MANCHESTER, Iowa — The goods created at Henderson Products must perform at their best when conditions are the worst, taking to the streets when most people are tucked away in the comfort of their homes.
Henderson Products in Manchester specializes in making items for snow and ice removal, ranging from plows and ice scrapers to salt and sand spreaders.
Plant Manager Christopher Rees knows these products carry out a crucial responsibility.
“This is a product that provides safety on the roads,” Rees said. “By clearing the roads, we are helping all the people who have to travel to work, the kids that need to get to school. We take great pride in the quality and workmanship that goes into each of our products.”
Henderson Products was founded in 1946 in Cedar Rapids. Twelve years later, the business was moved to Manchester.
Henderson now employs 438 people nationwide.
This includes 225 workers at the company’s facility at 1085 S. Third St. in Manchester. About 175 are employed on the production floor, while another 50 work in other capacities.
Thirty-five additional workers are employed at an installation and distribution center in Manchester, according to Rees.
Delaware County Economic Development Executive Director Donna Boss said Henderson Products is the third-largest employer in the county, trailing only Regional Medical Center and Exide Technologies.
“Their economic impact and what they bring to our community and Manchester is huge,” Boss said. “They provide a range of career opportunities, from welders to web design to HR and accounting. It runs the whole gamut.”
With its facility on South Third Street, Henderson Products creates items that are sold throughout the northern half of the United States.
Henderson’s wide reach is a source of pride for those in Manchester, according to Boss.
“It is great to be on the East Coast and see products with the Henderson name,” she said. “Their market is just amazing. It is all built here and goes all throughout the U.S.”
Henderson also has sold products in Russia, China, Canada and South America.
This includes steel plows that attach to the front of trucks. Rees said the items typically range from 10- to 12-feet wide, but can be as small as 8 feet or as big as 16 feet.
Every aspect of construction is conducted at the Manchester plant, including the painting, which is more important than one might expect.
“You need to be able to see that plow, especially in conditions where the visibility might be low,” Rees said. “A good quality paint job is important since you put it through a lot of rough conditions.”
Plow trucks also rely on ice scrapers — which sit below the truck — and wings — which push away snow from the sides of the truck — to clear the roads and make them safe. Both products are created in Manchester.
Henderson Products also creates massive dump bodies, which sit atop the back of plow trucks and carry the critical ingredients for snow and ice removal. The company creates “spreaders” that distribute salt and sand mixtures to the road below.
Many local entities have come to rely on Henderson Products to battle the winter elements.
The products are used in the City of Dubuque, Dubuque County, the City of Manchester, Delaware County and Jackson County.
At the Manchester plant, Rees values employees who can carry out a range of tasks.
“When we hire workers, we expect them to work in a number of areas (on the production floor),” he said. “That way we can flex our employees to work on different products based on the demand. Flexibility and cross-training is really important.”
Workers in Manchester create these products, then distribute them to one of six installation and distribution centers. In addition to the facility in Manchester, the company has centers in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.
Rees said the snow and ice removal industry is one that continues to evolve.
Henderson Products has changed with the times by using new laser-cutting machines and incorporating robotics on its production floor.
Milwaukee-based Douglas Dymanics purchased Henderson Products in late 2014 for $95 million.
Rees said Henderson Products has benefited in the three-plus years that have followed.
“It has been an outstanding partnership,” he said. “The resources we have available to us now are immense, and the leadership and empowerment that has come along with it has been tremendous.”