Tag Archives: Black Cat Blades

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!

 

 

10 Reasons Why Manufacturing Rocks in DeWitt!

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  1. Easy to “see” products. Items in your home contain products made right here in DeWitt. Your house foundation of crushed limestone, sand and gravel is produced by Wendling Quarries. Blow-molded pieces of your dishwasher are manufactured at Custom-Pak. Windows in your kitchen have Guardian Industries’ glass. Your 8-person luxury spa is manufactured and designed by QCA Spas.
  2. World-wide Impact. ITW-Fluids North America sends $30,000,000 of product out each year, frequenting Mexico, China and Japan. QCA Spas ship hot tub spas to Europe, Panama and Thailand. Expander Americas routinely ships to companies in Chile, Columbia and South Africa. Ennis Business Forms consistently ships orders to Panama. ITW-Magnaflux ship all over the world (except to banned countries).
  3. Giants of Vitality. Think jobs and a healthy local economy. Nearly 1,000 people work at a manufacturing plant in DeWitt. These employees buy goods and services, rent or buy homes, and enjoy recreational amenities right here in town. That puts hard-working dollars back into the community. The industrial and commercial property taxes that come from these companies help to fund city services such as police and fire departments, library, community center, trail systems – as well as infrastructure and street projects.
  4. Local loyalty. One of the top reasons manufacturers come to DeWitt is the loyalty of the local labor workforce. At Ennis Business Forms, the longest-standing manufacturer in DeWitt for nearly 50 years, employees have an average tenure of 27 years. Even after retirement, employees return as needed to fill in during demanding times.
  5. The Glass is half-full. Guardian Industries, DeWitt’s largest company, employees over 350 employees. The DeWitt plant produces enough float glass to make a 10 foot wide ribbon from DeWitt to Grand Mound and back, each day. That glass can be seen in the Nebraska Corn Huskers Memorial Stadium, Green Bay Packer’s Lambeau Field, and the MGM Grand in Vegas, just to name a few.
  6. Eco-friendly. Irwin, Inc. started with a guy who saw waste and found a niche in remanufacturing used wood pallets. Old pallets are repaired with new wood and nails. The old nails are melted down and recycled and the worn out wood panels are repurposed for mulch or for use in the wood burner stove heating the shop. Irwin, Inc. prides themselves on minimizing waste and cutting energy costs. To understand the scope of their salvaging efforts, on average, one person repairs 3,200 broken pallets/week. (One worker broke the company record in 2015, repairing 908 pallets in one day.)
  7. Diversity in products. At ITW-Fluids North America, from their 5 product brands, they can make over 1,000 different products. QCA Spas makes 30 different versions from their 6 spa series. At Ennis Business Forms, they make thousands of different products from their 5 different printing processes. Expander Americas can make over 60,000 designs from their one patented pivot pin. Black Cat Blades manufactures 21,000 part numbers associated with one line of road maintenance vehicles. The scope and variety of products manufactured in DeWitt are relatively limitless.
  8. Innovation. At Custom-Pak, they not only make unique blow-molded products, they are the leader in advanced blow-molding technology, which means they program and custom-build their own equipment. They also make the packaging for shipping. And being conscience of waste, any unused material gets recycled to manufacture additional products at another facility.
  9. Measures of growth. One reason Expander Americas relocated to DeWitt in 2014, was to have more access to raw material, which increased their capability by 50% and urged them to purchase additional equipment and hire more job positions. 6 months ago, QCA Spas moved their Thera Suana production to the DeWitt facility, permitting more room to expand. In September of this year, Irwin, Inc. acquired a custom pallet company which uses new wood, built to custom design. Less than a year ago, Black Cat Blades added blade production to their facility, manufacturing 21,000 different parts associated with just one line dedicated to road maintenance vehicles.
  10. Something for everyone. Operators, engineers, programmers, assemblers, technicians, mechanics, drafters, machinists, welders, managers, planners, accountants and secretaries encompass a fraction of the variety of jobs found at manufacturing companies in DeWitt.