Features

2018 Made in Minnesota Manufacturing Awards winners

Manufacturing excellence

To claim that manufacturing  is good for Minnesota is a bit of an understatement. Our state has close to 8,000 manufacturers that make a wide range of products. These products can be found on trade-show floors, in cornfields, on retail shelves — even in nuclear-energy plants. The industry represents the single largest private sector component — 16% — of Minnesota’s gross domestic product, totaling $48.6 billion, and it accounts for more than 320,000 jobs or 13% of private-sector jobs in our state. Add to that: Each manufacturing job supports 1.9 jobs in other sectors of the economy. So 33% of all Minnesota jobs are in, or supported by, manufacturing. In short, the manufacturing industry in Minnesota is not just good for our state’s economy, it’s essential. With that in mind, Minnesota Business magazine presents its 2018 Made in Minnesota Manufacturing Awards, chosen by our elite panel of judges.

Best In Class: Small
Pride Solutions LLC
Location: Hutchinson 
Specialization: Plastic manufacturing 

Why it stood out: Pride Solutions is a family-owned plastics manufacturer specializing in ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) polyethylene. Since its founding in 2002, the company has been on a growth trajectory. Its four business units include C&A Pro Skis (a manufacturer of snowmobile skis), May Wes, (a contract manufacturer of aftermarket, poly-agricultural accessories), Pride Engineered Plastics (a contract manufacturer) and Pride Assembly (a custom electro-mechanical assembly service). The four divisions share a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, an administrative team and workforce, and has manufactured products for some of the world’s most elite athletes, productive farmers and innovative companies. 

Pride Solutions recently invested in a computer numerical control (CNC) turning center fed by a collaborative robot. This new system has expanded Pride Solutions’ manufacturing capabilities, allowing the company to take in additional high-volume contract manufacturing work, as well as manufacture some of its metal parts in-house. 

Pride Solutions also takes a significant role in its community. Its 27 employees are involved in numerous volunteer activities, including youth sports, 4-H, volunteer firefighting and the local snowmobile trail club. 

Runners-up:
Midwest Fire
Tanis Aircraft 

Best In Class: Midsize 
Delkor Systems
Location: St. Paul
Specialization: Secondary packaging equipment and package design 

Why it stood out: Corrugated boxes are responsible for transporting items to stores and homes and driving product sales on retail shelves. The traditional brown shipper has long been the standard for product distribution, but Delkor recently introduced new shipping cases that reduce corrugated materials and improve overall capabilities for in-store operations. 

Delkor’s patented package designs — called the Turbo Case® and Cabrio Case® — are “retail-ready” cases, a secondary packaging category that is being defined and adopted by retailers and grocery stores across the United States and in Europe. Secondary-packaging cases must meet five criteria to be considered retail-ready, including being easy to identify, open, stock, shop and dispose of. 

In addition to meeting all five criteria, Turbo Case and Cabrio Case are reducing the amount of corrugated materials needed to produce the package design while at the same time improving on strength and durability. This design approach helps save 50%–70% in corrugated materials compared to standard shipping boxes. Retailers such as Walmart and Kroger are adopting Delkor’s sustainable packaging designs. 
Founded in 1973, Delkor has been awarded numerous patents for its packaging innovations. 

Runners-up:
MITGI 
Minimizer

Best In Class: Large
Sportech Inc.
Location: Elk River
Specialization: Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) thermoformed plastic products

Why it stood out: Celebrating 25 years of operation in 2018, Sportech was started in a garage as a father-and-son business. It now operates out of two state-of-the-art, $23 million facilities totaling 200,000 square feet of production space, with more than 230 employees. 

The company designs and manufactures comprehensive accessory products for a diversified list of vehicle and equipment manufacturers, including Polaris, John Deere and Honda. With revenue growth for 2017 in excess of 25%, Sportech generated more than $200 million
of revenue for its clients. 

Sportech also places a great deal of emphasis on being an integral part of Elk River, the community the company calls home. With a population of just over 24,000, Elk River is located on the banks of the Mississippi River approximately 45 minutes north of downtown Minneapolis. The company voluntarily raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2017, and it has been praised for its job-creation and job-development efforts.

Runners-up:
Polaris
Bedford Industries

Community Impact 
Dotson Iron Castings 
Location: Mankato 
Specialization: Foundry 

Why it stood out: One of Dotson Iron Castings’ core values is to “do what’s right in the community.” This value was on full display last year following a fire that caused more than $5 million in damage to the Mankato foundry. As the company recovered from the fire, its leadership displayed a remarkable commitment to both the employees and the community at large, offering the services of Dotson team members to various community organizations in the Greater Mankato area while production facilities were being rebuilt and restored. Dotson continued to pay the salaries of its employees as they volunteered in the community — helping seniors complete home chores, repairing a community ice rink, and moving furniture and installing exhibits for nonprofit organizations. The company returned to full operations later that same year.

