Companies and their products are sometimes inseparable. That’s why it might seem strange that a company with a proven track record in one industry might decide to alter its course. For Midwest Industries, this venture was not as much a directional shift as it was a slow, steady cruise into what would become a lucrative business.
“It might seem like a strange transition at first,” says Materials Manager Bruce Olson, “but it’s really not, if you think about it. Everybody wants to do what they love for a living. Midwest Industries had the opportunity to do just that.”
Midwest Industries, he explains, got its start 47 years ago as a manufacturer of farm equipment when company founder and CEO Byron Godbersen invented the hydraulic “Bolster Hoist” to take the work out of unloading a grain wagon. But by the late 1950s Godbersen had turned his attention to his true passion, boating. At his Minnesota lake home he drew up plans for what would be-come the first ShoreStation boat hoist. The new hoist debuted in 1959 and ShoreStation quickly became the industry standard.
In 1971, Midwest introduced ShoreLand’r boat trailers. Early models had many exclusive features including the patented Godbersen Lift, which made launching and loading easier than ever before.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Midwest Industries experienced record-setting growth. As each decade passed, it found itself leaving agriculture behind and maneuvering toward the boating industry. Today, Midwest Industries is an internationally recognized manufacturer of state-of-the-art boat trailers, hoists and dock systems.
The right move
Ever since Midwest Industries entered the boating market customers and the trade press have gone overboard for its products. Competitors seem to have been left in the wake trying to catch up.
“I honestly believe that customers love our products because we understand what’s important to the average boater,” says Engineering Manager Jon Devitt. “We take that knowledge and put it into every single product that rolls off our line.”
The products Devitt refers to include the extremely popular ShoreLand’r boat trailers. This diverse line of trailers can haul everything from PWC’s and small fishing boats to 15,000-pound cruisers. Sales have been more than brisk as they make up nearly 60 percent of the company’s total revenue.
As for the ShoreStation, the simple boat hoist has grown into a “lakefront system” that is more popular today than ever before. Some of the recent success can been attributed to Genuine ShoreStation Dock, an innovative freestanding dock system that is loaded with patented features. The stylish appearance and long list of accessories has generated quite a buzz with marine dealers throughout the upper Midwest.
Cruising into new markets
The ShoreLand’r and ShoreStation lines of Midwest Industries’ products are marketed through a network of distributors through the United States and Canada. As Bruce Olson sees it, opportunities for expansion are are as vast as the open sea.
“Real estate development is happening at an incredible pace along salt and freshwater shoreline all over the country. As a result, a large number of these people will eventually participate in some form of boating and seek out similar products. We want to be there to meet that need.”With that in mind, the company recently introduced a new line of aluminum boat trailers for expansion into coastal markets.
Midwest also has been testing the waters outside of the marine industry with products like its new line of ShoreLand’r Utility Trailers, which are targeted at the red-hot ATV market. Another endeavor is the company’s Freedom Hitch quick-hitch coupler, a product that would appear to return the company to its agricultural roots, but actually is directed at landscape contractors and small hobby farmers. The Freedom Hitch allows the user to change implements without leaving the tractor seat.
All of these products are produced by more than 300 employees at the company’s headquarters in Ida Grove, Iowa. Inside the 340,000-square-foot space is a full-service product development facility that includes a tool-and-die department, research lab as well as full production and testing capabilities. An in-house advertising department manages the company’s four websites: www.midwestindustries.com, www.shorelandr.com, www.shorestation.com, and www.freedomhitch.com.
More products, more options
Among the newly created Midwest Industries products is the ShoreStation Hydraulic Boat Hoist, complete with special features that are solely Midwest inventions.
“This hydraulic hoist system is unique in that it utilizes a cylinder to engage the lift cable,” says Devitt. “It also has an automatic ‘up’ feature that makes it very easy to use. It’s available in either DC or AC which allows it to be powered from an auxiliary battery, boat battery or alternate power source.”
ShoreStation hoists are available in a number of sizes and have been engineered for durability. They can handle everything from the smallest 800-pound fishing boat to the largest 15,000-pound cruiser. The aluminum frame incorporates galvanized steel for a deceptively lightweight, yet strong hoist.
Genuine ShoreStation Dock is available in traditional cedar, polyethylene or aluminum, and is engineered for easy installation. A layout that normally would have taken hours to construct now takes only minutes. That feature makes it very popular with dealers and installers. Midwest Industries has combined quality, durability and simplicity for a superior product, Jon Devitt explains.
“One of the things customers love about our dock is the accessories. We have lights and bumpers and all kinds of seating options,” he says. “Many of them can be installed without tools which makes it easy to move and rearrange things.”
Genuine ShoreStation Dock also is amazingly stable thanks to a wide, A-frame stance. As the height of the dock increases, so does the width of the base support for even greater stability and safety.
It’s easy to see that Midwest Industries’ main goal is to take the work out of the process and get you out on the water as soon as possible. When innovation is fueled by love of product, the outcome can only be a stready stream of top-of-the-line, highly valued products, and a distinction that has put Midwest Industries on the charts.