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your money goes farther....

Bemidji Steel Company and The Idea Circle have the same vision:  Make the world a better place by doing the right thing.  With each dollar spent on our products and services, we invest in people and change lives.  By working together, you can make an impact too.  We can help you meet your Diversity Spend goals and you can help us empower people, companies, and communities.

Working with TIC and BSC has benefits to achieve your diversity goals. Combined certifications include HUBZone, WOSB, ITAR and DBE, among others.


Federal Certification


SBA – Women-Owned Small Business

State Certifications:  Minnesota

CERT - Certified Targeted Business

MDOT - Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprise


WBENC-Women’s Business Enterprise

who to contact

Dr. Mary Eaton - President - The Idea Circle

Phone: 218-556-5295

Email: meaton@theideacircle.com


Alex Grasdalen - COO - Bemidji Steel Company

Phone: 218-441-5171

Email: agrasdalen@bemidjisteel.com

together we can make a DIFFERENCE

"We share a common goal of helping members of our community become trained and employed.”

-Andy Wells, III | President - Wells Technology


what is the mNFabLab?

We believe education is a pathway for people in poverty to improve their quality of life; for young people in rural areas to explore technical careers; and, for companies to grow their own talent.  The MNFabLab gives people a chance to learn new skills; apply them in a supervised production environment; and, as needed, are provided services to help them secure permanent employment or continue their education.  MNFabLab is a smaller scale production line housed within Bemidji Steel Company facilities and managed by The Idea Circle.


After trainees complete their e-learning training program, they have an opportunity to apply their skills in the MNFabLab.  MNFabLab produces parts for Bemidji Steel Company; and, it will soon market and sell its product line.  A portion of every Diversity Spend sale is reinvested into the MNFabLab to help pay for the training; pay wages to the trainees, and give people the experience they need to gain a better quality of life.


DOing our part

providing experiences

Who knows what they want to be when they grow up?  For most of us, we didn't know, and sometimes it feels like we are still discovering who we are.

We are committed to giving experiences to the next generation to help guide them on the path of life.  In partnership with the Bemidji High School Career Academies, We are providing paid internships for these students so they can try out their skills in the real world.


a place to grow

We make a promise to everyone when they start; This is a place where you can grow.  Knowledge is power.  MNFabLab trainees gain Mechatronics skills, earn nationally recognized credentials in Manufacturing; and, apply those skills to make quality products.  Whether they choose to continue working or move on to further their education, MNFabLab gives every trainee a place to grow.

lead by innovators

Mary Eaton

mary eaton

Dr. Mary Eaton brings to executive leadership and innovative ideas to the the MNFabLab.

As President of The Idea Circle, she has been the catalyst for private and public sector collaboration and workforce development opportunities in multiple industrial sectors.

Having lived and worked in Northern Minnesota for 45 years, her unique perspective enables her to identify existing resources to create unique partnerships that promote prosperity.

Alex Grasdalen

alex grasdalen 

Alex Grasdalen brings big ideas and the long-range vision to the MNFabLab.

Chief Operations Officer of Bemidji Steel Company, Alex has been instrumental in the business growth and transition in the last several years.  He has managed the onboarding of new state of the art technologies and new high tech customers to the business.

Alex has lived in Northern Minnesota for most of his life; he travels extensively and brings a global perspective to the business.

why is this important


driven to do the right thing

for a better world

We are driven to do the right thing; it is in our blood. We provide a rock-solid foundation so we can let people achieve their dreams, We want to leave something better than we found it, so that is why we are committed to making the world a better place, one person at a time.

empowering people

what is success?

We all measure success in different ways. Our goal is to provide opportunities to allow individuals to grow, prosper, and be part of something greater to empower them to achieve their dreams.

Beltrami county 

Per Capita Income: $24,781  |  Persons in poverty: 18.4%

City of bemidji

Per Capita Income: $21,871  |  Persons in poverty: 27.2%

GIving opportunities

Bemidji and Beltrami county, while known for the incredible lakes and nature that surround the area, lesser-known is the diverse population that calls the county home.  The region has the diversity equal to a metropolitan center such as Minneapolis but occupies a space the size of Deleware.

Too many residents live at or below the poverty line without the financial resources to pull themselves away from the grip of poverty. While Bemidji is home to a university, many of the residents can not afford the cost of tuition or can make the time commitments away from work. Unforntiantly as most jobs are low paying part-time jobs or are seasonal, leaving these individuals with few employment options.  Consequently, finding opportunities often force them to leave the community, causing a talent drain.  We want to do our part to change this. 

ready to make a difference?