CLEARWATER --  T.O. Plastics in Clearwater has quietly developed into one of the top 100 thermoform plastics companies in America. In today's version of our "Made in Central Minnesota" news series, we highlight the company that started in a man's garage in 1948.

T.O. Plastics sits in a 200,000 square-foot facility in Clearwater with annual sales of about $42-million. They employ between 150 and 175 employees and are ranked number 40 in the top 100 thermoforming companies in America.

About 40% of their work is for the horticulture industry.  They make containers for plants, flowers and germination trays. Medical device packaging and custom plastics projects make up the remainder of their business.

So what is thermoforming?  President Mike Vallafskey says "we make aluminum molds that are water-cooled.  We heat a sheet of plastic and feed that sheet into those molds.  As they close on the sheet a vacuum sucks the sheet into the mold to make the form."  That form is then cooled and trimmed before shipping.

Vallafskey says the plastics industry is often misunderstood...

T.O. Plastics also makes their own prototypes and have a custom machining shop to make their own molds.Vallafskey says it provides them the flexibility to give the customer what they want and control the specifications on site.

He says plastics are here to stay and will likely grow as we move into the future.