20160519_183759

Made in DeWitt

October is National Manufacturing Month and in this month dedicated to manufacturing I encourage people to learn more about manufacturing in DeWitt. I began my career in this field twenty-two years ago. My journey started with an opportunity to work part-time at a company named JRB located in DeWitt’s Industrial Park.  JRB was a manufacturer of construction attachments for John Deere and other Original Equipment Manufacturer’s.  At the time I had no idea where the Crossroads Business Park (DeWitt’s Industrial Park) was, what companies were located in it, nor the goods they produced.  What I did recognize was an opportunity to work outside of the typical part-time high school job.  Like many other high school students, I hadn’t made up my mind what I wanted to do for a career. I did know that I wasn’t looking forward to four years of college and viewed this job as a way to see what else was out there.  

So, I found myself in a completely new environment, where people were welding, operating lathes, burn tables, boring machines and painting.  We were literally taking raw steel and processing it into loader buckets, forks, booms, and couplers.  I grew to love the various processes, people and new opportunities that presented themselves.  I got a deep sense of satisfaction when I saw a bucket on a Deere wheel loader that our team in DeWitt had proudly made, as a matter of fact, the bucket on the City of DeWitt’s 544 was made at the DeWitt facility.  

Just like any industry, construction equipment has its ups and downs.  I saw plant expansion and contraction, selling and acquiring businesses, new product lines and phasing out legacy products.  Through it all, I was able to turn hard work and dedication into opportunities for growth.  I worked my way through different departments and increased roles of responsibility culminating in a leadership role as a plant supervisor.  Unfortunately, in 2009, due to the biggest recession since the great depression, JRB was shuttered and production was moved to sister sites in other states.  I was fortunate to stay on with the company that owned JRB and traveled between Davenport and Dubuque to manage a small division called CustomWorks.

Then three years later in 2012 I saw an article in The Observer that a Canadian company called Black Cat Blades was purchasing the old JRB building in the Industrial Park.  I stopped by the plant one day that October which led to a four month interview process where I was given the opportunity to get to know Black Cat and the culture that is very important to our business model.  A large part of what attracted Black Cat to DeWitt was not just the fact that the Industrial Park was less than 20 minutes north of Deere Davenport Works or 50 minutes south of Deere Dubuque Works, it was the people from the area they were meeting which started with the DCDC and DCDC members.  

The thought has always been that the community of DeWitt was a good fit for Black Cat’s culture and guiding principles, and that continued through the use of local contractors like Jansen ElectricHolst Construction and Dorhman during start up.  We believe in building relationships in the community we operate in and over the last four years I feel we have been successful in becoming part of the community.  We now employee 16 team members and in 2014 we started manufacturing wear blades in addition to our warehousing activities. DeWitt is very fortunate to have a successful Industrial Park and the jobs and opportunities that exist within it.  

So the next time you have a few minutes take a drive through the Crossroads Business Park and you will see all kinds of different manufacturing companies making anything from air fresheners, glass, testing products, wear components, pumps and valves, and ground engaging tools.  These companies come from all around the United States and other countries like Canada, Italy, and Sweden and truly demonstrate that DeWitt is part of a global economy.  

Josh Daniel, Black Cat Blades – DeWitt Plant Manager

See more about how DeWitt Delivers manufacturing and more!

 

 

IMG_0180

Finding Purpose in Pink

While breast cancer is a very serious issue, let me share my story of some amazing women and men that I have met in my position at the DeWitt Community Hospital Foundation, the local fundraising organization that supports Genesis Medical Center – DeWitt. Laughter is the best medicine according to them!  I have been with the foundation for 10 months, but after meeting Sherry Stauffer, the woman who started the entire month of local breast cancer awareness, her passion soon inspired me too!  I am graciously aware of my surroundings when I sit around a table of 13 amazingly kind, courageous and very humorous individuals on our Pink for the Cure Committee.  Six members of this committee are breast cancer survivors.  The rest of us have either had or know someone affected by this crazy disease.  Yet, at every meeting there is one common goal . . .  get the word out to everyone about getting annual mammograms to help with early detection. There is not a meeting where we don’t laugh or think of something joyful.  If you’re lucky enough to meet one of these inspiring women be prepared to laugh; they may tell you a prosthesis story or a good one about a wig!