In 2018, Dotson sponsored the new Automation Station Exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota. Children who visit the display at the museum can now go and “play” in the foundry. The company also offers scholarships at South Central College to advance manufacturing careers in the community. 

Runners-up:
Kemps 
Hydra-Flex 

Emerging Leader 
Laurent Deconinck | Owner & CEO, Machining Technology 
Location: Fridley 
Specialization: Precision machining 

Why he stood out: Laurent Deconinck believes that to stay ahead in manufacturing, a business owner must continually diversify his or her businesses to remain competitive. And that’s exactly what he’s done. In addition to his role as CEO and owner of Machining Technology Inc., Deconinck is also introducing a product line that specializes in car repair parts: MT-RSR. He purchased the company in 2016, and in those two years has incorporated a state-of-the-art inventory system and streamlined the order-fulfillment process.

Following eight years at Caterpillar in various management positions in the paving division, Deconinck purchased Main Tool in 2013, changing its name to Machining Technology. In three years, he has diversified his business model from large turning and milling machines to add Swiss capability. He also relocated the business to Fridley, purchased 10 new CNC machines, doubled his workforce from 13 employees to 26, and added a second shift to meet customer demand and improve lead-time. In 2016, Deconinck joined the board of directors for the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association.

Runnners up:

Kristin Davidson | President, Ultra Green Packaging
Location: Mound
Specialization: Sustainable packaging

Kristen Davidson purchased Ultra Green Packaging in 2017. The company’s tree-free, plant-fiber food packaging is 100% compostable and biodegrades in a commercial composter in 60–90 days. Even its clear, recycled PET lids are 100% recyclable and are made from recycled water and soda bottles. In addition to her role at Ultra Green, Davidson is president of the local chapter of the International Association of Women and president of the National Association of Professional Women. 

Jack Daggett | President, Pride Solutions
Location: Hutchinson
Specialization: Plastic Manufacturing

Jack Daggett became president of Pride Solutions LLC in 2016. He oversees the company’s four divisions, and, under his leadership, each has experienced steady growth in sales and profitability. Before taking the helm at Pride Solutions, Daggett worked in various roles, including product manager, operations manager and supply-chain engineer. He is actively involved in the community, serving on Hutchinson’s Economic Development Authority.

Supply Chain Innovators
Pelican BioThermal
Location: Plymouth
Specialization: Temperature-controlled packaging for the pharma/life science industry

Why it stood out: Pelican BioThermal’s Credo™ on Demand rental program offers a high-performance, flexible rental option for temperature-controlled pallet shippers. Credo™ on Demand allows those looking to transport pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, vaccines, and other items that require stringent temperature regulation to select the most efficient shippers for each shipment, helping to ensure the highest payload volume efficiency and lowest distribution costs. 

With more than 15 service centers worldwide and more than 50 new drop points spanning Europe, Asia and the Americas planned for 2018, Pelican BioThermal’s Credo™ on Demand program revolutionizes the supply chain by offering a rental option that allows manufacturers to eliminate upfront costs and zero-in on core capabilities.

Runners-up:
Business Automation Specialists
Hartfiel Automation 

Innovative Design 
nParallel
Location: Minneapolis
Specialization: Trade shows and retail fixtures and displays 

Why they stood out: nParallel is a strategic brand activation and exhibit house that also designs and fabricates retail displays and fixtures. The company is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2018 and is experiencing year-over-year growth. 

For its client Aveda, nParallel designed a 30-foot-by 40-foot exhibit that incorporated a range of elements, including a waterfall, aroma tunnel, curved digital LED screen walls, a digital flipbook and an aroma table. For another client, Titan Tools, it designed an oversized, iPhone-inspired model to allow trade-show attendees to interact with Titan’s new app. 

Within the past 12 months, nParallel has been recognized with three distinguishing awards. Minnesota Business named nParallel one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, Exhibitor Magazine recognized nParallel as a Top 40 exhibit producer in North America, and Event Marketer named the company to its Fab 50, which showcases the top fabricators serving the event-and-trade-show industry.

