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Clara City company sees a time for growth

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

CLARA CITY -- Retrenchment is the order of the day in the retail industry, but a local company that serves some of the country's largest retail stores' advertising display needs is expanding.

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Impact Innovations Inc. is adding a 60,000-square-foot distribution center to its headquarters facility in Clara City. Marcus Construction of Prinsburg expects to have the distribution center ready for operations by late April or early May.

Roughly at that time, Impact Innovations will also be deciding whether or not to construct a second and larger addition -- 100,000 to 120,000 square feet -- to its Clara City headquarters. If approved, the second expansion would house production equipment acquired in the purchase of a gift wrapping company in Greensboro, N.C., according to John Dammermann, CEO of Impact Innovations.

The acquisition of the gift wrapping company last year led Impact Innovations to expand its distribution center in Clara City, he said. The Greensboro company had previously closed its production facility. The mothballed equipment acquired as part of the purchase is what could be moved to Clara City and put back into production, he explained.

The decision on whether to expand will depend on a number of factors, according to Dammermann. The company is currently negotiating many of the coming year's contracts. It would like to have a better picture of where things are headed before making a decision.

Also, it must consider whether to invest in several million dollars worth of commercial property in Clara City, where the market for its resale would be limited.

Clara City is headquarters for an international company that is already three times larger than when Dammermann reacquired it just a few years ago.

It was started nearly 40 years ago by his parents in Maynard. Known as Impact Plastics, Dammermann sold the company in 2000 and accepted a position with the parent company in New York.

Dammermann reacquired the Maynard production facility in December 2005, and in January 2006, the Clara City design, and marketing and distribution headquarters.

The company subsequently expanded through the purchase of fabric gift wrap companies in New York and New Jersey, a production factory in China, and design, marketing and production facilities in Guatemala.

The production facilities in Maynard and China produce goods for the company's North American market, which includes some of the world's largest retailers: Target, Wal-Mart, Menards, Home Depot, Sears, and Michaels Stores are among them.

Clara City serves as the distribution center for all of the North American operations.

The Guatemalan operation serves Mexico and other markets throughout Central and South America.

Impact Innovation produces point-of-purchase advertising displays for retail outlets and a variety of gift wrapping products, largely focused on holiday themes. It also produces a wide range of holiday-themed consumer products, such as bows, ribbons, tree skirts and tree trim, along with holiday decorations such as static cling window displays.

The Maynard and Clara City operations employ 80 people year-round, and the distribution center offers additional seasonal work.

The company has found its niche in one of the world's most competitive industries largely through innovation in its design of products, cost-competitive sourcing, and effective execution in its production and delivery of products, according to Dammermann. "At the end of the day, out greatest asset is our people,'' he said.

The company is expecting a challenging year ahead. Major retailers have made no secret about their plans to retrench in the year ahead, he noted. Dammermann anticipates a decrease in overall business volume, but he believes it will be a manageable level.

The company has been able to grow by expanding its market share, and Dammermann said he remains optimistic and focused on opportunities for growth in the years ahead.

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