Category Archive: Uncategorized

Ice Fishing in Minnesota

Minnesota winters are great for many outdoor activities.  Snowmobiling, late season hunting, downhill skiing and most of all ice fishing.  Brought into the lime light by the 1993 comedy, Grumpy Old Men, ice fishing is one of the most popular winter events, in Minnesota today.
From dark house spearing to angling, winter fishing has been a Minnesota tradition for hundreds of years.  In the early season, when the ice reaches 3-4in thick, many begin to walk out onto the ice with their large stack of gear, including small canvas shelters, ice augers, different styles of rods and reels, jigs of every color, a sonar flasher and most of all a heater, all in hope of catching a trophy fish.  From small perch to a record setting walleye, the thrill of pulling a fish up through the ice is second to none.  Stern Rubber lies right in the heart of one of the largest ice fishing areas in the Midwest.  With lakes such as Gull, the Whitefish Chain, and even the great Lake of the Woods, all within 250 miles our Staples location, the opportunity to get out on the ice is endless.
As the ice fishing season begins to progress in the area, small cities soon begin to form on the area lakes, as anglers head onto the ice in their pick-ups and bring out their large fish houses designed for comfort.  Many of these shelters, contain beds, tables, stoves and ovens, and most of all a good heating system.  At this point in the season, the fishing goes from the case of catching a record fish, to just getting out and enjoying time with friends and family.
Although ice fishing is a popular individual sport, many gather every year for large ice fishing events across the state, including the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza and the Fishing for Ducks event, that offer great prizes for trophy fish. These events bring out thousands of ice fishing enthusiasts at one time, to test their luck against one another.
Today, ice fishing has grown into a billion-dollar industry surrounding the thrill of catching a trophy fish.  From small shanties to permanent shelters, and all the accessories needed to go with them, one would think the fish don’t even have a chance.  So if you are ever in Stern Rubber’s back yard and feel the urge to fish, check out one of the area’s many lakes and try your luck ice fishing, you may just get hooked, or like some locals make the front page of the paper.
It is always a thrill to see someone you know in the local paper.  In Thursday’s Brainerd Daily Dispatch, Taylor Richardson from Pillager, MN, was on the front page.  Taylor’s Mom, Lynn Richardson works in the Trimming Dept. at Stern Rubber Company.
(Thanks for the picture of Taylor goes to Steve Kohls and the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.)

A Very Unique Watch by Bre & Company

Bre Pettis, who helped found 3D printing company MakerBot, has developed and is producing a very unique and exquisite watch.  It is distinctively angular and made of sandblasted stainless steel.  This watch is the centerpiece of his Brooklyn based manufacturing company, Bre & Company.
Bre & Company is producing these watches to be purchased as gifts.  If you go to their website, you will see all of their products are listed as gifts.  To see more details about their products, you click on a link that says GIVE THIS GIFT, which is a very unique concept.
The Origami Watch design is based on the folded paper designs that were used on supercars of the 1980’s.  3D printing is based on digital models that are based on triangles.  The facets on the watch reflect Bre’s passion for origami like design.  This watch also includes a one-half ounce American eagle liberty gold coin that is imbedded on the back of the watch.
The New York Times did an article on Bre Pettis and his watch in November that talks about how he decided to get into the watch business, after he left the 3D printing industry.  Please click here for more information on the Origami watch.
Bre & Company is already working on their next watch that will use machined carbon fiber for the case, which gives a very unique look.
If you are looking for more info, here is a video on the creation of the Origami Watch.

