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Our philosophy: Our most valuable assets are the businesses growing under our roofs.

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“If you have fun at your job and enjoy the people you work with, the customer can’t help but notice.”

A business record that extends back to 1877 is rare to find. But Patterson has not only endured for over a century, it’s thrived to the point that it is the second-largest dental supply company in North America. Marya Lessard, National Technical Service Manager, explains the company’s resilience as a result of its surprisingly simple customer service philosophy: “If you have fun at your job and enjoy the people you work with, the customer can’t help but notice that you’re smiling, that you’re in a good mood, and that you’re here to help. As long as my customers are happy, it’s a great day.”

The philosophy works. Patterson’s growth led to Lessard’s division outgrowing its space a decade ago. “Patterson as a whole is family-friendly, a great company to work at,” said Lessard. “So when we had to move and expand, my criteria came from that perspective: not too far away from our original location, near major highways to help everyone’s commute, and of course, amenities nearby. I thought hard about where people would go for lunch, and how they spend their time outside of these walls.”

The demands of the constant evolution of the dental business, along with the wide range of services and products that Patterson offers also meant that a new location would have to provide not just one specialized space, but several. “We have a lot of steam from equipment that is being tested, so we needed a space large enough for the machines as well as a space-specific ventilation system. But it would be right alongside the hand piece room, where more heat was needed. Again, our employee comfort and experience matters, because they in turn create the best experience for our customers.”

“Nowadays in today's dentistry, there are so many different new products that we work with that can make your dentist appointment nearly painless,” said Lessard. “So when we moved here, we knew the value of each person having their own space to do what they do best: making sure that our dentists have everything they need. We believe you can relax and enjoy being at your dentist appointment—it sounds odd but it's possible. Our people are committed to making that happen.

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“It’s evolving our business to be here.”

Being in the business of joy takes a lot of work. Just ask the folks at RAVE Sports, who, for twenty years, have offered non-stop summer bliss to people around the world. “At the peak of our season, we’ll be processing 2,000 orders a day,” said Bruce Senske, co-owner of the company with Steve Friswold. RAVE Sports manufactures and sources a vast array of water recreation products, originating with water trampolines. Over time, the company added wakeboards, waterskis, personal flotation devices, pool floats, stand-up paddleboards and a waterpark division—all providing unique storage and shipping challenges.

Adding to the complexity: a dramatic change in order fulfillment. RAVE had to adapt to a shift from early-season, one-time retailer shipments to season-long activity, fulfilling individual orders to consumers. Their space was incompatible with the constant flow of coming and going, so the search for a new company home began in 2014.

Because of the awkward and unusual dimensions of many water products, RAVE Sports had very specific needs. “We looked for three years to find the right space—one with high-cube storage with a minimum 34-foot clearance. It’s typically only available in larger buildings, which was our challenge. We wanted a smaller footprint that also integrated a space for marketing our products,” said Senske.

Despite the long search (conducted while managing the challenges of a too-small, inefficient warehouse), Senske was glad that he wasn’t tempted to settle for a good-enough solution. “You have to keep an eye out for what you really want. Brokers will bring you what they think you can get; but if you aggressively pursue what you really want and need, you can find a landlord that is flexible and willing to work with you.” Senske had spotted an available Meritex property that looked promising, but the square footage was greater than RAVE Sports’ needs. Sensing an opportunity, he took a chance and reached out personally.

“I wrote an email to Steve Dorff, the property manager, saying ‘I see that you guys help small businesses in Minnesota. I’m a small business. And I like your site.’ He called me, and though they originally wanted a tenant to take on a larger footprint, we figured it out.” RAVE Sports moved into its new home in March 2017, just as their peak season was kicking in. Senske commented that the move immediately proved its benefits: “Business had grown. Two years ago, a peak day for us might be 500 orders that we ship. Now, thanks to Amazon and other online retailers we serve, a common July day might include 2,000 orders. In our old warehouse, we logistically couldn’t handle that volume—here, we can manage twice that capacity if we need to.”

In addition to adapting the space, Meritex provided up-front help. “Our conference room was just an idea when we leased the space; they helped us fulfill our vision for our office. And since then, Meritex is always here on a regular basis, maintaining the building in really responsive ways.”

In their new space, RAVE Sports has gone from two shipping lanes to four, from two dock doors to seven, and from having operations fragmented over multiple locations to having everything housed under one roof. They’ve even easily managed significant growth, even though it has been a short run in the new location. Senske notes the best results of all: “This new space gives us the capability to do so many things moving forward: to store enough inventory to serve the market, to extend our product offering, to add a new line of camouflage wear, and to expand our presence as a recreational sporting good provider. Now, if we receive an order by noon, it’s out by 6 p.m. It’s evolving our business to be here.”

