Minnesota Diversified Industries expanded its business last year when relocating its building from a Greyhound bus terminal to a new 36,000 sq. ft. structure near the Range Regional Airport. The move allowed the nonprofit social enterprise to nearly double its size and provide better working conditions for its employees with disabilities who have produced more than 100 million totes and trays for the U.S. Postal Service over the past 25 years.

Lory Fedo, retiring president of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce, publicly recognized such efforts when she announced that MDI has become the 2019 Business of the Year during the association’s 114th annual dinner.

At the event, Fedo told a crowd of city leaders that MDI has been in Minnesota since the 1960s and in Hibbing since 1992, where it has employed a highly capable and dedicated team which manufactures a variety of corrugated plastic solutions such as totes, trays and boxes, as well as offers kitting, packaging, palletizing, assembly and environmental services.

After some leg work, MDI broke ground on June 7, 2018, to build its $4.7 million facility with the help of funding from agencies and donors.

Today, MDI has been able to staff the Hibbing-based MDI outfit with 143 employees, 68 of whom have disabilities. Statewide, it has employed a total of 502 employees throughout facilities in Minneapolis, Hibbing, Cohasset and Grand Rapids being paid hourly wages of about $10 to $15 depending of the position.

“What has impressed me and our board the most about MDI is their deep commitment to Hibbing, it’s employees and the region,” Fedo said, according to her speech notes. “That commitment is at all levels of the organization and is evident in everything they do. Congratulations to all of you who are here this evening and to the entire organization. You have given so much to our community and are truly deserving of this award.”

McDermott sounded lively in a phone interview Tuesday in reaction to MDI’s recognition from the chamber.

“It’s very positive,” he said, adding that about 95 percent of MDI’s revenue comes from the sale of products and services. “It’s critically important to be recognized as a non-profit enterprise which runs like a business. To have that recognition is special.”

McDermott, who lives in Grand Rapids, said that MDI has also continued efforts to pursue an innovative training program aimed at providing professional development opportunities for people with and without disabilities to prepare them for job growth and advancement throughout the Hibbing area.

“My passion is economic development as a volunteer and professional,” McDermott said. “I find that working with people with disabilities are the best employees I’ve ever worked with because they appreciate their jobs, show up on time and work hard. Getting people placed at jobs in the community is a win. They just want the same opportunities as anyone else.”

Last month, state Rep. Julie Sandstede, DFL-Hibbing, introduced legislation for $450,000 in grants in both Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 for MDI to provide “progressive development and employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” the bill reads. Sandstede was unavailable for comment as of press time. If passed, the measure represents a continuation of dollars MDI has received over the past four years, McDermott said.

Moving forward, MDI plans on increasing their workforce to 600 employees in the next three years and to 2,500 employees in the next decade, McDermott added.

For Fedo, MDI’s goals are more than welcome as the non-profit continues to make right on a promise of creating and maintaining jobs in the area.

“They’re just a really great company and they do great things for people and whenever you visit them or have a chance to talk to their employees,” Fedo said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s evident that for the good work they do they deserve to be the business of the year.”

Source: Hibbing Daily Tribune, written by