Runners-up:
Mercury Mosaics
Nevers 

Sustainability/Sustainable Product Award 
nParallel
Location: Minneapolis
Specialization: Trade shows and retail fixtures and displays 

Why it stood out: During the 2008 recession, nParallel created a custom rental program. Through the program, clients could rent its exhibit elements instead of investing significantly more money during a down economy. This custom rental program also offered a more sustainable approach for clients looking to be eco-friendlier because rental elements could be used repeatedly. 

Today, nParallel continues to offer more sustainable solutions, including the option to have a 100% recyclable exhibit. In March 2018, nParallel created a 100% sustainable exhibit for its client General Mills/Annie’s Homegrown. 

Runners-up:
Loll Designs 
Manomin Resawn Timbers
 

Workforce Engagement 
PGC (Precision Gasket Company dba PGC)
Location: Edina 
Specialization: Custom-made gaskets and seals for OEMs
 
Why it stood out: PGC has a 90-day orientation process that introduces new employees to cross-functional areas of the company. Employees learn how the departments operate and work together — new office team members even spend time on the manufacturing floor so they can experience the manufacturing process. 

The company utilizes grants to provide training to manufacturing and quality-control staff, matching contributions with in-kind wages. It also creates custom training courses, which are added to the PGC Library, as well as courses that cover topics to enhance employees’ lives, such as “budgeting for the holidays,” “resiliency and stress management,” and “emotional intelligence.” Every time an employee views a course in the online learning management system, he or she is entered into a drawing for a gift card. Workstations are set up in the lunchroom, and the library works on any mobile device. 

 The company is also dedicated to supporting the next-generation workforce, mentoring an all-female robotics team at Apple Valley High School and hosting STEM college interns. One of its interns built the “Jig 10000,” a robot that significantly reduced the labor hours of a repetitive task, saving not only time and money but potential stress injuries.

Runners-up:
Ultra Machining Company
Du Fresne Manufacturing Co.
 

Game-Changing B2C Product 
May Wes
Location: Hutchinson
Specialization: UHMW poly plastic manufacturer for the agricultural industry 

Why it stood out: Corn stalks can shred expensive combine and tractor tires and tracks. As a precautionary measure, farmers install “stalk stompers” on combine corn heads and tractors to flatten corn stalks before they do damage. The stalk stompers also aid in decomposition. 
In business for more than 45 years, May Wes introduced the original stalk stomper in 1983. In 2018, the company unveiled its new game-changing G4 Stalk Stompers for combine corn heads. Developed with feedback from farmers, the G4 Stalk Stomper offers a simplified, more compact and space-saving torsion design that eliminates the spring, chain, pivot bolt and other bulky features found in most stalk stompers. The new design makes it easier for one person to install, remove and reposition for transport or storage. 

The G4 was tested on 15,000 acres by multiple growers. One farmer noted that he ran 2,500 acres with heavier downward pressure, and the G4 withstood wear better than his previous stalk stompers. 

Runners-up:
Hearth & Home Technologies 
C&A Pro Skis

Game-Changing B2B Product 
Tower Solutions 
Location: Mendota Heights
Atscott Mfg. Inc. 
Location: Pine City  
Specialization: Heavy-duty portable towers and value-added manufacturing 

Why it stood out: Tower Solutions patented technology allows portable towers applied in national security and surveillance operations to reach a height of 80 feet in approximately five minutes and to withstand severe weather conditions without the deployment of time-consuming and awkward guy-wire systems. These rapid-deployment towers are capable of lifting 3,000 pounds of payload and are quickly becoming a preferred alternative to permanent structures that require much longer deployment times and more complicated and expensive approvals and funding. In addition, towers are customizable to specific requirements, need minimal maintenance and have a low, total lifetime cost.

Tower Solutions products are manufactured by its affiliated company Atscott Manufacturing Company in Pine City. Together, Atscott and Tower Solutions have approximately 90 employees. 

Runners-up:
Hydra-Flex
Phillips & Temro

Lifetime Achievement 
Tom Daggett, President of Hutchinson Manufacturing
Location: Hutchinson
Specialization: Plastic manufacturing 

Tom Daggett was born into the manufacturing business. His parents Bud and Doris Daggett started Hutchinson Manufacturing and Sales Inc. the year he was born: 1953. By the age of 12, Daggett’s father was finding work for him to do around the family’s Hutchinson metal fabricating plant. By 16, Daggett had firsthand experience running many of the processes in the plant, from shearing, saw, press brake and welding.

Following high school, a degree from the University of Minnesota and a short stint in other employment, he returned to the family business as general manager in 1978, taking over as president in 1991. What started as a mom-and-pop shop, adding axles to trucks and making fire pits and picnic table frames for the National Park Service in a 2,400-square-foot shop, now occupies 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space and has 150-plus employees.

