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Snow removal machine gets workout at Two Inlets Mill

Snow removal machine. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Engineers Travis Ballard, left, and Mark Rasmussen arrive at the Two Inlets Mill a couple of times a summer to test the snow removal machines they design and manufacture in Lake Park. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

It's snowing in Two Inlets!

Sawdust, that is.

Entrepreneurial engineers Mark Rasmussen and Travis Ballard "ran out of winter," a necessary component for testing the snow removal machines the duo designs and manufactures in Lake Park. The business is called Accessories Unlimited.

"We needed a way to test," Rasmussen said. "It was here or head to the mountains."

The two determined sawdust and snow have similar viscosity. The tiny particles of wood have comparable weight and react correspondingly to moisture - the bottom portion is wet and new sawdust is dry.

They had considered silage, but concluded it is too heavy when compacted. Sunflower hulls didn't hold the same properties as snow.

"Where's a sawmill?" they asked.

Ballard, who camps in the area, recalled the Two Inlets Mill.

Their call to owner Nick Kueber had him scratching his head.

Initially, he said, it made no sense. "You want to do what?" Plow a sawdust pile?

Up until that point, the mill's sawdust was bound for the Wolf Lake Aho dairy farm for cattle bedding.

But Kueber soon learned the properties of his sawdust mirrored that of snow. The mill became testing grounds.

Now in their second summer of testing, the manufacturing engineers arrive a couple of afternoons mid-summer, then head "back to the drawing board."

Friends since high school, the manufacturing engineers began their careers with BTD Manufacturing in Detroit Lakes.

Four years ago, Rasmussen, head of sales, and Ballard, head engineer, decided to go into business.

The majority of their products are for snow removal, manufacturing 300 three-point blowers for tractors, 200 blowers for skidsters each year. The products have a universal hook-up.

Now employing 10 in Lake Park, the business is doubling in sales each year, with $1.2 million in 2010 and "on track" to reach $2.4 this year.

Thanks to the Two Inlets sawdust pile.