Let me give you a glimpse of what the month holds.  A Community Challenge of lighting up the whole town of DeWitt in Pink; Movie and Mammo night . . . and no, you don’t get a mammogram, it’s just a fun night at DeWitt Operahouse Theatre watching a chick flick and drinking some TYCOGA wine; Community Pink Out, where you are encouraged to wear pink on October 7 (Men this includes you too!); The Pink Stronger Than You Think Event at Springbrook Country Club featuring former television personality Carolyn Wettstone, speaking about how she kicked the cancer fairy’s butt (now tell me, who wouldn’t want to learn about that?), and lastly our very own Joan Reynolds, teaching us how to paint at TYCOGA.

Feel the passion!  Get your pink on for the month of October as we celebrate our fifth anniversary of these great events (Five years is a big number for survivors of breast cancer as a milestone in their journey).

Robin Krogman – Director, DeWitt Community Hospital Foundation

Facts about Breast Cancer in the United States

  • One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 will die of the disease.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, each year an estimated 2,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 440 of them will die.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and one woman dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
  • Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today. This remarkable number is directly related to early detection and treatment,
Autumn Fest 2015 (76)

Our Community, Our Home

I love to volunteer for activities that allow me to interact with kids in my community.  Whether it is at my church, or our community library, it’s rewarding to provide an activity that teach or entertain our community’s youth.  Volunteering at DeWitt’s Autumn Fest is a great opportunity to see the children I may already know from other community events and to meet the rest of their families.  But more importantly, it is an opportunity to build bridges with the next generation.  Someday, they will be the leaders of our community, and if I can help nurture them in some way, I feel that it is time well spent.

DeWitt is a lovely community and a great place to live and to raise children.  I want the children to be exposed to the many great aspects of the community and maybe raise their family here. Hopefully, some of them will become the leaders that help our community stay strong, safe and thriving.

It is important as adults, as parents, as churches, as business owners and as community leaders; to do everything we can to help our children have positive things to do with their time and energy.  Autumn Fest is an event that provides an opportunity to be involved in kid’s lives and to help our community stay strong.  Events like Autumn Fest connect people with their hometown and help them build relationships with one another.  “Home” is a very special place, we should do everything we can to continue to make DeWitt “home” for our kids and their families.

Cindy Nees, Director of Children’s Ministries, DeWitt Evangelical Free Church

Lincoln Park in Bloom

I have always liked DeWitt’s Lincoln Park.  It is a favorite playground of our grandchildren.  We often take a picnic lunch to the park when they visit.  I enjoy the summer community band concerts, Tunes in Town and the Farmers’ Market.  Our family watches parades and races from the shade of the trees in Lincoln Park.

The DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation invites you to spend some time in Lincoln Park on Saturday, September 17, at the John Bloom Arts Festival.  This is the 14th annual arts festival.  The foundation started the event to give local artists an opportunity to display and sell their creations.  It is just one of the many projects that the foundation has to promote fine arts activities in DeWitt.

Twenty local vendors will have their creations for sale at the arts festival between 10am- 3pm on the 17th.  All items are hand crafted.  Those creations include art work, yard art, woven baskets, doll clothes, loomed rugs, jewelry and pottery.  The Nite Lions provide lunch and the Central Community Historical Society serves pie.  Andrew Vickers is the musical entertainment throughout the day.  The Central DeWitt art teachers have make-and-take crafts for children.   It is not only an opportunity to see the creativity of others, but to enjoy time in the park and meet your neighbors!

The name of the John Bloom Arts Festival honors artist and native son, John Bloom.  John was a contemporary of Grant Wood, one of my favorite artists.  I think the story of John’s mural located in DeWitt’s City Hall is fascinating.  DeWitt is fortunate to have John Bloom prints on permanent display in the First Central Gallery located in the Operahouse Theatre.  There is also a large collection of John’s work at the Central Historical Society.  John Bloom may have lived in DeWitt many years ago, but the spirit of the town he depicted in his paintings still lives!

