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Perham business man receives SBA honors

Minnesota businessman Darrin Swanson was named first runner-up in the 2012 National Small Business Person of the Year competition, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Swanson is CEO and chairman of Kit Masters Inc. and Swan Machine Inc., both located in the northwestern Minnesota community of Perham.

Victoria Tifft, president and CEO of Clinical Research Management Inc. of Hinckley, Ohio, won the award, which was announced during the SBA's recent celebration of National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.

The National Small Business Person of the Year is selected annually based on growth in sales or unit volume, increase in the number of employees, financial strength, innovativeness of product or service, and evidence of contributions to community-oriented projects.

Swanson, a native of Blaine, founded Kit Masters Inc. and Swan Machine Inc. 16 years ago with his father Keith in the family's garage.

The companies specialize in manufacturing and servicing clutches for heavy-duty vehicles, mostly for the U.S. aftermarket. In building the companies, the Swansons followed two guiding principles: give back to the community and never sacrifice quality for speed or cost.

As they expanded their businesses, Swanson and his father sought help from Minnesota's West Central Small Business Development Center in Moorhead, one of a network of 34 centers around the state administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Small Business Development Centers are funded in partnership with the SBA and provide professional consultation services and guidance to entrepreneurs seeking to start or grow businesses in Minnesota.

Through his continued partnership with the center, Swanson has secured loans and expanded his facility, which led to new jobs, expanded export markets and increased profits.

Today, his businesses have more than $20 million in annual sales, 50 employees and more than 10 export contracts. Swanson, who was also named Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration in March, is president of the Perham Area Foundation and past president of both St. Henry's Area School and the Perham Chamber of Commerce.  He along with wife Jill and sons Randy, Paul and Mark have given back to the community by donating their time and talents to several area causes.

The family's businesses have contributed more than $60,000 to the community in the past three years.