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56 posts categorized "Manufacturing news"

May 22, 2015

Updated version of Hillary Nutcracker comes out for new campaign

An updated version of the famous (or infamous) Rochester invention, the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker, is hitting the streets this week as the presidential campaign heats up.

1-hillary-nutcracker-in-the-boxThe 9-inch-high nutcracker with "stainless steel thighs" originally was created and patented by Frank Freeman in the basement of his Rochester home in 2008.  He sold the functional device in his Little Bear Trading Post store in the Apache Mall as well as nationally.

While Freeman's company, Damn Handy Products, now is based in Arizona, he still distributes his products from Minnesota. He also is considering opening another store in the Apache Mall, if he can work out a "new concept."

"It'll be phenomenal," said Freeman of how he anticipates the nutcracker will sell with Clinton walking away with the Democrat nomination. "Last time, we sold well over a quarter of million units and she wasn't nearly as popular."

In 2008, it sold for $19.95. Now the tag is $29.95.

This version of the nutcracker features Clinton wearing a pink blazer with a campaign button that reads "Hillary 2016 -- It's Crunch Time." It's already on sale at hillarynutcracker.com. The first shipments from China arrived in Minnesota this week to the company's fulfillment center. Freeman says they already have shipped out about 70 dozen orders to five stores and it will be featured on the cover of at least two national specialty catalogs.

Of course, many people find the product distasteful and insulting. When Urban Outfitters started selling the last of the 2008 nutcrackers for $60, it spurred many media sourc8-hillary-nutcracker-introes like the New York Post and Huffington Post to decry the site for selling a "sexist" product. Vox.com posted a story that said the $60 price tag “seems like $54.05 too much for something you might find in a very, very sexist Happy Meal.”

Freeman and his partner, Gibson Carothers, say the nutcracker is not meant to be mean-spirited.

"It's up to you decide whether that is good or bad. The headline on the box is simply"It's Crunch Time, America!" We think it's all in good fun," said Carothers. "Of course, we expect cries of sexism from some feminists. But we expect, and are already starting to feel, a more balanced reaction this time around."

The pair say that women's opinions about the original nutcracker changed over time. In the end, they estimate that one-third of buyers were Hillary Clinton backers. They hope that sentiment will continue to grow this time around.

"They started to see that a nutcracker could be seen as a tough, fearless leader. Realistically,
is the country going to elect a woman not perceived as tough?" said Carothers.

"I think a lot of people feel that it is pro-Hillary. The humor on the box is slightly more pro-Hillary this time," said Freeman.

Political feelings aside, they say the bottom line is the nutcracker is supposed to be funny. It's in the same spirit as their Smash Mute TV remote product, which features a giant button that can be pounded to mute "politicians, talking heads and erectile dysfunction commercials." 

May 14, 2015

Company owners buy Gauthier Industries property for $3 million

The owners of Gauthier Industries, a manufacturer with a long history in Rochester, have taken control of its future by purchasing its facilities and real estate for $3 million.

Mike Jensen and Terry Grendahl purchased its 98,000-square-foot facility and land at 3105 22nd St. NW on May 1 from the son of the company's founder, Tom Gauthier. Jensen and Grendahl took over ownership of the contract manufacturer from Dave Kocer in 2013.

About-1"Business has been good," Jensen said. "We're always looking to grow. We're thinking a lot about our future. This gives us more control over that. This secures our future."

The company, which specializes in small- to medium-sized electrical enclosures, has 101 employees on staff now. Gauthier Industries has been named as a "Best Place to Work" in southeast Minnesota for four years in a row by Workforce Development, Inc.

Depending on the market, Jensen estimated that the firm could need to expand in some way within three to five years. He added that working with Gauthier had been a positive for the company.

"Tom (Gauthier) has been very good to work with as a landlord," he said.

Emil Gauthier, Tom's father, was one of three founders of Rochester Products Co. in 1946 That company developed the very popular Rochester Plastic Needle. Health product giant Johnson & Johnson acquired a stake in the company for a short time due to the Rochester Plastic Needle. The Gauthier family took over control of it again in 1966 and then re-organized it as Rochester Medical Equipment Co.

Tom Gauthier succeeded his father as manager of Rochester Medical Equipment on 1972. In 1974, the company became the Gauthier Industries that is continuing to grow and evolve in northwest Rochester.

April 16, 2015

Cardio3 changes name to better fit new focus

The Mayo Clinic-linked firm Cardio3 Biosciences, which is building a manufacturing facility in downtown Rochester, has abruptly decided to change its name to better fit its widening focus in the growing area of cell-based therapies.

