We’ve all heard the old saying— build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. It’s been a conventional wisdom for as long as any of us can remember, a paean to the value of hard work, ingenuity, and the spirit of entrepreneurship.
And we have the best possible example right here in the North Country, with Lamppa Manufacturing and the remarkable wood furnaces and stoves for which they have come to be famous.
Three generations of the Lamppa family, working in a tiny converted creamery, created the most efficient and cleanest-burning wood heater anywhere in the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for a company whose research and development budget was built on little more than years of sweat equity fostered by a desire to bring wood-burning into the 21st century.
This past week, the company began moving into their new manufacturing facility in Tower’s industrial park, thanks to the efforts of the Tower Economic Development Authority, the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, the city of Tower, and representatives of Lamppa Manufacturing, who all sought to put the project back on track after delays and questionable project management left it derailed earlier this year.
While the company has just moved into the north half of the just-completed 9,000 square-foot industrial building in Tower, company officials are already looking seriously at occupying the south half of the building as soon as possible to accommodate their anticipated growth. When the project was being planned, TEDA officials had advocated building the larger facility, either to accommodate a second tenant or, more likely, to be ready for Lamppa’s growth.
In an ideal world, the sky would be the limit for Lamppa Manufacturing. They have clearly built the better mousetrap and it appears the world is finally beginning to recognize that fact. The company has orders stacked up like cordwood just waiting to be fulfilled as soon as they can get their production ramped up to meet the demand.
And that could be one of the company’s biggest challenges moving forward. The good news is that the presence of the IRRR means that companies in our region that do show promise can depend on obtaining financial resources when necessary, whether for construction of new facilities or for the purchase of equipment upgrades or even worker training. One of the reasons that Minnesota ranks so highly in business success is because state agencies and local colleges and technical schools make a concerted effort to meet the varied needs of those companies that show promise.
Yet anyone in business in northeastern Minnesota, or just about anywhere in the state, understands the acute workforce shortages that today pose some of the biggest impediments to business success of all. Our region desperately needs to grow its workforce. That means we need people who are willing to work, who can be trained to do the job, and who have safe and affordable daycare if they children.
We also need workers willing to learn a trade. A company, like Lamppa Manufacturing, needs welders, and that’s a skill that takes time and training to develop. But those who make the effort to learn a trade are almost always in high demand and have the satisfaction of knowing at the end of the day, that they’ve used their skills to accomplish something real, whether it’s plumbing a kitchen, wiring a new lake home, or welding the world’s best wood stove or furnace.
The people who will help a company like Lamppa Manufacturing grow might not even recognize themselves as such today. We urge everyone, from the retired guy who finds loafing at home a little dull, to a young mother whose kids are now in school seven hours a day, to think about how they can help a local business succeed, and find success and satisfaction themselves in the process.
One thing is for sure— few things succeed all on their own, and that’s especially true in business. Access to capital, workers, and know-how are the keys to success in business. Without all three in place, however, even the best idea can struggle. But put those three elements together, and the sky is the limit. Here’s to making it all happen for Lamppa Manufacturing. They didn’t just build a better mousetrap. They’ve built the best, and we’re excited to watch the world beat a path to their door.