by Joni Astrup
Watch any NFL football game and it’s hard to miss the headsets worn by the coaching staff. Look closely and you’ll see the words ‘Motorolla’ printed in white on the dark band that runs across the top of the headset.
That print job is the work of a company that will be moving to Elk River this month.
Promo Products, now located in Ramsey, has purchased an existing building in the Elk River Industrial Park and plans to move there by the middle of March.
Promo Products has been in business for 11 years. Andy Isle is the president. His wife, Barb, and his son, Drew, also work for the company.
The NFL headset is just one of a wide variety of jobs they do. Andy Isle said they got the NFL headset job because they are one of only a few companies that can print with silicone ink — a very tough and durable ink that can stand up to rugged use.
Most of their work, however, is for medical or industrial customers.
They do pad printing, hot stamping and silk screening.
They’ve printed logos on coasters, manufacturers’ name on pacemakers and four-color pen caps used on the styluses for hand-held devices.
They have handled the intricate printing of increments on medical syringes and have printed all kinds of custom labels for water bottles for weddings, funerals, graduations, and companies’ promotional use.
They once even printed little faces on pumpkins.
Another unusual job involved printing custom golf balls for a Desperate Housewives golf tournament.
“We never know what’s coming through the door,” Isle said.
They’ve run jobs as small as 250 pieces and as large as one million.
They have no external sales staff and rely on referrals for their business.
“In order to do a lot of business you have to get referred a bunch of times,” Isle said. “You have to do quality work to get referred that much.”
Ronda Trisko manages quality control. She checks each employee’s work hourly to make sure they aren’t having any problems and that the final product is up to snuff. Each job has operating procedures and a sample of the final product, which the employee can refer to when printing the order.
Promo Printing has eight full-time employees, but expects to add two as it moves to Elk River and probably a couple more in the near future.
Isle said they work really hard to keep their employees. One incentive to stay is each year on the employee’s anniversary date, they get a bonus.
Business changed after Sept. 11, 2001
Andy Isle got started in the printing business in the 1970s, printing promotional fishing tackle for big-name customers like the NFL, NASCAR and major league baseball. The company was eventually bought out by business called Oxboro Outdoors. Oxboro also had a medical facility and Isle was its vice president before starting Promo Products.
Promo Products was going strong doing promotional items until the bottom dropped out after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“All the promotional things just stopped,” Isle said.
Since he was already familiar with the medical industry, he switched gears and found new business with medical companies. That, combined with work for industrial customers, is now the backbone of the company.
“We’ve become a custom printer,” he said.
Their new digs in Elk River are a 10,000-square-foot building at 19228 Industrial Blvd. They now are located in 6,200 feet of space at 7101 143rd Ave. in Ramsey.
One of the key attractions of the Elk River location is the building already has a “clean room,” something Promo Products needs for some of the printing it does for medical devices and equipment. They use temporary clean rooms now but are looking forward to a larger and more permanent set-up.
Promo Products is doing some remodeling to the building before moving into it. The city of Elk River’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) provided a $25,000 low-interest loan to Promo Products to help finance the work.
“Everybody from the city has been fantastic,” Isle said. “We’re really pleased and anxious to move to Elk River.”