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Aura Fabricators
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Aura Fabricators

A growing rural manufacturer invests in employees’ careers with in-house training

Jasmine Sonmor founded Aura Fabricators as a college senior in 2014 and began bidding on bridge components in the various Department of Transportation markets. Later that year, her father had a health scare and decided to cease operations at his own manufacturing business, White Oak Metals, announcing his impending retirement in the spring of 2015. Sonmor agreed to take over White Oak Metals’ operations and hit the ground running, hiring all of her father’s former employees and re-purposing White Oak’s equipment to continue making specialty ornamental railings, overhead signs, structural steel and other miscellaneous metal products, in addition to the steel bridge component market that Aura was already pursuing. 

Aura has grown rapidly under Sonmor’s leadership. In less than four years, Sonmor has more than doubled the number of contracts held by Aura and expanded the business to a second location, hiring 16 new employees between the two facilities. With plans to pursue additional certifications and enter new metal-working markets, neither Sonmor nor Aura is slowing down any time soon. In her own words, “the sky’s the limit.”

As Aura secured more contracts and considered new lines of business, expansion to a second location became critical. Sonmor’s plans for the company’s future required more room and equipment for Aura’s continued growth. NMSC provided favorable financing to Aura through our Bremer Bank Loan Fund to purchase new equipment and accommodate further expansion into new products and business lines. The New Markets Tax Credt (NMTC)-enhanced loan fund is dedicated to supporting small businesses in the rural Midwest. 

“Many rural businesses may be looking to expand, but they simply don’t realize that these types of financing support exist,” says Sonmor. “The innerworkings of [NMTC financing] can be a little confusing, but NMSC has been very helpful throughout the process.” 

The company’s expansion also required more manpower - a common obstacle for many rural businesses looking to expand in an area with a limited number of job applicants. To help combat this challenge, Sonmor opened Aura’s second location in Fergus Falls, a 20 minute drive from its original location in Dalton, Minnesota.

If you invest in your employees and give them ample opportunities to grow by taking on more roles and responsibilities, your company can only grow stronger.
— Jasmine Sonmor

“We’ve been able to broaden our pool of job applicants due to a more spread out geographical location. In more rural areas, this is a huge advantage,” says Sonmor. “Moving to another town has allowed us to combat some of the workforce challenges that many businesses face.” 

Aura offers trainings to help both new and old employees develop a variety of skills, including drafting and detailing of shop drawings, fabrication processes, quality control and finishing. Aura’s welders also have opportunities to further develop their craft and obtain certifications to work on new products.

“There’s such a shortage of people with vocational school degrees,” says Sonmor. “We adapt to this shortage by providing training in-house for essentially every aspect of our company and have no issue training someone with a good work ethic on how to operate the various equipment within our facilities.”

As Aura grows and changes, Sonmor is committed to helping her employees grow with it. These trainings allow employees to grow and expand their roles at Aura and build skills to support themselves throughout their careers. Aura employees also receive a benefits package with health and dental insurance, short and long term disability insurance and a retirement plan.

“If you invest in your employees and give them ample opportunities to grow by taking on more roles and responsibilities, your company can only grow stronger,” says Sonmor, who sees her role as a business owner and employer as an opportunity to give back to her community.

“I think we all have an obligation to contribute to our communities in any way that we can, whether that effort is big or small. I have the opportunity to impact the community in a big way and I don’t take that lightly,” says Sonmor. “I strive to do that by providing a place of employment that provides competitive wages, benefits and a sense of belonging by being a part of something greater than just a job.”

The Bremer Bank Loan Fund provided a
NMTC-enhanced loan to Aura Fabricators

Bremer Financial Corporation (BFC) is a privately held, $12 billion regional financial services company jointly owned by the Otto Bremer Trust and Bremer employees that provides a comprehensive range of financial solutions. The company’s community development entity, Bremer CDE, is focused on bringing community, healthcare and manufacturing facilities to rural counties in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Aura Fabricators

A growing rural manufacturer invests in employees’ careers with in-house training

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Brent Kuennen, Fund Manager