RIVERTON - New life is breathing into a manufacturing plant in Riverton.
Perhaps as many as 130 jobs in the next few years are expected to follow as Sterns Manufacturing and CDC Enterprises expand their businesses into the former AcroTech Midwest plant, which closed in 2005.
"I think everybody out here will be glad when it's up and running again," said Jon Jungers, CDC Enterprises president.
For Stern Industries, the move is part of continued growth that has spun off several businesses. The collective family of companies has facilities in Brainerd, Baxter, Staples and Aitkin. Stern Industries of Baxter is a private company owned by Terrel Stern and Shawn Hunstad. Jungers is relocating and expanding his operation from Zimmerman to the Riverton plant.
Hunstad and Jungers found they were separately working on a similar path. Both saw potential in plastics. Both were interested in buying Nor-Pac Industries, a plastics rotomolding facility in Brainerd that Stern Industries did purchase. And both saw the potential in the former AcroTech Midwest plant, which closed and eliminated jobs here when the company moved to South Dakota.
The former AcroTech Midwest plant in Riverton is now home to Stern Manufacturing and CDC Enterprises.» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
CDC Enterprises is a manufacturer/developer of patented high density polyethylene duct systems used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Stern Industries is a global sourcing and manufacturing company. Stern Industries provided the capital investment on the plastic rotomolding. CDC Enterprises brought the proprietary intellectual property. Both companies will be manufacturing out of the Riverton facility. CDC Enterprises is subleasing from Stern, which is leasing the Riverton facility.
The Riverton plant, with its existing infrastructure designed for a plastics
manufacturer, offered a jump start. AcroTech Midwest, a process plastic manufacturer, made parts for the automotive and the recreational vehicle markets. Another attractive aspect to locating in Riverton was the ability to draw from a skilled labor force right here.
"I'm glad to see a plastics facility go back to plastics," Jungers said.
Jungers, originally from Moose Lake, started his business out of the garage of a rental house. The idea for the engineered plastic duct work came during the miles Jungers spent in his car while on the road traveling for a Houston company.
Marco Marqueta (left), Sterns Manufacturing rotomolding division production manager, and Jon Jungers, CDC Enterprises president, talked about the rotomolding machine that was being constructed at the Riverton plant.» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
"I could see the whole thing," Jungers said. "I just didn't know how to make it."
Jungers raised $109,000 with family and friends and filed a patent. A man of strong Christian faith, Jungers said he views the idea and the business development as a gift. He knew if he didn't pursue the idea, others would.
Jungers' passion lies in the development. He expects the product to carry the day. And he says the duct product, which is air tight and both mold and water resistant, has social value as well in helping to create a cleaner, more energy efficient environment at a lower cost. Jungers said the work is about more than making money, but he knows that is a necessity as well. And explosive growth could be around the corner.
The Stern Industries family of companies includes Stern Manufacturing (formerly Stern Rubber) with facilities in Staples and Aitkin; Stern Assembly, Oak Lawn Township; and Harvest Components, Staples.
Stern Rubber Co. has been in business since the 1970s.
Stern Industries purchased Nor-Pack Industries, a rotational molding facility in Brainerd. The company reported the rotational molding facility will complement the two custom molded rubber facilities in Stern Industries Manufacturing Division.
Sales for Stern Industries have grown from less than $200,000 in 1995 to more than $43 million in 2006.
CDC Enterprises was organized in 2001 to develop, manufacture, and distribute plastic insulated heating and cooling ductwork and related fittings.
The company makes products for residential, commercial and industrial use.
Brand names include AK Duct and QA Duct.
CDC reports the ducts are durable, energy efficient, air tight, mold and water resistant, light weight and easy to cut. The company is working on both above ground and below ground plastic duct systems.
There is a $2.7 billion market in air duct supply, Jungers said. The market for above ground duct work could be in the hundreds of millions, he said. Jungers expects $3.5 million in sales this year. Tasks ahead include having the material and inventory to meet the expected demand and research and development to find other niche markets.
"So hang on, here we go," Jungers said, likening the current situation to being on a ski slope waiting for the tow rope to yank you into motion.
The Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. and the Initiative Foundation, which helped with a Small Business Administration loan, assisted the effort to put plastic manufacturing back into the Riverton plant. Jungers particularly credited the work of Sheila Haverkamp, BLADC executive director. Jungers said the area was lucky to have Haverkamp and moving into a community that welcomed the business was attractive.
Jungers said the plan is to be up and running in early May with production starting in late May or early June.
Haverkamp said the addition of new manufacturing projects in the area not only filled 95,000 square feet of vacated space, but has tremendous potential to create jobs and affect the construction industry with new energy efficient products.
"More than anything I think it creates this entreprenuerial spirit that exists with Shawn and Jon that will help all of our area companies," Haverkamp said. "An entrepreneurial spirit radiates from them and it becomes contagious."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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