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Cleaning water throughout the world: Dickinson-based Medora Corp. continues to innovate with new units, expands across globe

Press Photos by Katherine Grandstrand Medora Corp. President and CEO Joel Bleth looks over a large SolarBee unit at the company’s Dickinson headquarters on Feb. 21. 1 / 2
Scott Churchill, left, and Gary Kurdna do some adjusting in the Medora Corp. shop. 2 / 2

The Medora Corp. in Dickinson had a record-breaking 2013 and is still innovating and growing after more than 35 years.

It has moved from its signature SolarBee and GridBee units to an air-powered GridBee and a machine that essentially acts as a giant mixer for water tanks — which helps keep drinking water potable.

“We’re in tanks all over the country, and we’re also in lakes and wastewater ponds,” said Joel Bleth, founder, president and CEO of Medora Corp. “We go into big bodies of water and clean the water up.”

Founded in 1978 by Bleth and Willard Tormaschy, SolarBee, which was renamed Medora Corp. when the line expanded, has been cleaning and protecting America’s water ever since.

“In the U.S., we have over a million lakes — two-thirds of Americans drink lake water,” Bleth said. “But the tops of those lakes are getting algae blooms, which are making toxins which can be building up and the treatment plants aren’t getting those out. So it’s more important than ever to get rid of the algae blooms in lakes, and that’s what we do here.”

When the Bakken began booming, business at Medora Corp. — which serves communities throughout the country and the world — remained steady but it didn’t grow the same as its neighboring industries in the north Dickinson industrial park because of the economic recession.

“We expect to be growing quite a bit every year the next several years,” Bleth said. “The U.S. economy seems to be recovering slowly and the paralysis seems to be gone in decision making. There was a huge fear throughout most of the country at the start of the recession. … But we’re through that now I think the country’s going forward.”

While incoming oil companies demanded a lot of their employees, especially at the beginning of the boom, Medora Corp. was able to offer flexibility, Bleth said.

“People like to work here,” Bleth said. “We have a great team of people, a lot of young people. … If a kid is sick or they have to go to a basketball game — so we’re very flexible with employees and that’s really appreciated by the young folks.”

In addition to its Dickinson headquarters, Medora Corp. has regional offices in California, Minnesota, Denver, Dallas and New York, with the marketing department based in Fort Collins, Colo., and a sales office in Fargo.

Medora Corp. used the slower time during the recession to expand and innovate, creating more products that keep drinking water safe.

The company invented the market for the water-tower tank mixer over the past decade.

“If you mix those tanks, the water stays fresher,” Bleth said. “If you don’t mix them, in the summertime, when it’s warm, bacteria grows more so the chlorine gets used up and then you might — if a disease got in the tank, it could really multiply.”

In addition to hosting the manufacturing and creation of the Bees, the Dickinson plant serves as headquarters for the installation and maintenance teams that take trips throughout the U.S. and Canada. About half the teams are made of people who live in Dickinson, while the other half fly in to get debriefed before heading out on the road.

“The crew guys are a little different — the kind of guys that love to be on the road,” Bleth said.

While some on-the-road jobs keep crews on regular routes, Medora Corp. crews get to see a different part of the country each trip.

“They see lots of America,” Bleth said. “It’s been a fun job for them, too.”

Today about 20 percent of Medora Corp.’s business is international exports. Those are not installed by Dickinson-based crews, but by local professionals for those markets.

Medora Corp. plans to continue to innovate and grow over the next five years, Bleth said.

“We’re here, we’re happy to be in Dickinson. It’s been a wonderful location,” Bleth said. “It’s different than it was five years ago, but it’s still a great place to be.”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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