How did Minnesota become a center for window manufacturing?

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Minnesota is home to some of the largest window and door manufacturers in North America.

Bayport-based Andersen Windows & Doors and Warroad-based Marvin are among the best-known brands in their industry. And they’re not the only major companies in the state making windows and doors.

Other Minnesota window and door companies include Lindsay Window & Door in North Mankato; Hayfield window and door in Hayfield; and Vector Windows & Doors in Fergus Falls.

In fact, Minnesota has the second-highest concentration of window and door manufacturing jobs in the United States behind Iowa, with more than six times the national average, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. States analyzed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Reader Erik Holmstrom, who lives in Roseau, less than 25 miles from Warroad, wanted to know how Minnesota became a hub for this industry. Holmstrom moved to Roseau about a year ago and was surprised by the vastness of Marvin’s Warroad manufacturing facility. He sought answers from Curious Minnesota, the reporting project powered by Star Tribune readers.

The answer is partly due to the many white pines that made Minnesota one of the main lumber markets in the early 1900s.

Origins of logging

Logging was a big industry in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But the high logging pine forests of the northeast were being depleted, so logging was shifted in Minnesota, said Phil Donaldson, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Andersen Corp.

Minnesota became a lumber hub because of its vast white pine forests, which were highly desirable for residential construction, Donaldson said. Rivers, including the Mississippi, allowed logs to be transported to sawmills, where they could be processed and shipped to markets around the country.

In 1903 Hans Andersen, a Danish immigrant, founded Andersen Lumber Co. in Hudson, Wisconsin. The company moved its offices to the Stillwater area years later.

As a direct impact of the Industrial Revolution, Minnesota lumber companies like Andersen sought machinery to turn their lumber into engineered lumber that could support the construction of more homes, schools, ships, boats and shops. This resulted in production facilities capable of making more wood-based items repeatedly, more efficiently, and at a faster rate.

It was about a decade after the company was founded that Andersen opened its first manufacturing facility in Bayport, which remains its largest plant.

“What happened in the early 1890s was that the geographic front line of the lumber industry ran through Minnesota and at the same time the Industrial Revolution was brewing,” Donaldson said.

Two years after the company started, in 1905, Andersen pioneered the two-beam method, allowing windows to be assembled on site in less than 10 minutes. In 1932, the company’s main casement window became the industry’s first fully assembled window.

This period also led to the creation of more glass companies in Minnesota, which currently has the ninth highest concentration of jobs for this specific industry in the United States, according to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. . Andersen does not make its own glass, but has sourced its supplies from Eden Prairie-based Cardinal Glass Industries for 50 years, Donaldson said.

In the early 1950s, new products allowed Andersen to double the number of its employees from 500 to 1,000. Today, nearly half of the company’s 13,000 employees work in Minnesota, Donaldson said. .

Marvin’s post-war expansion

Marvin’s transition from lumberyard to window maker occurred several decades later, in the 1940s.

In 1904 George G. Marvin came to Warroad to manage a grain elevator and lumber yard for the Canadian Elevator Co. When the business moved Marvin remained at Warroad and founded the Marvin Lumber and Cedar Co.

In 1939, George Marvin called his son home from General Mills to help with the family lumber and cedar business.

William Marvin saw an opportunity to expand the business with woodworking machinery, but he also felt responsible for expanding the business “because he was afraid his friends and community members would not come in. home after [World War II] if there was no work,” said Christine Marvin, director of marketing and corporate experience and granddaughter of William Marvin.

“That’s what drove him and motivated him at the time, to provide work for people to come home,” she said. “We happen to make windows and doors.”

During the war, in addition to windows, Marvin made ammunition boxes, life jackets and even had a contract with Campbell’s Soup Co., Marvin said.

At the end of World War II, Marvin was Warroad’s main employer, Marvin said.

Today, Marvin has more than 7,000 employees in 16 cities across North America, with about 2,000 people working at Warroad’s headquarters and factory, Marvin said.

A major employer

Marvin and Andersen employ about 20,000 people combined, and each company generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, according to Window + Door, a publication of the National Glass Association.

In general, the Midwest is a hub for door and window manufacturing. The other familiar window and door brand in the area is Pella Corp., based in Pella, Iowa. Wisconsin is home to Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. and Weather Shield Manufacturing.

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, window and door manufacturing in Minnesota employs 6,915 people at 48 employers. The average salary of workers at these companies was over $86,600 last year.

In Minnesota alone, these industries contributed approximately $929 million in gross regional product production in 2021. Minnesota ranked 14th among U.S. states for window-related exports.

In 1961 Marvin’s factory at Warroad was destroyed in a fire. Many towns outside of Minnesota offered the family attractive incentives to move, but they refused and rebuilt at Warroad instead.

“It was always ‘This is our home’ and we’re going to rebuild it,” Marvin said.

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