Image Rotomolding Enter-prises broke ground May 18 on a 15,000-square-foot plant in Brainerd, Minn. A newcomer to the rotomolding ranks, Image is owned by Jim and Peggy Wills of Minneapolis, and Larry Henricksen from the Seattle area. The group has invested about $1.2 million in the plant, equipment and 41/2 acres in a new Brainerd industrial park, said Jim Wills, who owns the majority interest in the firm.
When Image opens Aug. 15, it will produce two lines of proprietary products: ski cases and a bow cover for open-bow boats, trademarked Ski Cap and Sea Cap, respectively. But the company also hopes to win its share of business from custom rotational molding, Wills said in a recent telephone interview.
Neither of its proprietary products is new to the market. Cap Concepts Inc., which Jim Wills also owns, held patents on the products before it assigned them to Image in March. Cap Concepts began developing the ski cases about two years ago, and Aggressive Industries Inc. of Minneapolis had been rotomolding them for the firm, Wills said. Production runs had been small - only about 400 cases have been made so far, or roughly $80,000 in sales.
Aggressive Industries was making the ski cases about 61/2 feet in length and the company was not equipped to handle a larger-sized product, he said. His need to make the cases longer, along with increased demand, prompted Wills to open his own manufacturing site.
When the plant opens, a skeleton crew of 11-12 workers will begin rotomolding the ski cases on the plant's only machine, a three-arm carousel with five stations built by Rotational Engineering Inc. of Berthoud, Colo., Wills said. The machine has two straight arms, one offset arm and 142-inch swing capacity; it can produce parts 10 feet long and 3-4 feet wide, he said.
The cases, which come in four models, are molded of medium density linear polypropylene.
Image also will manufacture the Sea Cap bow cover, which has not been made since 1990, when a Rice Lake, Wis., firm fabricated the covers from fiberglass using hand lay-up. He said the company has not determined what plastic is best-suited for that rotomolding use.
Image will sell the bow covers to boat makers and dealers. It markets its ski cases through dealers, but Wills expects to go strictly through wholesalers soon. Other proprietary products are in development, he said.
Wills, a corporate lawyer in Minneapolis, was once a chemist for Kimberly-Clark Ltd. in Neenah, Wis., and, more recently, a patent lawyer for Cargill Inc., based in Minnetonka, Minn. With a background in business and management, Wills - along with his wife, Peggy, and Henricksen - will oversee the new firm but will not be active in its day-to-day operations, he said.
For that role they are searching for the right person, someone with at least 20 years' manufacturing experience, to be plant manager, he said. They hope to have that post filled by mid-July. Already on board is sales manager Bruce Precourt.
Wills said Image will add a 116-inch rotomolding machine in January, and another 15,000 square feet for warehousing next spring. If custom business follows, it expects to bring on two more machines within the year and 20,000 square feet for manufacturing by the fall of 1996.
Wills said Image plans to use its extra capacity to fill custom orders in the Twin Cities area. As for capability, the firm's 142-inch machine should bring in customers that require bigger parts, he said.
Image is putting together bids for a number of custom-made parts now, he said. So far, it has been looking at playground equipment and agricultural and boating products.