Sportech Receives Two Grants, Sen. Klobuchar Visits
June 3, 2015
Guests from Anoka-Ramsey Community College, the MN Department of Employment & Economic Development, along with local and state officials filled the Sportech lobby on the morning of May 19th for an official grant signing. Sportech has been awarded over $300,000 in training & development funds through the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP).
In partnership with Anoka-Ramsey Community College & Anoka Technical College, training will be available to all Sportech employees on topics such as company culture development, software training, thermoforming and plastics, as well as other technical and personal development training. Sportech is the first business in Elk River to receive this large of a grant from MJSP.
Following the grant signing, Senator Amy Klobuchar visited Sportech on May 26th along with Elk River business officials to tour the facility as part of her “Growing Minnesota” tour. According to a press release from her office, the tour is focusing on farmers and business leaders to highlight opportunities for economic growth in rural Minnesota.
During Klobuchar’s visit in Elk River, Sportech CEO Chris Carlson told her that the company started in the early 1990s with an idea Carlson’s dad had for a snowmobile headlight cover that prevented snow from packing into the headlight and restricting visibility at night.
“We developed it at home, heated the plastic up in the oven and bent it over the vice,” Carlson said. Klobuchar interjected,
“This is better than Medtronic starting in the garage.”
Carlson went on to explain how they sold the first headlight covers out of the back of his pickup truck at the Hay Days swap meet in Lino Lakes. By the end of the weekend, Carlson and his Father Dallas had sold every one. “That was the genesis of Sportech,” Carlson said. “From there we grew rapidly and introduced more products.”
Today, Sportech is a tier-one OEM manufacture of accessories for all-terrain vehicles, side-by-side utility vehicles, motorcycles and other vehicles.
“Largely, we are building cabs, cab enclosures, roofs, windshields, doors and rear panels for vehicles — typically the side-by-side utility vehicles,” Carlson said. Sportech will build about 400,000 windshields alone this year, he said.
Sportech currently has 200 full-time employees, and has plans to break ground this fall on a second facility in Elk River totaling 105,000 square feet, with capabilities for further expansion. Carlson made use of the senator’s visit by explaining the company’s greatest problem as of late: attracting and retaining employees. Klobuchar countered that she is interested in workforce training issues and is doing what she can to foster apprenticeships and to encourage high schools to work with businesses on developing the future workforce.