Marsha Witte – DeWitt Area Fine Arts Foundation board member

091

Keeping Fun On The Fourth!

What could be more fun than a Fourth of July parade?

For most people, it means finding a shady spot, parking a lawn chair, and
waiting…and waiting…and waiting, until faint echoes of the band float down the
street and the military color guard appears. The crowd stands respectfully as
the red, white and blue goes by, then settles down for an hour and a half of
wheels and walkers, all decorated for the patriotic holiday.

DeWitt’s Fourth of July Parade offers both the predictable and the unpredictable. The unpredictability is built in because there are very few rules. In fact, there is only one rule: You show up; we tell you where to go. That’s it. We do strongly suggest that your entry be decorated in a patriotic manner. After all, this is not a cruise or a commercial; this is a celebration of America and everything that name conveys. DeWitt has always had a parade for this summer holiday. In the past, a chairman was chosen, invitations were mailed, ads were placed, registrations were solicited and received, each entry was given a number and, on the day of
the parade, lined up in numerical order. At the same time, the committee had
to find judges, a Master of Ceremonies, set up a viewing stand in Lincoln Park,
complete with a microphone and chairs. The judges and MC were supplied
with a list–in numerical order–of all the entries. And, at the end of the event,
prizes were awarded–procured by the committee, of course. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find someone to chair the event. So a good Samaritan would volunteer, go through the whole rigamarole and decide once was enough.

The Prichards and the Schnepels, decided to take a turn. We wrote and stuffed
and licked and stamped and called –this was before email or cellphones were
common–then figured out where each entry should go, found the judges and
the prizes…it was a lot of work. Someone else took on the project the next year.
But then, when the city was once again looking for someone, Bim and I and
Marvin and Alice decided to host the parade again–and simplify it. Who
needs judges? Who needs prizes? We decided that prizes didn’t add anything
to the festivities, so we abolished them. If you don’t have prizes, you don’t
need judges. If you don’t have judges, you don’t need a Master of Ceremonies.
If you don’t need judges and an MC, you need neither a reviewing stand nor a
microphone, nor a script. Furthermore, since people didn’t care which entry
came first, second, or third, there was no need to assign numbers and no need
to put anybody in any particular order. Hence, our first and only rule: You show
up; we tell you where to go.

In no time at all, we eliminated all the work and kept all the fun. Just to be safe,
though, we meet weekly, just like the staff of the Rose Bowl parade. Saturday
morning breakfast is our traditional meeting time; the place has changed over
the years—Grand Mound, Low Moor, DeWitt, Welton, wherever a good
breakfast and lots of coffee are served. Discussion centers on theme, grand marshall, and parade route. The theme is the result of serendipity. Sometimes the grand marshall is chosen to go with the theme; other times the grand marshall is chosen as a representative of
something great that is happening in our community. The route depends on the
location of that summer’s street repairs. We made ourselves official by purchasing red t-shirts with the words “Parade Staff” stamped on the back. When our children were in college, they would bring their friends home to help direct the entries. Tammy Schnepel and Dawn
Hinrichs have not missed a single year.

We estimate that several thousand people line the streets to watch our parade,
no matter what the weather. We’ve never had to cancel because of rain. We
always have the high school band, we always have tractors, we always have
entries representing a business, a social justice issue, a high school class or a
family. The parade is really a great composite of DeWitt and its sister
communities. We have fire trucks from several counties and if we’re lucky, we
have horses. The last two entries are always the Prichard Pickup and the
Schnepel Golf Cart. By the time we drive the route, candy peppers the
pavement and little kids hold sacks full of sweets, still hoping for one more toss
their way.

We receive our reward as people wave at us and shout “thank you!” Then we
meet for breakfast on the next Saturday and start all over again!

Dianne Prichard – Parade Organizer

The Road Less Traveled in Iowa

Taking The Road Less Traveled To DeWitt

My wife Sandy and I will take any excuse for a road trip that gives us an opportunity to see new parts of the country.  And when we do, we like to get off the main roads to enjoy the real America, not just the “highway America.”  We enjoy the slower pace, the opportunity to see the great beauty and many attractions and curiosities this country offers, and the chance conversations and experiences one can only have if you take the road less traveled.  In all these respects, DeWitt definitely delivered.

