FL’s top manufacturer settles into expansive facility in business park
A state director, elected officials and Teamvantage leaders addressed more than 100 employees sporting blue polos to mark the grand opening of the manufacturer’s new facility in Forest Lake Friday.
From an emotional speech by company Vice President Lester Jones to high praise from Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben, a festive mood prevailed. Company owner Ray Newkirk even gave an emphatic fist pump, to great applause, after facilitating the ribbon-cutting.
Last week marked the first full week for Teamvantage at its new home at 20697 Fenway Ave. N., following an extended move from the former facility on Everton Avenue. At 111,000 square feet, this plant nearly triples the 40,000 square feet of the former plant.
The security of a long-term home has been long in the making. Newkirk in his speech said he pulled the plug at the last minute on an expansion to the former facility in 1999 due to an economic downturn. When it came time to build new, Teamvantage did not lack for options.
“We feel like we belong here,” Jones said. “It’s been 20 years since Teamvantage moved to Forest Lake. As Ray and I traveled around and looked at other sites we certainly had considerations of other opportunities but it just felt right to be here.”
Retaining the city’s largest private employer is a boon to Forest Lake’s economy. Teamvantage’s payroll reached $6.5 million in 2012, and the business wrote checks totaling more than $1 million to other businesses in town. Staffing has grown from 88 in 2010 to 102 in 2012 to 127 today, plus 22 temporary workers.
“When I go to conventions and talk to other mayors and we talk about what we’re working on, everybody essentially says, ‘Well, we’re trying to attract manufacturing to our cities,’” Mayor Chris Johnson said. “It’s easier to say than to do, and we’re all trying to do it.”
More good news is on the horizon. Newkirk hopes to move another business of his, Custom Mold and Design, from New Hope to the former Teamvantage space by January or so. That business employs 80 workers, up from 18 when Newkirk purchased it in 2003.
The Wayzata businessman said Teamvantage’s new building boosts its outlook.
“We’re finding business is outstanding,” he said. “Our customers love this new facility, our employees love this new facility, and we think that’s going to do an awful lot for business. Our goal here was to raise the bar for what a manufacturing company can look like, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Newkirk and Jones designed the building to become a tool to attract top employees.
“We wanted to create a facility that would put us a little above the competition,” Newkirk said.
Builder Tom Ryan, of RJ Ryan Construction, feels the building will fulfill that goal.
“My company’s been fortunate to build a lot of manufacturing plants,” he said. “This is far and away the most magnificent manufacturing space we’ve ever created. It is absolutely state of the art.”
Ryan noted that the structure is energy efficient and requires very little outdoor maintenance.
Teamvantage is the first tenant in the airport business park, and Jones hopes the trail has been blazed for potential neighbors.
“We’re proud to be that first tenant, and I think we’ve done a good job of making it look really good,” he said. “If I was another industrial company looking at this industrial park, I’d be proud to put up another building next to this one.”
Other speakers included state Rep. Bob Dettmer, Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron and a field director from the office of U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
In the plant
Machinery is the lone sign of a manufacturing plant in the building’s interior. A hung ceiling and walls decorated with inspirational phrases and a flag from the USS Saratoga give the impression of an enormous conference room. Visible through windows along the sides are areas of specialty, such as quality control and micromolding. A secured area offers privacy for projects requiring secrecy.
Forty molding machines take up only about half of the main floor, the biggest weighing 620 tons. The first press was moved from the former plant May 6. Employees worked 16 consecutive weekends to finish the move. Other areas are dedicated to machining and tool repair and development.
Besides ample empty floor space, Teamvantage had the mezzanine on one side built to support double the load to accommodate the potential build-out of an unfinished area.
During a tour of the interior, Jones provided details on some of the company’s work. Much involves highly engineered components for the aerospace, defense and medical industries. He shared several examples where Teamvantage engineers found a solution after others failed.
In one such instance, the company’s combined expertise in molding and machining allowed for the production of a medical part which a client needed angled within 0.0002 of a certain degree.
The tour included a table displaying an example of a micromolded object. The tiny gear sat on a business card, both magnified via a projection on a wall, and the gear measured about the size of the dot on the letter “i” on the card.