3M has manufactured for 50 years in Prairie du Chien
3M is celebrating 50 years of manufacturing in Prairie du Chien. On April 1, 1964, 3M purchased the Burgess Cellulose sponge making operation and expanded it later that same year. 3M manufactures Scotch-Brite abrasive products, Safety Walk traction and Nomad matting products, Sandblaster sanding sponges, and acoustic and thermal Thinsulate at their operations located on Marquette Road. A number of celebratory events are planned, including an anniversary celebration in-plant in April followed by more formal events and an open house in September.
“It’s very humbling when you realize we’ve not only been a viable manufacturer for 50 years in Prairie du Chien, but we continue to expand and grow our operations,” said Plant Manager Tom Harris. “We started with 60 employees making sponges, and we now employ more than 600 from the Wisconsin and Iowa area. We have a lot of people to thank for their support over the years, most importantly all of our retirees and current employees.”
The original Burgess sponge making operation was commonly called Plant 1. In 1966, 3M purchased an additional 46 acres of land in the north industrial park, and construction started that year on the initial 120,000 square feet of Building 50 that was completed in 1967. In 1969 it was announced that 3M would build another building to double that footprint, and in 1973 the expansion continued as another addition was built to provide expanded manufacturing and warehouse space. In 1980 an automated high rise warehouse was added, and in 1992 manufacturing space was added on the property north of Fredrick Street.
Over the years there have been challenges, with the most difficult the decision to exit the original Plant 1 operation.
“The city had really grown up around Plant 1, and while we had purchased some of the neighboring properties there was just no room to expand,” said Supply Chain Manager Jeff Sjoberg. “It was tough to leave that site because that was where it all began. The employees transferred up to our current operations, and through it all everyone regrouped and soldiered on.”
3M has continued to evolve and grow over the years. The original abrasives operations were upgraded to produce more technical products for industrial customers. Scotch-Brite became an industry leading non-woven abrasives brand, and the manufacturing operations expanded to include products for traction and matting, other consumer products, and most recently acoustical dampening material used to make automobiles quieter. Since 3M manufactures such a wide variety of products into very diverse markets, they have been able to successfully manage the bumps along the way, including the most recent global recession without a layoff.
Plant Manager Tom Harris credits much of their success to the employees and the strong support network in the Prairie du Chien area. “We purchased the property we are on today from the city of Prairie du Chien and have always enjoyed a very good relationship with the city and the chamber. Our retirees laid the foundation for our operations, and their hard work is a testament to the strong work ethic of Southwestern Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. Today, our employees rise to every challenge and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our customers. We have successful partnerships with local contractors and businesses that have spanned several decades. All of this has contributed to the success of 3M.”
Always on the forefront of environmental performance, the plant is currently meeting all of the 3M Corporate Sustainability 2015 challenges, including significant improvements to energy efficiency, solid waste reduction, reduced air emissions, and expanded recycling. 3M partners with area schools to support science and technology programs such as First Robotics and Project Lead the Way. Volunteerism is actively encouraged, and various grants support many local organizations and projects that include the Hoffman Hall renovation and the Washington Street Landing.
“It seems like yesterday, but my family and I moved to Prairie du Chien in 1982 and my first job was Process Engineering Supervisor working in Plant 1 for John Jensen,” said Jeff Sjoberg, “It’s incredible to think back on all of the changes that have been made and all of the employees I’ve worked with and gotten to know. Sure, there have been some challenges, but we’ve had our share of fun and the years have flown by. It’s the relationships that are made with our co-workers that most people will always remember. There’s no doubt our strength has always been our employees, and this continues today. The future is bright, and we’re already looking forward to our 60-year anniversary in 2024.”
3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $31 billion in sales, 3M employs 89,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit 3M.com or follow @3MNews on Twitter.