Last month, Sandy and I had an opportunity to travel from northern Virginia to Vinton, Iowa to attend our son’s end-of-service ceremony with FEMA Corps, a national service program focused on disaster response and disaster mitigation.  We came up through central Ohio and stopped off to visit friends and family, wound our way through Indiana hill country and Illinois croplands and crossed the Mississippi north of Davenport heading to Vinton.  Thus it was that we found ourselves passing through DeWitt on Route 30 on a fine spring day around lunchtime.  So we stopped off at the Garden Café for some mighty fine soup and sandwiches.

While enjoying the hospitality of the nice folks at the Garden Cafe, we read a bit about native son and noted artist John Bloom and a mural he had painted, “Shucking Corn,” installed in the old DeWitt post office, now City Hall.  With a little time on our hands, and always keen to take advantage of local attractions, we decided to have a peek.  We wandered over to the post office and inquired about the mural and the very helpful postmistress informed us that we had found the new post office, and that the mural was located in the “old post office,” now serving as the City Hall.   Entering City Hall, we were invited by the folks in the front offices to enjoy Bloom’s work located above the Mayor’s office door.  It was well worth the time—a wonderful artistic representation of the American experience we leave the city and highway to enjoy.  The enthusiastic folks there pointed us to some additional Bloom sketches mounted in the Council chambers.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the growth and development around DeWitt.

Heading back to the car we crossed the intersection of 10th Street and 6th Avenue, and we were diverted by a sign identifying the intersection as the crossroads of the old Lincoln Highway and the historic Blues Road.  I’m a great blues fan and it is my ambition on a future road trip to follow the Blues from New Orleans northward.  As we were enjoying that discovery, we turned around to see a thatched roof building in Lincoln Park, something you just don’t see every day in this country!  Further intrigued by the German “Hausbarn” museum sign, we poked our German Hausbarn, DeWitt Iowaheads into the Chamber of Commerce offices to inquire about it.  We met the DCDC staff, who couldn’t have been more gracious representatives of DeWitt—opening up the museum for us and letting us know about the various happenings in the DeWitt environs, including Tunes in Town located in Lincoln Park.  We greatly enjoyed our conversation with them and their willingness to show us the well-organized displays relating to the German migration to America.

As we had an event to get to in Vinton, we reluctantly took our leave of the good folks of DeWitt.  But we have abiding memories of a town with great local attractions and of warm, embracing residents who have an obvious sense of civic pride, and who have a predisposition to offer a helping hand, even to out-of-town folks just passing through.  We look forward with great anticipation to our Blues Road travels in the next year or so, now not just because of the draw of the music, but because it will provide us the opportunity to travel up 6th Avenue on our return to one of our new favorite American towns.

With fond memories – Rob and Sandy Fountain

 

Childhood Experience Sparks Volunteerism

As a 39 year old native of DeWitt,  I grew here doing the same things that kids today do – school and sports.  I think I was 5 or 6 years old when we had a chimney fire at our house one evening.  My sister and I were sent across the street to our neighbor’s house.  I remember watching out the window in amazement at all the fire trucks and firefighters working to put out the fire and making sure things were safe for us again.  Not long after that my father decided to become a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, where he is still a member of 33 years.

Fast forward to 2006.  My wife Jodee and I had our first girl, Hannah.  It was then that I decided it was time for me to give back to the community that had taken care of me so well.  I became a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department as well in October of 2006.  In addition to Hannah, we have Hailee who is 7 and Jack who is 3.  Our kids love the fact that I am a volunteer firefighter.  They get to do things that a lot of other kids don’t get a chance to do like ride in the fire trucks during parades and going up to the fire station at any time.  Sometimes they want to bring their friends along! Each summer there is a family picnic at Westbrook Park that our kids look forward to just as I did when I was young.

My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a whole new “family” with the fire department.  Most of the people we probably would not have even met and become so close had I not decided to join.

