To celebrate our 40th anniversary, especially in these difficult and unprecedented times, is an honor—and one we don’t take for granted. We thank you for being with us every step of the way and making this milestone possible. We’re excited to share that journey with you.
From humble beginnings
Cliff Meacham was an innovator, entrepreneur, and ideas man. An electrical engineer by trade, he served in the U.S. Air Force and then, in the 1960s, set up his own industrial supply company, Cliff and Company (CACO).
By 1981, CACO was operating as a subsidiary of Hitchcock Industries, where Cliff was developing an attaché style tool kit for photocopier repairmen.
When Hitchcock Industries decided to liquidate CACO, Cliff did not stop his business. On the recommendation of a customer, he pursued the copier and computer field service industry. He made the wise decision to buy out Cliff and Company’s tool inventory.
With the name Matrix Tool in mind, Cliff set off to register his new company with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, only to find someone had beaten him to it. Disappointed, he called his wife, Shirley, who told him to “drop the ‘M’”, and with that, the Atrix Tool Company was born, right here in Burnsville, MN.
1981: Laying family foundations
With Shirley managing the finances and meeting with suppliers, Cliff worked with copier service reps to supply them with the needed tools and kits.
As the business grew, the two co-founders enlisted the support of eight of their children, Steve, Dave, Tom, Cindy, Pat, Angela, Amy, and Kris. The Meacham family formed an impressive team, with their unrivaled work ethic and wonderful mix of talents building a solid foundation for success.
1983: Launching our first vacuum
Knowing that copier repair men used vacuums to clean the toner from their machines, Cliff saw an opportunity to offer his customers a complementary product—a powerful, lightweight vacuum.
After being turned down by a prominent manufacturer, Cliff—always the innovator—decided to pursue manufacturing himself.
Cliff developed an entirely new product direction for copier vacuums working with his closest customers. In 1983, the Atrix Tool Company’s first official product was born: the Ultra Fine Particulate Retention (UFPR) Vacuum, soon followed by the AAA series vacuum.
Thanks to the standards set by the Meacham family in caring for their customers, some of the people who bought the UFPR Vacuum are still customers today!
1992: Going public and welcoming Steve Riedel
By the nineties, the Atrix Tool Company had built a reputation for quality products and customer care. In 1992, it merged with a blind pool to become publicly owned by over 800 shareholders. Trading on the NASDAQ under ‘ATXI,’ the Atrix Tool Company changed its name to Atrix International.
As the company evolved, Cliff, Shirley, and the Atrix International board of directors decided to seek new leadership. They invited Steve Riedel, former President of Enercom Data, to meet with them, starting an exciting new era.
Steve brought a wealth of knowledge, leadership, and marketing and sales experience, and had led successful company restructure programs. After initially joining as a consultant three days a week, Steve embraced Atrix’s family culture and approach to innovation and agreed to become full time President, leading the company to profitability.
1995: Introducing the Omega Series
Under Steve’s leadership, Atrix International bought the vacuum cleaner assets from Porous Media—a vacuum, filter, and filter media manufacturer.
The Atrix team re-engineered the vacuum to make it more robust and launched the resulting Omega Series vacuums to replace the UFPR and AAA models. Not only was the Omega more reliable and easier to manufacture, it was also more affordable, helping Atrix capture more market share from its main competitor, 3M.
1999: Going private under the Riedel’s
To help Atrix sharpen its focus on vacuum sales, Steve and his wife, Fern, purchased the company from all shareholders and took Atrix International private, starting from a tool company to a vacuum manufacturing and distribution company.
Today, vacuum sales represent 80% of our business, compared to just 15% in the early 90’s, and we expect that number to rise.
2000: A new home
As we entered the millennium, it was time to leave our beloved home and find a better equipped premises.
Luckily, we didn’t need to leave Burnsville, MN, and bought a new building on Larc Industrial Boulevard.