Time to Give Thanks

This is the time of the year that we pause to give thanks.  We give thanks to our employees, to our customers, to our suppliers, and to the communities where we do business.
On Tuesday, we paused to say Thank You to all of our employees.  We shut down our facilities for a few hours, so we could get everyone together for a Christmas lunch.  We had all the employees from all the facilities and shifts join us for lunch at the Staples Plant.  We cleared out the warehouse and set up tables and chairs.  We had a full prime rib dinner catered By Divine Swine from Lakeville, MN.   It was a wonderful time of sharing and thanks.
Also on Tuesday, we gave out Years of Service Awards for anyone that reached a milestone Anniversary.  Getting awards this year were: Marty Ahlf for 5 years, Rod Hammond for 5 year, Lynn Richardson for 5 year, Connie Krueger for 10 years, Pat Manning for 10 year, Barry Hirschey for 15 year, and Scott Haskin for 30 years.  Congratulations and THANK YOU to all of these employees!
We also want to say Thank You to our employees’ families, for their support.  Thank You to all of our customers and suppliers, as we could not be in business without you.  And, also a big Thank You to the Cities of Staples and Aitkin and the State of Minnesota for their ongoing support.

Minnesota native and Icon Sports Voice Verne Lundquist

Minnesota is known for being the birth place and home to some of the most famous people of our time.  From great singers, like Bob Dylan and Prince, to legendary actors like Judy Garland and Vince Vaughn.  It is hard to believe that all of these greats, and many more, could have come from one place. Yet there is one television personality rooted to Minnesota that many don’t realize, and that is CBS commentator, Verne Lundquist.
Verne was born on July 17th, 1940, in Duluth, Minnesota, about 150 from Stern Rubber’s Staples location. Verne’s family soon moved to Austin, Texas following his birth, and he later graduated from Austin High School.  While still in Texas, Verne attended the Texas Lutheran Academy and while there, started the Omega Tau Fraternity in 1958, that is still active today.  Verne graduated from college in 1962, and immediately knew he wanted to get into broadcasting.  His career began as a sports anchor for WFAA network based in Dallas.  While with WFAA, Verne began working for KTBC radio in Austin, and soon became the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys.  After 5 years with WFAA and KTBC, Verne got the opportunity to the Cowboys Radio Network in 1967, and would go on to be Texas’s radio voice of football for a little over 17 years, and even had the chance to cover the Cowboys second NFL title, when they won Super Bowl XII.  While still with the Cowboys Radio Network, Verne went on to work for ABC in 1974, where he began hosting the show Bowling for Dollars in Dallas, and had the opportunity to work with and interview stars all across Texas, including Cowboys players and their first head coach Tom Landry.  After a brief time with ABC, Verne went on to CBS in 1982, and continued on and off with the Network until this year, except for a short time from 1995 to 1997, where he transitioned over to TNT and then back to CBS in 1998.
While with CBS, Verne had the opportunity to cover many different sports, while primarily being the voice for college football and basketball.  But Verne also had the opportunity to cover the Masters and the PGA Championship for the PGA tour, as well as several other professional football and basketball games.  Verne’s icon voice was not just for cover spots, he was also featured in the 1998 film, Happy Gilmore, where he plays himself commentating the rounds of golf.  Along with that, he also was one of the announcers on the video game College Hoops 2K8, in which they often quoted his famous line, “how do you do” which he used when there was a huge offensive or defensive play.
Verne is known for many icon lines throughout sports history including the famous call in Super Bowl XIII featuring the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he said “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America”, when Cowboys tight end Jackie Smith dropped a third quarter touchdown pass to tie the game.
Yet the most famous Lundquist line, in my opinion, came in the 1986 Masters, in which Jack Nicklaus won his 18th major victory at the age of 46.  With everyone counting Nicklaus out from the get go, CBS was still showing coverage of the Golden Bear.   On Sunday, the words of Lindquist’s voice echoed through American homes when he shouted “yes sir!” as Nicklaus made his birdie putt on the 17th hole, to take the lead for the first time in the tournament.
After nearly 55 years in broadcasting, at the age of 74, Verne will call his last game on Saturday December 10th, as Army takes on Navy, in what will be Lundquist’s final college football game in the booth.  Although Verne’s time on television is coming to a close, his icon calls will still echo through the hearts of sports fans across the nation.  Verne’s voice is one of the most legendary pieces of sports history to date, and he was born just outside of Stern Rubber’s back yard.

