Dennis Frandsen has been an entrepreneur his whole life. He grew up on a small dairy farm at Luck, Wisconsin, and attended a country schoolhouse. As a child, he sold cucumbers to the Gedney Pickle Company; the first check he received was for $3.57. In his teens, he earned money by cutting logs on the family farm and selling them to a yo-yo factory in Luck.
After finishing high school in 1951, Dennis decided he could earn more money logging than going to work for someone else. When the family farm ran out of logs, he contracted with neighbors to harvest their trees. Before long, he was earning much more than he could have made working for someone else in corporate America.
In 1953, at the age of 19, Frandsen heard of 200 acres of timber for sale in Rush City, Minnesota. He hopped on a plane (for the first time in his life) and traveled to Chicago to drop in—with no appointment—on the owner. He emerged with an agreement to purchase the land for $13,000—not that he had anywhere near the capital to fund the deal. Now doing business as Frandsen Lumber Company, Dennis applied for a loan at his local bank in Luck. Upon being turned down, he walked out of the bank and vowed that someday he would own that bank.
He was similarly turned down by a bank in Rush City. But as he drove home after the second try, he stopped at the bank in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, and they decided to fund the lumber venture. Frandsen paid off the note in five months, with half the timber still unharvested—resulting in a very healthy profit on the lumber. When that was sold, he converted the land into another level of profit. Dennis relocated to Rush City, where he soon met his wife, Jeanette. He then purchased land for a home on Rush Lake, started a family, turned the excess land into lakeshore lots, and sold them at a profit.
In 1963 Frandsen purchased what is now Plastech Corporation, which today sells $50 million a year in plastic parts and is a component of Frandsen Corporation, a holding company that provides support to his many enterprises.
From the late 1960s through the 1980s, Dennis bought and developed thousands of acres of land in east central Minnesota. He subdivided the land into smaller parcels, built roads and cabins, and sold them as recreational properties—and netted several million dollars. In the 1990s and 2000s, Dennis bought several manufacturing companies, including Miller Manufacturing, now the world’s top supplier of livestock prods and a leading producer of American-made farm, ranch, and pet supplies; and Industrial Netting, now the world’s largest custom fabricator and distributor of plastic netting and mesh.
In 1981, serendipity put Frandsen in touch with a friend who informed him that his hometown bank in Luck was for sale—the very bank that turned him down for his first loan. Dennis bought that bank, and started what is now Frandsen Financial Corporation, a bank holding company with some 40 locations in three states.
As his organization continues to grow by expansion and acquisition, Frandsen’s uniqueness stands out. He believes that well-run enterprises can benefit employees, shareholders, communities, and clientele. Employees and customers in over 40 communities in the Upper Midwest continue to benefit from that philosophy. Recent examples of such benefits include Frandsen’s offer of full two-year scholarships to technical college for every graduate of four rural high schools; donations of drones to law enforcement in several counties; and significant donations to Lakes Region EMS ambulance service and Mayo Clinic.
The Frandsen organization today is a major benefactor to people, causes, and communities throughout the Upper Midwest through the Frandsen Family Foundation.
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