STATE OF THE CITY 2000 (Industry): Rising fortunes

Increased sales and a need for additional employees was a common story for most industries in Hillsboro in 1999.

With a limited employee pool, several businesses could not produce as much as they could sell, and are hoping to catch up in the new year.

Hillsboro Industries

Hillsboro Industries finished 1999 ahead of previous years.

?The past year, compared to the past couple of years, was better,? said Bob Klein, general manager. ?It pretty well went the way we anticipated it would.?

Klein said their agricultural-market sales were better than they expected, considering the prices farmers were receiving. He said a stronger cattle market definitely helped the sale of livestock trailers.

Another positive factor was a change in the company?s focus. Hillsboro Industries is in the process of shifting its focus away from the agricultural market, which has been its mainstay since the beginning.

To broaden their market, the company began last August to start manufacturing trailers designed to haul classic cars and race cars.

More recently, Hillsboro Industries jumped into truck-bed equipment and accessories.

Klein said the response to the new lines has been positive.

In 2000, Klein said they are going to concentrate on finishing the projects they started in 1999.

Circle D

The only thing limiting Circle D?s production in 1999 was a lack of good workers available, according to Wendell Dirks, owner/manager.

?Our single biggest problem was hiring enough good help,? he said. ?We have to come up with some innovative ways to find people.?

Dirks said he would like to hire two to three additional employees.

?That?s kind of a good problem, in some ways,? he said.

Dirks needing more employees was a better challenge to deal with than laying off employees because products weren?t selling.

Dirks said Circle D currently is not selling as much as it could because of the worker shortage.

All in all, Dirks said 1999 was ?pretty much business as usual.? The company stayed busy all of last year, building and selling everything they could.

?We had an excellent year,? he said. ?It was everything we expected it to be.?

Finding additional good workers is one of the things Circle D will focus on in 2000. The business also is putting more emphasis on promoting its product in an effort to increase sales.

?I think our future looks bright,? Dirks said.

Wheatbelt, Inc.

Expansion was a highlight for Wheatbelt in 1999. The rolling-shutter business added 5,500 square feet of storage space to its building.

?We are in the process of reorganizing space,? said owner Roger Hofer.

The additional space will allow for better organization and production for the business, he said.

In part because of the expansion, Hofer said his company will be able to take on new ventures. One way Hofer said he is diversifying his sales strategy is through the use of a Web site.

?I get requests from all across the United States,? Hofer said.

Wheatbelt is doing more commercial work, including security covers for kiosks and shelves.

?We do just a little of everything,? Hofer said. ?It?s very broad. We are diversified beyond just house shutters.?

Last year turned out better than Hofer had expected. He said he doesn?t set goals because they never work out. He said things usually come to him ?from sideways,? and the unexpected keeps his company hopping.

He said every year the nature of a business can change, based on customer demands.

?We?re pretty level in our operation,? Hofer said. ?We just want a healthy increase.?

One of their larger markets of late is degreaser tank covers, although they sell the item for a variety of uses.

?In regard to our business plan, we don?t want to be limited to a given market,? Hofer said.

Hofer said he is the process of purchasing new equipment that will make it easier to manufacture some of their parts.

Hofer hopes to broaden the scope of the materials they use and how and where their product will be used.

Prairie Products

Prairie Products experienced an increase in sales of their livestock-feeding equipment during the last quarter of 1999 because of the stronger cattle market, according to Rod Funk, owner.

?The volume was a surprise,? Funk said.

Although Funk faced the same dilemma as many other local industries?finding qualified people?he said that is no longer a problem. Last year, Funk added new employees and dealers to his business, which contributed to their increased sales.

Funk also recently updated their delivery system with acquisition of a medium-sized freight liner truck.

He is looking to purchase some additional equipment for the business that will help production.

?We would like to get caught up and build the inventory to sell from,? Funk said.

Barkman Honey Co.

Sales for Barkman Honey reflect a similar trend to other local industries last year?an increase in sales.

At Barkman, processors of honey, sales increased by 26 in 1999.

?We have had a very good year,? said David Mathis, vice president of sales and marketing.

Mathis said Barkman Honey is continuing to become a national player in the honey industry. He said new doors seem to be opening, allowing for broader markets.

Sales are divided into three areas at Barkman. The largest increases were experienced in retail grocery sales and sales to wholesale clubs. They also sell to food service businesses who distribute the honey.

Meanwhile, their own ?Busy Bee? label is among the top five sellers in the nation.

