General Pattern Thill  Reiland web1Enduring Decades and Generations

The Family Firm Institute (FFI) reports that only about 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, which drops to 12% in the third generation, and only 3% through the fourth generation and beyond. As a result, the average lifespan of a family-owned business is only 24 years. General Pattern of Blaine, Minnesota has survived 91 years, is just beginning its 4th generation and is for the first time, a woman-owned business.

Over four generations since 1922, General Pattern's product line has changed a lot from its early days as a pattern maker. It has served markets as diverse as toys and medical to transportation and household including electricity, electronics, communication, scientific, sports, machine tools and industrial products.

Today, General Pattern is a rapid prototyping, tooling and production company with nearly 100 employees. It focuses its resources on 50% Transportation, 25% Medical, 25% Test Equipment. We are a production company that makes its own prototypes, says Denny Reiland, the company's 3rd generation president and current chairman of the board, a practice that is unique to production companies.

Change or Die Philosophy >> Change without channel is chaos

Originally making patterns, General Pattern changed its processes to serve the toy industry for names like Tonka Toys, Hasbro, Mattel and others. When the toy industry shifted, General Pattern shifted as well and focused on the automotive industry. They opened facilities in Michigan and London and switched its machines to produce automobile parts. Later, as it became evident that the automotive industry was shifting, they once again transformed themselves to stay in business. Changing to a prototype, tooling and injection molder with dedicated painting, decorating and assembly operations taking prototypes to finished parts in one place.

Loyalty and Respect of Customers and Employees

We don't flit from flower to flower (flowers being customers and employees). We focus on a core of clients whom we often know more about than they know about themselves because we research their business and industry they serve, says Denny Reiland. Committing to lean manufacturing technologies and partnering with customers through structure and guidance allows General Pattern to produce parts in the most cost effective and time efficient way. Customers like Caterpillar and Bobcat benefit from General Pattern's prototyping and production processes just as Tonka Toys and the Detroit automotive giants did in the past.

The talent of employees is a recognized asset and General Pattern is committed to keeping their talent. Even when business slows, General Pattern chooses to find projects that will keep employees employed versus unemployed. In 2000, owners were facing a slow winter with little revenue; they decided to ask employees to design and build a life-sized Christmas village based on a miniature. Employees went to work duplicating the storefront of a European shop. The village has grown to more than 20 unique and highly-detailed buildings that employees, their families and General Pattern's customers can enjoy including an ice cream shop that actually serves ice cream.

Continuing the Legacy 4th Generation and Woman-Owned

In January 2013, Staci Thill, daughter of past-president, Denny Reiland, became the company's fourth-generation president making it a woman-owned business for the first time in ninety-one years. We will continue the company's long philosophy of focusing on customers, customer service, fostering partnerships and having fun while we do it, promises Thill.

What We Thought About the SBA Loan Process and CMDC

"CMDC's knowledge of the SBA process and their ability to guide us through the trail of working with the government made it all possible. We would have never figured it out on our own! Business owners should not be intimidated by the SBA loan process if they work through a local development company like CMDC."

The Facts:

Employees: 90 (as of December 2012)
Job Creation: Approximately 3 per year
# of Parts Produced in 2012: 3.5 Million
Facility: 7 individual plants maximize 130,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and warehouse space across 30 acres in Minnesota

General Pattern
3075 84th Lane NE
Blaine, MN 55449
Telephone: 763.780.3518