ST. PAUL, MN—Only 3 percent of American companies reach their 100th anniversary. Now, 3M is in that select group.

The company is probably best known for inventing two of the most ubiquitous office products of the 20th century—Scotch transparent tape and Post-It Notes. However, 3M was founded in 1902 in Two Harbors, MN, when five businessmen agreed to mine a mineral deposit for grinding-wheel abrasives. The deposits proved to be of little value, and the new Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. quickly moved to nearby Duluth to focus on sandpaper products. The world’s first waterproof sandpaper, which eased the health problem of sanding dust, was developed in the early 1920s.

A major milestone occurred in 1925 when Richard G. Drew, a lab assistant, invented masking tape—an innovative step toward diversification and the first of many Scotch brand pressure-sensitive tapes.

The present-day company has moved beyond sandpaper and adhesive tape products. It has been an innovator in recording and video tape, photographic products, and medical and dental devices.

The 1990s set new sales records of over $15 billion annually. 3M’s growth has been fueled by a desire to participate in markets where the company can make a contribution from core technologies, rather than be dominant in just a few markets.

The company’s core technologies are:

Light management—the science of optics combined with the nature of light.

Film solutions—innovation in film technology.

Fuel cells—electrochemical devices that convert fuel into usable electricity without using combustion.

Light fiber—visual effects with light that withstand water, sunlight and varying temperatures.