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Harmony Enterprises, Inc. celebrating 50 years

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2012
Posted in Harmony Features

For the past 50 years, the small town of Harmony has been home to a large worldwide business, and many people aren’t even aware of what goes on there. Harmony Enterprises, Inc., known to the local residents as HECO, offers more to the world than can be seen when driving by the building.

The company was started in 1962 by a group of men that wanted to diversify the economy. Merlin Hoiness designed an ice fishing shelter, and soon they needed a building for manufacturing. The first location of Harmony Enterprises was where the American Legion Club is now.

Al Cremer was one of the first people to work at Harmony Enterprises. His son Don started in 1968, and his grandsons, Steve and Chris both work there now. Steve Cremer is the President, and Chris Cremer the Vice President of Operations.

“We’re just a small little business in Harmony, but we do business in 70 countries,” said Steve.

The number of products created at Harmony Enterprises increased over the years to include things like tent campers and roof lift systems. In 1995 they stopped sewing canvas and sold that part of the business to High Pointe Coverings. Right now, the business they do is mostly related to waste solutions, balers and compactors.

There is also an office in Toulouse, France, called Harmony Europe, which opened in April of 2011.

“It allows us to take care of our European customers on European time,” said Steve, noting the time difference between Minnesota and countries in Europe.

Garbage compactors of all sizes are manufactured right in Harmony and shipped all over the world to businesses that can use them. Steve explained many stores and restaurants, such as McDonalds, Chuck E. Cheese, Aldi Foods, Super Value, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sears and Lowes use them to save money on their garbage disposal costs. Compacting the large volume of waste they get in a day down to more manageable sizes means they are able to get less visits from the waste removal companies, saving a lot of money.

The latest invention produced at the factory is the Smart Pack. These are garbage cans that are at places like McDonalds and airports all over the country with an automated door that opens. After the waste is placed inside, it is compacted, saving time, space, and money. Steve explained the light goes on when it is full, and they are working on having them “communicate” with each other and with employees to help make things more efficient.

The company makes solar panels for other businesses, and uses them for their own products as well. Many of the balers and compactors are now being made to work on solar power.

There are about 60 employees at Harmony Enterprises, and eight at Harmony Europe.

“They are all local people,” shared Chris. “And they are all very smart. We have four engineers, and only one of them has an engineering degree. They are very hard workers.”

Chris added that one employee started working there as a janitor, and is self-taught, working now as a design engineer for the company.

Although the business has changed a lot over the years, the main mission is still the same.

“These creative people invented things that people didn’t have,” said Steve of the founders. “And 50 years later we are still doing complicated things. We are still getting patents. Over 50 years we have kept that innovation.”

In 2008, Governor Pawlenty awarded Harmony Enterprises with the International Trade Award for the State of Minnesota. They have been doing business internationally since 1989.

Steve went to college for accounting and finance, and that is his main focus of his job. Chris started working there out of high school, and spent the first 15 years learning the manufacturing aspect of the business. “It really helped me a lot to understand the operations,” he shared.

The plan for the future is to last at least another 50 years, continue designing and producing great products, and expand the business in Europe. An Open House to celebrate 50 years in business in Harmony is taking place on August 29, 2012, from 3-6pm with plant tours and a picnic-style lunch.

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