By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN They may look like just tiny pieces of silicone, but anyone who’s worked at Sil-Pro in Delano knows better.
“We manufacture implantable life-saving components,” Sil-Pro President Kevin Carver said. “Any of these parts could end up saving someone’s life.”
Sil-Pro’s 125 team members take their jobs seriously, whether it’s designing equipment, producing a mold, or inspecting a finished component.
“We’re always thinking about the end product,” Kevin said, explaining that quality and accuracy are of utmost importance.
Many of Sil-Pro’s molded silicone pieces end up in pacemakers, defibrillators, or drug pumps.
Implantable drug pumps are often used to gradually dispense about a month’s worth of medication to cancer patients.
“Our seals keep body fluids from leaking in, and keep drugs from leaking out,” Kevin said. “If it leaks, the patient could die.”
Sil-Pro has a tremendous range of capabilities, and is able to generate functional prototypes that are transitioned into production.
“Most people are surprised when they come in here and see how much technology we have, right in Delano,” Kevin said.
Because of Sil-Pro’s ability to provide large medical companies with fast, consistent results, the company has grown considerably since it began in 1998.
Kevin’s father, Lee Carver, founded Sil-Pro at age 60, after a successful career as a plant manager in the rubber and plastics manufacturing industry.
“Without him, none of this would be here,” Kevin said.
Years ago, when Kevin graduated from Buffalo High School, he wouldn’t have expected to be part of an award-winning company with his father.
“Believe it or not, I was originally pursuing a fine arts major, for painting and sculpting,” Kevin said.
During college, however, Kevin was in a head-on car accident, which required him to be in rehab therapy for over a year.
“That was a life-altering event,” he said.
When he recovered, Kevin changed the course of his career, and became interested in owning a business.
He started out working full-time as an HMO representative for an insurance company, and later founded an acrylic aquarium manufacturing business.
“I chose that, because, when I was in a pet store in Minneapolis, I saw an acrylic aquarium and was impressed with how crystal clear it was,” Kevin said. “I was intrigued by what you could do with acrylic compared to glass.”
When Lee started building Sil-Pro about 10 years later, Kevin sold his company to his best customer and joined his father.
“I was excited about it,” Kevin said. “Being in the medical industry is rewarding. You know that you’re part of saving lives.”
Sil-Pro started out small, however, utilizing only a portion of its current location.
“We had no customers,” Kevin said. “We built a clean room, and hoped for the best.”
After the first few customers, though, business took off, and Sil-Pro now creates parts for companies like Boston Scientific, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson, to name a few.
“We have some high-volume customers,” Kevin said. “We could produce millions of parts per week.”
Although operations are in a Class 10,000 clean-room environment, there are full-length windows that provide a way for customers, schools, and organizations to tour the facility.
Kevin’s three children Ryan, 11, Grace, 6, and Nate, 4 also enjoy learning about the advanced robotics at Sil-Pro.
In the future, Kevin hopes to expand the business in another site in Delano.
“Being out here has been good for us,” he said.
This is part of a group of stories being developed for a “Best of Highway 12” booklet to be published in coming months and distributed to readers all along Highway 12.