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Smead products now available in Hastings and at Walmart

The Smead Manufacturing Company has made Hastings its home for more than a 100 years, from 1908, when it operated out of a tiny space above the Hastings Gazette office downtown. Today it's an international company, but it has remained a family company under the leadership of President and CEO Sharon Avent, and it still calls Hastings home.

What it hasn't had, however, was much of a local outlet for its products. Smead makes all sorts of office and organizational products, from folders and labeling systems to shelving to store documents. They're available in plenty of office supply stores around the metro, but until recently, Smead products couldn't be found in Hastings.

It's not for lack of interest. Residents here have asked Avent many times why there were no local outlets for Smead products.

"I used to hear it all the time," she said. "I haven't heard it as much lately."

The reason has been strictly business.

"We've been traditionally in the office products channel itself," Avent said, "with independent dealers or buying groups or the big box stores."

As of this month, Smead finally has a local retailer. Three Smead products are on display in the Hastings Walmart store, set on an end-cap display that gives them all that much more exposure. All three products are tax-time organizers.

"We're very excited about this and very excited about the opportunity," Avent said.

Smead products have been available at Sam's Club stores since 2007, a business relationship that has put Smead in a good position to move into Walmart, said Phillip Keene of Walmart's media relations department.

While Smead gets another avenue to get its products to consumers - and one with a local store at that - Walmart gets to add to its supply diversity.

"The supply diversity area of our company has been growing exponentially since 1994," Keene said.

It started out spending $2 million with businesses owned by women and minorities. By 2009, that investment had jumped to $9 billion. Partnering with Smead is one of those investments.

"I think that's a good example of the type of partnerships and the type of business relationships we try to start with women and minority-owned businesses," Keene said.

Avent said she's looking forward to growing her company with Walmart. Both are similar, she said, in that they had similar beginnings, are both active in their communities and share similar values.

"So I think it's a good match," Avent said.

Since the three products for sale now are all tax-related, it's unsure if Walmart will carry other Smead items after tax season is over.

"It's yet to be seen what may be next," Keene said, "but I think this is definitely a positive step."

The idea on both sides is that the two companies will grow together. For the meantime, Avent is happy to have such a promising relationship with Walmart.

"We're excited, and we're happy to have placement and to have our products here," she said, "especially in our home town."