doing something you love. Imagine: helping to build the NGE with a purposeful passion. It doesn’t get much better than that!

I also enjoyed talking about how we can make the rural Midwest a pre-eminent player in making Minnesota the Silicon Valley of this NGE. I will be discussing this further during my keynote speech at an upcoming conference of small towns in June.

Lois’s Blog

April 7th, 2009

This is my first blog entry as the founder and chief executive officer of Tysvar.  Very exciting.

In founding Tysvar, I am following in the footsteps of my grandparents who journeyed from their homeland of Norway to Minnesota.  They came bringing with them a set of enduring values and a search for a place where they could make a great difference.  They found it in the churches, schools, farms, organizations, cities and towns of Minnesota.  They embodied – and gave to me – the unquestionable knowledge that life was about serving others starting with your own loved ones.  They also were about creating institutions that grew to serve others in impressive ways.

My grandfather, Nils Kvamme, who became Nels Quam at Ellis Island, New York, grew up in Tysvœr on the west coast of Norway.  My grandfather thankfully lived to nearly 100, getting to meet my three sons and knowing my husband, Matt, well.  Grandfather Quam’s stories of Tysvœr were the magical tales of my childhood.

I named my new company, Tysvar, in honor of his and my other grandparents’ journey, and in recognition of the importance of this special region during the creation of this New Green Economy (NGE).  Tysvœr is a beautiful and evocative place for me.  My relatives still live in the 300-year old house where my grandfather was born.  The photograph here on our website that accompanies my bio is a picture of the remains of the Kvamme farm where my great grandfather was born and where my family lived for generations.  I wished I could have met his younger sister, Anna Kvamme, who like me had twins, but she had two sets of twins and ten children in total!

Tysvœr is important in the New Green Economy.  Living standards have increased, and many good jobs created, in the traditional, and now the new green energy economy.  Soon Tysvœr will be the site of the world’s largest off-shore wind farm.  The Norwegian carbon tax, operating since 1993, has spurred the development of many clean technology companies.

Additionally, Tysvœr, and the neighboring regions of Haugesund and Karmøy, have excelled at incorporating global innovation into new capabilities for over millennia.  On the Viking northern way, from which Norway gets its name, these communities have learned from other peoples and adapted to build new capabilities.  They get things done.

On a single day in August I visited the Nordvegen History Center at Avaldsnes, and the Aibel company with Mr Einar Steensnaes, the former Executive Director, Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights and member of UNESCO’s Executive Board, Norway.  The history museum showed the archeological findings that depicted so clearly how the Norwegians of that era integrated technology and insights from all over the world into their own society.  Aibel, a respected Norwegian manufacturing firm, was founded to develop buckets and then migrated into first a ship repair shop, then a shipbuilding firm, then an oil platform manufacturer and now a company working to build the capacity to sequester carbon.

So, as I establish Tysvar today, I follow in the footsteps of these adaptive Norwegians.  My ancestors left their home for a new land, to give their values and energies great voice.  For my generation, we leave the past to build here in America the new institutions required for a better future.  At Tysvar, we will work with others – entrepreneurs, investors, companies, unions, non-profits – to bring the new green economy to scale and universal health care to reality.   In doing so, I hope in my own way to fulfill the dreams of my emigrant grandfather as he left Tysvœr.