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Walmart highlights Savage company Drymate's community impact

Valerie Urich, a 22-year employee of RPM Drymate, wears many hats for the Savage-based manufacturing company. That’s why she boarded a plane to California without hesitation when she heard about an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Walmart last month.

RPM Drymate makes custom waterproof mats, including mats for under the kitchen sink and under pet food bowls, and automotive mats and liners under the Armor All brand. The company also makes and donates hundreds of waterproof blankets to people experiencing homelessness through a partnership with Minneapolis-based Loaves and Fishes. It’s preparing to donate nearly 400 blankets this summer.

“We want to make other people’s lives better,” Urich told the Walmart representative during their meeting.

Urich was in for a surprise. With a little Hollywood magic, Walmart had secretly staged Urich’s meeting to highlight the Savage company in a one-minute, standalone Walmart commercial recognizing the company’s success and donations.

The new ad campaign highlights Walmart suppliers who give back to their communities and the retailer’s $250 billion investment into products that support American jobs. The commercial is currently airing on networks such as NBC and FOX.

Walmart is the world’s second-largest retailer and its largest employer, according to Forbes and USA Today.

Drymate CEO Nick Sovell and Executive Vice President Nicholas Sovell, a father-son duo, were in on the hidden camera operation and flew to California with Urich.

On set, they were surrounded by office desks and actors pretending to be workers. They even had to sign into the fake Walmart offices, Nicholas Sovell said. During Urich’s meeting, the Sovells sat in a control room with the ad’s director, who was speaking to the actress meeting with Urich through a hidden earpiece.

In the ad, Cathy Maes, Loaves and Fishes’ Minnesota’s executive director, steps into the room during Urich’s hidden camera meeting to thank her for the impact Drymate’s blankets have made on the Twin Cities community.

“You save lives,” she says.

The moment ends with Urich sharing wisdom from her father.

“My dad always said to me make today a great day,” she says. “Today has been a great day.”

For Urich, being in California was a deeply emotional experience to begin with, she said.

She grew up in San Jose and hadn’t been back to the state since she moved in 1991. Both of her parents have died, and she marked the anniversary of her mother’s death just a few days before the Walmart visit.

Afterward, she and the Sovells took an Uber to the Santa Monica Pier. The others were too cold, but Ulrich went straight into the water.

A Walmart success story

Drymate is celebrating 20 years of operation in Savage and 15 years selling products to Walmart this year.

“Who thought selling mats would be so much fun?” Nicholas Sovell said. “It’s just a mat, and it’s grown into this, and it’s just amazing.”

Many of the company’s 19 employees in the Savage office along Highway 13 are related; Urich’s husband works in distribution and her son works in manufacturing, for example.

Everybody shares in every aspect of the business, she said.

“I think everybody in the company takes pride when we think, wow, we came up with a product idea, and now it’s in Walmart stores,” Nicholas Sovell said.

Walmart’s open-call events for entrepreneurs led to much of Drymate’s success since the Sovells started attending in 2014, they said. Drymate’s product deals with Walmart have increased by 10 times since Walmart began it’s initiative to invest more heavily in American products.

They currently sell eight different product types to Walmart, and a new product will hit the shelves this fall. In 2018, the company sold around 500,000 mats to the retailer.

“They really can change your company, and they’re terrific to work with,” Nick Sovell said.

Imports are Drymate’s biggest competitor, but Nicholas Sovell said their process of adhering the mat’s backing to the mat’s surface is their “secret sauce” that foreign competitors haven’t replicated.

In addition to the blankets, the company also teams up with local animal rescues, such as Windmill Animal Rescue in Elko New Market, to donate pet bowl mats.

A helping hand

Loaves and Fishes’ Minnesota’s flagship program is serving free meals at meal sites in six counties around the Twin Cities. The organization also grows produce, holds free farmers markets and serves meals from a food truck.

Maes said many of the clients they serve through meal services are experiencing homelessness.

ProAct, Inc., an organization providing services and customized employment to people with disabilities, cuts and packages the blankets in Red Wing with leftover Drymate fabrics. The blankets can absorb five times their weight in water and will keep individuals dry in the rain or while sleeping on wet grass or snow, Nick Sovell said.

Nicholas Sovell said it’s a way to give back to the community by doing what they do best. And Drymate’s blankets come in a variety of colors, which Maes said is important because people experiencing homelessness often need to take what they are given rather than being able to make a choice.

“People who receive the blankets get to actually make a choice and get something that’s brand new,” she said. “It’s something fresh and clean, and that dignity is so important.”

Christine Schuster / Photo by Christine Schuster  

Members of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office ride in the Dan Patch Days parade in downtown Savage on June 22.

State agency reviews plan to grow Burnsville landfill, seeks public opinion

BURNSVILLE — What should the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency keep in mind while reviewing the plan to add a couple hundred feet in height to the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill?

The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the process at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 10 at City Hall, the agency announced last week.

In March, the Burnsville City Council approved a controversial concept plan submitted by Waste Management to increase waste capacity at the landfill by 26 million cubic yards.

If approved, the site would hold 47 million cubic yards of mixed municipal solid and construction waste. The landfill’s footprint would shrink from 216 acres to 204 acres, but its contents would stretch 260 feet higher into the sky when fully built out.

Burnsville officials said the plans provided a method to clean up the nearby Freeway Landfill and Free Dump sites, which could contaminate the region’s drinking water and the Minnesota River.

Residents and Bloomington city officials who oppose the plans say the size increase will create new environmental problems and destroy the aesthetics of the Minnesota River valley.

Concept plans are now subject to review by a handful of regulatory bodies, including a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to be prepared by the pollution control agency.

Kevin Kain, a project manager in the agency’s environmental review unit, said the review finds potential environmental impacts and discusses any mitigation measures that might help.

It is not an approval or disapproval, he said, but rather an informational document to be used by the permitting agency — in this case, the City Council.

Waste Management will pay for the review, which Kain estimates will be completed in February 2020.

On June 20, the pollution control agency published a draft scoping document saying the review could cover such topics as ground and surface water, how the site would look and how landfill gas emissions would impact air quality, to name a few.

MPCA Draft Scoping Decision Document

tAdditionally, the report will discuss how the expansion might affect nearby existing and planned recreational spots. Other considerations will be the economic impact of not expanding the site and what facilities would be able to take the waste instead.