Ken Dahlberg’s story


Isn’t life the darnedest thing? You’re a poor kid in Minnesota who moved at a young age to Wisconsin (Listen) and grew up on the family farm, with the two-hole outhouse and the Sears catalog for toilet paper. You get drafted and sent to war, become a fighter pilot and a triple ace, are shot down three times, spending the final months of the war in a prison camp. You come back to Minnesota, start a company that makes hearing aids, and you make a fortune. You accept golf bags full of money as the Midwest finance director for President Nixon, and provide the smoking gun for one of the biggest political scandals in the nation’s history when a campaign contribution check with your signature on it turns up in the hands of a Watergate burglar. You stonewall FBI efforts to get you to say where the money came from, and go on to become a venture capitalist, making another fortune as the money behind the Buffalo Wild Wings franchise.

How does that life story not end up as a movie? It has ended up as a book and today, about 100 friends of Ken Dahlberg gathered at an airplane hangar in Eden Prairie to buy a copy, the proceeds of which Dahlberg is giving to the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund.

Dahlberg retains his conservative roots, noting why there are fewer rags-to-riches stories anymore. “Democracy seems to have an Achilles’ heel,” he said. “In order to get elected you have to promise people more for producing less. And if you think you can have more for producing less, then my discussion is over. We learned on the farm the process of producing. You had to till the ground, you had to plant the seed, you had to cultivate, and you had to harvest. You had to go through a process in order to have a better life. In the political world, no matter which party you belong to, if you promised more to get elected, we knew it wasn’t so.” (Listen)