Ever heard of the company that employs about one-third of a MN town?

Expanding company loves their northwestern MN workers
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Ask someone in the Twin Cities if they've ever heard of Digi-Key and you may well get a blank stare. 

Ask that question in Thief River Falls and you may well be talking to a Digi-Key employee. 

The town in northwestern Minnesota has fewer than 9,000 residents ... and more than 3,000 people clock in at Digi-Key every day. 

What's more, the number of workers will be climbing. A ceremony Friday marked the start of construction on Digi-Key's big expansion. It's a one million square foot addition to their existing plant. It'll take four years to finish, but it'll eventually mean 1,000 more workers in Thief River Falls, the company says.

What does this company do?

Digi-Key is a big player in the electronics industry. They don't make electronic equipment themselves, though. They're kind of like the hardware store for all the companies that do make electronic gadgets.

When those manufacturers visit Digi-Key's website, they can find a selection of 1.3 million electronic components. They order the parts they need online and the workers in Thief River Falls fill that order, sometimes within 15 minutes

Digi-Key's vice president for administration, Rick Trontvet, tells GoMN their workers are the big reason for the company's growth. "Our customer service as a result of our incredible workforce here is really the driving catalyst," he says. 

From its start in Thief River Falls in 1972, Digi-Key has grown into a $1.8 billion global company. So – as much as they love their northern Minnesota workforce – they did look at other options for their expansion. 

But state lawmakers helped convince Digi-Key to stay in its hometown by providing a $5 million a year tax break through the Greater Minnesota Job Expansion program

Challenges that come with prosperity

When there's a booming company in a small town, it often creates a housing problem. Where are all the people arriving in town to work for this company going to live?

Mayor Brian Holmer says so far Thief River Falls has been keeping up pretty well. He's glad a different kind of housing problem didn't materialize. "If Digi-Key would've moved out, our city would've had a housing problem with way too many houses," Holmer told us. 

Digi-Key's Trontvet says Thief River Falls added 100 housing units last year and more are in the pipeline. Mayor Holmer says some of Digi-Key's workers drive in from other communities, so cities like Grand Forks, Bagley, and Bemidji have a role to play in the housing equation, too. 

In the near-term, he says, Thief River will get ready for the hundreds of construction workers working to build the expansion. For perspective, Holmer notes that Digi-Key's addition of a million square feet is a little bigger than a certain sports stadium you might remember called the Metrodome. 

Next Up

124906958_401361401236047_6293747214536025849_o

Pandemic pushes need for cybersecurity and I.T. professionals to forefront

University of Wisconsin-Superior is helping meet demand with online master’s programs

Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 5.01.58 PM

Body found floating in Minnesota River in Shakopee

Efforts to identify the deceased are underway.

Hennepin County Government Center

Judge finds suspect guilty in 1991 murder of young Minneapolis woman

A 58-year-old man from South St. Paul, who was 29 at the time, has been found guilty of stabbing a 20-year-old woman

northfield community education center

Northfield school fires employee who allegedly gave melatonin to infant

It's against district policies to give a child anything without a parents' permission.

state hockey tournament, mshsl

MSHSL approves 3 calendars to start winter sports as soon as Dec. 21

The start date will depend on whether the state shutdown is lifted.

hydrocodon-DEA

Drug overdose deaths up 31% in the first half of 2020

Overdose deaths started to increase sharply in March, which coincides with the state-ordered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.

los ocampos

Video: Vehicle crashes into St. Paul restaurant

The fire department is on scene addressing a gas leak.

covid-19, coronavirus

Latest county infection rates are sky-high throughout Minnesota

Kandiyohi County is one of the hardest hit counties in the state.

Jenna Fish

Family's warning after teen's tragic death from CO poisoning at Thanksgiving

A 17-year-old girl from Delano died after Thanksgiving due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Plainview

More than $12K donated to MN gym owner who refused to close

The small business is located in town in Wabasha County.

radio station, microphone

MPR, The Current launch new weekly segment called 'The Warming House'

The program will feature feel-good entertainment amid the pandemic.

Related

MN company accused of giving doctors luxury vacations will pay $12M

Feds say the MN company took doctors on luxury vacations

A MN company's suing to get Parrot drones off the shelves at Target, Best Buy

Here's why a MN company wants retailers to stop selling them.

Heard about 'slack fill'? It's why the makers of Raisinets are getting sued

The lawsuit says consumers are tricked into thinking the box is full

Harvey took their pillows, but a MN company is giving them more

MyPillow founder is donating a second batch to the Gulf Coast

SICK plans Bloomington

'Mystery company' behind tech hub near MOA is revealed as SICK

The German company wants to expand its presence in Bloomington.

A stem cell research company won this year's MN Cup

StemoniX, a stem cell research company, has won the 2016 MN Cup.