Local Design Firm Thrives in Region 5
11 Feb 2019
Rural towns have struggled for years with “brain drain,” the phenomenon where young people move away for college and job opportunities and don’t come back. But lately, some towns are experiencing a return migration of young people attracted by small town quality of life.
They’re bringing their skills, energy and experience back home with them. Some young entrepreneurs are returning to start their own businesses, which provides a nice boost for local economies. A prime example of this is Digital Ink Design & Graphics in Baxter.
Josh Goble grew up in Brainerd and started working for a local company in the sign and graphic design industry right out of high school. “I knew it was what I wanted to do. It’s a job where I’m not working at the same thing every day and I’m passionate about making signs and graphics,” he explains.
After moving to Colorado and working for a sign company there for a few years, Josh and his (now) wife Sara returned to the Brainerd area. He decided to start his own sign, banner and graphics production company.
Along with the help of partner Dan Lundberg, Josh started Digital Ink in 2007. He admits that starting the business was a risk and gives the community credit for supporting the venture.
“I was raised in Brainerd and have lots of friends and family in the area. Word of mouth was huge for us,” Josh says. “We stayed busy with past clients who knew my design style and work ethic.”
Initially, the company rented a building in the Baxter Industrial Park. It established a unique niche in terms of both design and product offerings.
Josh comes from a motorsport background and has friends in the industry, which helped Digital Ink land big name clients such as professional snowmobile racers Tucker Hibbert and Levi LaVallee.The snowmobile graphics the company produced for these nationally-known riders helped enhance its client base and business.
“You can’t really pay for that kind of exposure,” says Josh, noting the company has landed many new projects based on this attention, from motorsports to construction company vans and trailers.
About 5 years ago, Digital Ink grew too big for its leased location. The partners bought a new building in downtown Brainerd. The larger space opened up new opportunities and room for larger projects.
The company also received a North Central Economic Development Association loan to purchase a large format printer, which greatly enhanced its in-house printing capabilities since the company had been outsourcing its large format vinyl printing.
“That piece of equipment was the one thing we needed at the time that upped our game through the roof,” says Josh. “It really helped us tremendously.”
Josh notes that the fact that Digital Ink is a one-stop-shop sets it apart from competitors. If someone is starting a company, for example, it can provide all aspects of branding, from logos to business cards and vehicle graphics. Design and production all happen in-house, which is unique.
Three years ago, Josh bought out his partner. He and Sara now own and run the business themselves, with the help of two additional employees. Digital Ink will increase its service offerings in the near future and add an additional employee as well, according to Josh.
Region 5 has proven to be the perfect place for the Gobles to grow the company, both for business and personal reasons. “We chose Brainerd because we’re from Brainerd and really liked the tight-knit community. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” says Josh.