Cardiobioscience_jpegThe Belgium-based biotech firm announced Wednesday that it changed its name to Celyad. It started using the new name immediately, though shareholders will not vote on the change until its annual meeting May 5.

This sudden move comes as the company is preparing for an initial public offering on the U.S. stock exchange. Celyad has not released a date for the IPO.

CEO Dr. Christian Homsy was quoted in a company statement saying this new name fits with the firm's new direction following its recent $10 million acquisition of Celdara Medical's oncology division, OnCyte. That signals an expansion beyond its stem-cell-based cardiac regeneration therapy into immuno-oncology. The regenerative stem cell therapy is based on research done by Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar, licensed from the Mayo Cli6a00d83451cc8269e201a511d8e824970c-250winic.

“We believe that the name change better aligns our identity with our core activities and overall unified objective of identifying and translating innovative cell-based therapies into therapeutics, not only in cardiology, but now also in oncology and potentially in other areas in the future,” Homsy stated in the announcement of the new name.

Celyad's U.S. communication staff said Wednesday that no one from the company could publicly comment on the name change, other than through the press release. Celyad spokeswoman Kirsten Thomas, of The Ruth Group, explained the silence was due to the U.S Securities Exchange Commission's imposed "quiet period" on promotional publicity during the buildup to the IPO.

Mayo Clinic and Celyad have collaborated since 2007 on the cardiopoiesis technology that the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of the company as of March 3. Mayo Clinic also is participating in a Celyad clinical trial.
Celyad
If the stem cell therapy makes it to the market, Celyad will pay Mayo Clinic $1 million a year for four years for research as well a 2 percent royalty on sales for 15 years, the press release says.

5503a0ea8a679.image"We are excited that Celyad is branching out beyond cardiology into areas such as oncology," stated Jim Rogers, the chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. "Our hope is that they are building a robust capability to deliver breakthrough therapies in the area of regenerative medicine, which is a significant priority for Mayo as well."

The name change comes before new signs have gone up in the city of Rochester's Minnesota Biobusiness Center. The city signed a lease with Celyad earlier this year for it to develop a prototype manufacturing facility in the 14,963 square feet of space on the fifth floor of the downtown building. The five-year lease calls for Celyad to pay a rent of $18 per square foot, or $22,444.50 per month. The city agreed in the lease to pay for $600,000 in equipment and improvements to the space.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development also signed a deal with Celyad on Jan. 12 to receive a Minnesota Job Creation Fund award of $357,000. To collect the money, it must invest $1.5 million in Rochester within a year, plus hire 33 employees within two years.

The ultimate goal of the project is for the city, state and Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. to eventually convince Celyad to build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 350 employees in Rochester, according to RAEDI officials.

However, Rochester is not the only city wooing the Belgium company. While the Rochester facility is the company's first official U.S. location, it also has plans to build a U.S. headquarters in Boston.

It seems as though Celyad is at a turning point. The company has worked on developing its cardiac regenerative therapy since 2007. While it has seen many positive results from trials in Europe and research in the United States, it has no products currently on the market.

The company lost $18.1 million in 2014, up from $15.9 million in losses in 2013. While the cardiopoiesis technology developed by Mayo Clinic appears to be promising, the company seems to be embracing the new CAR T-Cell cancer-fighting approach — essentially, a cancer vaccine — that it purchased from Celdara Medical for $10 million earlier this year.

"Our acquisition of the OnCyte CAR T-Cell portfolio in early 2015 heralds the first major step in our strategy to leverage our unique expertise in cell therapies and drug development to expand beyond the cardiac arena to develop breakthrough treatments to change the outcome of disease," stated Homsy last month.

"We are excited to be expanding our product offering into the prominent area of immuno-oncology and anticipate the initiation of the Phase I trial of our lead immuno-oncology candidate, CAR-NKG2D in the first half of 2015 and look forward to sharing details of our progress as we evaluate its clinical potential," Homsy said. "We intend to leverage our cell therapy know-how and infrastructure to quickly progress those assets into later stage clinical trials in 2016, aiming at more than five trials in liquid and solid tumors in the USA and Europe."

Many companies are vying for a spot in the hot CAR T-Cell area to be the one to develop the breakthrough cancer vaccine. The worldwide market for such vaccines was recently estimated to $8.4 billion in 2020.

March 06, 2015

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post. Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my sixth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More  than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to businesPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11s in southeastern Minnesota.

