A day in the life... at Ritchie Industries

A welder makes sparks fly at Ritchie Industries in Conrad on Friday afternoon. (Rob Maharry/The Grundy Register photo)


One of the oldest maxims in business is “find your niche.” Of course, the concept is simple in theory but incredibly difficult in practice, especially in this day and age: hasn’t it all been done? Aren’t all of the new ideas and cutting edge technologies coming from places like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Denver?


Not so fast, my friend.


A little company called Ritchie Industries that started in Marshalltown in 1921 and moved to Conrad in 1943 has become a world leader in the sale of automatic watering units for livestock, and they’ve undoubtedly found a niche: according to Vice President Larry Cole, Ritchie has less than 10 direct competitors in the world, and they did over $20 million in sales last year. I spent some time with Cole and Assistant Director of Manufacturing Austin Siemens on Friday afternoon to learn more about how the proverbial sausage is made for the second installment in The Grundy Register’s ongoing new feature series, “A Day in the Life.”


Though I’ve been inside of the Ritchie factory a few times before for politician visits (Steve King, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have all been here) and when the company installed a new Rock n’ Roll rotational molding machine, I’ve never gotten much of a chance to really explore the facility and find out what the heck it is they actually do at this place. This time, it was just Austin showing me the ropes, and I wasn’t waiting for a sound bite about the economy or affordable health care or whatever else we’re arguing about this week.


“They have their own agendas,” Cole says of the politicians.


Read more in this week's Grundy Register.