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Editorial - Small companies, big impact

Douglas County is very fortunate to have a solid base of large, local manufacturing companies that provide jobs, add to the area's reputation as a vibrant regional hub and support many local causes and organizations.

It'd be hard to imagine where the county would be without their impact.

And there are a lot of smaller manufacturing companies that are driving our local economy, too. Their impact is easy to see when looking through the 2013 Douglas County Manufacturers and Support Industries Directory that was recently published by the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission.

The directory highlights more than 230 manufacturing and support industry organizations. Some may not be familiar names to local residents but their low profile shouldn't diminish their contributions to the community.

Here are just a few of these unheralded companies that caught our eye:

Gardner Bender. It's been around here for more than 25 years and currently employs 28 people. The Alexandria facility produces nearly 3 million staples for the electrical industry per day, supplying customers such as Home Depot, Menards, Ace Hardware, Lowes, True Value and professional electricians.

Alex Glass and Glazing. Established in 1995, this locally owned and operated business employs nine people. If you live or work in Central Minnesota, chances are you walked through a door or looked out of a window installed by the company. It has the largest on-site glass inventory in the area.

Annova Enterprises. It's been here making Aqua Jet brand hydrotherapy tables since 1992 and provides five jobs. The units are like single-person waterbeds with self-contained pulsating jets of heated water.

Beartrack Products. Located in Evansville with a 12-year history, it provides 15 jobs. It makes lightweight folding ramps for ATVs, snowmobiles and lawn and garden/golf carts that feature all-aluminum construction. It also makes snowmobile and utility trailers.

Bio Corporation. Established in 1992, the company has 40 workers. They specialize in preserving a variety of animals for study in biology and science classrooms. Specimens are injected with preservatives or colored latex and then sold and shipped to schools all over the U.S.

Blue Ox Timber Frames. Since 2004, it's been designing, engineering and hand-crafting timber frame structures, heavy timber trusses and hybrid timber building systems that are built nationwide. It employs 10.

CONTECH Engineered Solutions. Established in 1974, it markets a number of products, including Continental Bridges. It's widely recognized as providing the most accurate technical bridge design knowledge in the industry. It provides 60 jobs.

Detect Alarm, Inc. It's an industry leader in regional fire protection and life safety services. Established in 1952, it employs 20.

Lakes Area GraphiX and Sign WorX. Based in Kensington, the company's 20 employees supply custom-printed indoor and outdoor graphics nationwide. They specialize in banners of any size up to billboard size.

Mid-States Hydraulic and Machine. It manufactures and repairs a variety of hydraulic cylinders, servicing contractors, agriculture and the manufacturing industry throughout the state. It even repairs barber chairs and porta power equipment. Established in 1984, it provides 10 jobs.

Mobile Washer. Established in 1992, it's a leader in industrial and commercial cleaning solutions. It offers pressure washing, dry ice blasting, sand blasting and more for all types of buildings, inside and out, along with fire damage and equipment cleaning. It serves the entire state and has 15 employees.

Nott Company. It's the area's largest distributor of bearings and power transmission products for retail, wholesale and original equipment manufacturers. Formed in 1981, it has 15 workers.

PROTHERM. Based in Brandon since 1985, it's a leading manufacturer of industrial electric infrared process heating equipment, from individual heaters to conveyorized ovens. It provides 14 jobs.

Quick Attach Attachments. It specializes in the manufacturing, sales and distribution of attachments for skid steers, ATVs and compact loader industries. It's been around since 2002 and employs 37 people locally.

Again, this just skims the surface of some of the local companies that add to our local manufacturing industry. They may be smaller than some of the businesses around here, but combined, just the ones listed provide 298 jobs and greater economic vitality to the region.