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SJE-Rhombus going strong

Part of the team at SJE-Rhombus are, from left, Production Team Leader Martin Schultz, Production Planner and Scheduler Phyllis Inwards, Customer Service Coordinator Jeff Cheney, Corporate Marketing Manager Shelly Maguire and Karl Hoppe, also from the production department.

This year, a local manufacturing company celebrated 35 years in business -- and a rebound from tough economic times. SJE-Rhombus recently set up production in China and continued to expand in various locations across the United States.

The employee-owned company headquartered in Detroit Lakes has become more efficient in its production, expanding its customer base internationally.

"I think that's definitely a major key to the success of the company," said Jeff Cheney, customer service coordinator. "Every employee has a stake in the company."

Chief Executive Officer Laurie Lewandowski said that when she was hired 12 years ago, there were about four or five employees. Now nearly 400 employees are taking on various well-rounded roles, from assembly to management.

When the manufacturing industry was hit hard by the economic downturn in 2008, the company was forced to downsize. However, Phyllis Inwards, who works in production planning and scheduling, said using temporary services has helped in keeping things more consistent.

"We've continued our marketing, we've just been frugal with our expenses," added Shelly Maguire corporate marketing manager.

SJE-Rhombus products include control panels, tank alarms and float switches, all of which help customers keep up with environmental trends and regulations, Maguire said.

SJE-Rhombus, originally known as S.J. Electro Systems, Inc., sold its first product -- the Tank Alert System -- in 1975.

It was designed to alert residents that their septic holding tank level was high and in need of pumping.

The product continues to be sold today out of five locations -- four in the United States and one in China -- all of which opened in the last seven years.

"Having the other locations has helped us have a strong regional presence," Maguire said.

New product developments have also brought on the ceramic filter treatment, which integrates a conventional biological activated sludge process with a ceramic membrane filtration system.

SJE-Rhombus, the North American water and wastewater controls leader, is still planning to grow and attract more customers, according to management. The Detroit Lakes location has also attracted employees from nearby towns, and from cities located more than 50 miles away.

"Thirty-five years is different than 25 or 50 but it's still a milestone," Maguire said.