For The Record with Peter McDermott, President and CEO & Barb Majerus, VP of Sales, MDI

June 21  

Peter McDermott is president & CEO of Minnesota Diversified Industries, Inc. (MDI). Previously he served as president of Itasca Economic Development Corporation which is a county wide nonprofit economic development organization in northern Minnesota. He has served on a wide variety of nonprofit boards including chairing the United Way of 1000 Lakes and the Grand Itasca Hospital and Clinic boards. He is currently on the board of the Northland Foundation serving northeast Minnesota. His for-profit experience includes six years in public accounting in St. Paul and twenty years in senior management positions including three years in New Zealand. He served as chief financial officer of UPM Blandin Paper in Grand Rapids and Cirrus Design in Duluth. He is a CPA (inactive) with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Babson College. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife Charlotte.

Give us the MDI elevator pitch

MDI is a trusted nonprofit social enterprise with the mission to provide employment opportunities and services for people with disabilities. We create high-quality plastic containers to ship, pack and protect products, offering unparalleled product assembly and packaging services for organizations across the country, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. We offer an inclusive workplace that allows employees to build confidence, independence and purpose.

We currently employ 362 people, 173 of whom have documented disabilities, across our four Minnesota locations in Minneapolis, Hibbing, Grand rapids and Cohasset. One of our biggest customers is the United States Postal Service (USPS), for which we’ve assembled more than 97 million plastic totes since 1993.

What has COVID-19 meant to MDI thus far?

While we have been deemed an essential business through our work supplying USPS and others, our services business has softened. However, our focus has been to protect and support our employees. People with disabilities commonly have underlying medical conditions and are at a higher risk of infection. Because of this and out of an abundance of caution, MDI asked employees that come to work on public transportation or live in group homes to stay home beginning on March 18. Several of our employees are on furlough due to the pandemic, some for personal reasons and others related to reduced business.

As a business, how are you navigating through this “new normal?”

Health and safety have always been important to us at MDI, but COVID-19 has driven us to be more creative in how we operate to ensure our employees are safe and that we can continue to provide quality services to our customers. Right now, employees that can work from home are doing so. Social distancing best practices are in place throughout all our facilities, and all events and in-person meetings have been canceled, making us experts at using Zoom. While we are all learning together and as we go, only time will tell what this will mean for our operations going forward. Leadership is focused on bringing people together even while we maintain physical distance.

Barbara Majerus is the vice president of sales for MDI and has served in a leadership capacity at MDI for seven years. For 20 years, Barbara held multiple executive leadership roles at for-profit manufacturing organization ADC Telecommunications (Tyco Electronics). Barbara holds a Master of Science in Leadership degree from Capella University and a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of St. Thomas. She is a graduate of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program and serves on the board of Hill City Assembly of God. Barbara was elected board member of the Allina Hospice Foundation board July 24, 2018.

What is the scope of services MDI offers to the medical community? 

At MDI, we offer a variety of services to the medical community including packaging, kitting, custom assembly and fabrication, product rework and inspection services, and custom patient drapes or covers. In 2018, we expanded our offerings by creating a white room area for products that require segregation or specialty handling, and became FDA registered and ISO13485 certified.

As a company who is part of the supply chain, talk about the changes you’re seeing in the medical market.

We’ve seen a decrease in demand for non-essential products, with COVID-19 related products and supplies such as personal protection equipment (PPE) taking priority. With the very urgent need to meet the current demand for these products, companies are looking for U.S. suppliers that are flexible and agile enough to increase production quickly. For instance, MDI began assembling face shields within 48 hours of being asked to assist another manufacturing organization. We’re also seeing a relaxing in standards by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) during this time.

With a lack of available supplies, many companies are looking for the same raw materials to support PPE. Because of this, there’s a greater interest in considering alternative suppliers and diversifying purchasing spend to reduce risk.

What does the customer mindset look like now and in a post COVID-19 era?

Right now, we’re seeing customers engage more with U.S. manufacturers. In the future, once FDA standards go back to normal, cleanliness of environment and precise procedures to prevent the spread of any virus or disease will be critical. At MDI, we have proactively implemented many practices to protect employees and customers and to maintain supply chain reliability as we anticipate an increase in market demand later in 2020 and into 2021.

While COVID-19 response will remain a top priority, companies will also be aggressively looking at ways to increase and recover revenue and profits, and they will look for partners that can help them do that successfully.

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