With two months of molding under its belt and several customers in its pocket, Image Rotomolding Enterprises is expanding. The rotational molding newcomer is adding 7,500 square feet to its brand-new Brainerd, Minn., plant, said Im-age Chairman Jim Wills. The firm moved into the 15,000-square-foot facility in September, and began roto molding propri etary ski cases, as well as custom products, including parts made of poly propylene for exercise and sporting equipment, and for recreational vehicles, such as shrouds and engine covers. Among its jobs is an 8-foot-long shipping container, which previously had been made of wood because of its large size, according to Wills.
Roughly 80 percent of the company's total business is custom molding, but ``we have more capacity than we have business,'' he said in a recent telephone interview. However, with an eye to future needs, he said Image plans to up that capacity with a second rotomolding machine in the spring, when it takes on some ``very large orders,'' including one for another RV maker.
``We're looking at sales of a little bit over $1 million to $1.5 million'' for next year, said Wills. ``That's very conservative.''
So far Image is snatching its share of the Midwest market by catering to customers that need nicely finished products rather than large-volume runs.
``We've learned that our emphasis is on quality-control for consumer products,'' he said. ``So much of the [rotational molding] industry is on the commercial applications.''
Someone who spends $2,000 for skis wants a case without blemishes or pinholes, he noted.
``That's where our strength is going to be. We're going to be more concerned with the way it looks.''
For Wills - whose forte was law, not rotomolding - the key was putting the right people in place. Image President Gene Doyle's background is in financial management. Both the firm's plant manager, Ted Mattson, and his assistant, Tom Rice, come to Image from competitor Aggressive Industries Inc. of Minneapolis with about 20 years of experience apiece, Wills said. Aggressive used to rotomold Image's ski cases. Also on board is Tim Younquist, head of engineering.
The new space will accommodate mold storage and warehousing. By Dec. 1, Image, which employs 12, will add six to eight workers to staff a second shift, Wills said. He noted that the investment to start up the firm has exceeded by far the projected $1.2 million.
Wills, Doyle and Larry Henricksen of Seattle all own a piece of the firm.