We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Let me put that into perspective; we don’t get a day off.  When that pager goes off, you react and respond.  It may be at night when we are sleeping, during the day while at work or even while attending Church.  We don’t get to choose when it goes off.   I  have missed family dinners, birthday parties, weddings and work.  But it is all worth it.  When you see that look of terror in a stranger’s eye when you show up and the relief when you leave, that’s when it hits you.  We made a difference.  We made a positive impact on that person’s life.

During the first year of membership a new firefighter is required to be FireFighter 1 certified.  That is a 120 hour course and a passing grade on a written and hands on exam to get the certification.  Firefighter 1 teaches the basic firefighting fundamentals that are essential to the job.  The state of Iowa also requires 24 hours of training each year for volunteer firefighters.  Our department has 2 1/2 trainings each month on the 4th Monday of the month.  There are times when it is hard to find that balance of being a good father, husband and have a full time job, but with great support from my wife and kids, we manage.

Being a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department makes me feel like I can give back to my community.  It gives me great pride that I am a small part of our 30 person department.  We all feel like we can be positive roll models for our own kids as well as all the kids in our community.  We are very fortunate to have the support that everyone provides.  We have awesome equipment, a great group of firefighters and the best community around!

I would encourage everyone to not hesitate to volunteer for anything you feel passionate about, whether it be coaching youth sports or a 4H volunteer, there is always room for more volunteers.  Without volunteers our community could not deliver the opportunities that we offer!  If anyone has any interest in becoming part of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department you may talk to me or any of the other 29 members.

Jeff Peters, DeWitt Resident & Proud Volunteer for the DeWitt Fire Department

Bridge at Westbrook ribbon-cutting

Bridging the Future at Westbrook

The community is buzzing with great reviews regarding the new bridge on the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail. The bridge now carries walkers, runners, dogs, bikers, disc golfers, mountain bikers and hikers across Silver Creek at Westbrook Park. It is situated east of the old bridge location and at a higher elevation, keeping tree debris from accumulating during floods as it previously was under the 100-year flood elevation.

The new precast concrete construction consists a partial realignment of the bridge approach, a 10’ wide 75’ double tee pedestrian span and a height that reaches 6 to 8 feet higher than the previous bridge.  The width of the bridge allows for easy snow removal which will grant easy access to the trail during the winter months.

The original bid for construction was $240,879.50 from Ritmer Inc. of DeWitt, but the start of the bridge project was initially delayed due to the necessity of a wetland delineation, resolving Indiana Bat Habitat issues, and working to comply with IDNR regulations. In the end, the cost of the project – including legal, administrative fees, engineering and construction – totaled $292,342.24. The bridge project was designed and engineered by IIW Engineers & Surveyors PC.

The new bridge is a tremendous addition to Westbrook Park. Everyone is invited to enjoy the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail and check it out.  The bridge was made possible by funds from: City of DeWitt, Clinton County Development Association, and Paul Skeffington Memorial Race Committee.

DeWitt Delivers Recreation!

 

IMG_0125

Family Farming in Clinton County

I was born 38 years ago into a farming family.  I have fond memories of my childhood on the farm.  I remember helping with sorting pigs back when my dad had a small farrow to finish hog operation.  This means we had sow’s that gave birth to baby pigs and we raised them until maturity and sold them to market.  I also have memories of riding in tractors and the combine that seemed so big and massive at that young age.  Then I moved to town with my mom and spent the majority of my formidable years as a city kid that only had marginal association to the farm.  I give this brief but powerful insight into my childhood because now that I have a family of my own I understand as a father what those experiences and memories mean to me as a father as well as what they mean to my own children.

My family has come a long way from when I was a child when we farrowed those 80-100 sows and raised pigs all while planting 1000 acres of corn and soybeans.  Over the years we have IMG_0126since stopped raising hogs and are now only crop farmers.  Today on an annual basis we plant approximately 6500 acres of corn and soybeans.   I say ‘we’ because our operation consists of 5 families, my dad Gary Willimack and his wife Tamra, Brent and Jessica Willimack and their daughter Addison, Jayson and Megan Willimack and their daughter Greyson, Scott and Kassidy Willimack, and myself Matt Willimack and my wife Amanda and our children Mairead and Owen.

