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Midwest Polymer Group enjoys double digit growth by having it all

Updated: May 2

Back in 2008 when the sky was falling, plastics industry veteran Dan Tholen spotted an opportunity. He knew what a pain it was to source plastic and rubber parts, to spend days upon days calling dozens of specialty shops and collecting quotes. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guy who could just do it all?

Tholen decided to become that guy, launching Midwest Polymer Group, Inc. in the height of the “Great Recession,” on a hunch that reduced-staffed purchasing departments would need a trusted source they could turn to. His single-source model has proven incredibly effective, with Midwest Polymer Group experiencing double-digit growth nearly every year since hanging its shingle. With the economy roaring at full steam, Tholen has firmly rooted himself as the go-to guy for all things plastic and rubber.

The Baxter, Minnesota-based plastic and rubber parts supplier has become known nationwide as the single source provider of polymer products, serving a wide range of industries including agricultural, truck and trailer, recreation, construction, medical equipment, military and aviation to name a few.

Dan Tholen Midwest Polymer Group
Dan Tholen is president of Midwest Polymer Group, Inc., a plastic and rubber sourcing business based in Baxter, Minnesota. Courtesy Midwest Polymer Group.

“We have enjoyed our growth by retaining customers, continuing to add products to the list of what we already supply, and by adding new customers that have contacted us through referrals,” Tholen said.

Convenience, cost savings and communication have been critical to the company’s growth, he added.

“Our customers are able to contact one company and source product made from many different processes, from many different locations,” he said. “We are able to combine our purchasing power through our manufacturing partners to offer the best pricing for our customers. Our communication and priority to pay attention to the customer’s needs has contributed to our success.”

Midwest Polymer Group has partnered with polymer manufacturing companies around the country to provide parts made from processes such as injection molding, thermoforming, rotational molding, blow molding, extrusions, compression molded UHMW, as well as a rubber molding for compression, transfer, and injection molding, rubber extrusion and die cut, and liquid silicone rubber.

One of those companies is Pride Solutions, a thriving Hutchinson, Minnesota plastics manufacturer that offers compression molding and plastic fabrication services, specializing in UHMW poly. Tholen met Pride’s CEO Tom Daggett at a tradeshow years ago when he was first launching his sourcing business, and struck up a relationship with Pride Solutions that has spanned a decade.

Midwest Polymer Group sources a wide range of custom plastic parts from Pride Solutions, including compression molded UHMW-PE parts and products made from machining of stock UHMW material. Over the years, Midwest Polymer Group has reached out to Pride Solutions to manufacture plastic parts ranging from door bumpers for the Action Trackchair®, an all-terrain wheelchair manufactured by Action Manufacturing Inc. in Marshall, Minnesota to Cable Keeper Pads for Electronic Theatre Controls Inc. (ETC) of Middleton, Wisconsin. Other custom plastic parts have included hog hauler door bumpers and a wide range of UHMW wear pads for transportation and material handling applications.

Midwest Polymer Group has depended on Pride Solutions to help its customers from concept to completion, Tholen said.

“Pride Solutions has provided us with services such as Engineering and R&D support on potential new projects, to production parts whether the order is for a minimum order or high volume,” he noted. “Pride has produced parts that are small and very detailed, to larger parts that are 3 feet long. They are willing to work with us to try to develop most projects that we present to them. We have maintained a great working relationship on both sides for the entire time that we have worked together.

“Pride Solutions has been extremely helpful in the development of new products, assisting me in R&D, traveling to customers, and being supportive in any way that they can. They respond to questions and any issues that may arise very quickly, and are all around very good to work with. Pride’s service and quality has been great. Very few problems or issues, and if there has been, they address it immediately. I have been very satisfied with their quality. They are very good at anticipating if there might be a problem by reviewing the design ahead of time, and we discuss that with the customer before moving ahead.”

Over the years, Midwest Polymer Group has kept Pride Solutions’ compression molding presses and plastic fabrication shop supplied with a steady stream of work, helping Pride Solutions stay on an impressive growth trajectory that helped it win a Made in Minnesota Manufacturing Award in 2018 from Minnesota Business magazine.