To prepare for production increases, Barkman Honey nearly doubled its square footage with an expansion project to be completed early this year.

The expansion, which will bring the size of the business to 76,500 square feet, included construction of a warehouse and packing room.

?We are seeing the need now to see it totally completed,? Mathis said.

In addition to expanding is size and production, Mathis said they also added five employees last year.

?The perpetual challenge is to find people, to be fully staffed,? Mathis said.

Mathis expects the trend in sales to continue in 2000.

Container Services, Inc.

Good news for their industrial neighbor, Barkman Honey, is good news for Container Services, which produces plastic containers for Barkman and other companies.

?It was a very respectable year,? said Darrel Driggers, co-owner.

Driggers said a stronger local and national economy helped their sales, including a three- to four-state region.

Having completed an expansion in the last two years, the company did not make any changes to their facilities or equipment last year. They did, however, add four employees over the course of last year.

Driggers said they expect to see continued growth in 2000.

?We?re pushing sales pretty hard,? he said.

American Rolling Shutters

After about five years in business, Reg Matz, founder, closed the doors of American Rolling Shutter in Hillsboro and sold their business location in Denver last year.

Horseshoe Metal Works

For Donovan Funk, owner of Horseshoe Metal Works, it was an average year, with sales slightly down from the previous year.

Part of his sales are dependent upon other industries in Hillsboro.

Funk said if Hillsboro Industries does not sell a lot of flat beds, his sales of his underbody storage boxes decreases.

Perhaps best known for his PowerDunk adjustable basketball goals, Funk said he is designing a new model for 2000 that should be more shipper-friendly.

Funk would like to sell it over the Internet once the model is completed.

Funk would also like to construct a building and hire one or two employees to speed up production, but he has not set a timeline for doing so. Currently, Funk is the sole employee of the business he opened six years ago.

?So far it has been working for me,? he said.

United Suppliers, Inc.

Change is the nature of the business at United Suppliers, but Roger Almos, manager, said his company did not make any major changes in 1999.

The company, which distributes chemicals to cooperatives and aerial applicators for agricultural use, experienced increased sales from the previous year.

?We had pretty good sales,? Almos said.

Going into the third year of doing business in Hillsboro, Almos is hoping for a more prosperous year and continued increases in sales.

Hillsboro Industrial Park

Industry grew throughout Hillsboro in 1999 and the Industrial Park, home to many of them, was not immune.

?I would say this has been a sensational year for Hillsboro,? said Carol Wiebe, executive director of the Hillsboro Development Corp.

Wiebe said the praise goes to the businesses willing to invest in new developments and expansion.

?We are pleased they recognize Hillsboro is a good place to let their businesses grow,? she said.

By year?s end, more than $5 million in building permits were issued by the city for the industrial park.

The industries building or expanding last year included Barkman Honey Company, Container Services Inc., Hillsboro Industries, Wheatbelt Inc., Prairie Products, United Suppliers and United Feed.

In addition, Brad Wodke is in the process of moving his Machine Specialty business in the industrial park. Machine Speciality, which employees four people, does computerized milling and turning, ?lights out? manufacturing, and other high-tech work.

Hillsboro Development Corp. also is working with new prospects.

?We?ve not had a year like this in a long time,? Wiebe said.

She also gives credit to the cooperative efforts between HDC and the city.

?We aren?t managed by one big industry,? said Mike Kleiber, HDC president. ?We are fortunate we don?t have that.?

He said Hillsboro has a number of nice mid-sized companies.

Looking to the new year, HDC hopes to continue working cooperatively with the city, including looking for grants for continued work in the industrial park.

Some of the changes expected for this year are a new entrance from U.S. Highway 56 onto Centennial Drive and work on the street and utilities in the park.

Dairy Farmers of America

Progress continued in the efforts to sell the Dairy Farmers of America plant in 1999. The plant, at the time the biggest industrial employer in Marion County with 83 jobs, closed in 1998.

Delores Dalke, owner of The Real Estate Center and the agent for the property, said potential buyers have been looking at the facility.

Also, consultants have come in to look at aspects of the property and do environmental studies.

Dalke said it takes a lot longer to sell commercial property because of the studies that need to be done.

Whoever buys the property, she said, also will have to refurbish the building to meet their needs.

DFA sold and removed most of the processing equipment in 1999.

More from article archives
Tabor falls to Emporia State 82-65
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL The Tabor College Bluejays traveled to Emporia State...
Read More