The Ranger - Aug. 2

department of iron range resources and rehabilitation

The Ranger 

Aug. 2, 2018

Castle Danger Brewery

Development infrastructure leads to economic prosperity

Castle Danger Brewery

Castle Danger Brewery recently expanded its production capacity by adding an 8,400 square-foot packaging hall adjacent to the company’s existing production facility and taproom in downtown Two Harbors. The expansion was made possible by a development infrastructure grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation to the city of Two Harbors. 

The brewery has been on a significant upward trajectory since 2014 when it produced 1,500 barrels annually and was ranked 14th among all Minnesota breweries based on sales revenue and shipments in the state. In 2017 it ranked sixth in the state and produced 14,800 barrels. The company is expected to produce 19,000 plus barrels this year in its new packaging hall. Castle Danger was approaching capacity in its old footprint. The expansion created greater efficiencies and has more than doubled its capacity. Additional coolers, tanks and fermenters were added to the new hall, and the company now has room for long-term growth of up 40,000 barrels per year.

“Infrastructure is absolutely essential to a healthy, prosperous economy and community,” said Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation commissioner. “Our agency invested in the Two Harbors water system which directly supported a business expansion, strengthened connected industries such as construction and tourism, and created jobs.”

The company employs 28 people in Two Harbors, six of those have been added since the expansion. An additional six full-time and 35 part-time employees serve as salespeople and ambassadors (or street team members) throughout the state.

The expansion boosted three segments of the economy including the construction trades, tourism and food industries. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters and others were employed during the building phase. Thousands of tourists now visit the tap room in downtown Two Harbors where guests are permitted to bring in their own food, most of it being takeout orders from local restaurants and food trucks.

Two Harbors native Clint MacFarlane was a home brewer for five years before founding Castle Danger in 2011 with a 700 square-foot brewery. As Clint and his wife Jamie grew their business, they brought in family members Lon and Mandy Larson as business partners in 2014 to manage sales, financial and human resources.

Castle Danger beer is distributed in Minnesota and select border towns in North Dakota and Wisconsin, but the company’s focus is to keep its story and roots local on Minnesota’s North Shore and capitalize on the competitive advantages of Two Harbors.

“Two Harbors has great competitive advantages for our business, the biggest one being Lake Superior as our water source,” said Clint.  “Lake Superior has exceptional water quality with very low mineral count so we don’t have to spend a lot of time and money on filtering.”

Another advantage is the organic sales growth the company has as a result of North Shore tourism. “People visit the North Shore, try Castle Danger beer during their vacation, and then return to their hometowns and buy it in their neighborhood stores,” said Lon. “Another significant competitive advantage is the work ethic of the local workforce. The people and workers of Two Harbors are exceptional.”

According to Lon, the craft brewing industry is maturing quickly on a national level, but has room for growth on a regional level due to the consumer demand for locally made craft beer.

“The infrastructure expansion was very important to our community,” said Dan Walker, Two Harbors city administrator. “Castle Danger set their roots here, our downtown was revitalized, and our citizens have a good place to work.”

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation also supported this project with a loan guaranty. 

Visit the Castle Danger website.

Organic food company in Silver Bay supplies products across North America

Wildly Organic Products

Wildly Organic is an independently owned organic food company located on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Originally founded and named Wilderness Family Naturals in 2000 by Ken & Annette Fisher, the company was purchased in 2015 by Chris Toal upon the couple’s retirement. Toal had worked in the food and beverage industry for companies such as The Pillsbury Company (now General Mills) and Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis for 24 years and had a long term goal of transitioning into the organic foods industry.

Toal focused the company's product line, updated packaging, re-branded to Wildly Organic and began working to grow the business by introducing its products into retail outlets. Until 2017 the company had focused primarily on e-commerce, or direct sales to customers through an online store.

Wildly Organic still operates its online store, but its products are now sold in natural food co-ops and stores across Minnesota as well as a growing number of stores particularly throughout the Midwest and east coast. In the last seven months, its products have been picked up by United Natural Foods (UNFI) and KeHe, the nation’s two largest organic food distributors. Other retailers that have recently added Wildly Organic products include Dean's Foods in New Jersey, My Organic Market in Washington D.C. and Coborn's in Central Minnesota.

“Over the past two years we’ve improved our online store, invested in our enterprise and operating systems, enhanced our sourcing and quality control programs, and expanded our selection of non-GMO and Fair Trade products, and of course, updated our packaging and brand identity,” said Toal. “All of this has helped develop a substantial distribution reach into national organic food outlets.”  

Located in Silver Bay’s Mary MacDonald Business Center (a former elementary school building), Wildly Organic has 17 full time employees based in Silver Bay along with a sales director in the Twin Cities and brokers throughout the Midwest and eastern United States. It is in Silver Bay that the company packages and produces its organic products. The company focuses on products related to coconut oil (it has the broadest line in the United States), cocoa, and nuts and seeds that are soaked and dehydrated (as opposed to roasted) to maintain greater nutritional content.

