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22 jobs for Wadena

At least 22 jobs will be created in Wadena when the move of Innovative Surfaces, a recent acquisition of Homecrest, is complete, according to business subsidy paperwork submitted to the Wadena City Council.

And Homecrest majority owner Mike Bullinger said the picture might be even rosier than that.

Bullinger and Bruce Gorghuber represented the local manufacturer during a subsidy hearing April 14. They worked with Wadena Economic Development Director Dean Uselman to put together a package that includes JOBZ designation and investment loans through the state.

Bullinger said Innovative Surfaces is a company now based in Phoenix that will move its operations to Wadena, creating at least one management job, one sales job, and 20 production positions. The company also creates synergies with Homecrest's line of outdoor furniture, which can use tabletops and other products from Innovative Surfaces in its own line.

Bullinger said the purchase of Innovative Surfaces was a game-changer for the recently rescued Homecrest plant. He related a story of when the revived company was at a trade show in Chicago shortly after reopening.

"Everyone came to the booth and asked, 'how long are you guys going to be around?'" Bullinger said.

But several months later, after Homecrest announced it was acquiring Innovative Surfaces, the talk was much different.

"The talk of the show was, 'Wow, Homecrest bought Innovative Surfaces,'" Bullinger said. "No one came up to us and asked how long we were going to be around."

Bullinger said the 22 jobs will be added to the roughly 70-80 current employees at Homecrest. Innovative Surfaces will move its operations from Phoenix, Ariz., to Wadena.

He said there could be more than 22 jobs at stake over the long haul.

"We believe in the long term ... we should far exceed it," he said.

Council member Don Niles praised the entrepreneurs.

"This looks like an excellent opportunity for the city," Niles said. "I hope it brings you all the success that it looks like it will."

An added upside to securing the state loan, Uselman explained, is that the city gets to hold back 20 percent of the money as a local revolving loan fund, which can be lent to future businesses to help them expand.