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Tom and Sue Peterson

"Built on an unwhavering faith...


Standing in a hot tool shed on a small farm in southern Minnesota hunched over a broken tractor in the peak of summer with light sweat on his brow, a young Tom Peterson felt the pull of something much bigger than a little homestead and stuffy outdoor shed. That, and a prayer for cooler weather.


In those days, Peterson assumed that ‘something bigger’ would be a small engine repair shop in the nearby city of Owatonna. He enjoyed the farm life and felt comfortable around the plows and mowers, but he couldn’t make a living off of it. With those concerns, it might seem a bit odd to risk it all and start your own computer aided drafting company. But that is exactly what Peterson and his wife, Sue decided to do. In 1989 They founded CAD, Concepts and Designs Inc.


This small start up business in Peterson’s basement served as a supplement to other manufacturers looking to implement Computer Aided Design in their production, but couldn’t afford the steep implementation costs. CAD assisted in this process to shorten the development period and allow for a return on investment much sooner.


After moving into an office space at the Owatonna Incubator in 1990, it was really a matter of time before Peterson’s company decided to cut the middle man and to break into manufacturing themselves. They took the leap and began production in 1991, producing custom HVAC systems they developed using the systems they’d previously sold to others. It’s here that Concepts and Designs Inc became CDI as we know it today.


In 2016 they changed their name to Climate by Design International. They were no longer a design company that dabbled in manufacturing. They were a production company with a focus on creating specialized cooling systems for their customers across the world. And Tom Peterson, aka ‘Dr. Dry,’ has fully embraced this rebranding.


If you go to CDI’s website you will find something totally unexpected: instructional videos on the exact science behind his products and how he produces them. Most company’s would hide this information behind locked steel doors with a 23 numeric password and a request for your first born son, for fear someone would steal their secrets and their business in turn. Peterson is more concerned with spreading knowledge and encourages his competitors with a proverb about lions and gazelles. Both need to run to survive, so they both ought to be moving when the sun comes up.


He shares this love and passion with the community as well, supporting other businesses through his partnership with the Owatonna Area Business Development Center, the school district, and any other organizations he and his company can support. He does so with a cool head and custom HVAC systems keeping Owatonna cool as well.

 - Authored By Jessica Beckman

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