Local manufacturing leader Don Moline dies at age 88

Don Moline

Donald Moline, former president and owner of Duluth based Moline Machinery LLC, died March 9 at the age of 88 from Alzheimer’s complications.  

He transitioned the business to a third generation upon retirement in 1995, and the company is currently undergoing the move to a fourth generation of family ownership, the company said in a news release. Only 3 percent of family-owned businesses make it to the fourth-generation and beyond.

Don started in the baking industry in 1954 working for his father, Harry Moline, in the Duluth family equipment business, Moline, Inc. He became general manager in 1963 and developed the business into a leading manufacturer of automated sheeting lines and tooling for retail and industrial bakers. Moline innovations helped Jeno’s Pizza and other well-known brands such as Tony’s/Red Baron drive down the cost of frozen pizza, making it affordable and available for mass markets.

Moline, Inc was sold to The Pillsbury Company In 1972 and run by Don as a Division of Pillsbury until 1991. During this period, Moline diversified into the industrial frying market for fresh and pre-fried donuts. As lead investor, Don purchased the business back from Grand Metropolitan PLC in 1991 and rebranded the company as Moline Machinery. In 1995, Moline purchased the equipment division of Donut Corporation of America from Kerry Ingredients PLC, moved the assets to Duluth and expanded into global markets with high volume cake and yeast raised donut systems. 

“My father had a financial background, but had the vision of an entrepreneur and a passion for sales,” said son Gary Moline, the company’s current president. “He built relationships with top executives at large companies in the food and baking industry, which has led to long term success. He was most proud of our growth in international markets and exports that now contribute up to 50 percent of annual sales.” 

In 1996, Don and Gary received the Labovitz Lifetime Achievement Award.

Despite traveling much of his career, Don was very involved in the community with a presence on many local boards. He committed to Duluth during difficult times in the 1980s and 1990s as the area’s manufacturing base declined. Moline has deep roots in West Duluth where their production facilities were established in 1945 and are currently undergoing an advanced machining and metal fabrication area expansion. 

“Dad firmly believed that we needed to constantly takes risks and re-invest in our business. Nothing ventured, nothing gained — was his motto, and we are going to continue that,” Gary said.