MRCI to host open house

FAIRMONT – The folks at MRCI WorkSource in Fairmont are offering a sweet deal at its PM Exchange Tuesday. Attendees can indulge in an elaborate candy buffet featuring many of the Quality Products candies packaged by MRCI, a work program for people with disabilities.

PM Exchange is an effort by Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce to showcase its various members. The event, hosted by MRCI’s staff and employees from 5-7 p.m., will focus on the work done by MRCI for local and regional employers and businesses. Tours of the facility, located at 701 Cory Lane, will be given, and hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

The local MRCI is one of 14 different facilities located from Fairmont north to the Twin Cities area, said Brian Benshoof, chief executive officer of MRCI WorkSource. Initially, employees did various piecework or handwork for other companies.

“Those kinds of jobs are getting harder and harder to find,” Benshoof said. “About three years ago, we decided to create our own business to keep our folks in work.”

Quality Products, a limited liability corporation, was formed in 2010 and produces candy at its St. Peter plant. The local MRCI employees label tubes, tubs and bags, which are then sent to St. Peter for filling, according to Moni Harper, Fairmont branch manager.

Target and Menards are two companies that carry the candy in their stores.

Menards ordered 90,000 three-foot tubes of gumballs for its Black Friday promotion last November, Benshoof said. The stores also carry bagged candy that sells two for $3, and “that’s a good value,” he added.

Target offers “shimmer gumballs” in their party section, Harper said, and Benshoof noted that the chain is predicting $10 million in Quality Product sales this year.

Last year, about 7 million bags of Quality Product candy were sold in 300 stores.

“We’re pretty creative,” he said.

MRCI-Fairmont clients also work on chicken packaging in various sizes for Tony Downs of Madelia.

“We are the (chicken) packager for Sam’s Club,” Harper said, and grocery chains, such as Aldi’s, also carry poultry packaged by the Fairmont staff.

MRCI-Fairmont employs about 140 clients and 21 supervisors, and all are eager to showcase their work.

“A lot of our clients have jobs in the community, and some split their (work) hours between here and the community,” Harper said.

The PM Exchange is open to anyone who would like to know more about MRCI and its community employment opportunities or the Chamber of Commerce.