By Nicole Cooke
August 14, 2014
The 2014 Economic Development Sedalia Showcase offered another look at the Sedalia community during the Missouri State Fair, focusing on the manufacturing industry with a tour of Waterloo Industries.
About 250 community members and local and state politicians toured Waterloo Thursday morning, which was followed by a presentation from local leaders and Waterloo General Manager Russ Foote. Leaders in attendance included State Sen. Mike Parson, State Rep. Stanley Cox, State Rep. Dean Dohrman, State Rep. Denny Hoskins, Presiding Commissioner John Meehan and Mayor Steve Galliher. Gov. Jay Nixon was scheduled to be in attendance, but cancelled all plans at the fair so he could attend to the recent events in Ferguson.
“Everybody wants this kind of business in their communities,” Parson said. “We’re fortunate to have them here in Sedalia and Pettis County. As I travel the state of Missouri, companies like you are the backbone of Missouri.”
“You can have all the fancy, high tech equipment, but if you have no good, quality employees, you don’t have anything,” Galliher said. “The employees are what make this business what it is, and this city what it is.”
When Foote took the stage to give an overview of Waterloo, he touched on the topic of loyal employees by giving an award to 35-year employee Phillip Cain, who hasn’t missed a day of work in the last 27 years.
Waterloo Industries is the world’s largest tool storage manufacturing plant, with a 480,000 square foot manufacturing building and a 622,000 square foot distribution center. The company has EPS molding on site, an in-house steel slitter, a product test lab, and the capability of E-coat and powder coat finishing all of its products. The company offers a product line that includes tool storage chests and cabinets, utility carts, portable tool storage, project centers, workbenches, garage organization and wall storage products.
The company began as the Waterloo Valve Spring Compressor Co., founded by Croatian immigrant Nicholas Sulentic in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1922. During his presentation, Foote told the audience the company in 1938 became a tool box manufacturer after customers became more interested in the metal box Sulentic was using to carry tools than the tools themselves. The name was changed to Waterloo Industries Inc., in 1967.
Foote spoke about the company’s commitment to safety, and the pride they take in giving back to the community.
“First and foremost at Waterloo is safety,” he said. “We want to go home in the same condition we arrived in. We have hit 1 million hours without a lost time accident several times, but our proudest time was June 2008 to August 2011, three years, we accumulated over 3 million hours without a lost time accident. That was quite a feat.”
“Manufacturing is key to our future – that of Sedalia and of our country,” said Rusty Kahrs, President of Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County, during the presentation. “If manufacturing ceases producing, we will short shrift wealth which will permeate throughout society, and we will relegate our status as a nation because the economic foundation of the United States is manufacturing.
“By its very nature, manufacturing forces our society to become more innovative. It creates high-paying jobs and continuous opportunities for training which brings actual wealth to a community as it has for us.”
During the presentation, Waterloo was recognized by Show-Me Heroes for consistently hiring veterans since the company joined the program, which advocates the hiring of veterans and helping them transition to civilian life. Waterloo has hired more than 40 veterans since signing its pledge four years ago. Jonathan Barry, of Show-Me Heroes, was on hand to present Foote with an award. Foote invited a special Waterloo employee on stage to help him accept the award – his son, who served in Afghanistan.
“Waterloo has always been a good corporate citizen and we’ve never had them featured,” Linda Christle said of the choice to feature Waterloo in 2014. “It’s a wonderful company and it touches the lives of a lot of families in our community.
“Everyone loves a toolbox. They’ve done unique things. They’ve relocated a product line to Sedalia, and they’ve taken off with that. They are showing off what they can do. And they’ve been in Sedalia for 35 years – that’s a milestone.”
The showcase is an extension of the fair, used to highlight other industries in Sedalia that may not otherwise be included in the festivities.
“Ten years ago when I started, I felt the manufacturing industries weren’t being recognized, and they contribute a lot of money and jobs to our economy, their employees and their families,” Christle said. “In the same vein, it gives us the opportunity to assist and participate in the fair. We did it as a spin off of the ham breakfast.”
Duke Manufacturing was the first company to be featured in the Sedalia Showcase in 2004, and it has also featured companies in various sectors, such as manufacturing and health care. The event has seen a large increase in attendance since the first one in 2004 – the first event only had 40 people attend the evening dinner on the fairgrounds, and this year more than 500 people were in attendance.