(02/27/13) - It's a Mid-Michigan based company that helps to put snow on
the slopes at more than 1,000 ski resorts across the globe.
SMI Snowmakers has been producing snow guns and other snowmaking products at their facility off US-10 in Midland since 1974.
"We have about 30,000 square feet of manufacturing and storage space. Each day, we're working on some version of production to ship around the world," said Joe VanderKelen, SMI Snowmakers President. "My father was actually a patent attorney, so he wrote some original snowmaking patents for a friend of his, and that's how our family got into the snowmaking business."
Most winter mornings, if it's cold enough, VanderKelen's crew puts his products to the test, right in SMI's front yard.
SMI's products can be found at dozens of ski resorts across Michigan, including Apple Mountain and Mt. Holly, and hundreds across North America - but that's only the beginning.
"We're in some very unusual countries, like Kazakhstan for example," VanderKelen said "Most of the countries that have skiing in Europe from Sweden, Norway, France, Italy, Austria and Spain, and then you move to Asia, all across China, Korea, and Japan, and then we're into New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Argentina."
Speaking of international business, SMI has provided snowmaking equipment for three of the last four Olympic Games. In fact, 400 snow guns are in place for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.
"We've been working on that project since 2007. They're one of the largest customers we have in the world now, and we're very proud to be associated with that," VanderKelen said.
SMI Snowmakers does own a facility in China, but the company has a made conscious effort to keep the majority of its production based in Midland, providing paychecks for around 50 people.
"We're quite proud to be from Mid-Michigan, and made in the USA. I believe in giving back to the community. I think helping these employees with their families have successful lives and successful careers, that's important to us as well," VanderKelen said.
ABC12 Main Station