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After selling business, S.I. founder eyes next challenge

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James Marciniak poses with his grandchildren, Reese and Payton.

BLAINE, Minn.—James Marciniak was told about nine years ago that he had two years to live.

He had a bad heart, a doctor said, and had to slow down, take it easy and, in his words, become a couch potato. Marciniak ignored that warning and just moved on with his life. Two years came and went, and seven years later he is still around and very active.

In fact, he was checked out at the Mayo Clinic recently and was told he should continue doing whatever he's doing. “They said, don't change a thing,” he said.

Marciniak, who suffered a heart attack at around the age of 50 and is now 69, recently sold S.I. Industries, the 35-year-old rubber roller company he founded and owned, to Finzer Roller Inc.

He said he sold the business because the time was right, and he found a buyer in Finzer that offered a fair price and would do well by his employees.

The inventor and entrepreneur wanted to spend a little more time with his wife, Peggy, and family while pursuing three of his hobbies: working on and rebuilding his collection of old cars; racing his Ferrari and Porsche vehicles; and flying radio-controlled airplanes.

That's his version of slowing down a little.

Marciniak launched his rubber roller business in a roundabout way, he said from his home in Baine. About 38 years ago, when he was on a trip to Chicago, he met a doctor who helped children with disabilities. The doctor needed some-one to invent and build therapy equipment to drain different capillary tubes.

That peeked his interest.

“I had worked for a roller company in the past, had a non-compete, which I honored for a few years while building the therapeutic equipment for kids with different disabilities called sensory integration,” he said.

He added bum-pers and cushions to the machinery to keep the children from getting hurt, primarily using urethane, which proved very effective.

A friend with a printing company asked if he could put the same material on the firm's printing rollers. Marciniak figured out a way.

Thus, the roller end of his business was launched and grew quickly while the therapeutic equipment segment faded away.

He eventually switched entirely to rubber roller manufacturing and repair and never looked back.

Three and a half decades later, Mar-ciniak is moving on again. But not to a couch.

“I still race my Porsche and Ferrari on four mile tracks in Las Vegas,” he said. “I also work on old cars, and I have a lot of them. I know I have to start thinning the herd ... eventually.”

He said he's “a mechanic of sorts,” having worked on farm machinery growing up, jet planes when he served in the military, airliner jets after his honorable discharge, various vehicles while working in a garage and eventually graduating to repairing old cars.

Marciniak flies radio-controlled planes at a five-mile dry lake bed in Las Vegas, Nev.

“I've had drones with cameras for 20 years. My goggles have tiny TVs—virtual reality goggles—and I fly those planes all over the place and see everything,” he said.

“All my race cars and radio controlled planes are in Vegas. My old cars are in Minnesota. I don't mix the cars with racing and my planes.”

Now that he has sold his business, it's assumed he's retiring. Not really, he said.

“I'll eventually start something, I know that,” he said. “It's the way I am.”