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Aeropipe fills Parker Hannifin void in Deerwood; CEO returns to lakes area after career spent coast to coast

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Joe Rosemont talks about Aeropipe starting up in Deerwood. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 8
Aeropipe is bringing 50 full-time, well-paying, unionized jobs with full benefits, from engineers to office staff to receiving to the former Parker Hannifin building in Deerwood that was shuttered in 2016. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 8
Exterior of Aeropipe starting up in Deerwood. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Videov4 / 8
During a tour of the facilities, Joe Rosemont talks about Aeropipe starting up in Deerwood. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video5 / 8
Logo on the side of an Aeropipe vehicle in Deerwood. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video6 / 8
Exterior of Aeropipe in Deerwood. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch7 / 8
Exterior of Aeropipe starting up in Deerwood. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch - Video8 / 8

DEERWOOD—Fifty jobs may not seem like much to an outside observer, but when that fills a hole the size of Parker Hannifin—or roughly equal to a tenth of Deerwood's population—then maybe the arrival of Aeropipe and what it means to this tiny town makes a little more sense.

Fifty full-time, well-paying, unionized jobs with full benefits, from engineers to office staff to receiving, and—wait, there's more—room for future expansion. Not a bad deal for a site on Front Street that—going back to the sudden departure of manufacturer and jobs-creator Parker Hannifin in 2016—stood as an empty shell of has-beens, a far cry from what it was and what it now will be.

No doubt, the coming of Aeropipe is a boon for Deerwood, Mayor Mike Aulie said, especially considering every business vacancy in the town has now been filled. What often gets lost in the shuffle, he noted, is how much these jobs benefit communities across the lakes area.

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Business: Aeropipe.

  • City: Deerwood.
  • Number of Employees: 50.
  • Interesting Fact: Aeropipe, which uses advanced material to manufacture liners for leaky high-pressure pipes, is 100 percent environmentally friendly, according to CEO Joe Rosemont.

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"From the standpoint of the city of Deerwood, we're pretty excited," Aulie said. "It was a loss when Parker Hannifin moved, we understood why they were doing it. ... It's a little town. Between Aeropipe and Magnum (Machining), it's going to be a lot of local jobs, bringing in work for local people."

Aeropipe represents a joint venture between a host of corporate entities—the likes of Infrastructures Technologies LLC, Lyuna, Onset Capital Partners, Composite Consultants, Specialty Composite Systems and others. However, the central figure who ties this intricate web together is Joe Rosemont, CEO of Aeropipe.

Rosemont—a Yale drop-out with a penchant for talking shop about corporations at a mile-a-minute pace—draws upon an array of roles, experiences and business environments in his own work.

Originally a son of Pillager, Rosemont's path has taken him to Connecticut and New York, then to the West Coast in San Francisco and Los Angeles, down to the Arizona desert and other locations—as such, Aeropipe's arrival in Deerwood represents something of a homecoming for Rosemont as well.

One lesson from his career? A general dislike for corporate models that put short-term returns over long-term research and development—a philosophy, Rosemont noted, that ultimately makes a company profit more and ensures a product both producer and customer can be proud of.

"A lot of companies have done away with (research and development) altogether, because when you answer to stockholders and all that, it all comes down to return on investment," said Rosemont, who noted that by bringing together the capital to form Aeropipe, the venture essentially gives him the tools and wiggle room to run the operation more to his liking.

So what is the gist of Aeropipe's business model?

"Essentially," Rosemont said. "(It's) taking technologies the government had been using for years and years, making them cheaper and more efficient and usable for the civil and structural market."

Then, what is Aeropipe as a product?

"Aeropipe is a very advanced material used—in the aerospace industry—to repair aerospace (vehicles), like planes," said Rosemont, who said the aerial form of the technology is about 15 years old, while Aeropipe in its current form goes back to about 2013. "Then we decided to take that technology, reduce the properties a bit and reduce the cost, so that we have a pipe liner so that could repair infrastructure."

About 20-30 percent of water loss in the United States is tied to leaky pipe, Rosemont noted, and—at least for now—Aeropipe is going to primarily deal in the high-pressure water piping. It's a niche market with little competition—a niche market, as in a $20 billion industry, to say nothing of the nuclear, oil, industrial, gas, sewer and storm water, and other forms of piping. Rosemont said Aeropipe will be primarily selling to municipalities, at least initially.

By inserting aeropipe as an internal sheath, miles of heavy, buried piping can be repaired and sealed with minimally-invasive procedures—this, compared to the difficult range of options, from sealing individual leaks to replacing entire pipelines with old-fashioned manpower and hardware.

Calling it the "main step," Rosemont noted the Deerwood facility is one of a group of sites that make up the multi-step process to create Aeropipe. While the raw material is delivered in bulk rolls, the Deerwood facility takes these rolls into pipe liner, reshaping and welding and calibrating the product until it's suitable for use.

For a manufacturing job, it's an easy-going operation in terms of risk—workers will be wearing safety glasses and occasionally gloves, but the materials pose little risk, whether it's physical or chemical in nature. It's a clean operation, Rosemont noted, with natural-based epoxies and waste more suitable for a compost heap than an industrial setting.

"Our product is 100 percent environmentally friendly, it's 100 percent green," Rosemont said.

In terms of setting, that's where the old Parker Hannifin site comes in—it was a perfect choice, Rosemont said, fitting Aeropipe's needs like a glove.

"It was how all the electrical supply was, the air supply, the layout of the building," Rosemont said. "Everything kind of fit in exactly how we pictured building out the facility."

The bones of the building may fit the bill perfectly, but much of the interior and amenities need a serious face-lift. Hence the workload—when Rosemont spoke to the Dispatch, he was in the middle of another 12-hour day, doggedly toiling to reshape the facility into what he needs. Degreasing the factory floor, sanding surfaces, gutting the bathrooms, furnishing offices—8 a.m. to 8 p.m., five days a week, for more than a month and a half. He said, tentatively, operations should start up sometime mid-October.

Then, perhaps a project will come to fruition that easily might not have been.

Deerwood wasn't really part of his plans only a short time ago, Rosemont admitted, until he and a friend were traveling through the lakes area and they decided to check out the old Parker Hannifin building on a whim.

And, as they say, the rest is history—though, there's a good chance not only the building's practical benefits factored in the decision, but also Rosemont's own personal history, in Pillager, before the Los Angeleses and New York Cities of the world.

"One of the things I take pride in is that now I'm able to help create jobs and give back to the community I grew up in," Rosemont said. "Which is—well, let's face it, it's a nice thing to do."