Iron Range nonprofit finds work beyond postal serviceEfforts by Minnesota Diversified Industries to wean itself from its dependence on the U.S. Postal Service, its biggest customer, are finally paying off.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Efforts by Minnesota Diversified Industries to wean itself from its dependence on the U.S. Postal Service, its biggest customer, are finally paying off.
The nonprofit that provides jobs to disabled and disadvantaged workers in Grand Rapids and Hibbing still makes plastic mail trays and postal totes for the postal service.
And the postal service is still its biggest customer.
But MDI’s success in restructuring its business in recent years, along with reducing its long-term debt by $6 million, controlling costs and diversifying and increasing its customer base, has resulted in a banner year, said Barbara Majerus, MDI’s vice president of sales and business development.
MDI’s revenues are projected to double this year, from nearly $13 million in 2011 to $25 million, she said.
“I expect things to continue to grow” she said. “Projections are for several million dollars a year.”
That growth has required more workers. Lots of them.
Since Dec. 1, MDI has nearly tripled its work force, from 154 to 425 today. That includes 176 new jobs at its Grand Rapids plant, bringing that plant’s total work force to 241. In Hibbing, 72 new jobs increased its number of employees to 113. A third plant in St. Paul got 23 new workers bringing its total to 71, MDI data show.
MDI produces a variety of corrugated plastic containers, kits and other packaging for business customers across the country. Most of the new jobs are in production, operating MDI’s manufacturing equipment. They include entry-level production jobs, line leads, process technicians, supervisors, maintenance technicians, forklift drivers and shipping and receiving clerks.
Several new $1 million-plus contracts with new and existing customers — including J&M Industries, Uline, LS Industries and the postal service — have led to the boost in jobs and revenues, Majerus said.
MDI jobs provide opportunities for people with and without disabilities, MDI officials say.
“We focus on a person’s abilities,” Rachel Wobschall, MDI’s board chair, said in a statement. “We match job opportunities with the person best suited to perform the job requirements. We also provide training and support as needed to make sure that each person can be successful in their role at MDI.”
Many of the jobs, which pay at least minimum wage, start out as temporary positions but become full-time MDI jobs once the worker completes 520 hours of work, Majerus said.
Because so many jobs needed to be filled to fill the new contracts, only about 32 percent of MDI’s total work force are currently disabled or disadvantaged, she said.
But as temporary workers become full-fledged MDI employees, a 50 percent quota will be sought, Majerus said.