MDI seeks to diversify its business mix

Industrial nonprofit MDI has opened a “white room” for kitting and assembling in a controlled environment for medical device and tech manufacturers.

The 2,000-square-foot room has a modifiable layout that permits varying product-assembly needs.

“Our track record of high-quality work allows manufacturers to stay focused on their core competencies while helping provide more employment for people with disabilities.” said CEO Peter McDermott.

MDI, located in Minneapolis, hopes to mine a metro area that’s rich with medical device firms. Medical Alley, an industry trade group based in the Twin Cities, has 650 member companies.

The white room provides a controlled environment for the assembly or repair of precision equipment. MDI also delivers lot tracking and inventory control under quality-management standard ISO 9001:2015. The organization has other certifications pending.

MDI formed a medical-sector advisory group to leverage local industry knowledge. Representatives from 3M Healthcare, Intek Plastics, Medtronic, Surgical Technologies and Tapemark have counseled MDI through business strategy and development to best meet the needs of white-room customers.

The $75,000 white room project was supported in part by grants from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and Wells Fargo.

MDI employs about 375 employees and contract workers at market wages to a workforce, nearly half of which is people with disabilities.

McDermott said revenue was cut in half to $19.4 million in 2017 because the United States Postal Service, its largest customer, ordered far fewer corrugated-plastic containers.

“The USPS volumes are extremely volatile from one year to the next,” McDermott said. “We need to grow MDI’s other businesses. [We’re] all about employment opportunities, especially for people with disabilities.”

MDI makes standard and custom corrugated-plastic packaging, and provides production assembly and environmental services. More information:

Neal St. Anthony


MEDA makes first loans from Bremer fund

The Otto Bremer Small Business Fund, a new “patient-capital” fund run by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and supported by the Otto Bremer Trust, has made its first investments in two minority-owned early-stage companies.

This form of funding is aimed at high-opportunity minority businesses that do not yet generate enough revenue to qualify for more traditional operating loans or credit lines. Recipients will have a longer timetable to deliver returns to the fund.

The fund, which provides capital for up to three years, was established with a $1.2 million commitment from the Otto Bremer Trust in 2016.

The first investments from the fund were recently made to Casa Travel & Technologies in Burnsville and Aucta Technologies in Minneapolis.

“Until now, access to patient capital has been largely nonexistent for minority business owners,” said CEO Gary Cunningham of MEDA. “The Otto Bremer Small Business Fund is a new day for our area’s promising minority entrepreneurs. Now, they’ll have the means to create jobs and make the investments necessary to gain market traction. It will help seed economic growth and stability throughout our communities.”

MEDA services include business consulting and financing. It has counseled 20,000 minority entrepreneurs and helped launch 550 businesses since 1971.

Bremer Trust, which has $1 billion in assets and owns 92 percent of St. Paul’s Bremer Bank, makes philanthropic and business investments.

Neal St. Anthony


Taft ends retirement for post at Baird

John Taft, former CEO of RBC Wealth Management, has exited retirement to join Milwaukee-based Baird as vice chairman, charged with building its private-client wealth management business.

“Baird’s independence, employee ownership, diversified business mix and tremendous momentum uniquely position the firm for strong growth,” Taft said in a prepared statement.

Taft left Minneapolis-based RBC Wealth Management at age 61 in 2016 after 10 years with that firm. He joins employee-owned Baird after helping Canada-based RBC significantly build its U.S. financial-adviser ranks. Taft, who will work from the Twin Cities, also will become a member of Baird’s executive management committee.

“John is very highly regarded for his industry knowledge and leadership, his tremendous record of success and his ability to make the deep personal connections that are so important in this business,” said Baird CEO Steve Booth.

Taft expanded RBC Wealth Management to nearly 2,000 financial advisers, making it the seventh-largest full-service brokerage firm in the United States, with $280 billion-plus in assets. Baird has about $170 billion in client assets.

Adviser networks are grown organically with rookies and also by luring veterans with big paydays from other shops.

Neal St. Anthony