An idea to ease farm and ranch work in 1962 evolved into a major Marion County company.
James C. “Jim” Donahue began the Donahue Corp. 50 years ago in a single downtown building in Durham. His newly patented idea was a farm implement carrier that would lay flat on the ground to be loaded, and then be pushed back upon the axles for transporting.
Mike Stika, sales manager for Donahue, said the original hydraulic design, which expands and contracts from 81?2 feet for equipment loading, is somewhat dated by newer hydraulic systems used in Donahue trailers. But it is still sold and in use, especially in the western half of the country.
More than 50,000 of the implement carriers have been built and distributed in the United States and several foreign countries, with major corporate distribution by Allis, Massey and John Deere.
Individual dealer purchases have replaced the more centralized corporate contracts, but Stika said demand is still there.
“It’s a very versatile piece of equipment,” he said.
The company marked 50 years old in February, and there will still be a celebration, Stika said, but it awaits for Jim Donahue, who has required health care, to be there.
Donahue actually began expanding in downtown Durham buildings, but built the current 40,000-square-foot building northeast of town in 1971.
Although the company has expanded into several models of livestock and implement trailers, Stika said the original focus still exists to build of high quality 41?2-inch high carbon steel and 3-inch lumber flooring with attention to implements for only a few uses.
“We have the capability,” Stika said, “to get a truckload of raw materials, and, in a week, send it out the door as a trailer. We have tried to stick with producing high value. We have a lot of friends out there.”
Stika said that Donahue’s exclusive loading method lowers a trailer bed to ground level simply by engaging wheel locks.
As the trailer bed rolls forward, the undercarriage rotates to allow the bed to roll down runners to ground level for loading implements.
Once the bed is flattened, and an implement towed onto it, it is backed up over the wheels with release wheel locks clamping it back in place.
Stika said there have been times in Donahue Corp. history when it had more employees working both day and night shifts. He sees the current group of 13 skilled day workers as a nucleus for building increased business with the economically improved farm economy.
He said he has hopes that with the improving economy, innovations like the new welding school in Hillsboro may help Donahue when it needs to add skilled workers.
It isn’t an occupation where the company can call in any worker to train, he said.
Stika said the company is a good place to work with potential to create long-term careers for employees.
He has been with Donahue 25 years while Ray Remmers, vice president of the company, has been there 37 years.
Donahue’s sons, Dudley and Tim, Stika said, remain active as officers of the company.
“Jim Donahue has been an inspiration for us all,” Stika said, “proof that a man can build a company from nothing with hard work and a good character.”