By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, MN Porta-Dock, a family-owned and operated dock manufacturing company, has been part of the Dassel business sector since 1966.
Brothers Brice and Brian Gillman are the current president and CEO of the company started by their father, Bob Gillman and his colleague Michael Linder.
Although this year is the 45th year of Porta-Dock being in business, it originally started as Dassel Welding in 1963.
Linder and Gillman had been working at Hutchinson Manufacturing, and decided they should quit and go into business together.
The first year in the welding business was slow, trying to pick up repair work. Gillman worked mostly on his farm that year, Linder wrote in a memoir for the company’s 40th anniversary.
That winter, the business partners decided the company should try to manufacture a product of its own.
Linder lived on Lake Jennie, and dreaded putting his 96-foot dock in the water, and taking it back out, year after year.
Some of the dock owners on the lake had made wheels for their docks out of old wagon wheels and boards, but nobody had tried to market them.
Although it was not perfect, Linder and Gillman had created their first dock on wheels and one of Linder’s neighbors bought it.
Over the next few years, the men worked at perfecting the dock with wheels in the midst of welding repairs, some custom fabricating, and Gillman’s farming business.
The business partners also bought a more suitable building to work in 1964.
The idea for how to make a better frame for the dock came from a Popular Science magazine, Linder remembered.
After the two men figured out a way to lift and lower the dock end in the water, they decided to patent their dock.
They soon had someone interested in becoming a sales representative, and their lawyer suggested they become incorporated.
Bob Regal joined the company, with all three men being equal shareholders.
Linder recalled sales of the Porta-Dock were slow at first, until Laurel Bigelow was hired, and the company began advertising during the Mel Jazz Late Night Movie on Channel 11.
The company continued to grow into what it is today.
“We have a quality product, well-supported by our dealers,” said Porta-Dock Marketing Manager Jay Miller.
Porta-Dock today manufactures a variety of boat docks, lifts and accessories, all of which the company guarantees will work with most any model boat, pontoon, or personal watercraft.
Dock frameworks are available in 4- and 5-foot wide sections, and come in various lengths.
All decking, in aluminum or cedar, is skid-resistant, and gentle on bare feet. Each decking panel fits within the aluminum framework, eliminating exposed edges.
Porta-dock offers a complete line of maintenance-free boat, pontoon, and personal watercraft lifts, with capacities ranging from 800 to 5,000 pounds.
With nearly 90 dealers, sales of its products are strong throughout the Midwest and into Canada, Miller said.
Last year the company sold nearly 400 boat lifts, 2,800 dock sections, and all the accessories that go with them, said Brian Gillman.
Most of Porta-Dock’s 25 full-time employees live in the area.
Miller credits the longevity of the company and the loyalty of its dealers in helping during the recent economic downturn.
Sales at trade shows this year are the best they have been for two years, Miller said.