By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Drill Pipe Inc. is growing, and it shows.
President Tom Ronnkvist moved the successful drill pipe manufacturing company to Winsted in February 2012, and recently added more than 20,000 square feet to his operation.
“The reason we added on is because we’ve been busy,” Ronnkvist said.
At the moment, infrastructure construction and mining are Drill Pipe Inc.’s two most gainful industries. The company also produces drill pipe tools for geo-tech/environmental drilling and horizontal directional drilling, and is the first company in the US to manufacture a complete line of sonic in-hole tools.
“We’ve been fairly busy overseas,” Ronnkvist said, explaining that his company ships to several countries in many parts of the world.
With the new additions, Drill Pipe Inc. has 62,000 square feet of space in Winsted. About 13,000 square feet was recently added to the main building on 550 S. Third Street, which provided space for a new welding line, a new forging press, and other fabrication equipment.
“We’re more flexible now,” Ronnkvist said.
A second building, totaling about 8,000 square feet, was constructed about eight months ago. The space will soon be home to a heat-treating furnace, and will likely be operational in the spring of 2015.
The expansion enables Drill Pipe Inc. to offer larger pipe sizes, and helps eliminate material handling inefficiencies.
“It’s been helping us a lot already,” Ronnkvist said, adding that the new fabrication equipment has been in place since September.
Ronnkvist got his start in manufacturing at age 11, working for his father’s small business. He then took over the company after his dad passed away in 1987.
Before starting Drill Pipe Inc., Ronnkvist’s most recent manufacturing company had focused on the petroleum aspect of drilling. He later began Drill Pipe Inc. in a small-scale building in Long Lake.
Drill Pipe Inc. is involved in multiple industries, and doesn’t need to rely on one segment of the economy.
“Oil and gas are slowing down right now,” Ronnkvist said. “Waterwell drilling had been slow the past five or six years due to the housing market, but now it’s picking up. There seems to be some optimism there.”
In 2012, Drill Pipe Inc. employed 15 people. Now, the company has about 27 employees and is hiring more.
“We’re hoping a lot of kids from area high schools consider the new Dunwoody school, and learn a trade,” Ronnkvist said.
Drill Pipe Inc. is one of several area manufacturers partnering with Dunwoody College of Technology through Manufacturing Opportunities and Vocational Employment for Western Minnesota, LLC (MOVE), which recently helped bring a Dunwoody training center to Winsted. The first 16-week welding program began in October, and the next session will start in March.
Drill Pipe Inc. hopes to continue its growth pattern into the future.
“We’ll wait until spring to make a decision, but we’re kind of looking at more space again,” Ronnkvist said.