By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Despite having moved to a new location, few may actually know what goes on under the roof of the unique, family-owned business of Olsen Chain and Cable located on Olsen Boulevard in Cokato.
Many of the items manufactured there are used in the heavy construction industry to build large buildings and infrastructures, according to Jason Schmidt of Cokato, who has worked for Olsen as a purchasing agent for 12 years.
The company, which manufactures lifting devices used for cranes, is more simply called a “rigging shop,” Schmidt said.
Most recently, projects around the Twin Cities that have used parts made by Olsen Chain and Cable have included the new Gopher and Twins stadiums and the new 35W bridge.
“That was big for us,” Schmidt said about the 35W bridge.
“They used our rigging to put [the stadiums and bridge] up,” he added.
A family business
Olsen Chain and Cable has grown throughout the years since the Edina-based manufacturing company first branched out to Cokato in 1972.
The company was formed in 1950 by Gene Olsen, a Bloomington ironworker, who began making wire rope lifting slings on a vise inside his garage.
In 1955, Olsen made this his full-time job and in 1962, opened up shop in Bloomington.
Through the years, the company expanded, adding equipment lines and acquiring a sewing machine to fabricate nylon and polyester lifting slings.
Because Olsen was getting tired of the busy city life, he moved to Cokato, where he built a manufacturing and warehouse facility.
In 1978, Olsen’s daughter, Linda, and her husband, Sonny assumed the family business until 1995, when the third generation took over with their son, Dave and wife Catherine Camp.
Three years later a Moorhead plant was built, as well.
A growing business
To accompany continued growth, the Cokato plant expanded and added two more buildings before consolidating and building a new 47,000-square-foot facility in 2006.
The current building is 50 percent larger than all three of the previous buildings combined, explained vice president Dave Camp.
“This allowed us to streamline a lot of the manufacturing we do and expand our capabilities,” Camp said, which included hiring more welders and machinists.
The Cokato facility now employs 27 welders, machinists, fabricators, and sales associates, and 53 company-wide.
Throughout the 12 years Schmidt has been with the company, he has seen an increase in volume and diversity of customers.
For example, demand for wind tower generators has increased and “they’re using our lifting devices to put them up,” Schmidt said.
Up until 2009, Olsen Chain and Cable hadn’t been hit too hard from the down economy, according to Schmidt.
“September, October, and November (of 2008) were excellent for us,” he said.
Then, immediately after the new year, business dropped abruptly.
Schmidt said the drop is the result of a variety of reasons, but mainly the fall of the world economy as a whole.
He’s hoping that will soon change and the economy will once again be on the upswing.
Though business has slowed, the company hasn’t been forced to have any layoffs, Camp said, which is due in large part to their broad customer base.
Other items offered
Aside from welding and machining, Olsen Chain and Cable offers products for sale to accompany the needs of the heavy duty construction industry.
Some of the product brands sold are JD Neuhaus, Milwaukee, Weatherguard, Knaack, DeWalt, and Ridgid tools and equipment.
They also have a rental service on many tools, hoists, and hydraulics, according to Camp.
For more information about the products Olsen Chain and Cable manufactures and distributes, check out www.olsenchain.com or stop in to the Cokato location.