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Vector Windows and NOTS! featured during AURI visit to Fergus Falls

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:21 PM

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Two Fergus Falls companies are producing products that have farmers and consumers smiling.

A soy-based polyoil insulation is used in Vector Windows' new product line. NOTS! is making a non-allergenic, non-nut snack using hulled sunflower bakery kernels.

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute helped with each products' development, said Harold Stanislawski, the city's Economic Improvement Commission executive director.

Last week he joined AURI director Teresa Spaeth and other city leaders on tours of each company. Spaeth's visit was a precursor to a trip to the state Capitol where she was slated to testify about AURI's efforts. AURI is funded, in part, by the state.

Vector Windows had seen its industry struggle through the economic downturn, said company CFO Andrew Miller. As industry sales shrunk, Vector officials invested in its sales and production departments. They wanted to identify methods or processes to improve the overall energy efficiency of their windows. They wanted to develop windows using more renewable or bio-based products.

They brought their ideas to Stanislawski, who linked the company with AURI. The staff introduced Vector Windows to a soy-based polyoil insulation that would improve the insulating materials in the frames. AURI also offered cost-share assistance for testing to ensure that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design compliance was met.

AURI connected Vector with a manufacturer and equipment provider for the soy-based foam insulation produced at a Volga, S.D., soybean plant. The company is thrilled with the product and its connection to the farm economy.

Windows insulated with the soy-based foam meet the new R-5 quality grade.

"By using a bio-renewable soy-based foam, we were able to improve the energy rating of our windows by 10 percent," said Vector Windows president Jeff Ackerson.

Although the initial cost of materials is slightly higher, Vector expects to gain that back in market value and the overall benefit of using a bio-renewable material.

"We wanted to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace," Ackerson said. "Instead of copying everyone else, we wanted to do something different."

For NOTS! developer Ron Fuglie, creating the non-nut snack was a necessity.

His young son has several allergies including one to peanuts.

Fuglie, who lives in Chanhassen, worked with non-nut foods when he developed the NOTS! prototype.

Fuglie's product development got its start in Fergus Falls where he has many friends and family. When the family learned of his snack food idea, they introduced him to Stanislawski who turned him to AURI for help.

AURI scientist Charan Wadhawan worked with Fuglie to develop the product and its nutritional label with minimum ingredients. AURI also offered cost-share to help procure a UPC label.

Fuglie learned of a commercial-grade kitchen, located at the PioneerCare, where he could make and package his product. He's now outgrown the facility and is building a kitchen in the Business Development Center located on Fergus Falls' northwest edge.

He has several types of products. Some are gluten free and others are made with no high fructose corn syrup.

Fuglie's product meets a variety of allergen and personal preference needs.

He's making 100 cases of NOTS! and plans to increase production at the new facility.

Some have told Fuglie how great it is that he developed the product for his peanut-allergy son, but, the snack might be more important to him and his wife.

"My wife told me that making the snack food is probably more of a benefit for us," he said. "At one time, when we traveled, she's have to wipe her hands and face before turning around in the car to help him. Now, with NOTS! she doesn't have to do that."

During her visit, Spaeth focused not only on how AURI helped the companies, but also on what programs it can add to assist businesses.