While Imation Corp is phasing out its presence in Wahpeton, S.D., some of its former employees have banded together to form ComDel Innovation Inc., a contract injection molder and metal stamper that is locating in the same complex.
In May 2007, Imation, based in Oakdale, Minn., said that it planned to shutter the Wahpeton facility by mid-2009 as part of its plan to phase out the assembly of magnetic floppy diskettes. It employed 390 at the time.
The company, which was once part of 3M Co. and later spun off as Imation, had been a big employer in Wahpeton since 1977.
``This site used to make floppy disks and [rewritable CDs], but now we can make the high-end cartridges,'' ComDel President Jim Albrecht said in a May 15 telephone interview.
Most of the company's work is making plastic and metal parts for electronic tape cartridges.
He said that he, along with Imation employees Carter Hansen and Bruce Weeda, decided that they wanted to do something to keep at least some of the trained workforce employed in Wahpeton. They approached Imation with the idea, and the company agreed to let them bid on the contracts. They won some work, and now Albrecht, who had experience in the contract molding part of the business, is the president. Hansen is vice president, and Weeda, secretary-treasurer.
ComDel has leased one of the three buildings in the complex, purchased or leased some of the equipment and currently employs 80 of the former Imation workers. Albrecht predicted that the number will grow to 110 by the end of the year. He expects to have about 50 molding bays.
``Imation has been extremely supportive of the establishment of this company and the support of the community and the state has been very positive,'' Albrecht said.
He said Imation is currently its largest customer, but it also is looking to diversify.
``At this point we are doing business with approximately 12 companies, but we are also trying to establish business outside our core group,'' he said.
Albrecht said that injection molding, metal stamping and machine shop work, as well as building automation, are all areas that they can grow.
``In the six months we've been open, it's been challenging, but it has gone better than we could have hoped. We've had a lot of support,'' Albrecht said.
The combination is working, according to Bradley Allen, communications vice president at Imation. Allen said Imation is consolidating production, while out- sourcing some work. The time-table for its exit from North Dakota has moved up, so now it should happen by year's end.
``By the end of the year we will have ended our operation there, but we will be totally engaged with ComDel,'' he said.
Imation is transforming itself into a brand and product management company, while ComDel is becoming one of its manufacturing suppliers.