Future rosy for CD destroyers

Taken From The County Journal
April 4, 2008
Dan Satran Jr. reporting

Seems like everyone now uses computers so there should be this understanding: trash something, it’s gone.

Not according to a twosome running an emerging business in Iron River, Digital Data Destruction, Inc. (D3). Grinding CDs is the answer. That’s underneath their success. They were recently awarded a federal contract for General Service Administration (GSA). And there is now the likelihood they will be expanding, employing up to 20, even moving into a new building.

In an exclusive interview, the twosome explained the situation: what’s put on a computer’s hard drive or on a disc inserted into it, is permanently etched, even when it appears the stuff has been erased.

That can be a huge privacy issue, especially in matters of national security. 

No surprise, then, that there are so strict security measures at this business that is tucked away in the same building as the Iron River winery. A person who sees the operation is required to sign-in and is accompanied by a member of the staff. That way, the data shredding being done by D3 is kept private.

It’s an unusual business for Mike Martino who is a native of Ashland and who always wanted to stay in this area, though locating here has certainly been roundabout. He first got a B.A. in administration from Eau Claire, then a Master’s in science from UW-Stout. He took further training for something that is like a CPA, two years that resulted in a certified production inventory manager (CPIM). He is also a 10-year veteran of the National Guard. In addition to allowing him to locate in an area he enjoys, working at D3 has also given him a chance to staff with other veterans. 

Part of the interview of the business was another of these vets, Joe Lendabarker, III, his job to make sure that their building is secure on a 24-hour basis, “both from an active and a passive stance.” Video surveillance is used.

While Martino heads the Iron River office, the owner is Dr. Roger Hutchinson who has a summer home on the Brule River (it is this location that out of convenience led to starting the operation here). Martino said that Hutchinson comes from an innovative family, his father-in-law importing the popular fishing lure, Rapala, from Finland.

Martino said that Hutchinson got in on the ground floor of the computer explosion when he founded CD Rom Inc. (that seems archaic now because at that time, Word Perfect was commonly used, now long since replaced by other software systems). “Hutchinson pioneered in the use of CDs for storage, capable of handling an encyclopedia-amount of information,” he explained.

By 1998, Hutchinson’s CD capability had attracted the attention of the Dept. of Defense, in need of a way to safely destruct what had been put on them. “The long and short of this is that they needed the skill to take off what had been put on these CDs,” Martino said. Hutchinson developed the machine used in grinding this off the CDs. This is what’s done at Iron River. The end product of this process, he said, is something that resembles talcum powder.

Being a pioneer in this “niche industry,” Hutchinson attracted orders from others, national companies producing software for security companies that wanted information erased. “Millions of discs are now delivered to Iron River for this, arriving on pallets,” he said. 

This all returns to the recent announcement that D3 has been awarded the contract for the secure destruction and 100 percent green recycling of electronic media. Green recycling means that “D3 is the only company in the United States that can fully company with the existing eWaste legislation passed in five states and soon to be the industry norm, in this case for electronic media by-products,” Martino said.

“The federal government recognizes an appropriate business model to safely, securely and permanently dispose of electronic information,” Martino continued.

While the work at D3 may sound like something primarily for government agencies, Martino said they also have contracts with St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s Clinic, both of Duluth. The market in the Twin Cities is also being explored.

Martino said that Northwest Regional Planning, Spooner, gave them a great deal of start-up help four years ago. As previously noted, he said they anticipate growth. There is a good chance they will have a workforce of 20 and will be looking for more space.

Repeating that they offer complete destruction service with 100 percent green recycling, Martino said the end result of this is something that can be used to make components for vehicles such as steering wheels and instrument panels.

And if, in this case, it seems that a small idea, taking care of that permanent etching in computer work, has led to something getting bigger and bigger in Iron River. That’s along the line of inventors-entrepreneur’s meetings that Martino helped organize in this area. He invites attending with new ideas. They are at Casablanca Traders, corner of U.S. Hwy. 2 and State Rd. 63, at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month..

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