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Nolan tours northern Minnesota ESOP companies

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota talks with Anderson Fabrics employee Karen Washington during a tour of the local company on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2017. Jordan Shearer / Forum News Service

BLACKDUCK, Minn. — U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., walked through the workroom of Anderson Fabrics in Blackduck on Thursday, Oct. 20, and came away impressed.

"It was so inspirational," Nolan said at the tour's conclusion. "The employees took over ownership in the company and now there's 300 people and they have all the business they can handle. It's a testimonial to the value of employee ownership."

Anderson Fabrics has had an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, since 2002. In August, the company paid off all of its initial debt from the employees purchasing the company and in September, the company added 22 new employees, bringing the total number of workers to 337.

Before his stop in Blackduck, Nolan went to Mann Lake Manufacturing in Hackensack, where he saw another ESOP and noticed similarities.

"They employ a similar number of people and have also gone to an ESOP," Nolan said. "When you walk through, you see how earnest, hardworking and how joyful they are. This is a model for every business in the country."

Nolan said the ESOP model is an idea he wants to bring back to Washington, where it can be included in laws to encourage employee ownership.

"This also greatly enhances 'American made' and it's giving a way for people to make a living in smaller towns and rural communities which aren't always available," Nolan said. "For me, it's all about creating more jobs and more opportunities in productive ways in smaller towns."

Along with Anderson Fabrics staff, Nolan was also joined Thursday by Blackduck Mayor Rudy Patch and City Administrator Christina Regas.

After Blackduck, Nolan went to Littlefork for a tour of the community's medical center where he discussed nursing bed shortages, rural healthcare and Medicare reimbursements, according to a press release.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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