From my perch as someone who loves to watch how manufacturers nurture their companies from ideas into profitable, job-creating organizations, there is nothing I enjoy better than when Enterprise Minnesota® magazine peeks into their personal backstories.
One of my favorites appears in the upcoming issue of the magazine. In it, writer Sue Bruns describes how entrepreneurs Dennis Brazier and his wife Terri grew Central Boiler from a hobby into a company that has redefined the outdoor woodburning furnace.
Bruns describes how Dennis had shown the telltale signs of inveterate entrepreneurship even in high school as he independently invested his own money to farm 18 acres of his father’s land. By the time he married Terri in 1985, he had already built his first outdoor furnace, which she describes as a “pile of black metal.”
For those of you unschooled in Dennis’ obsession (which included me!), outdoor wood-burning furnaces — usually located 30 to 200 feet away from the house — present a safer, cleaner option to indoor wood-burners. They eliminate smoke, carbon monoxide dangers, and chimney fires. Within a few years, Brazier had found ways to improve on virtually every aspect of earlier designs, which were inefficient and inconvenient, according to Bruns.
Within 10 years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had declared that Central Boiler’s “Classic” had outperformed all wood furnaces it tested. By 2007, the Central Boiler E-Classic 2300 became the first outdoor wood furnace to receive a qualifying label from the EPA’s Outdoor Wood-Fired Hydronic Heaters program. In 2008, Vermont certified that the Central Boiler E-Classic 2300 met their emissions standards, the first outdoor furnace to do so.
Today Central Boiler consists of three companies that produce top-line outdoor Central Boiler and WoodMaster furnaces and Altoz lawn mowers. It employs 240 people in two manufacturing facilities and is North America’s largest manufacturer of outdoor furnaces. Central Boiler has sold a quarter of a million furnaces across the U.S., Canada and internationally, owning over half of the entire market.
In June 2021, The Star Tribune used employee surveys to name Central Boiler one of Minnesota’s Top 175 companies to work for. Central Boiler employees listed several benefits ranging from the company’s commitment to its employees’ health and safety to profit sharing bonuses and a 401(k) match.
“We’ve been an excellent team,” says Terri, now corporate officer/owner. “Dennis is the head; I’m the heart. He’s always had an engineering spirit. He does the product development; I work with the people and the things that make Central Boiler a good place to work.”
Look for the full feature story due out August 31st.
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September 9 – Automate with Purpose
Automation may seem like a straightforward solution, but can often be fraught with challenges and pitfalls. Greg Langfield will demonstrate a systematic approach to help you automate the right way. Online via Zoom Learn more and register
October 7 – A Model for Manufacturing Excellence Using ISO 9001
ISO certification expert Keith Gadacz will be discussing ways to take your operation from average to excellent using the ISO 9001 business management system. Online via Zoom Learn more and register
September – State of Manufacturing® focus groups
Manufacturing executives and leaders – join us in September for one of our Executive Focus Groups and gain insight into how your fellow manufacturers are approaching current economic issues and opportunities. Online and in person sessions available. Learn more and register
See more upcoming events
Minnesota Rubber and Plastics builds innovation center in Plymouth
The new 9,000-sq. ft. innovation center will house design, prototyping and tooling services to help customers accelerate their time to market. August 13, Plastics Today Read more
Milk Specialties acquires extruded protein facility for snacks, meat alternatives
Eden Prairie-based Milk Specialties acquired a processing facility in Clara City, MN from Kay’s Processing, to help meet growing demand for extruded protein products. August 13, NutritionalOutlook.com Read more
U of M president sees tremendous value in recent BioMADE award
Bioindustrial manufacturing seen as an engine for economic growth in Minnesota on par with the state’s food, agriculture and medical device sectors. August 10, Inforum.com Read more
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