More than a dozen people toured two growing Princeton industries – BioMatrix International and Inline Packaging – on Oct. 22 as part of Minnesota Manufacturers Week.
The Princeton Economic Development Authority and Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce coordinated the tours.
Inline Packaging bills itself as a leader in microwave susceptor food packaging, and one of the most familiar products for which it manufactures packages is microwave popcorn.
Inline Packaging’s website mentions pizza, egg rolls and taquitos as other examples of products for which its packaging is used.
The plant sits on the far western edge of the city’s main industrial park, and it’s the kind of operation where tour group members have to wear a hair net.
Much of the machinery at Inline Packaging is like a printing press. Paper material and a metallic film are pulled through the machinery by spinning rollers. Inline Packaging specializes in producing packaging that causes the food to crisp when microwaved.
The tour group saw Inline’s machinery in motion and also glimpsed into its research, development and design spaces. Inline Automation, which is part of Inline Packaging, builds machinery for Inline Packaging.
Near the end of the tour, the group viewed the 8,750-square-foot addition that was recently completed at the plant, the third such addition for Inline Packaging since the factory opened in Princeton in 2001. The City Council helped Inline Packaging on May 30 this year by granting it a $47,800 property tax rebate. Inline Packaging has 38 employees, and it has told the council it plans to add 25 more employees after its expansion.
After a presentation from Mark Thompson, BioMatrix chief operating officer and chief financial officer, the tour members pulled cloth booties over their shoes to keep contamination out of the factory floor that they would enter. The plant sits in the city’s main industrial park.
The plant’s main equipment consists of three mixers and blenders, some of the equipment new.
Four mixers are in the company’s other plant, which is located off Sherburne County Road 45 south of Princeton.
Thompson explained that the company’s founder, Guy Miller, is a microbiologist. Miller started the business in 1997 as a consultant, working out of his home into 2000. About 11 years ago, the company began renting its first building south of Princeton and two years later purchased the structure. The plant in the main industrial park was the former home of Bell Canoe before that moved. BioMatrix bought that building in 2007.
Miller said he plans to start construction of a 9,600-square-foot addition at the plant in the main industrial park by the end of this year.
Miller said that once the addition is complete, then the production of coatings that is being done in the old plant will be transferred to the industrial park plant. The old plant will then be turned into a research lab, he said.
BioMatrix manufactures additives for livestock and companion animals, with 60 percent of the additives sold for livestock. The company has also started making food additives for exotic animals, Miller said.
BioMatrix ships to about 14 countries including the Philippines, Spain, Egypt, Mexico and Canada, and some potential new markets are Thailand, China, Australia and Honduras, Thompson noted. Among the companies BioMatrix sells to are Bill Barr, Kindstrom-Schmoll, Enzyvia, JBS United, ADM Alliance Nutrition Inc., Van Beek Nutrition, and Proctor & Gamble, Nutura Pet.
“Natural” is the prime word that Miller uses in describing BioMatrix International’s product line. BioMatrix uses natural compounds to control diseases, stimulate the immune system, control bacterial infection and reduce inflammation, Miller explained.
Miller talked about how Vick’s Vapor Rub with its menthol is used to reduce chest congestion and how the menthol is either made synthetically or derived from a mint oil. With that in mind, peppermint can be added to water in swine and turkey barns to counter some of the irritation the animals’ lungs get in the ammonia-rich environment, Miller noted. He explained how that is just one example of something being used naturally in the livestock industry.
More people in industry seem to be paying attention to using natural products as antidotes because of the problems in recent years of bacteria becoming immune to many antibiotics. Also, food regulators want a reduction in antibiotics in food production, Thompson explained.
“Guy (Miller) understands how different ingredients affect animals to create more healthy animals so they are more resistant to germs,” Thompson said. The idea is to flood the system with good bacteria and put in carriers that the bad bacteria will attach to so they are carried out of the animal, Thompson added.
That kind of philosophy must be catching on it appears, at least in the case of BioMatrix International.
Thompson pointed to BioMatrix growing in sales – 28.8 percent in 2010; 60 percent in 2011, 46.9 percent in 2012, and is predicting 20 percent growth this year. Thompson told the tour group that the company will have $7 million to $7.5 million in gross sales this year.
BioMatrix International has 12 full-time and three part-time employees, plus some temporary staff when needed for production.
The company’s goals include adding technical and sales personnel, adding or expanding manufacturing shifts for more in-house production, performing more clinical trials, increasing its international business, developing more patentable products and building a market-friendly website.
State Rep. Sondra Erickson, who was part of the tour group, asked Thompson if the company has a relationship with the University of Minnesota. Thompson answered no, but added that there is discussion going on about that.