It'syou, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years. 

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post.Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my siPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11xth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to business in southeastern Minnesota.

It's you, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years.  

September 18, 2014

Rochester shoe firm advances as a finalist in Martha Stewart competition

A Rochester couple hopes Martha Stewart finds their American-made shoes "a good thing" now that their Well Bred shoes is finalist in her annual competition.

Get_photoJorge Gomez and Krisa Ryan run Well Bred shoes from their home in Rochester. While working as a designer for a large company, he saw the terrible conditions in Chinese shoe factories. That inspired him to create his own company and contract small American firms to make his shoes with only materials from the U.S.

Well Bred took its first steps two years ago and the pair have been very busy designing and marketing their line of men's shoes. Their shoes are sold through a variety of specialty retailers, including the MartinPatrick3 men's store in Minneapolis. Well Bred shoes can also be purchased directly from their online shop. People attending the Rochester Art Center's upcoming Art Bash will see a pair of Well Bred shoes among the silent auction items.

At the urging of their customers and other companies with similar philosophies, they entered Martha Stewart's American Made Contest. The annual contest chooses the top company in four categories - Style, Food, Crafts and Design.

GlencoefrontThe couple say they are humbled to be chosen as a finalist in the Style category.

"The great thing about Martha Stewart's American Made contest is that it brings together a lot of people from the close knit group of makers," said Gomez. "A lot of the people in this we know from the trade shows."

Now it is up to online voters and the contest judges, the executive editorial team of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Nine winners will be chosen by the judges and online voting will decide the final winner.

The online voting runs through Oct. 13 on Martha Stewart's website. The winners will be announced on Oct. 17. Part of the prize package includes attending Stewart's American Made Summit on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.

"The national exposure would be huge for a small company like us," said Ryan.

September 10, 2014

Workers at Lakeside Foods to lose jobs when Hormel ends contract

PLAINVIEW — About half of the year-round workers at Lakeside Foods workers learned last week that their jobs at Plainview's largest employer will be ending soon, as Austin's Hormel Foods pulls its contract with the plant.

4965162612_d023537c6b_oWhile the Manitowoc, Wis.-based Lakeside isn't releasing the number of jobs being cut, insiders are estimating that between 75 and 90 workers will lose their jobs when Hormel Foods pulls its production contract at the 650,000-square-foot plant.

Lakeside executives have previously said the Plainview plant employs about 80 full-time people, plus about 85 others that work solely on the Hormel contract. The Hormel contract with Lakeside to produce its Top Shelf products was a year-round contract.

Hormel says it plans to move that production to other facilities by late fall.

“This was a difficult decision to make, but moving the operations to other facilities within our company will provide greater production, purchasing and distribution efficiencies," said Donald J. Temperley, Hormel's vice president of Grocery Products operations, in a message this morning.

When the plant is packing seasonal vegetables, Lakeside's employment swells to a temporary peak of about 270 workers, who work 60 to 70 hours a week to get the fresh vegetables canned and frozen.

Plainview Economic Development Director Judith O. Jordan said when the community's largest employer loses such a major contract and needs to cut positions, it's a serious situation.

"We are all concerned about how this impacts Plainview. We hope Lakeside will be able to identify a new co-packer to work with to replace the Hormel production," she said.

The Lakeside Foods facility in Plainview is just one of eleven food processing plant in the Lakeside system. The Plainview facility is also one of six distribution facilities.

July 09, 2014

Does IBM have future in Vermont?

Here's a little chunk from a well-researched, long article written by Paul Heintz from Vermont's alt paper, Seven Days.

While there is no direct link (as far as I know) between the fate of the Vermont campus and the one in Rochester, this does sound familiar. For anyone interested in the what is happening with Big Blue, this is a pretty worth-while read.

You can read the full article at this link.

What we're looking at is a city," Frank Cioffi says, nodding at a sprawling landscape of industrial buildings, electrical transformers and storage tanks on the banks of the Winooski River.

The 59-year-old economic development guru steers his black Nissan Maxima toward a guard shack that stands sentry at the northeastern entrance to IBM's Essex Junction campus.

"We're not going to Bildebe able to get in," he says, pulling a U-turn and retreating from the fortress. "Security is watching us."

In more certain times, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president might easily escort a reporter through the 725-acre campus, which GBIC developed from farmland 60 years ago. But with Big Blue reportedly nearing a sale of its chip-making division to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries, IBM Vermont is on lockdown.