I started farming with my family not long after my work off of the farm allowed us the ability to move back to DeWitt which I call home.  I now work for Grain Processing Corporation in Muscatine, IA in addition to farming with my family.   I started farming with my family because my father Gary has worked hard for many years to build a farming operation that could provide opportunities for his son’s to be a part of production agriculture.  We now all work together for common goals.  Some of those goals are things like:

  • Creating a livelihood for those families involved in the operation
  • Being good stewards of the land, i.e. using technology to be as efficient with things like seed, fertilizer, and chemicals to produce quality grain that helps feed a growing world.
  • Keep land conservation in the forefront.  Strive to leave our mark on the environment as better quality land, water, and air for the next generation.
  • Perpetuating the legacy my Dad and even my grandfather started by giving their children the opportunity to farm.
  • Raising our children to understand and appreciate agriculture and how the food they eat gets to the table.

We take pride in the fact that we continue to be a farming family.  Our business is farming, but we are a family first, and we hope that our farming business stays that way for generations to come.

Matt Willimack, Agriculture Enthusiast

IMG_7677

Agriculture Awareness

Driving around the vastness of farm acreage outside DeWitt, one might not realize the esteemed value of the land. Or how our local countryside effects the world.

Fruitful Location. Farming is a global business, and it begins right here on the 1,244 farms in Clinton County. Area farmers have the notable benefit of Iowa’s rich and deep soil, ample water supply and long growing seasons which produce more profitable crops. Corn and soybeans are the two thriving crops, but for over 150 years, corn has been Iowa’s dominant crop, the largest producer of corn in the nation for almost two decades. In Clinton County, 198,000 acres of corn were harvested with an average yield of 186.8 bushels per acre and 109,000 acres of soybeans were harvested with an average yield of 50.8 bushels per acre.

The soil isn’t the only local benefit. Here around DeWitt, local farmers have access to major Midwestern and global markets. DeWitt’s crossroads allow farmers the ease to export their harvest and livestock by truck, rail or river to local and global processing plants, which are used across the world for food, fuel, fiber and feed.

Local support comes from the Clinton County Farm Bureau, located in DeWitt, which is dedicated to helping farm families prosper and improve their quality of life. Financial support such as Farm Credit Services of America, First Central State Bank and DeWitt Bank & Trust Company, all located in DeWitt, offer farmers operating lines of credit, livestock loans, equipment financing, and real estate loans to name a few.

Technology. Agriculture businesses such as Park Farms Computer Systems, Ag Spectrum Company, River Valley Co-Op and Kunau Implement Company in DeWitt provide farmers with valuable cutting-edge technologies and education based on proven scientific research. Tractors with GPS systems. Drones capturing pictures and video of crop health. Nutritional systems that address the basic science of plant and soil health. Farmers depend on local business services to offer high-tech equipment and new technology to help increase crop yields and efficiency. An essential outcome when agriculture is responsible to feed today’s world population of 7.3 billion people.

Because of this technology and better understanding of crop management, today’s farmer is more efficient and better stewards of the land. For example, in 1990, one acre of corn fed two head of cattle. Today, 1 acre of corn feeds 1.9 head of cattle, creates 580 gallons of ethanol, 27 gallons of corn oil, and 1.7 tons of CO2 for industrial use.

Economic Impact. Clinton County is an economic powerhouse when it comes to agriculture. There are 417,189 acres of farm land, with the average size farm at 335 acres.

In Clinton County, there are over 70,000 cattle and calves and more than 56,000 hogs and pigs in inventory. 1.7% of all jobs in the county came from livestock production and the market value of livestock sold was $112.7 million. The market value of crops grown was $286.6 million with 17.7% of all jobs in Clinton County coming from crop production.

Overall, agriculture-related industries produce 8,887 jobs, contributing $524 million in wages and over $4.8 million in total sales in Clinton County.

The next time you drive around the rolling hills of farm land outside DeWitt, appreciate the vastness of the rich, deep soil. The livestock managers, agronomists, and scientists we call farmers. And the impact it reaches on a local, regional and global level.

Explore more about how DeWitt Delivers Agriculture!