It seems so obvious that in Minnesota, people working outdoors using tractors and machinery need some protection from the elements—from rain to snow to dust—in fields, highways or construction sites. This month, in conjunction with our bi-monthly meeting, our SWIF Board of Directors visited Custom Products, a 50-year-old Litchfield manufacturing business and home of Cozy Cab and other products. Since learning about Custom Products, we’ve been in awe of this regional business’s impact on its entire industry.
Our next stop is another “wow” place, again located right in Litchfield. First District Association (FDA), a grassroots dairy co-op with 1,100 active dairy farmer members, is also leading its industry. Through the use of technology and sophisticated processes, FDA uses every part of the milk product and is one of the nation’s largest manufactures of cheese. They also ship the sugar that is extracted from the milk all over the world—who would have thought our southwest Minnesota cows would have a connection to M&M’s and Hershey’s? They employ 140 at the Litchfield plant—which is currently in the process of a $100 million+ expansion—but support about 30 percent of the 38,000 jobs provided by the Minnesota dairy industry.
As I think about these two businesses, they fit right into SWIF’s current focus, with a direct connection to agriculture. Southwest Minnesota really has what the world needs! A big thanks goes to Custom Products Vice President Randy Reinke and FDA President Clint Fall for giving our board and staff an opportunity to connect and tell us about their businesses.
During our lunch with additional business and community leaders, our board got a taste of what makes Litchfield, population 6,700, a great community. Community and business leaders shared current highlights and challenges, including:
- A transition with the Bobcat Company – although moving current production to Bismark, a new production line will relocate to the Litchfield location from North Carolina
- An expansion by Felling Trailers from Sauk Center – taking over an empty 200,000 square foot building and adding about 40 jobs by mid-July, helping replace most of the jobs lost at Bobcat
- Meeker Memorial Hospital is doing well financially after a large expansion and is complementing many nearby services
- A new superintendent, new high school principal and many other exciting things happening at Litchfield Public Schools
- A VERY successful YES! team in its third season – check out what their team did this year! http://www.youthenergysummit.org/litchfield-yes-collaborates-on-hydration-stations/
- An active local fund partner, Litchfield Area Community Foundation – working on fundraising and planning their aquatic center, thanks in large part to a legacy gift from the late Gordon and Vivian Crider featured in our FY10 Looking Forward, Giving Back book http://www.swifoundation.org/documents/FY10LFGBFinal.pdf
There are so many other things that make Litchfield another southwest Minnesota gem. What is your favorite thing about this community?