Rumors surfaced in the past week that A-TEK manufacturing may be closing its facility on Highway 210 east of Brainerd, but the company president said A-TEK is poised for growth with a skilled workforce.
A-TEK, one of the Acrometal family of companies, is a contract manufacturer with 85 employees.
Kay Phillips, A-TEK president, said while the economy is still challenging, she is guardedly optimistic about the near future. She said company sales have been above expectations and A-TEK is working to diversify from its telecommunications base.
Last summer an A-TEK customer did move its product line to Mexico. Phillips said such moves are decisions customers sometimes make to cut labor costs. But she said the Brainerd area facility offers a skilled workforce in a smaller company that can react quickly to client needs. A-TEK can create prototypes and new designs.
"We think we can grow well here," Phillips said. "... We are going to be here. We are going to grow here."
Phillips said she expects people will be nervous about manufacturing jobs in the wake of Potlatch's announced closing. She said all manufacturers are concerned about the economy. But Phillips added that is why it is incumbent upon businesses to find new markets to be competitive.
"That's the reality of manufacturing," she said. "You've got to find the niches. You've got to be good. You've got to be quick."
A-TEK manufactures equipment components for 3M. The company manufacturing includes mechanical and electric assemblies, wire harnesses, and control boxes and panels. A-TEK ships 100,000 parts per year. Products are made to order and shipped to the end customers.
A-TEK began shipping products for a new customer in office equipment last week. Phillips said the company needs alliances and partnerships in order to branch out. Phillips said there are opportunities for A-TEK in the medical and defense fields, particularly as large companies follow a trend to find outside companies for contract manufacturing.
A-TEK currently operates three shifts five days a week.
Culver's restaurant chain, which features frozen custard and trademark ButterBurgers, is interested in putting a franchise in the Brainerd lakes area.
The standard 98- or 118-seat Culver's footprint requires 1.2 to 1.8 acres of land.
Reached at corporate headquarters in Sauk City, Wis., Barbara Behling, director of marketing, confirmed the restaurant chain's interest.
"We think it would be a good market for us," Behling said. "We would like to build there."
Culver's, which began in 1984 with a re-opened former drive-in root beer stand, is currently accepting applications for new franchises in Minnesota among a number of other states.
Culver's restaurants are located in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and, of course, Wisconsin.
Northwood Turf and Power, currently in the East Brainerd Mall, is working on a deal to purchase land on Wise Road in the near future. If a deal is completed, construction of a new facility could begin this summer or fall.
Store Manager Rodney Mueller said a move would enable the business to expand product lines and more than triple its current square footage. Additions are also expected in sales staff and parts and service.
"We've got growing pains," Mueller said. "Right now we just can't do what we'd like to do."
Northern Lights Casino Hotel and Conference Center's groundbreaking ceremony is Friday for the new 106-room hotel and 9,000 square foot conference center, restaurant, swimming pool and arcade. The new facility will be located four miles south of Walker. Construction is expected to start May 1 and be completed in the spring of 2003. The expansion is expected to create 60 jobs.
Short Elliot Hendrickson, St. Paul, announced the establishment of a new office in Brainerd earlier this month. SEH is a consulting firm offering architecture, engineering, environmental and transportation services in the upper Midwest and mountain regions with public and private sector clients.
Manhattan Beach Lodge has new owners in Bhunnee and Rick Jurek. They lived in Asia for the past 15 years.
Batteries Plus, which recently indicated a move into Baxter, will be replacing Bursch Travel located between National Car Rental and Christmas Point.
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