WATERTOWN, S.D.—Glacial Lakes Rubber & Plastics L.L.C. has opened its doors in Watertown. Now the firm hopes it can fill a void left in South Dakota's manufacturing industry.
Glacial Lakes already has secured a partnership with Vibram to supply a portion of its boot soles for commercial and military application. Robb Peterson, Glacial Lakes' owner and CEO, said the firm has other contracts in place to supply molded rubber parts.
And it won't be shy in securing more.
“There's not an industry we're going to back away from,” Peterson said. “We're taking the technologies we have in place right now and using them to the best of our ability to try and fill that capacity up.”
Glacial Lakes is starting up in the same year that Quadion L.L.C.—which does business as Minnesota Rubber & Plastics—decided to phase out its Watertown manufacturing facility. Minnesota R&P said in December 2013 it planned to close the plant after being present in Watertown for more than 45 years.
Minnesota R&P said it projects the facility to be completely shut down by the end of 2014, leaving about 180 without jobs.
Peterson served as general manager of that plant, and he saw the shutdown as an opportunity to do something he'd always wanted to do: start his own business and utilize what he knew as a deep talent pool to do something in Watertown.
“When Minnesota said they were going to shut down that facility, we talked about what that meant for me personally and the company,” Peterson said.
“I didn't want to leave here. I've got two kids in high school. It was a better idea to stay here and start my own facility, something I've wanted to do for awhile.
“When they decided they were moving most of these jobs down to Mexico, we wanted to do what we can to re-employ these people,” he added.
Right now, Glacial Lakes only employs a handful, but Peterson said he hopes to increase that number to a couple dozen by the end of the year and see employment shoot well beyond that by the end of 2015.
“We're hopeful that Glacial Lakes will be a huge success and be able to hire a lot of those employees back over time,” said Craig Atkins, president of the Watertown Development Company. “But like anything, it's a startup, so it's going to take awhile for it to get to the level Minnesota Rubber was at. But we're excited about the opportunity that Robb and his team bring to take a bad situation and turn it into a great opportunity.”
Peterson brings an engineering background, having worked around the world during his 12 years with General Motors Corp. He then shifted to the operations side when he joined Freudenberg-NOK in Spencer, Iowa, to help with its plant turnaround work for about two years before joining Minnesota R&P in 2010.
“Robb Peterson is the key to putting the firm together,” said Pat Costello, commissioner of the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development. “He has a significant amount of experience in that industry. He recognized that South Dakota is a great environment for starting a business, and we're excited about being able to partner with him to create jobs in the state of South Dakota.”