‘Humble’ Dyersville manufacturer employs nearly 250, creates products with prominent placement worldwide

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — There are products from a Dyersville manufacturing plant in churches and schools throughout the country, within a $375 million convention center and even in the locker room of the reigning college football national champion.

“One of our latest projects was for national champion LSU,” said George Santiago, operations manager of the Modernfold manufacturing plant in Dyersville. “They did a renovation of their locker room, and we put a huge mural in there and a bunch of panels.”

Located on Dyersville’s northwest side, Modernfold produces operable partitions and glass wall systems — fully customized, as in the case of the Louisiana State University locker room, where some panels featured whiteboards on one side and the school’s colors on the other.

Jacque Rahe, executive director of Dyersville Economic Development Corp., is quick to talk about the company’s importance locally.

“We are very fortunate that they were able to maintain the manufacturing right here in Dyersville,” she said.

Owned by the Swiss firm dormakaba since 2016, Modernfold originated in 1925 in Indiana and retains its American headquarters in Greenfield, Ind. The firm gained initial fame at the 1939 World’s Fair when 14 of the 29 homes in the “Town of the Future” exhibit featured the company’s accordion-door products and wood folding doors.

Modernfold purchased a Dyersville movable wall firm called Coil-Wal in 1964 and built its current Dyersville plant in 1969. The local plant has grown in stages during the past five decades.

“There have been seven expansions of this facility since 1969,” Santiago said. “We’re now up to more than 200,000 square feet of production space.”

Modernfold’s Dyersville operation employs nearly 250 people.

Rahe said that places Modernfold among Dyersville’s largest employers, along with Dyersville Die Cast and FarmTek.

“It’s a company that is very humble, but it’s a source of real pride for the community,” she said of Modernfold.

About 210 of the employees are factory workers represented by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners union. The balance of Modernforld’s Dyersville employees are based in the office.

“The majority — 53% — of our workforce is female, and we have a lot of longevity here,” Santiago said. “We’ve had retirements, and the average years of service has been 38 years. There are a lot of 40-year employees who are still in the plant.”

The plant operates two shifts and produces thousands of partitions and movable walls for customers across the globe.

Santiago said the plant’s output can be best visualized if imagining its panel components laid end to end.

“Between 2010 and Sept. 30, 2019, our steel panels would be the equivalent of 861 miles — or all the way to Denver,” he said. “Last year, we produced 101 miles of steel panels if you laid them end to end.”

Modernfold recently contributed 2,200 30-foot-tall panels to Caesars Forum, a new, $375 million convention center in Las Vegas, and provided partitions for Allegiant Stadium, the home stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Accordion-style partition walls continue to serve as a company mainstay, but recent innovations have included the use of automation and glass.

“Probably the coolest (new product) we have is what we call MorphGlas,” Santiago said. “It’s (a glass wall), and when it is fully deployed, you can push a button and the glass goes dark and you can’t see through it, and you push the button again and it clears instantaneously.”