Even Cioffi, its loudest local cheerleader, is in the dark about what a sale might mean for the 4,000-plus jobs remaining at the facility. Like many, he suspects IBM will reveal its intentions next week when it releases its second- quarter earnings report.

"We're dealing with two public corporations that aren't going to tell us anything, because they can't," he says.

Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over Essex Junction for more than a decade, as the company has retrenched and its Vermont workforce dwindled from a 2001 peak of 8,500. But never have the skies above the industrial park looked so dark.Ibm-logo

As IBM repositions itself as a services-oriented company focused on cloud computing, it has jettisoned less profitable hardware operations. In January, it struck a deal to sell off its low-end server business to China-based Lenovo for $2.3 billion.

Though GlobalFoundries specializes in the very chip-manufacturing work conducted at the Essex Junction plant, reports in the financial press have indicated that the company is interested in IBM's patents and engineers — not its aging facilities.

May 30, 2014

Countertop business gets new owner, name

A new owner is re-launching a Rochester countertop maker with a new name and the same staff.

Tom Pinske, a well-known figure in the Corian countertop industry, has purchased the facility and equipment formerly used by AFM Surfaces at 1233 Eastgate Drive S.E., near the Wicked Moose Bar & Grill.

AfmcountersUnder the new name of Ultimate Surfaces, the company will continue to make stone, quartz and other types of countertops. Pinske has kept the former AFM's seven employees, including General Manager Tony Heintz.

The ownership change became official on May 21, when Pinske bought the facility for $495,000. He had leased it for some time before that.

Ultimate Surfaces is now a division of one of Pinske's three companies based in Plato, Minn. Pinske owns Plato Custom Concepts, which makes kitchen cabinets and Corian countertops for commercial construction projects.  He also owns Pinske Edge and Pinske Power, which make specialized tools for the countertop industry. Many of those tools were invented by Pinske when he started working in the trade 26 years ago and couldn't find the tools he needed.

"Like my dad did when he couldn't find the right tool when he was building churches, banks and schools, I made what I needed," he says. "I started out making tops and ended up in the tool business."

Over the years, he has become famous for those tools and was inducted into the International Surface Fabricators Association Hall of Fame in 2003.

Tim Buechler, who started AFM in 1990, purchased and used many of those tools in Rochester. When AFM became available, it caught Pinske's attention.

"I don't do any engineered stone or quartz up here in Plato. I thought this was a good opportunity to get into the stone business without revamping things up here," he said. "I was looking to expand and this kind of fit with my plans."

Like many construction-related companies, AFM has faced difficulties in the past few years. While Buechler is no longer with the operation, Pinske thought what he built was worth polishing and re-launching. He particularly wanted to keep the current employees on the job.

“We love what we do and look forward to growing under Tom’s leadership," said Heintz, the general manager. "The skill and expertise he can bring us, and our customers, is incredible."

May 13, 2014

LSI becomes Avago, impact on Roch. office uncertain

05132014avagomainsignLSI Corp., which designs semiconductors and software, officially became part of Avago Technologies last week as the $6.6 billion acquistion officially closed.

That change reportedly has LSI/Avago employees in Rochester wondering about their future.

05132014avagoinsidesignUnofficial buzz around the change is that a decision is being made this week about keeping the Rochester jobs here or moving them out of state.

It's unclear how many people currently work at the site here at 3033 41st St. N.W., though LSI has employed between 10 to 30 people here at different times over the years. LSI also has Minnesota facilities in Bloomington and Mendota Heights.

LSI has had an "on again, off again relationship" with Rochester dating back to 2002, when it leased 20,000 square feet of space in the Valley Business Center II at 3425 40th Ave. N.W. It had about 29 employees.

On June 30, 2006, LSI closed its Rochester site. It had 11 employees, when it closed.

AgeremailboxThen in November 2006, Allentown, Penn.-based Agere Systems opened a 6,000-square-foot office at 3033 41st St. N.W. Agere hired a team of 10 local storage design engineers that formerly worked for Maxtor Corp.’s Rochester office. That office closed in 2006 when Maxtor was acquired by Seagate Technologies.

LSI re-appeared in Rochester in December 2006, when it bought Agere Systems. Soon the signs at 3033 41st St. N.W. turned into LSI.

That's where everything stood until the arrival of Avago. In the press release announcing the acquistions, Avago stated that it anticipates saving $200 million by Nov. 1, 2015. That might be interpretated as plans to close some of LSI's 26 facilities.

I'll do my best to keep an eye on this to see what happens next. If anyone has information, official or otherwise, about this, I'm interested in hearing it.