Impact invests in printing plant and solar power in north Minneapolis

Tim Johnson and Mark Anderson just invested $4 million to expand their Impact printing operation on the North Side of Minneapolis.

Impact has doubled employment to nearly 200 over the past decade through organic growth and several acquisitions. Some of this is in a marketing subsidiary called Infinity Direct based in Plymouth.

The company survived as demand for commercial printing declined amid the rise of digital devices, apps and electronic documents. Owners attribute success to customer relationships and employees who increase Impact’s value through technology.

“I couldn’t do a lot of work at this plant,” said Johnson, the company’s general manager. “It takes talent that I don’t have. I can help shape the culture.

“Most of our people live the values,” he added. “We want everyone to benefit. We try to make each other stronger. And we struggle less than the printing industry.”

In 2019, Johnson and Anderson spent $1.4 million, helped by tax credits and long-term incentives, for a solar panel atop their 150,000 square foot factory.

The move reduced Impact’s electricity costs. And a third of the installation is part of a “community solar garden” that benefits 36 low-income households and non-profit businesses in the Camden neighborhood.

Impact just posted another profitable year with revenue of around $50 million, the owners said. His list of long-time clients includes major windows Renewal by Andersen, Bluestem Brands and the non-profit Union Gospel Mission.

Both owners said they tried to create an employee-centric culture. Factory wages rose to $20 an hour for new hires and over $30 for skilled operators.

They regularly offered profit sharing. And last month, they paid a year-end bonus of several hundred dollars to each Impact employee after the company’s “messed up” budget, which is designed to cover the cost of mistakes and waste, which is well below the target.

“We view people as infinitely valuable and there is joy in investing in your people,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Anderson’s approach is rooted in their Christian faith which informs them to invest in workers and the neighborhood.

“It’s a great place to work,” said Kathe Voss, an information systems analyst of 15 years who came to Impact through an acquisition.

“We come together monthly to recognize and celebrate employees,” she said. “Tim talks about the company’s situation, shares financial results and answers questions.”

Johnson, 62, and Anderson, 60, grew up friends in Cambridge, Minnesota. They later became brothers-in-law when Anderson married Johnson’s sister.

Anderson was a banker. Johnson started out as a high school math teacher. He earned an MBA in Management Information Systems and worked for Accenture as a consultant.

The two bought Impact from Johnson’s father in 1989. At the time, Impact had annual sales of around $2 million, but that fell to $1 million after selling half of the company to a customer.

They acquired a vacant factory on the cheap at 4600 Lyndale Ave. N. for $68,000. They first rented most of the space to others. Since then, Impact has almost tripled the size of the factory and offices. The business was valued at over $10 million.

Johnson and Anderson’s technical and financial background helped Impact transcend mass mailings to targeted work, based on demographics, zip codes and other information.

The owners of Impact acquired the predecessor of Infinity Direct in 1999. The company added more analytical and marketing firepower for customers of Impact’s print operation.

Last year, executives decided to close a small printing plant in Winsted, Minn., as part of the plan to invest in new equipment and expand capacity in Minneapolis. Impact helped place the 25 employees with jobs in Minneapolis, with another printer in Winsted and with other employers.

“Anyone who wanted a job got a job,” Johnson said.

The company consulted with employees early and incentivized them with extra pay to stay at the Winsted plant until it closed to help transition production to Minneapolis.

“The leadership here serves the employees,” said Kurt Schwedler, 60, Impact account manager and print industry veteran. “We look for what’s best for each other and for the company. It’s the fabric of the company.”

Johnson and Anderson sell the company over the next decade to three employees in their thirties: Infinity Direct CEO Jake Bruhnding, and Bjorn Anderson and Erik Anderson, who are sons of Mark Anderson and also veterans of the ‘business.

“It would be quite easy in this consolidating market to sell [to a larger consolidator]”, Johnson said. “It’s far better to sell to [insiders who embrace the culture]. Mark and I are not going to maximize what we could get. But that’s not what drives us.

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