“Midwest Polymer Group has brought a lot of opportunities to us,” said Eddy Plowman, sales manager for Pride Solutions’ Pride Engineered Plastics division. “We’ve made many different parts for them – everything from UHMW wear pads for trailers and cable guides, to door bumpers for hog haulers and wheelchair bumpers.”

Action Trackchair
Pride Solutions manufactures plastic door bumpers for the Action Trackchair®, an all-terrain wheelchair manufactured by Action Manufacturing Inc. in Marshall, Minnesota. Courtesy Action Manufacturing.

Midwest Polymer Group often reaches out to Pride Solutions for especially challenging projects because Pride has the in-house capability to assist customers with designing parts, as well as tooling and fixtures to achieve the desired end product.

“Sometimes a customer will present Midwest Polymer Group with a challenging part, and we will work with them to develop it from concept to completion,” Plowman noted.

“Sometimes a customer will come to us with a part that is not feasible to be produced from UHMW due to physical features or wall thicknesses. Our team is very knowledgeable and able to work with the customer to help refine their part to be manufactured efficiently and consistently at high production volume, as well as within their target price range.”

On the flip side, Pride Solutions sources parts from Midwest Polymer Group made from multiple plastic and rubber processes, including plastic injection over molded retractable poly fingers for combine headers for Pride’s May Wes Manufacturing Division, and extruded rubber dampeners for C&A Pro high performance snowmobile skis.

C&A Pro, a division of Pride Solutions, has been sourcing rubber ski dampeners from Midwest Polymer Group for years, noted Plowman, who also serves as sales manager for C&A Pro. The ski dampener is a critical wear item that is placed in the ski’s saddle where it meets the snowmobile spindle. It helps protect the ski, spindle, suspension and the entire snowmobile by absorbing shock, and keeps the ski in proper position for higher performance and improved handling. C&A Pro purchases several models of dampeners through Midwest Polymer Group to accommodate all major snowmobile brands and models.

“C&A Pro riders tend to be more aggressive snowmobilers,” Plowman noted. “They are snocross racers, mountain boondockers and serious trail riders who put on many miles. They expect their skis to perform, and that little $10 dampener is critical to the skis’ performance so it has to be made from quality rubber that will take a lot of abuse. We’ve always been able to count on Midwest Polymer Group for quality ski dampeners and to keep up with frequent design changes from the snowmobile manufacturers.”

Pride Solutions’ May Wes division has counted on Midwest Polymer Group to source dozens of models of retractable poly fingers for combine grain heads. The fingers are installed on the grain head’s auger and feed crop into the combine’s threshing system. Farmers often replace their grain head’s worn standard metal fingers with poly fingers because they are less expensive than metal and will not damage the threshing system if they break.

“Poly retractable fingers for grain heads are one of our best selling products,” said Daryl Peterson, May Wes sales manager. “They need to be strong and resilient, but they also need to be able to disintegrate if they do break so they don’t wreak havoc on your combine. During the busy harvest season, farmers need equipment they can depend on, and they know our poly fingers can be counted on to get the job done.”

Pride Solutions President Jack Daggett has greatly appreciated Pride’s longstanding relationship with Midwest Polymer Group since taking the helm of his family’s business in 2016.

“Midwest Polymer Group’s extensive customer and supplier network has been incredibly beneficial to Pride Solutions,” Daggett said. “The plastics business is all about relationships, and Dan has been forging those relationships for years. Purchasers know they can count on Midwest Polymer Group to source the quality parts they need on time and on budget, and suppliers know they can depend on Midwest Polymer Group for a steady flow of opportunities we might not otherwise have had. We’ve been on both sides of the coin with Midwest Polymer Group, and have been very satisfied with their service and support over the years.”

Find Out More

Midwest Polymer Group Baxter, Minnesota 218-270-2151

Pride Solutions Hutchinson, Minnesota 320-587-0760

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