Under Daggett’s leadership, Hutchinson Manufacturing has grown into a multimillion-dollar company with global sales primarily in the defense, nuclear and industrial sectors, and has weathered multiple recessions by being cautious with debt and by becoming a full-service manufacturer that offers fabrication, machining and painting in one facility. 

In 2002, Daggett was asked to manage Hutchinson manufacturer May Wes. He ended up buying the business. That same year, he formed Pride Solutions, LLC as an umbrella company for three companies specializing in UHMW poly material: May Wes, C&A Pro performance snowmobile skis, Pride Engineered Plastics and Pride Assembly. In 2010, he opened NuCrane Manufacturing in Hutchinson with partner PaR Nuclear, a subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric Company. The company manufactures cranes for nuclear power plants. 

Daggett has been active in the Hutchinson community, serving as chairman of the Hutchinson Area Health Care Board, chairman of the ISD #425 Hutchinson School District, and serving on numerous task forces for local and regional development. His company also supports various organizations, including the Ridgewater College Welding Advisory Board, Hutchinson School Board, MN Workforce Development Committee – Positively MN, Hutchinson Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, Employers Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. 

Hutchinson Manufacturing also contributes to charities, including United Way, Hutchinson Community Foundation, Hutchinson Area Health Care Foundation, Boy Scouts of America and more. The company’s executive team is involved on numerous boards, including SW Minnesota Foundation Advisory Board, Citizen’s Bank Board, Hutchinson Community Development Corporation and Hutchinson Area Health Care. 
Daggett and his wife, a retired dentist, recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. They have two children and two grandchildren. 

                                            

Manufacturing plays a critical role in Minnesota’s economic growth. To celebrate the vast contributions the industry has made to the state, we are introducing our first Made in Minnesota Manufacturing Hall of Fame. In addition to our Lifetime Achievement Award winners over the years, including this year’s Tom Daggett, we are presenting two new honors: The Legacy Award and The Genius Award. The Legacy Award is for a company that has worked to better the community-at-large. The Genius Award is for a company that has developed products that change lives for the better.

The Legacy Award

FINNEGANS Brew Co.
Location: Minneapolis 

Boy, did we select a deserving recipient for our first year’s Legacy Award. One of Minnesota’s top brewers, FINNEGANS gives new meaning to “giving back to the community.” For nearly 18 years, the company has been “turning beer into food” by donating 100% of its profits to FINNEGANS Community Fund, a 501(c)3 that works closely with food banks in Minnesota and the four surrounding states where its beer is sold. Dollars go toward stocking food-pantry shelves with local produce. 

FINNEGANS has raised awareness about local hunger issues and generated more than $1 million in impact through its profits, partnerships and events, such as its Drink Like You Care Campaign, pub crawls and Reverse Food Truck — a food truck that takes food donations instead of food orders. Second only to the brand Newman’s Own, FINNEGANS is one of the longest-running social enterprises in the U.S. to donate 100% of its profits. 

CEO and founder Jacquie Berglund believes that everyone is responsible for creating healthy communities. The company recently introduced its new FINNEGANS House and the Brewer’s Den, a membership-based taproom in downtown Minneapolis. Seventy-five percent of membership dues go to support the FINNEGANS Community Fund to serve as a catalyst for social entrepreneurs.
 

The Genius Award
StemoniX
Location: Maple Grove

StemoniX CEO Ping Yeh used personal adversity as a catalyst for positive change for future generations. In 2012, he received a dire diagnosis of lymphoma — a diagnosis that was further complicated when his doctors discovered that he was resistant to chemotherapy, forcing them to use the maximum potency which had the potential to damage his heart. Yeh was stunned to learn that the only way to test if his heart survived the toxicity of the chemo was to measure it post-treatment. The very thing meant to save him could have potentially killed him, and there was no way to determine before undergoing chemotherapy.

Determined to make medicine safer and more effective for others, Yeh utilized his knowledge of nanotechnology and founded StemoniX. Based in Maple Grove, StemoniX manufactures human microtissue for use in pharmaceutical drug discovery and development. StemoniX converts human skin into functional beating microHearts and synaptic-firing microBrains, and ships these living microOrgans in ready-to-use assay plates to pharmaceutical companies around the world. Guided by a rigorous quality system, StemoniX products are used to identify drug toxicities, such as drug-induced heart arrhythmias or neurological seizures, before actual use in humans. They are also used to discover new therapies for treating diseases such as epilepsy and viral infections such as Zika.