Medical manufacturing represents about 30% of Diversified’s business, and that percentage continues to grow. “There are a lot of medical device OEMs in the Minneapolis area,” noted Davis. Filtration, medical and otherwise, is also big in the area, which has become a significant part of Diversified’s business.
“We used to do a lot more automotive, but when things took a downturn 10 years ago, we started bringing in a lot of other business,” said Davis. That has been a winning strategy. “We had what you might call a banner year in 2017,” she said, and the company forecasts “healthy growth” going forward. It will do so without CEO Jim Dow at the helm, however, who retired earlier this year at age 81.
Dow co-founded the company in 1977 with 13 employees and three machines. Today, it employs more than 75 people and operates 21 presses. In November 2011, the company was sold to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
Upon his retirement, Dow could have sold the company to a private equity firm or industry consolidator; instead he chose to sell it to the employees. “I couldn’t go out and sell this company for more to people who I knew would not be loyal to the employees,” he told the StarTribune on Feb. 2. “I could have made more money, but I made enough.”
Dow remains a non-employee chairman of the board at Diversified.
Being part of an ESOP company is a point of pride for Davis and her fellow employees. “Once an employee has five years under the belt and is fully vested, he or she is part owner. We all have a stake in the business and want it to do well,” said Davis. That dedication is not lost on customers, particularly in the medical space, where commitment to quality and a job well done is paramount.
It’s no surprise, then, that having completed an expansion earlier this year, Diversified Plastics is already “getting to the point where we may have to expand again,” said Davis.