Wild Weather Continues in Central Minnesota

After an already storm filled summer in Stern Rubber’s backyard, central Minnesota got another taste of mother nature’s ability, on Friday November 17th, when nearly 15 inches of snow accumulated in a little over a five-hour period.
With local weather stations predicting 12 to 14 inches of snow the entire week in the area, no one was really prepared for what blew in.  Quickly schools began canceling with only a few inches of snow on the ground Friday morning, but locals and travelers were soon overwhelmed by the blizzard that struck.  Heavy, wet flakes filled the air mid-morning Friday. The snow combined with the 40+ mph wind, caused the conditions to quickly change from common snow storm, to blizzard.

The unbearable conditions lead to less than one foot of visibility at some points, and even caused us here at Stern to shut down our plant and allow our employees to head home early so that they could ensure a safe return, and begin working on clean up.  Our general manager Bob Jackson said that this was only the second time in his 25 years here, that a snow storm had shut down the plant.
The storm lead to several jack-knifed trucks, minor collisions and vehicles stuck and abandoned on the roads all over the area.  Yet that was not the worst of it, as trees and powerlines came down due to the heavy load of snow scattered the area, blocking off roads and causing thousands to lose power through Friday night, and into Saturday and Sunday.  Crews from Crow Wing Power and Minnesota Power companies got to work as quickly as they could, while ensuring to stay safe in the less than fair conditions.  Ice covered lines, trees blocking roads, high winds and icy streets lead to crews having to quit early Friday evening, and return to work Saturday morning to restore power across the lakes area.
In the end, roughly 13 inches of snow accumulated across a large area, with the National Weather Service in Duluth saying that this November blizzard was one of the worst early season snow falls since 1983, when the Brainerd area accumulated 10 inches on November 13th.  The highest reported total in the local area was 20” in Leader, just 15 miles northeast of the Staples facility.  This early snow is just an extension of the devastating July storms that have pounded the lakes area over the last two years, and may be an indication of what our winter here in central Minnesota may have in store for us.

A Nobel Prize Rooted in Minnesota

Minnesota is famous for the Mall of America, Redwing boots, the juicy Lucy hamburger, and a very influential singer song writer, who was just awarded a Nobel Prize in literature. This individual is Hibbing native, Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan.
Dylan was born on May 24th 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up on the Mesabi Range, west of Lake Superior in Hibbing.  At the same time, my grandfather, David Jackson grew up in the same town, and later attended the same elementary school as Dylan.  After completing high school in Hibbing, Robert headed south to study at the University of Minnesota in 1959, and while he was there, his music career began to develop.  While in college, Dylan began performing at a local coffeehouse and became involved in the local folk music circuit.  As his popularity in the music business began to grow, his name soon changed, as Robert Zimmerman began introducing himself at gigs as Bob Dylan.  After a year of college, Dylan soon realized it wasn’t for him, and dropped out in 1960 to further his music career.
In 1962, Dylan got the opportunity he was looking for and signed his first contract with Columbia Records and released an album in March of the same year.  But things weren’t quite glamorous for Dylan right from the get go.  His first album sold only 5,000 copies and without help from supporter and musician Johnny Cash, Dylan may have lost his contract that first year.  With things a little rocky in the beginning, his career quickly took off when he began composing songs that many labeled as protest songs, including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rains a-Goanna Fall.”
In 1963, Dylan had an opportunity to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, and when he was told that his songs were potentially too controversial to perform on television.  So rather than complying with CBS’s censorship policy, Dylan just refused to appear.  As 1963 continued for Dylan, he soon released one of his most famous and controversial songs, The Times They Are a-Changin’. The song focused on issues regarding civil rights and was accepted by many, but rejected by a similar amount.  As Dylan’s fame continued to grow through the 1960’s, it was soon cut short by a motorcycle crash that took Dylan out of the lime light for a while.  After a long recovery and some time away from music, Dylan returned to touring in the early 70’s and was just as controversial, as well as popular.
As time continued into the 1980’s, Dylan’s performing career began to dwindle and he began to focus on writing more than being on stage, only performing small concerts and being part of the We are the World song in 1985.
In October, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.  Dylan’s poetic ability and influential writing style went not only in his songs, but also many others he wrote for.  Bob Dylan will go down in music history as a great composer, influential writer and very controversial individual.  Yet most of all, he will always be the young Robert Zimmerman from Hibbing, Minnesota, who has helped bring the land of 10,000 lakes into the lime light.