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“It was like two families moving in together.”

As a wing of a billion-dollar company specializing in high-tech products and services, you’d expect the Kaman location in Eagan, Minnesota to feel cold. Corporate. Impersonal. The opposite is true, and that’s by design: “We started in the basement of a home, and didn’t move into office space until there were 13 employees. We were forced to get an office, because we were sharing desks and juggling schedules,” said Lori Kowitz, District Operations Manager. “We made it work, but realized we needed to find a space that fits our needs as a business as well as a bunch of humans.”

While this particular Kaman division required a space that was functional and safe for combination of light manufacturing and assembly, it also had other specific business needs: “We are a motion control distributor, a systems control integrator, we offer onsite testing and customer training, and do applications engineering and assembly for large systems—and we need the freedom to do what we need to do on all these fronts,” said Kowitz. “We built our success by growing our customer sales. But the way we do that is to encourage growth in our employees, expanding their knowledge and skill sets through training. In turn, that keeps our customers happy because every Kaman person is meeting their expectations.”

The employee-focused philosophy of Kaman was put to a test in 2011, when a company was acquired by Kaman and needed to be integrated with an existing division, with both groups of employees relocating to a new space. “It was like two families moving in together,” said Kowitz. “We had a very large breadth of employees who travel quite a way to work, so we wanted to find a place that inconvenienced as few employees as possible.”

“In addition, we needed to find a location with large warehouse capacity, had proximity to the airport, and was one of the first drop-offs and last pickups for UPS, so we could take advantage of a bigger shipping window to serve our customers. And we found a place that made both groups feel good. It’s because we chose the place carefully, but we also chose the landlord we’d work with. That’s how we truly found a place that met all our needs.

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“Everything we envisioned when we looked at this space—all of it came true.”

Like many of today’s businesses, Twin Cities Moving Systems has its roots in an unexpected layoff. “I was downsized from a company I had been with for 22 years. My dad had been with them for 35 years,” said Kevin Mortland, owner and president of Twin Cities Moving Systems. “I thought, I could be bitter, or I could see if there’s a better opportunity out there. Six months later, a couple of partners and I started our own company. We had a warehouse, a couple of cell phones, and a card table with two lawn chairs.”

That card table and couple of chairs soon was replaced by a fleet of trucks and a vigorously growing business. “Our delivery company originally started with an 18,000-square-foot facility, and we thought it was huge,” Mortland recalls. In short order, the company was bursting at the seams, and had to add two auxiliary warehouses.

Mortland attributes the quick success to two things: his deep experience and being willing to quickly adapt to take on a big opportunity. “I started on the trucks and worked my way into the warehouse, then into operations and dispatch, then up through sales and sales management. I’ve done it all, so I know what it takes to get things done,” he comments.

The big opportunities, Mortland noted, come without warning. “One of our existing clients came to us and offered us more business if we expanded into a new market. That’s a no-brainer.” But the no-brainer could only happen in the right facilities, with the right processes—which Twin Cities Moving Systems had created in their Meritex space.

As shopping on the internet exploded in volume, the challenge of delivering purchases to smaller cities and rural areas initially proved formidable for retailers. “People in these outlying areas finally had access to more products, but shipping was slow and infrequent,” said Mortland. “We realized this, and started regularly sending trucks to the edges of Minnesota, to the Dakotas and beyond. It resulted in us growing at about 20%, year over year, and outgrowing our space.” A new building had to be found that could support their complicated, multi-step process that requires a small army to pull off seamlessly.

“We looked at this current space a year before we actually signed the lease, and couldn’t visualize how we would use it, because we had always used a space-intensive, floor-load process. But as we looked at other, larger footprints, we realized that the 32.5-foot clearance of this 80,000-foot space let us do business differently. Rather than spreading out, we could go up, and manage the ebb and flow that way. We made a huge investment in racking and order pickers, then designed office and break space to suit everyone’s needs.”

Even before the move was complete, the partnership that was forming between Twin Cities Moving Systems and Meritex was evident: “We had signed a lease and were mid-buildout. Unexpectedly, we hit a crisis point at our old location where we were totally out of space. Meritex let us move items into an adjoining empty area. They saved the day,” recalled Mortland.

In addition to the strengthening relationship, Mortland appreciates the effect the Meritex space has had on his teams from the start. “When our guys came to this building for the first time, the attitude change was unbelievable—it was like flipping a switch. The lighting here is spectacular—it makes inspections easy. The rack systems and the room to work make their jobs completely different; I think they felt defeated in our old warehouse. At some places, your landlord treats you like a number; Meritex folks stop in to say hi, the maintenance guy checks in on a weekly basis. Everything we envisioned when we looked at this space—all of it came true.”

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