Blooming Prairie, a community of about 2,000 people, sits forty miles southwest of Rochester at the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 30 and US Highway 218. For a small town, Blooming Prairie packs a pretty big punch. The town is home to the Awesome Blossom, is run by a mayor that goes by a single letter, and has an extremely unique and vibrant business community.
You could say that Blooming Prairie is small town Minnesota, but they sure don’t act like it.
“One of my favorite slogans is, ‘Just because you’re a small town doesn’t mean you have to act like it.’ So we try […] to make a place that’s a little more cosmopolitan than your average small town, yet you still get a small town feeling. And the neat part of small town is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, somebody else does,” said Blooming Prairie Mayor Harold Peterson, better known as Mayor H.
Before becoming mayor, H was actually a school teacher. He moved to Blooming Prairie fifty years ago and has served as mayor for the past twelve years.
“There was a teaching job here and I took it, thinking that I might work here for a little while. And fifty years later, I’m still here,” he said.
Blooming Prairie prides themselves on being a welcoming and diverse business community.
“We have these core businesses that have done really well for themselves and we still have these new businesses doing well. So the guys that have been around don’t view you as somebody to weed out and drive out of business. They view you as the next upcoming generation and want to share their experience with you and work together with you,” explained Tom Monson, Economic Development Coordinator with the City of Blooming Prairie.
Blooming Prairie has a large number of homegrown businesses for a town just shy of 2,000 people.
“They’ve decided to stay in Blooming Prairie and have grown their business right here. I don’t know if you’re going to find that anywhere else,” said H.
As a former teacher, H admitted that he might be a bit biased, but he thinks that the school system has a lot to do with local business growth. “Our school has always had a terrific reputation. Having worked in it, I know that it’s done an excellent job of preparing our students to go out in the world or to stay here and produce what they want. …It’s like the story of Minnesota. That’s why Minnesota’s done so well, is because of the great educational program that we have in the state of Minnesota,” said H.
“Honestly, this is a great community for starting and really growing. I think that’s why we’ve seen a lot of our entrepreneurs do well here. There’s really just a very supportive and strong community,” said Tom.
Manufacturing dominates the employment scene in Blooming Prairie, providing close to 300 local jobs. The town specializes in rubber, plastic, and chemical manufacturing plus metal fabrication. For a small town, manufacturing in Blooming Prairie is quite diverse. Besides specializing in several different types of manufacturing, Blooming Prairie has both very old and very young companies.
Minimizer, Tandem Products, and Arkema are the three most established, large employers in town.
Minimizer is a leader in semi-truck fender manufacture. The company was recently recognized by Minnesota Business Magazine as a Manufacturing Award Finalist for 2015. Although Minimizer is a mid-sized company, they still have a strong entrepreneurial mindset.
Rhino Hyde Products, a division of Tandem Products, has a strong presence in the town. Rhino Hyde manufactures polyurethane liners and other hard plastics products.
Arkema manufactures chemical products and is one of the few companies in Blooming Prairie that is not home grown.
Besides these large manufacturing players, there are also small, emerging manufacturers in Blooming Prairie. Heavy Metal is one example of a newer success story. Heavy Metal specializes in CNC milling and turning and is growing rapidly. Owner Tyler Mundy was recently awarded the Southeast Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year for 2015.
Smooth Moves Seats, a company that manufacturers adjustable boat seat mounts, is another emerging player. Owner Kevin Christianson just made his one millionth dollar in sales this September.
Bio-Plastic Solutions is another prominent manufacturer in Blooming Prairie. Bio-Plastic Solutions creates bio-based poly resins and products, such as plant-based edge banding, and eco-friendly building products.
Besides having a vibrant manufacturing industry, the town of Blooming Prairie contains a well-rounded small business environment. The school district and an assisted living facility are the largest employers beyond manufacturing.
Bunkies Grille and Lanes is perhaps one of the most interesting business stories in Blooming Prairie. Bunkies is a four lane bowling alley and restaurant that was owned for many years by the Ressler family. The Ressler’s son Aaron, who is also a PGA professional, moved back to Blooming Prairie a few years ago to take over the bowling alley and keep the business running. Aaron purchased the next two storefronts adjacent to the bowling alley on Main Street where he now also runs a golf academy.
“You can golf all year long here. Florida doesn’t even hold that over us,” said Tom.
The CPA firm Johnson, Doerhoefer & Miner is one of the fastest growing businesses in the town. The firm has successfully worked with and supported the growth of local businesses and has recently expanded to the nearby Owatonna market.
The local hardware store, B to Z Hardware, has also been highly successful and is heavily patronized by local businesses to help keep the money local.
“It’s really the businesses that drive this economy. You kind of see the best of that here,” said Tom.
The population of Blooming Prairie is pretty steady, but the town is experiencing some workforce growing pains. Similar to other small towns across Minnesota, Blooming Prairie has trouble attracting outside talent there to work. But perhaps there is a silver lining.
“It shows that there’s been a lot of success here,” explained Tom.
Blooming Prairie has the jobs. Now they just have to fill them.