Stern Rubber Hosts Central MN CEO Class

CEO, which stands for Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities, is a high school class that allows students to get a real life business feel, while working outside of the class room.  Central MN CEO is a class that combines students from Staples and Wadena School Districts, and has them meet in a local business, while also having the opportunity to travel around, and tour other businesses in the area, with the overall requirement of starting their own business by the end of the class.  Now with CEO already being a fairly unique course, the one thing that makes it stand out even more in the community is it is entirely funded by local businesses, as well.  This community support comes mainly from wanting students to develop the skills need to start businesses in the local area, while also learning and developing skills they will need later in life.
For the first quarter of the school year, Stern Rubber has had the opportunity to host the class, and allow them to use our board room for meeting and collaborating about their many other business visits, and own business ideas.  Although the students are only in our facility for a short time, Stern Rubber continues its support for the program all year long.  Our General Manager, Bob Jackson is the Board Chair of the Central MN CEO Advisory Board, as well as our company has been an investor, and advocator of the CEO program since its beginnings in the area in 2014.  Along with hosting, and donating to the program, the students also get the opportunity to tour our plant as they did last week, and see how we take our work from raw materials to the final product.  Students are often surprised by the several different processes we use here at Stern, as well as that we make our own rubber compounds, which is something our team takes great pride in.  The one unique aspect of manufacturing that is different from other businesses the students experience is having the opportunity to see several departments.  From our team that works out on the floor producing our many products, to our quality team, HR department, sales division, and management, the students get to experience all aspects of a company that someday could be them.
As the CEO program continues to grow in the Staples area, Stern Rubber is proud to continue their support and have the opportunity to help grow the students from the local area, in the business world.  Stern’s hosting of the CEO class will end for this year, at the beginning of November, as the students head over to McKechnie Vehicle Components in Staples, to use as their “home base” for the 2nd quarter of the school year, and then they will meet in Wadena businesses for the second half of the year.
For more information on the CEO program, check out our blog from last fall on the beginnings of the program and how it came to the Staples area.

