OWATONNA — A Steele County business that had been homegrown in Blooming Prairie for the last three decades took another step toward moving 20 miles up the road as a handful of employees tossed the first chunk of dirt on what would be their future home.
“This has been 30 years in the making from our first fenders to now these gold shovels,” said Jim Richards, the vice president of operations for Minimizer. “This is a big thing for us and we want to make sure we thank all of our employees — past, present, and future.”
In August, the heavy-duty trucking fender manufacturer announced that it would be picking up from it birthplace in Blooming Prairie and relocating to the industrial park in Owatonna. This will not only be a transition from one community to another, but will be bringing the entire operations of the company into one facility. In Blooming Prairie, Minimizer is spread throughout town in three different sites with corporate headquarters on the north and the main factory on the south.
“Getting everybody under one roof is important and we couldn’t do that here in Blooming Prairie,” said Steve Hanson, the director of marketing, when the announcement was first made. “It was a very difficult decision. We’ve been here forever. It’s where we started. But with company growth, we have expanded and expanded. We’re out of room and Blooming Prairie just doesn’t have the infrastructure we need.”
Though the Minimizer executives would all agree that the move is bittersweet, the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday was very much a call for celebration. The site in Owatonna, which is located on 13 acres that is currently being used as farm land, will house all Minimizer employees in one facility while substantially increasing the company’s operating space from 54,000-square-feet to 96,000-square-feet.
On top of the new facility, Richards stated that joining the Owatonna business community is among the top highlights of the transition.
“Whether you are in the building business, the fender, business, or customer service — we are all in the business of helping people,” Richards said. He added that the company is looking forward to engaging with the community, as it is a top priority for their corporate atmosphere.
“Minimizer believes in being productive in the community,” he said. “We define success through community involvement.”
Members of the Owatonna City Council as well as representatives from the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and some of Minimizer’s soon-to-be neighbors also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in an effort to make the company feel welcomed.
“We are so happy that Minimizer decided to stay in southern Minnesota and especially happy that you’ve selected Owatonna to be your new home,” said Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz. “We want every single one of your employees to feel as welcome in Owatonna as they did in Blooming Prairie.”
Breaking the ground was a mix of Minimizer employees that ranged from their longest employee of 30 years and their newest employee of only a handful of months. Richards stated that it would be easy to have the executives holding the shovels, but that this moment was really all about their employees.
“We are just excited to be a part of something like this,” he said.
The new Minimizer facility is one of three recent and large industry projects happening in Owatonna. A Costco distribution center is in the works for the industrial park as well as an expansion of Daikin.
Last week it was announced that Stinar Corporation, a global leader in aircraft support that is most well-known for providing the airplane stars for Air Force One, will be relocating their headquarters to Blooming Prairie by Nov. 1. Blooming Prairie native and former CEO of Minimizer Craig Kruckeberg, who acquired Stinar in 2018, stated in a press release that the departure of Minimizer from the small community played an important role in his decision to bring the company to town.