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3M (MMM)

Fortune 500 rank: 100

By Alleen Brown

Founders: Henry S. Bryan, Hermon W. Cable, John Dwan, William A. McGonagle, Dr. J. Danley Budd
CEO: George W. Buckley

3M Center (I-94 at McKnight Road)
St. Paul, MN 55144

What it does:
3M is “a global technology company delivering innovative solutions to life’s ever-changing needs.” The company invents and manufactures everything from glue to dog shampoo.

Scotch Brite

Bet you didn’t know 3M made…
Touch screens
Hand sanitizer
Invisible braces
Emergency exit signs
Welding helmets
Bug spray
Fiber optic lighting
Graffiti-resistant labels
Fly fishing line
Photo albums

Total Employees:
More than 75,000

Minnesota Employees:
Around 16,000

Revenue: $24.4 billion

Net income: $4 billion

3 Months
1 Year
5 Years

S & P Data from October 2008. Chart by Denise Rath.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of businessmen on the North Shore thought they discovered a deposit of the mineral corundum, a valuable abrasive used for making sandpaper and grinding wheels. The group of five included the owner of a meat market, a lawyer, a doctor and two prominent railroad men. They incorporated the Minnesota Mining and Manufacture Company in 1902 and immediately started constructing the expensive infrastructure necessary to mine the abrasive. They made their first sale in 1904.

But the men did not do their research. That first sale would be their last. The abrasive was not corundum at all; it was the almost worthless mineral anorthosite, also used for making sandpaper. According to an article in Lake Superior Magazine, if it wasn’t for the intervention of Lucius P. Ordway of St. Paul, 3M would have ended there. Ordway took over the company’s debt and provided capital so they could manufacture sandpaper. He moved the company to St. Paul in 1910. 3M’s leaders did not admit their mistake to investors until 1913.

William L. McKnight was hired in 1907 as an assistant bookkeeper. He rose through 3M’s ranks to become president and CEO and shaped what the company would become. His management philosophy encouraged individuals to take initiative and innovate without worrying about making mistakes. According to 3M’s website, the idea helped turn 3M into the highly diverse company it is today.
Alleen Brown is a senior journalism and global studies student at the University of Minnesota.

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