Earlville steelmaker meets the needs of the pork industry
EARLVILLE, Iowa (AP) – At EIP Manufacturing, people take pride in building things that last.
CEO Kenny LeGrand believes the quality and longevity of the company’s products have become his calling card over nearly half a century of operation.
âOur products tend to have a longer lifespan than (products) of our competitors,â he told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.. âThe lifespan of our products is around 12 to 15 years. And it’s not uncommon for a producer to come back and say, âI’ve had your product in my building for 20 to 24 yearsâ. “
This reliability brought back old customers and helped attract new ones, allowing the company to become a major economic contributor in Delaware County.
EIP Manufacturing is a steel manufacturer specializing in the manufacture of products for the hog industry, including gates, floors, gestation stalls and farrowing crates. In addition to creating its products, the company does manufacturing work for other companies. The company operates from two buildings in Earlville – one at the south end of town and one at the north.
LeGrand pointed out that EIP’s products are custom made. Designers are responsible for creating a product that specifically fits the dimensions of a client’s barn. This means that each project is a different experience.
âWe take on a new challenge with almost every job,â he said. âIt requires our staff to be very flexible. They are very good at meeting these challenges. “
EIP Manufacturing has long-term relationships with many of its customers – and has the documentation to prove it.
LeGrand said the company keeps complete records of past projects, allowing it to pull product designs it completed decades ago. This speeds up the process of creating new products for loyal customers.
âWe can take prints from 20 years ago, remove the dust and remake them,â he said.
EIP Manufacturing was founded in 1975 by Dale and Eileen Keuter. The company initially sold wooden feeders. Later, it turned to metal product manufacturing and broadened its product selection.
While serving pork producers has been a constant for the company, navigating this industry requires constant adaptation.
LeGrand said the fortunes of the pork industry are influenced by a variety of factors.
Government regulations, which dictate how animals and meat are to be treated, often change the parameters of project requirements. Interest rates, food price fluctuations and foreign competition also exert an influence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the ultimate curve ball to pork producers. The virus has resulted in the temporary closure of many slaughterhouses, leaving producers with no end market for their pork.
LeGrand said pork producers are not out of the woods.
âThey are still recovering,â he said. “It’s not over. It may be another year before they recover.”
More than four decades after the creation of the company, EIP continues to evolve.
In 2014, the business was sold to Brad and Annie Mills, an Iowa couple who own several Midwestern businesses.
LeGrand said the company is expanding its geographic footprint.
âHistorically, we’ve been primarily in the Midwest,â he said. “… More recently, we are trying to go further.”
Local economic development leaders say the sky is the limit for Earlville’s business.
Donna Boss, executive director of Delaware County Economic Development, said EIP Manufacturing was “an anchor” in the county.
âIt’s wonderful to see everything they’ve done from the ground up,â she said. âOver the years, they have continued to be very proactive and think outside the box.â
The company employs around 50 people, forming a large workforce in a community of less than 1,000 people. Boss said banks, restaurants, convenience stores and other local businesses are benefiting from the presence of these workers.
âIt has a ripple effect on the rest of the economy,â she said.
EIP’s staff range from manufacturers to designers, allowing the company to guide customers every step of the way.
Because projects are tailored to specific dimensions and needs, great importance is given to details. LeGrand said that EIP stays in close communication with customers to make sure the product meets their needs.
âIt’s really a joint effort with the end user,â he said.