In 1902, five businessmen from Two Harbors, Minn., started 3M (NYSE:MMM), originally called Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.
The original intent was to mine a mineral deposit, but when it produced nothing, the founders instead refocused on a new product called sandpaper.
Since then, 3M has been a source of incredible innovation. Just some of the company’s breakthroughs include Scotch tape, videotape, the overhead projector and of course, Post-it Notes.
Now, 3M is a multinational powerhouse headquartered at a St. Paul, Minn., campus with more than 50 buildings. 3M employs more than 84,000 people and boasts more than 55,000 products, including abrasives, car shampoo, optical films, dental products, laminates and fire protection systems. Last year alone, the company generated about $30 billion in sales, about two-thirds of which came internationally.
A core philosophy of 3M is to have a third of sales each year come from new products. No easy feat, but it helps that 3M has been an aggressive acquirer, with the deals ranging from small firms to large operators. For example, in 2012, 3M purchased Federal Signal Technologies Group, which develops technologies for electronic toll collection and parking management. Then, there was a $500 million acquisition of the office and consumers products business of Avery Dennison (NYSE:AVY).
But naturally, 3M also is a big spender on research & development, employing several thousand people and making $1.6 billion in expenditures last year.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPOPlaybook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He also is the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.