Enterprise Minnesota Magazine
Kern brothers combine two related laser-tech companies with growing international markets.
By R.C. Drews
From their headquarters in rural Wadena, Kern Laser Systems and Kern Technologies are family businesses that have partnered with national players as large as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, NASA, and the U.S. military. They even have an international presence in Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan.
“We have a machine in every continent besides Antarctica,” Derek Kern, president and CEO of Kern Laser Systems, says.
Not bad for a “bunch of farm boys,” says Derek’s brother, Aaron Kern, president and CEO of Kern Technologies.
Today, the pair of cutting-edge, laser tech companies have a combined revenue of $15 million and sell to manufacturers of high-end consumer electronics, electronic signage, and aviation equipment. Such an outcome may have seemed unlikely in 1982. A father of four and respected professor of electronics and telecommunications at Wadena Vocational Technical College, Gerald Kern was an entrepreneur possessed by an endless curiosity for tinkering and invention. His company began in the family garage. Through experimentation, Gerald developed a motorized X/Y gantry system and imagined agricultural applications, among others, for his new product.