WATERTOWN, S.D.—Glacial Lakes Rubber & Plastics L.L.C. is expanding a year after it opened its doors.
The firm already has outgrown its current 11,000-sq.-ft. building and has secured a 31,000-sq.-ft. facility to relocate into sometime in November. It plans to add a third shift to its operation and increase employment to about 30, up from 15.
The expansion largely comes from its business with Vibram USA Inc., providing the shoe manufacturer a second source of rubber boot soles for both commercial and military applications. Vibram USA CEO Mike Gionfriddo and South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem were on hand to celebrate both the partnership and expansion efforts on July 20.
“It's taken us several years working with Robb (Peterson) and his team to get them up and running at a point where they're making quality products for all the branches of the service,” Gionfriddo said. “For us, it was basically establishing an insurance policy in the supply chain to make sure we had a protected supply in case there was any time of calamity or issue that would shut down one operation. There's still an operation that's viable and ready to produce. Robb and his team have done a nice job developing the capabilities here.”
Robb Peterson, Glacial Lakes owner and CEO, said the firm's growth curve has been steep in its first year of operation and is expanding into other markets—such as automotive, agriculture and heavy industry.
The firm makes interior rubber bumpers for packaging trays in the automotive industry. It also produces products such as seals and gaskets for use in semi trucks, heavy industry and agriculture.
Peterson said the company is focused mainly on compression and transfer molding, but part of the reason for the expansion is for Glacial Lakes to add injection molding lines in the future.
“This will give us the space to expand not only our Vibram shoe sole business, but also our industrial base into other markets that we used to serve when some of us used to work at Minnesota Rubber here in Watertown,” Peterson said.
Glacial Lakes started in 2014 largely in response to Minnesota Rubber & Plastics' decision to phase out its Watertown manufacturing facility after being present in the area for more than 45 years. The facility was shut down at the end of 2014 and left 180 unemployed.
“Starting a new business is never easy,” Gionfriddo said. “Getting Glacial Lakes established and working with them as their first customer has been a great experience. It's interesting to now see them branch out into other areas but also continue to support the needs and the requirements that we have.”
Vibram USA is one of the largest suppliers of footwear soling to the U.S. Department of Defense. Glacial Lakes manufactures soling for high performance athletic shoes and mountain combat boots for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces.