For 12 years, Peter McDermott, CEO and president of Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI), has led this not-for-profit manufacturing giant through a national recession, major corporate changes, and even a global pandemic. His efforts have seen the company not only rise through tumultuous years in the early 2010s but thrive even now through the coronavirus and years of workforce shortage in Minnesota. On April 1, McDermott retired from his role, giving the lead to Eric Black, who brings more than two decades of experience in marketing and manufacturing, plus a background in the sort of social good that is central to
MDI’s mission.

Founded in 1964, MDI today is a $33-million, 562-employee, four-campus social enterprise that combines a specialty in manufacturing extruded plastic products with a mission positioned on employing disabled workers. If you’ve ever seen those ubiquitous plastic totes used by the United States Postal Service, you know their work. The company’s client base is split evenly between government contracts and commercial distributors who sell to notable brands like Amazon, FedEx, U-Line, and Nike.

MDI also takes on projects that require labor-intensive processes, like sorting mixed products for resale or producing scattergram radiology pads, water quality test kits, surgical glove kits, and other medical products in their ISO-certified clean space. MDI strives to employ a 50% disabled workforce, and all employees make at least minimum wage. It also advocates for disabled rights and the value of meaningful employment to persons with disabilities, as well as the economic value to the state of employing these willing workers. A 2016 Wilder Research study found that the annual economic benefit to taxpayers, society, and the disabled is approximately $1.8 million via wages annually. These dollars translate into tax base as well as personal spending, and the income received by many who would otherwise receive support from government services frees up tax dollars for other purposes and caregivers and families for other needs.

Read more in the Summer edition of Enterprise Minnesota.