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History of RTP Company
Joe and Jenny Miller, like millions of others, emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800's, from Eastern Europe, now Poland, seeking a better life. But instead of settling in one of America's great cities, such as New York or Chicago or Minneapolis, which might have made more sense and certainly would have been more traditional, they chose Winona, Minnesota.
They were quite a couple Joe an exceptionally powerful and determined man, and Jenny an exceptionally insightful and even more determined woman. Both had an enormous dedication to family, and education (of which they had very little), and their community. Joe and Jenny had eight children, all born and raised in Winona.
In those days Winona was a big lumber town, with sawmills extending several miles along most of what is now Front Street, bordering the Mississippi River. Logs, mainly white pine, were floated down the Mississippi River by the millions, assembled in huge log trains held together by steel chain. Winona was a good place to process the logs as the Mississippi turns east and it was easy for the lumbermen to bring the logs ashore. Also, Second Street, the next street over, was the center of Winona's entertainment area, daytime or nighttime, which lumbermen often frequented, but that's another story. Anyway, Joe Miller was an entrepreneur, and early on realized steel was associated in a big way with the lumber industry, along with other things, and that he should be able to make a living based on that, and therefore Winona would be a good place to settle. So they did and he started trading in metal, fabrics and a variety of other things. His family also got involved in demolishing buildings to recover metal and other products, an early form of recycling. It's been said Joe was an absolute terror with his 30 lb. sledge hammer, called the "Big Joe," and that he could smash more metal, or anything else, faster, for longer periods of time, than all others. He implored his workers, and his sons, to keep up with him, always, seemingly, to no avail. That big hammer mysteriously disappeared one day (some say it found its permanent resting place at the bottom of the Mississippi River), never to return.
Perhaps the loss of his hammer was the turning point, perhaps not, but in any case Joe decided to try something different, and established Miller Waste Mills in 1923. Logic really doesn't adequately explain the reasoning, but entrepreneurial spirit might. In any event, Miller Waste Mills was formed, which processed fabric used to lubricate railroad wheels. It grew and prospered for 30 years, and while it's considerably smaller today, it still does operate.
That pivotal event proved to be the Miller family's manufacturing business debut. The material produced, called waste, was dipped in oil and then placed in a journal box over the axle. And that was how railroad wheels were lubricated prior to the advent of ball bearings. Miller Waste Mills grew rapidly, as railroads themselves were growing rapidly and the demand for waste was high.
Realizing by the mid to late 40's the waste business had peaked, Ben and Rudy Miller, two of Joe's sons who were by then running Miller Waste Mills, knew something had to be done. So, for reasons again making little sense other than that they were entrepreneurial, they started Fiberite, a thermoset plastic company, in 1948. Fiberite struggled at first but proceeded to grow and prosper, and was sold to Beatrice Foods in 1980.
A small fraction of Fiberite's products were thermoplastics, but that portion of the business was sold back to the Miller family and ultimately became RTP Company in 1982. Hugh Miller, Ben's son and Joe's grandson, has been running RTP Company since then.
Today RTP Company is a world leader in specialty thermoplastic compounding, headquartered in Winona, and as circumstances would have it, the plant is located on Front Street where a sawmill once stood. RTP Company makes thousands of products each year for a variety of markets, including electronics, business machine, automotive, appliance, consumer, medical, sports and leisure, industrial and others. RTP Company features very strong customer service focusing on technology, flexibility, independence and speed. In 2006 RTP Company acquired Wiman Corporation, makers of specialty plastic film. RTP Company employs over 850 people and has four other plants in the U.S., one in France, one in Singapore and one in China.
It seems fitting RTP Company's headquarters and largest plant are in Winona, near the Mississippi River, on Front Street, over a sawmill, where Joe and Jenny established roots more than 125 years ago, and knew so well.