WATERTOWN, S.D.—Since its initial operations began in 2014, Glacial Lakes Rubber and Plastics L.L.C. has moved at anything but a glacial pace.
The 70-person company that works primarily in shoe sole rubber production for the consumer and military markets—with other footprints in automotive, agriculture and heavy off-road industrial applications—celebrated the grand opening of a $3.5 million, 40,000-sq.-ft. expansion Aug. 30.
The expansion brings Glacial Lakes' total space at its relatively new campus to 71,000 square feet, with about 20 of 35 planned jobs added thus far. The company will look to top out—for the time being anyway—at 85 jobs.
The most recent addition more than doubles the company's space and follows a 2016 transition into the current facility, a move that kept the business in the 22,000-person Northeast South Dakota town—and filled a critical gap left by the 2014 departure of a Minnesota Rubber and Plastics manufacturing site to Mexico.
"I left Minnesota Rubber in January of 2014 and started this company in February of the same year," said Robb Peterson, founder and CEO of Glacial Lakes Rubber and Plastics. "I started with one other guy working with me. We would come in early in the morning and start making preforms and then spend the rest of the day molding parts. My wife and kids would come in after school to help inspect and package parts, and then I would do paperwork until late at night and then do it again the next day.
"We did that for the first year."
Business escalated and the workload soon spread across more employees for Glacial Lakes over the next year, with much of the company's growth rooted in a 2014 partnership established with North Brookfield, Mass.-based Vibram USA, an Italian-headquartered company known for its durable and form-fitting shoe soles—and the largest shoe sole provider for the U.S. Department of Defense.
"Once we were up and running, we quickly expanded our lines to take on more Vibram shoe soles ... and we were off to the races," Peterson said. "Before long we were running two full shifts and a third skeleton shift."
Glacial Lakes produces a spectrum of Vibram products, ranging from soling for high-performance athletic shoes to heat-resistant combat boots for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces.
"They were looking for a second source when they found us," Peterson said. "Vibram continues to be our primary sales driver, but we have seen significant growth in the safety industry. With multiple customers in that market, it is our biggest jump in revenue outside of shoe soles for Vibram. Vibram continues to bring more business as well."