Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries based in Burnsville, Minn., has been named the Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The 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.
Miller was nominated by Steve Saefke of South Metro SCORE and Leanne Baldwin of Associated Bank.
Miller joined Permac Industries in 1992 as a salesperson. Although she really had no background in manufacturing or in running a business, Miller purchased Permac in 1994, a small precision machine parts manufacturing company that, at the time, was in workout condition with the bank. Dave Cleveland of Associated Bank believed in Darlene and helped her get an SBA 7(a) loan and mentored her during those early years.
In an industry totally dominated by male CEOs, she has carved out a growing niche of profitable business opportunities by highlighting her exceptional customer service skills and by developing a cadre of highly productive and trusted employees. Together, they have met their customers’ toughest needs; even as others in the industry said it could not be done.
At a time when many manufacturing jobs are being lost to off-shore producers, Miller continues to find new customers and increase the sales of Permac Industries. Her plan for doubling her plant size within two years will mean even more good jobs for American workers.
Under Miller’s leadership, the company growth required more space. Permac moved from leased space, to an owner-occupied facility, with 75% more square footage and anticipates additional expansion by 2007. This move to more space and the acquisition of the building was made possible through an SBA 504 loan.
Besides the initial risk of purchasing Permac, Miller continues to take risks by investing in the latest equipment and technology. She is an industry leader when it comes to quality initiatives. Her contributions and insights, as a member and Director of the Precision Machine Products Association, are appreciated by all members, many of whose owners are part of a family business with several generations of experience.
Miller has received many forms of recognition over the years as a business leader and as an individual whose contributions to her local community have made it a better place to live and work. One example is a program Miller and three other local business leaders developed to mentor ninth grade girls who are “at risk.” She is active in promoting the business community as a Chamber Member and through several business interest groups.