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Fairfield Manufacturer Awarded Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award

By Peter Linder, August 09, 2017

If you live in a rural community or participate in outdoor activities in the field, on the water, the playground, or the golf course, you have likely seen a product made by Agri-Industrial Plastics Company’s Fairfield manufacturing facility. Agri-Industrial Plastics was presented Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRIA) Entrepreneur Award, in recognition as a major regional employer and investor in the community.

Founded in 1978 by Dick Smith, Agri-Industrial Plastics is still a family-owned business and employs 200 local residents in its 340,000-square foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Jefferson County. From canoes and kayaks, to ATV, tractor and marine fuel tanks, and even slides on the playground, Agri-Industrial Plastics serves a wide variety of customers across the county. In addition to creating products for farmers such as conservation-related plastic parts, livestock watering bins, and fuel tanks for tractors and ATVs, Agri-Industrial Plastics is a popular employer for local farmers.

Jason Steele, Jefferson County Farm Bureau president, says that hiring local residents to fill high-tech jobs is a strong sign of local support by the manufacturer. “With so many farmers requiring off-the-farm jobs to make ends meet, having a respected manufacturing employer in Fairfield is great,” says Steele. “Agri-Industrial Plastics employs a lot of farmers in our community. The flexibility allows farmers to work a day shift at the plant and work on the farm at night, or work a night shift at the plant and farm during the day.”

Josh Laraby, director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Association, says that looking forward, Agri-Industrial Plastics is the model type of employer they hope to attract to the community. Laraby noted that at the end of May, the unemployment rate in Fairfield was 2.7 percent, a number that indicates a strong local economy, yet poses a major challenge attracting new companies and filling existing vacancies, given the lack of candidates seeking employment. Having a stable employer committed to growing with the local community is essential in the eyes of Laraby. “Fairfield has a very strong history in industry with a manufacturing backbone, and companies like Agri-Industrial Plastics have been a staple employer in our community,” says Laraby.

Smith notes that the key to the success of the business is customization and working to serve the needs of their customers. “We make a wide variety of stuff, and we’ve never tried to specialize in just one particular area,” Smith explains. Whether it’s a small company or a large company like John Deere, we are committed to our customer and focus our products on their needs.”

Smith, and president of Agri-Industrial Plastics, Lori Shaefer-weaton, both note that product development is the strength of the company. The ability to see a vision and design and create the desired product for their customers is what’s earned the plastic manufacturer praise from clients and the local community, as well as its most recent accolade, the RRIA Entrepreneur Award.

“We are fortunate to have great people, and when we get people on our team, they stick with us, are loyal, and they have a great work ethic,” says Shaefer-Weaton. “We are part of this community, and our roots have been in Fairfield for 40 years. We are committed to seeing the entire community grow and thrive.”

RRIA is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. Since its inception, RRIA has helped create $125 million in economic impact for rural communities. The RRIA program is based on the five pillars of Education, Mentoring, Connecting, Recognition, and Financing. The next RRIA Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” takes place November 17 at the Guthrie County Farm Bureau Hall in Guthrie Center. For more information about RRIA and the RRIA Pathways, a searchable technology that connects entrepreneurs with resources, go to http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI/.

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