Toal cited the top two competitive advantages of being located in Silver Bay as the local workforce and community support. “It is difficult to find employees in other parts of the nation that are as hardworking and dedicated as those in Silver Bay,” said Toal. “We are proud to be located in this community and operate out of a reuse building owned by the city.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), consumer demand for organically produced goods has had double-digit growth most years since the 1990s. “Millennials have had a major impact on the food industry,” said Toal. “They are very concerned about what they are consuming and feeding their families, and as a result the traditional big food companies are struggling to grow.”

Wildly Organic was assisted with a bank participation loan by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. A bank participation loan is a low interest co-loan made to a borrower by the agency and a private lending institution. Businesses must be headquartered within the agency’s service area to be eligible candidates. Email Scott Sundvall for more loan information or call him at 218-735-3015.

Visit the Wildly Organic website.

MDI begins to fill 160 new positions, many in northeastern Minnesota

MDI Open House

MDI hosted an open house on July 26 at its Hibbing location. The non-profit manufacturer of standard and custom corrugated plastic is in the process of filling 160 positions throughout its six locations in Grand Rapids, Cohasset, Hibbing and Minneapolis. Most of the new positions will be in Hibbing and will help fulfill a surge for postal service orders as well as the organization’s steady increase in commercial sales.

MDI also provides assembly and environmental services. For over 50 years, MDI has provided meaningful employment in an inclusive environment with nearly half of its 400 employees being people with disabilities. MDI was supported by development infrastructure and workforce grants from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation through taxes paid by Minnesota’s mining industry.

To apply or learn more, text 218-313-1700, visit, or contact Express Staffing at 218-326-9461 or Always There Staffing at 218-440-1022.

Wolf Center billboard campaign boosts attendance

International Wolf Center Billboard

The International Wolf Center of Ely works to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The facility’s interpretive center features exhibits, programs and live wolves and is a major tourist attraction in northeastern Minnesota that averages 38,000 annual visitors in non-pup years and 45,000 in pup years. The Wolf Center also conducts educational outreach through classroom visits to more than 13,000 school students each year.

The organization launched a new billboard campaign two years ago and added 5,300 interpretive center visits in 2017. With a Culture and Tourism grant from Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, additional billboards were added this summer to travel corridors leading into the region. According to Wolf Center officials, the new billboards are expected to further increase attendance.

Learn more about the International Wolf Center.

Businesses encouraged to attend "On the Road with Admin" sessions

Minnesota Department of Administration Logo

The Department of Administration’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and the Office of Equity in Procurement (OEP) are hitting the road to talk about resources that are offered to businesses wishing to work with state and federal government entities. Topics will include:

How Things Get Done
Get a vendor ID number, register to receive notices of state bids and contracting opportunities, understand why you should register in SAM and how to receive bid opportunities. Learn what should be included on capabilities statements and business cards, and what an appropriate business email address looks like.

Introduction to Government Contracting
General overview of all levels of government contracting, what to expect, where to look for opportunities, as well as available certifications.

Doing Business with the State/State Certifications 
Learn how Minnesota is working to improve opportunities for small businesses throughout the state, the new online certification portal, the benefits of certification and more!

Opportunities in Your Backyard
Representatives from state agencies around Minnesota will present information about procurement and contracting needs, and will be available for networking. Invited agencies include: Department of Transportation; Department of Natural Resources; Military Affairs; Pollution Control Agency; Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation; Duluth Transportation Authority.

Register for one of the following sessions:

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 12:30 to 4 p.m.
UMD Center for Economic Development
Register for the Duluth session.

Wednesday, Aug. 22, 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Mountain Iron Community Center
Register for the Iron Range session.

Club Entrepreneur offers "Frontier Tech" event

Andrew Murphy

Club Entrepreneur will host a luncheon and networking event entitled "Frontier Tech - The Wave Of The Future" on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at the Northland Country Club in Duluth at 11:30 a.m.  

There are always little waves going on in technology, but roughly every ten years there is a transformative wave-- the PC in the 1980s, the internet in the 1990s, and the smartphone in the 2000s. Andrew Murphy, a managing partner and co-founder at Loup Ventures, will discuss how the next big wave will be created by frontier tech: a combination of automation technologies (AI, robotics) and experiential technologies (VR, AR, neurotech). 

Club Entrepreneur is a community of business professionals who meet monthly for networking, idea sharing and presentations from some of the country’s most respected innovators, catalysts and thought leaders. During each lunch hour session, participants are able to enjoy a meal, chat with peers and strengthen their network of personal and professional relationships.

Learn more and register for the Frontier Tech event.

Pictured is Andrew Murphy of Loup Ventures.

The Ranger is a publication of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. Our mission is to promote and invest in business, community and workforce development for the betterment of northeastern Minnesota.