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    GRAND RAPIDS, Minn., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- A recently announced loan of $500,000, made by the Blandin Foundation, brings to completion the funding needed for construction of a new manufacturing facility in Hibbing, Minn.  Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI), the grant recipient, plans to manufacture carrying containers ("totes") for three of the six regions of the United States Postal Service.  Sixty percent of the employees for the new facility will be individuals with handicaps.
    Once the Hibbing facility is fully operational, a second facility and a Northern Division Administration Office will be sited in Grand Rapids, Minn.  This second facility will provide a new direct service to the United States Postal Agency for the first time by MDI.  These two facilities will produce products and services under a federal Set-A-Side program designed to create career opportunities for individuals with handicaps or disabilities.  This same federal legislation requires that 75 percent of the enterprise's direct labor must be generated by individuals with handicaps.  This will mean that 60 percent of the total work force will consist of individuals with handicaps or disabilities.
    John DuRand, MDI president, said, "The Grand Rapids enterprise will create 300 new careers while the Hibbing enterprise will create 120 new career opportunities.  The Hibbing Plant will use state of the art sonic welding and U.V. silk screening to fabricate 3.2 million totes per year generating over $6 million in sales.  The Grand Rapids enterprise will provide Remote Key Boarding services to the United States Postal Service to process mail that is not readable by the automated readers."  The Grand Rapids facility is now being planned.  The Hibbing facility will open Jan. 15, 1992.  After the Key Boarding contract has been awarded for Grand Rapids, a facility will be built to house state of the art computer equipment to interface with the United States Postal Service system.  The total investment for Grand Rapids will be $6.1 million for 300 new job opportunities.
    The Blandin Foundation funds recently granted will be used for the acquisition of the technology, equipment design and other start-up costs of the project.
    Helping the Disadvantaged:  According to the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training, there are 13,000 handicapped people in Northeastern Minnesota:  1,200 of these people are seeking employment.  In Hibbing and its contiguous area, 453 handicapped individuals are seeking a position.  The MDI plant will offer career opportunities to this important labor pool.
    Investment Cost Per Job:  The Blandin Foundation's president, Paul Olson, said that the "cost per job at less than $2,500 is a modest investment to provide work, a viable product and reduction of the cost to the public of sustained unemployment."
    Northeastern Minnesota will benefit from the MDI boost.  When operations are in full swing in the Hibbing plant, 100 people will be employed.  This will bring MDI annual sales to an anticipated $13 million per year.
    Minnesota Diversified Industries:  Minnesota Diversified Industries has been in operation since 1964 when its founder, John DuRand, began working with individuals with handicaps.  Today, MDI operations employ 600 individuals at their St. Paul facilities.
    Northeastern Minnesota's employment rate still lags 2 percent behind that of the state as a whole.  In addition to diversifying the region's economy, the new manufacturing operation and the new service contract will have a positive effect on the viability of the area.
    The Blandin Foundation joins IRRRB and the Bush Foundation as funders and investors.
    Said Paul Olson in announcing the grant, "It is hard to imagine a project with more pluses and fewer negatives that the one put before us by Minnesota Diversified Industries."
    The Blandin Foundation is dedicated to improving the viability of Minnesota's rural communities.
    -0-                        11/1/91
    /CONTACT:  Kathryn Jensen of Blandin Foundation, 218-326-0523/ CO:  Blandin Foundation; Minnesota Diversified Industries ST:  Minnesota IN: SU: KD -- NY081 -- 0458 11/01/91 18:18 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 1, 1991

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