Toward the back of a long, narrow office, tucked away in a storefront that has been a south Des Moines landmark for more than 107 years, Frances Graziano sat behind a paperwork-laden desk last September and chuckled.
Was she scared? Absolutely.
“It’s terrifying,” said Graziano, president and CEO of the Graziano Brothers food company. “It’s absolutely terrifying. Is the product going to work? Do we have everything in place? Are we going to have a handle on the quality control? Is there going to be a market for our product outside of its current geographic area?”
Early this year, for the first time since 1912, the manufacture of Graziano Brothers sausage took place somewhere outside the small brick building on South Union Street. The change, which followed roughly 18 months of planning and preparation alongside CIRAS experts, is part of a broad, multistep plan to breathe new life into a historic family business and position it for a much longer future.
It all started roughly 38 years ago, when John Tiefenthaler needed a job to take part in a high school vocational program. Tiefenthaler, then 18, visited the local Holstein, Iowa, meat locker. Uncertain how to act, he clumsily introduced himself and assumed that somebody would call him later. When no one did, he eventually admitted … Continue reading Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats
There are many reasons Iowa manufacturers come to Ramco Innovations looking for automation.
“Certainly, a lot of it is that it’s hard to fill a lot of positions these days,” said Joe Stoltz, vice president of technology for the West Des Moines company. “And once you find people, it’s hard to keep them doing a repetitive job.”
So how do you get more work done without adding staff? The correct technological solution for any particular company depends on exactly what you need machines to do. But Iowa manufacturers can’t answer those questions until they understand their options.
A Le Mars manufacturer of side-dumping truck trailers believes his business is on the road to steady growth after CIRAS helped improve the company’s management structure and confirm that its marketing is on the correct path.
SmithCo Manufacturing Inc. was founded in 1994 to make side-dump trailers for the construction industry. Change loomed, however, as the company entered its third decade. SmithCo, long popular in construction, agriculture, and municipal waste hauling, had discovered a lucrative new market in the mining industry. But could the business handle it? Operations manager Scott Lovell saw the potential for enormous growth over the horizon, and he wanted to make sure his company was ready.
A popular Iowa-made brand of all-natural insect repellant now comes with a wick—thanks to a new union between two highly successful CIRAS clients.
Simply Soothing, the Columbus Junction maker of Bug Soother insect spray, launched a new line of 8-oz. candles this summer with help from Milkhouse Candle Company, a soy-based candle firm with factories in Osage and New Hampton.
The candles, which are being manufactured by Milkhouse but sold under the Bug Soother name, are the culmination of years of conversations between the two companies. It all began after Ryan Horgen, head of business development for Milkhouse, read an article on Simply Soothing in CIRAS News.
Every two years, CIRAS asks manufacturing leaders to step back and help us understand the condition of manufacturing in Iowa. What’s your greatest struggle? What’s working? Just as importantly, what’s not?
The government sector is a vast ocean of possibility for Iowa businesses, but the waters can run treacherous if you don’t understand how it works.
To help with that, CIRAS experts have created a daylong training event to help Iowa companies take a deep dive into the world of government contracting and delve into advanced teaming strategies for business development.
Charles Romans sees tremendous possibility in the relationship he’s building with his counterparts on the other side of Iowa.
Romans is the 3D design prototype director for ProtoStudios, a University of Iowa rapid prototyping facility that’s part of the MERGE innovation lab in downtown Iowa City. Despite his black-and-gold employer, Romans and his staff have been working closely with CIRAS project manager Mark Williamson and Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), for more than a year as part of a joint effort to learn from each other and give taxpayers the maximum benefit from the equipment each agency controls.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Hill said with a chuckle. “It is possible for Hawkeyes and Cyclones to work together.”
Life began moving faster after Betty Garcia got the phone call.
It was the fall of 2017, and a Des Moines-area produce company was planning to launch a line of ready-to-eat meals. The company was wondering whether Tortilleria Sonora would be interested in supplying tortillas. First, there were a few questions about the business. Would Garcia mind filling out a questionnaire?
For John Nelson, the difference was like night and day—largely because everything looks dark when customers can’t find your website.
Nelson is sales manager for ESCP Corporation, a Davenport metal fabricator and manufacturer of metal stacking racks. ESCP’s website used to work wonderfully, he said. But then one day, a periodic Google algorithm change seemingly knocked the company out of favor. All web-based leads just evaporated.
Legacy Manufacturing in Marion has added seven new employees (with at least three more coming soon) after a CIRAS-assisted automation program helped the company reshore production of one of its most popular products.
A quick five years after its journey began, a Holstein, Iowa, door-maker’s quest to find new alternatives for one of its products has morphed into a massive new business and a new company-owned recipe for producing fireproof doors.
A Davenport manufacturer of alternators and other electrical equipment for specialty vehicles expects to more than double the amount it sells overseas within the next three years.
Officials at American Power Systems Inc. predict the company will at least double its current six-figure export sales once it fully implements everything leaders learned during a CIRAS-driven class presented via the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub.
Kay Park Recreation was born in 1954 because its founder, Keith Borglum, was in the right place at the right time.
“His older brother happened to know some guys on a county conservation board,” said Keith’s son, Larry Borglum. “In the 1950s, when they started making parks everywhere, his older brother said, ‘I know some guys who could do that…’ ”
Industry experts from around the state are developing a detailed plan for growing Iowa manufacturing—with CIRAS slated to play a leading role both in the plan’s design and its implementation.
The ongoing effort stems from 2017’s governor’s Year of Manufacturing initiative, which charged the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Innovation Council (IIC) with finding ways to increase a $29 billion manufacturing gross domestic product to $32 billion by 2022.
For most of the online era, companies were able to maintain two separate growth strategies: a traditional marketing plan and a web/e-commerce plan. Not anymore.
Buyers, from consumers to professional B2B purchasing agents, have changed. It is now imperative to include your website, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and web analytics as integrated pieces of your overall marketing plan.
Earlier this year, Deere & Co. announced the $4.88 billion purchase of Wirtgen Group, a German company that makes construction equipment used in building roads. Analysts touted it at the time as something that would help the farm machinery manufacturer diversify and ease its dependence on agriculture.
Why is this important? Because it illustrates the realities of growing a business: there are only two real paths to do it in a lasting way—creating new products and/or finding new markets.
Do you hear terms like “digital manufacturing,” “Industry 4.0,” and “Internet of Things,” but wonder how any of those things could actually impact your company? Are you sensing that something is coming but uncertain of what it all means?
Mark Baker eventually concluded that government contracting was worth a shot.
No, the CEO of Des Moines-based Endless Supplies Corporation acknowledged, it was probably not going to become his company’s primary business strategy. Becker still has difficulty reconciling the fast-moving, products-always-changing world of information technology with sometimes-lengthy government procurement processes. But after a full day at the Iowa Events Center last fall spent hopping between educational presentations and asking questions of the speakers, Becker concluded that Endless Supplies ought to at least get certified so his company can show that it’s ready and able to do business with the government.
Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders have unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”
The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.