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Dave Olson, Published September 27 2013

Rolling right along: Family tarp firm celebrates 30 years, expands headquarters

FARGO - TRS Industries is spreading out like one of the company’s big vinyl tarps.

The family-owned business that began in a Fargo garage in 1983 and which has been growing ever since is putting the finishing touches on a 36,000-square-foot addition to its north Fargo headquarters at 1230 40th St. N.

The project is a vote of confidence in the state of the economy, but the business has had its ups and downs over the past three decades, said Joy Cossette, who along with her ex-husband, Richard, is co-owner of the business that manufacturers and repairs tarps of all shapes and sizes.

A consistent challenge over the years has been finding and retaining workers, Joy Cossette said.

Her son, Shane, chief operating officer, agreed.

“The unemployment rate is so low, it’s just hard finding people who want to work a full-time job, let alone physical labor,” he said. Sewing machine operators, in particular, are always in demand.

The company has about 40 employees and plans to hire more once it begins using the new addition, which could take another six weeks or so, Shane Cossette said.

The expansion project is valued at an estimated $1.2 million.

When the new space is ready, workers will move to the 40th Street site from the company’s secondary site at 4119 14th Ave. N. in Fargo, where TRS had its main operation for many years before making the 40th Street facility its main branch about five years ago.

When Richard Cossette and his son, Roger, started what was then known as Tarp Repair Services three decades ago, they began small with a workforce comprised of family members.

It wasn’t long before demand for their tarp work grew and the company started hiring from outside the family, said Joy Cossette, who is vice president.

Shane Cossette, who started working for the company when he was about 12, said back then canvas dominated the tarp market and vinyl was looked upon with suspicion.

Eventually, he said, vinyl took over because of its waterproof qualities and the fact it stands up better to ultraviolet radiation.

Today, TRS makes and repairs tarps for all kinds of uses, including truck load covers and boatlift canopies.

But they’re just as quick to take on small projects.

“We still do a lot of repairs,” Shane Cossette said. “They’ll break their ratchet strap, we’ll sew that up. We can switch up to do almost any kind of job.”

Two full-time employees are devoted to making boat tarps, Joy Cossette said.

Although he was there at the start of the company, Roger Cossette has since taken a job elsewhere.

Family members, however, have continually made up part of the company workforce, including nieces and nephews.

“Grandchildren are working here now, part time and after school,” Joy Cossette said.

“My brother, Bob, is parts and shipping manager,” Shane Cossette said.

Cossette added that his son, Brandon, 19, worked for the company for about a year before returning to school to study business management at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead.

“He’s very responsible,” Joy Cossette said of her grandson. “When he comes back, I hope he takes my job.”