Donaldson Co. Inc. broke ground Monday on a $15 million research-and-development center at its Bloomington headquarters complex, hoping to develop next-generation materials to help boost its market share.
"What I find particularly exciting is that we are doubling down in our commitment to technology and innovation so we can continue to be leader for another century," said Michael Wynblatt, the company's chief technology officer, at a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking.
Chief Executive Tod Carpenter previously said that the industrial-filtration company is making a multiyear commitment to increase its research- and-development spending. The company spends about $55 million to $60 million on research and development each year, and the $15 million capital expenditure will be on top of that.
"The new facility will directly support the further strengthening of our material science capabilities," Carpenter told analysts in the company's second-quarter conference call in March. "These technologies are critical to penetrating new and existing markets."
The 104-year-old company, based in Bloomington since 1962, found a way to wedge the new Material Research Center on its headquarters campus. Construction of the new two-story, 17,000-square-foot building should be done by November, and afterward, it will take several months to fully equip the building.
"When I think of the secret sauce of what makes a great filtration company, it is the filter media," Wynblatt said. "It's one of our biggest competitive advantages. We design our own media, we retain the intellectual property rights. We design our own fibers, our own membranes, our own coatings and our own manufacturing processes."
The company, which had $2.7 billion in sales last fiscal year, has more than 100 technical laboratories and 45 manufacturing centers spread across the globe and nearly 1,800 active U.S. and international patents.
The company expects to develop breakthrough technologies in the new center that will give it real competitive advantages, not just continued improvements to materials or processes already used. It also expects that any new materials and products discovered in Bloomington can be shared with its facilities worldwide.
Donaldson spreads its research-and-development and capital-improvement projects across its business. It recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of a successful deployment of a new enterprise resource-planning system. One year ago, it launched a new e-commerce site, shop.donaldson.com.
Architect for the new building is St. Paul-based TKDA, and Minneapolis-based Gardner Builders is the construction company.