Public Safety

Vermeer in Pella celebrates recovery a year after tornado

The Vermeer Corp, equipment manufcatring plant in Pella took a direct Thursday, July 19, 2018, from an EF-3 tornado. (Photo by National Weather Service)
The Vermeer Corp, equipment manufcatring plant in Pella took a direct Thursday, July 19, 2018, from an EF-3 tornado. (Photo by National Weather Service)

Jul. 12 — Fifty-one weeks after being hit by an EF-3 tornado, Vermeer Corporation is coming back stronger than ever.

On Friday, they announced the future development of a new 480,000 square foot facility where plants five and six once stood, a new Eco Center and commemorative monument.

“After we started recovering, we really started to set our sights on the future,” said company Vice President of Operations Bill Blackorby. “We did it by looking at the past and understanding how we were successful ... and then looked to the future about where we wanted to go. We have a large gap in-between our plants four and seven, and we’ve designed a space that’s really going to be world-class in every nature.”

The 480,000 square foot facility will be comprised of both manufacturing and office space. A large portion of the facility will include departments focused on new technology, such as robotic welding and advanced coating. The corporation will begin construction in August, and completion is slated for Oct. 2020.

Additionally, the corporation recently broke ground for a new 35,000 square foot Eco Center just north of Plant Two. Vermeer President and CEO Jason Andringa hopes the project will be completed in 2020.

On Sept. 5, 2018, the corporation announced the construction of Shop 48 for their engineering team. Vice President of Facilities and Construction Vince Newendorp stated the construction process is nearly complete, and the team is planning to move into the facility sometime in August or September. In total, the facility will be approximately 100,000 square feet.

Once projects have been completed, the corporation will have built 200,000 square feet beyond what was lost during the tornado, about 50 percent more than the amount of square feet damaged.

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“Arguably, this is the greatest challenge that Vermeer has ever faced, and yet, I am so proud that we have clearly turned it into an opportunity,” said Andringa.

After announcing future projects, the corporation celebrated their recovery by retiring plant numbers five and six, much like professional athletic teams retire jersey numbers for significant athletes. A monument will be built to commemorate both plants and other damage the corporation sustained and recovered from on the Vermeer Mile. A “Vermeer Strong” beam will be in the middle of the monument to represent the corporation’s resilience, strength and ethos throughout the recovery process.

“I can’t express deeply enough the pride that I have in the Vermeer team and the remarkable story of rebuilding and recovery that we have achieved since the tornado,” said Andringa. “We achieved record volume last year, and we are on pace to produce record volume this year, in the smallest production footprint that we’ve been in more than 25 years. We truly are Vermeer Strong.”

Emily Hawk is a staff writer for the Pella Chronicle.

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