Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Spotlights MDI Workforce Development

Driving through Northern Minnesota, you see many “Now Hiring” signs. A good affirmation of a thriving economy, yet many companies continue to struggle to find workers needed to support business growth.

MDI, a local non-profit plastic manufacturer with operations in Grand Rapids, Cohasset, Hibbing, and the Twin Cities, is known for the production of plastic totes, trays and tubs, along with assembly and recycling services.

As of March 2018, the company employed 323 people with nearly half of the workforce comprised of people with disabilities. Through a Social Enterprise model, MDI creates self-sufficiency by providing meaningful work in an inclusive environment. All employees are paid at least minimum wage plus benefits. MDI’s goal is to offer meaningful employment to 1,000 individuals by 2020.

MDI employees with disabilities are held to similar standards as their colleagues without disabilities. Everyone works to their capabilities with accommodations and makes important contributions to the organization. People with disabilities successfully operate plastic extruders, run gantry robots and work on a variety of automated process equipment, such as assembly systems and boxing machines.

“As businesses across industries look to fill jobs, people with disabilities are an underutilized resource,” says Peter McDermott President & CEO of MDI. “People with disabilities can do productive work if given the opportunity.”

MDI is proof of this. In 2013, MDI affiliated with Deer River Hired Hands providing daytime training and habilitation for over 50 people with disabilities in the recycling business. In 2016 this operation was relocated to a new facility with improved working conditions in Cohasset.

“I enjoy going on recycle pick-up routes and working on the cleaning crew,” says Marcus who is in Material Recovery at MDI Hired Hands. “I think employment for people with disabilities is important so that you learn new things and are able to buy things that you want.”

People with disabilities want what most want - financial independence, job satisfaction and a good life - no different than anyone else.

At MDI, inclusive hiring has had a powerful impact on the culture and community. Not only do employees with disabilities appreciate their jobs, but they also bring incredible energy and a positive spirit to work every day. They show up for the job on time, respect their coworkers and work to their capabilities.

Workers with disabilities may require accommodations, which can often be provided at little to no cost as well as benefit other employees. When needed, the fixes are usually simple things: adjusting schedules, allowing stools on the assembly line, breaking down assembly processes or modifying workstations.

MDI is committed to improving local workforce development, not only by providing jobs, but also through funds set aside and distributed by the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.

Particularly the MDI Success at Work Endowment Fund provides scholarships and other workforce related grants that encourage people with disabilities to obtain additional education, training and certifications to achieve their potential, regardless of where they work.

“MDI has a business model of which everyone should take notice. By offering jobs to everyone, according to his or her ability, our communities are far more meaningful to all our residents,” states Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation.

Anyone can give to an endowment at the Community Foundation. Call the Community Foundation at (218) 999-9100 or go online to for more information about our current endowments or to set up your own.


MDI is a leader in manufacturing corrugated standard and custom plastic packaging solutions, production assembly, and environmental services. As a non-profit through a Social Enterprise model, MDI creates self-sufficiency by providing meaningful work in an inclusive environment, with nearly half of the workforce comprised of people with disabilities. Headquartered in the Twin Cities, with additional locations in Hibbing, Grand Rapids, and Cohasset, MDI offers an unparalleled customer experience, while providing high quality products and services to businesses and organizations.

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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