David Johnson – A Lifetime of Innovation

When we look at pioneers of a product, we often think of Steve Jobs for creating the personal computer or Thomas Edison for developing the electric light bulb.  Yet, not many think of one innovative pioneer who took the bumper of a Chevy pickup, and a grain silo conveyor belt, and developed one of the most popular recreational vehicles in the world.  The man I am referring to is David Johnson, one of the cofounders of Polaris Industries.
Johnson along with his cousins, and coworkers Edgar, and Allan Hetteen, formed Polaris in 1954, as a farm equipment repair shop.  Although the company focused mainly on serving the farmers and the local electrical co-ops, Johnson and two of his co-workers had other ideas.  With the stress of having a company to run, the men realized that they didn’t have time to ski back and forth to their hunting and fishing spots, twenty miles north.  In late 1955, with the help from his nephew Orlen Johnson and Paul Knochenmus, the three men used a car bumper for skis, a Briggs and Stratton motor, chains and other miscellaneous parts laying around the machine shop, to create Polaris’s first “snow traveler”, which took its first trip across a Roseau field in early 1956.  Soon after, Johnson and his team packed up their snowmobile, and headed across the country to try and find dealers who could sell this recreational wonder to fishermen, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.  As the idea of snowmobiles continued to build, Edgar Hetteen decided to boost the hype, and in 1960 took the Polaris snow traveler on a trip across Alaska.
Although the idea seems great now, the developing and marketing of the snowmobile, led to some financial hardship for Johnson and his partners in the early years, but the company battled through it, but not without help from its employees, who Johnson cared deeply about.  Johnson continuously gave credit to his employees for the reason Polaris succeeded, giving examples such as when the employees would work for several weeks without getting paid, and would constantly tell David to just pay them when he got the next contract.
This support from his employees is what led Johnson to offer profit sharing, and worker benefits to all employees, to make sure he could take care of them, the way they had taken care of him.  Johnson retired from Polaris in 1988, but was a permeant fixture of the office, and plant in Roseau Minnesota, and even gave some tours at the Polaris experience museum.  He was often seen walking through the offices and plant in Roseau.
Since the beginnings of Polaris in 1954, things have become about so much more than snowmobiles.  Johnson’s company had its first billion dollar year in 1995, and extended its production to ATV’s, side-by-sides, watercraft, motorcycles and more, which has led to it becoming the nearly 5-billion-dollar business it is today.
David Johnson passed away on October 8th, 2016, at his home in Roseau, Minnesota.  Funeral services will be held for David on Saturday, October 22nd at the Roseau High School Gym.
David enjoined riding snowmobile for his entire life.  Although he is gone, his passion, his kindness towards people, and innovative ability will live on in the stories, and hearts of outdoor enthusiasts around the world.
It seems fitting to close with a quote from a full page ad that Polaris created in David’s honor, when he retired in 1988, “Thanks David, it would have been tough sledding without you.”

Minnesota Duck Hunting

With the summer activities wrapping up in central Minnesota for the year, these colder, shorter fall days, brings the beginning of one of the Midwest’s most popular activities, waterfowl hunting. The duck and goose season in Minnesota began early morning on September 24th, where many hunters took to their boats, and blinds, with their dogs and shotguns, hoping to bag a limit of birds.
Minnesota is home to several different kinds of waterfowl, including mallards, pintails, teal, wood ducks, Canadian geese, snow geese, coot, and many more. This abundance of breeds, as well as growth in population, is expanding the hype around duck season in 2016.
The waterfowl population in Minnesota is at one of its all-time highs, over that last decade, and this just adds to hunter’s excitement. The DNR, as well as other groups’ work to improve wetland habitat throughout the state, has helped increase the amount of breeding ducks in Minnesota. This, paired with some great early fall weather thus far, has led to the opportunity for a good season.
The duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones, and over this time, thousands of Minnesotan’s will head to the many lakes, rivers, ponds, and fields to try their luck at gathering some trophy birds.

Father Hennepin State Park

As fall continues to progress in northern Minnesota, many locals, and even visitors, look for things to do on many of the nice days remaining, before winter sets in.  Minnesota has lots of beautiful State Parks.  Located about 40 miles from Stern Rubber’s Aitkin facility is the Father Hennepin State Park, which offers many fun fall activities.
Father Hennepin, which lies on the south side of Mille Lacs Lake, near Isle, MN, offers visitors 2 different campgrounds, with 51 electric sites spread throughout the wooded layout, available throughout the season.  Along with these great camp sites, the park also has several miles of hiking trails that carve through the beautiful Minnesota forests, and wind along the stunning Mille Lacs Lake.  Along with that, there are also two fishing piers, a couple of geocaches, a volleyball court and beach, as well as a horseshoe area.  On top of all these things to do, Father Hennepin is home to one of Minnesota’s only herds of albino deer, and if visitors are lucky enough, they may have the opportunity to spot this rare animal, along with many of Minnesota’s other native wild life.
Throughout the year, the park offers several different events including group hikes, animal information seminars, and meetings, but if you’re looking to stay, check out the DNR’s website for campsite information, availability, and events going on during your planned stay.
So the next time you are in looking for a campground, or a place to go hiking in central Minnesota, be sure to check out the Father Hennepin State Park, or any of the other wonderful State Parks, and maybe even stay a while when you do.