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Monticello industrial sector stable

Many employers are 'home grown' businesses

Tim Siebels assembles pieces of a restaurant buffet at Oak Street Manufacturing in Monticello on Friday, March 6, 2015.
Tim Siebels assembles pieces of a restaurant buffet at Oak Street Manufacturing in Monticello on Friday, March 6, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Employers in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque are about equidistant from Monticello, but many of the town’s 3,900 residents work for manufacturers in the Jones County community,

“Most of the industries that exist in Monticello were homegrown, locally owned businesses,” said Tom Yeoman, president & CEO of Yeoman & Co., a manufacturer of snow shovels — Yo-Ho brand — and nearly 400 standard and custom tools.

“Many of them, like Cascade Die Mold and Energy Manufacturing, have been sold to outside companies. There are a few exceptions, like Yeoman & Co. and Oak Street Manufacturing, that continue as locally-owned businesses.”

Cascade Die Mold was a family-owned company before it was acquired in July 1999 by Applied Technology Products. The Monticello plant, which was sold to MedPlast Inc. in 2008, specializes in custom-molded components for the health care market.

Energy Manufacturing was founded in 1944. The company, primarily a designer and manufacturer of custom welded hydraulic cylinders, was sold to Ligon Industries of Birmingham, Ala., in April 2013.

Manufacturing is the most common industry in Monticello, according to City.Data.com, providing about 31 percent of the town’s employment. Metal and plastic workers are the most popular occupations, followed by other production workers, electrical equipment mechanics, laborers and computer specialists.

Yeoman, a former mayor of Monticello and a current council member representing the city’s fourth ward, said the community offers a number of benefits for manufacturers.

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“It’s a great location for shipping anywhere in the United States,” Yeoman said. “Monticello is centrally located and we can go anywhere with relative ease. We also have low overhead costs and a great workforce.”

When construction began for the 5.4-mile Highway 151 bypass that opened in July 2004, it was viewed as a potential cornerstone for economic development in Monticello and neighboring communities such as Cascade.

“The industries in Monticello are not dependent on the highway, but it certainly doesn’t hurt,” Yeoman said. “We have some development today that would not have occurred without the bypass. It is a great asset because people can get to Monticello more quickly from Cedar Rapids or Dubuque.”

That has benefitted Oak Street Manufacturing, a designer and manufacturer of tabletops, booths, bases and seating for the nation’s hospitality industry.

“About 20 percent of our employees live in Cedar Rapids,” said Tom Bagge, CEO of Oak Street Manufacturing. “We also draw from the Dyersville area as well as communities to the east like Cascade.”

Bagge and his wife, Cindy, launched Oak Street Manufacturing in 1995. The company, which employs 39, manufactures and distributes restaurant furnishings — tabletops, booths, bases and seating — through a network of 500 dealers and wholesalers nationwide and in Canada.

“I was an area general manager for a fast-food chain, Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor,” Bagge said. “I’m originally from Independence and my wife is from Monticello. We were living in Oelwein and moved to Monticello in 1985 because it was central to the territory I was covering.”

Cindy Bagge, president of Oak Street Manufacturing, taught in the Monticello school system for 18 years.

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“She worked part time for a number of years doing the company’s books,” Bagge said. “Cindy started working here full time when it became obvious that she was more valuable to me than what she could make working for the school system.

“She takes care of all the salespeople and the day-to-day operations.”

Oak Street Manufacturing has a 23,400-square-foot custom manufacturing area and a recently constructed 45,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility. The company’s distribution facilities also include a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and plans to open a distribution center in Dallas, Texas, over the next 12 months.

Bagge said there a number of reasons why Oak Street Manufacturing was started and expanded in Monticello.

“The city is very business-friendly,” he said. “Doug Herman, the city administrator, is very helpful in recognizing that the manufacturing base is important to the town.

“Being locally owned, we see money staying longer in Monticello than if the company was owned by an conglomerate.”

Bagge said other business owners have been very supportive at critical times in the company’s history.

“Tom Yeoman was extremely helpful to me when we were forced into doing some importing of product and components,” Bagge said. “He was a huge help to me because he already had experience doing that.

“He showed me the ropes and told me what to expect and what to watch out for, which probably saved us a pile of money over the long haul.”

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Bagge said 40 percent of the company’s products are manufactured in Monticello. The company imports components such as cast-iron table bases and other items that include steel chairs that it does not manufacture to create a finished product.

Bagge said the Monticello Regional Airport, upgraded in 2001 in connection with the path of the Highway 151 bypass, is particularly important for Oak Street Manufacturing.

“I use the airport quite a bit,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of business nationwide and we can cover many of our regional sales calls by air. That saves us a ton of time.”

Yeoman said Monticello offers a small-town quality of life that has helped the community expand its population in recent years. He pointed to a new aquatic center, high school, library and recreation center as community projects that help attract and retain residents.

Yeoman said Monticello’s commercial park has shovel-ready sites ready for new businesses.

“We’re really interested in attracting distributors. I think that’s where our growth is going to be,” he said. “While we would welcome a manufacturer, I think you’re not going to see a lot of heavy industry built anywhere.”

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