2004 – 2006: Developing and patenting one of the world’s safest filters
2004 marked a big step in innovation for Atrix. We launched our pioneering Ultra Low Penetrating Air (ULPA) Immediate Containment Filter—one of the safest filters you can find on the market—alongside the Omega Cleanroom Vacuum.
The ULPA complemented our other immediate containment filter cartridges, and in 2006, we became one of the first manufacturers to be patented for such innovations.
The USA Made, Omega vacuum lines are configured to meet the specific needs of technicians in various industries, changing filtration types and accessories to suit the needs of each client.
2009: Embracing employee ownership
From our “garage mentality” toward product innovation to our relentless focus on understanding each customer and partner’s needs, Atrix has an excellent team family.
In 2009, we embraced ESOP, Employee Stock Ownership Program, offering every team member the opportunity to own part of the company—giving employees more of a say in operations, safeguarding our financial future, and sharing the rewards of our success.
We’re proud that Atrix employees have experienced long-term employment, and half of our team have been part of Atrix for more than 15 years.
2010: Launching our backpack vacuums
The pursuit for innovation continued in 2010 as we developed our first backpack vacuums, launching us into the commercial cleaning, janitorial/sanitation, and pest control markets.
Backpack vacuums remain one of our top selling products—alongside the Omega Vacuum—for their use in various markets including industrial and pest control applications.
2016: Welcoming Shane Vail
In July of 2016, we were excited to welcome Shane Vail as General Manager.
Shane had previously served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Stylmark, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of display fixtures. He achieved $23 million in sales over twelve months. Before joining Stylmark, Shane founded Smart Candle, a leading global distributor of flickering LED light technology that simulates a wax candle, where he drove global sales to $40 million.
Shane’s strong background in operations management, planning, and eCommerce sales matched what Atrix needed for continued growth, so he was hired to manage the day-to-day business, grow the customer accounts, and partner relationships.
2018: A fresh new look
By 2018, it was time to take stock and plan for the future. After working with an independent research firm, we knew the focus should remain on product quality and customer care.
Shane directed the Atrix rebrand which included a new website, collateral, and rebranded products.
2020: Expanded leadership—and safeguarding a legend
With Shane’s leadership and direction, Atrix achieved record, year-on-year growth. He was named President in 2020, and we were delighted to welcome Phil Riedel, leader of International Sales and son of Steve Riedel, as Co-Chairman.
In 2020, we decided to give our much-loved Omega Immediate Containment Filters a new name, rebranding them to SafeGuard 360.
Atrix today—and into the future
Our business, which started primarily as a family-run tool company, has evolved into a premier USA manufacturer of vacuums and fine filtration, serving in over 40 countries. However, the journey does not stop there. Here are some of the areas we’re currently working on:
- Customer Service
Building open, honest relationships with customers and suppliers is one of our core values, alongside product quality. We will continue to provide customers with the best products, and if we can’t, refer them to another product.
We’re proud to have a dedicated and experienced manufacturing department, with little staff turnover and four of our employees working here for over 10 years.
We have virtually zero defective filters and very few vacuums returned for service and we’ve been able to upgrade our glue machine, allowing us to go from 240 filters a day to 700.
- Product Development
Our willingness to innovate and develop solutions based on customer suggestions has inspired some of our best selling products, including the Omega Green Supreme, Ergo Backpack Vacuum, Atrix Express IPM, and the Lil’ Red Canister Vac.
Our Product Team stays in conversation with our customers to understand their specific filtration requirements and noise limitations, while also conducting research to determine market positioning for Atrix vacuums against competitive vacuums.
- Serving our community
Businesses play a significant role in any community, and we take pride in practicing business integrity. Recipients of our donations include Catholic Relief Services, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way, American Cancer Society, Special Olympics Minnesota, March of Dimes, Emergency Food Shelf Network, and CARE.
Here’s to 40 more years
The last 40 years have given us many reasons to celebrate, and it’s all thanks to our customers, our partners, and our dedicated team members. We remain highly driven and incredibly grateful, and we look forward to your partnership for the next 40 years to come!