In our monthly Made in the Tri-States feature, we highlight some of the area’s signature products. Watch for new installments on the first Sunday of each month. If you have a suggestion of a product for us to feature, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
PEOSTA, Iowa — During its 48 years in business, Mi-T-M Corp. has evolved into a bustling enterprise.
The Peosta-based business now employs 470.
Despite the company’s massive growth, founder A.J. Spiegel is equally excited to speak about the lean days.
The company was launched in 1971, initially operating with only Spiegel and two other workers. Spiegel worked tirelessly to get his budding company’s name and products in front of potential customers. He recalls 20-hour days and seven-day work weeks over the course of two decades.
“I was on the road 300 days a year,” he said. “I had a lot of desire.
Slowly but surely, the approach paid off.
Mi-T-M now counts John Deere, Stihl, Grainger and NAPA among its major customers.
The products are made in a sprawling, 1 million-square-foot facility located just off U.S. 20 in Peosta.
Spiegel, who grew up about 1.5 miles from the manufacturing facility, is proud that he has been able to build the business in his hometown.
Much of his childhood was spent on the family dairy farm, where the kids were expected to start helping with chores at a young age. That experience created a work ethic — and a sense of hometown pride — that remains to this day.
“I have really put my life into this town,” he stated.
Before he launched Mi-T-M, Spiegel worked as a painting contractor.
This is what largely inspired him to create Mi-T-M’s first product: A pressure washer that was smaller and more mobile than other offerings on the market.
Spiegel ultimately discovered a strong interest in this pressure washer. Even so, the growth of his company didn’t happen overnight.
He said he stopped at John Deere once per month for seven years before the company placed an order. Now, it has been a critical customer for decades.
In the early 1990s, in the midst of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. military placed a major order — 2,000 pressure washer machines in 10 days — in hopes of cleaning its equipment before it returned home.
Mi-T-M accepted — and ultimately met — the challenge.
“I remember some people said, ‘We can’t do that,’ and I said, ‘We’ll get it done,’” Spiegel said. “And we did. It was one of those things where you can do it if you put your mind to it.”
Pressure washers remain the company’s biggest seller to date. But through the years, Mi-T-M has substantially diversified its product line.
Air compressors and portable generators are the second- and third-biggest sellers, respectively.
Mi-T-M products are designed by the company’s staff, which includes a robust group of engineers. The company relies on suppliers for pumps and engines, but it builds the rest of its products on site. This includes fabricating the frames and powder-coating the products.
Everything Mi-T-M sells then is put through a rigorous testing process. Typical products undergo 1,000 to 2,000 hours of testing.
“(Our products) need to be very dependable,” said Marketing Manager Karen Anderson “For our customers, it is their livelihood.”
Spiegel echoed that sentiment.
“This is a repeat business built on repeat customers,” he said. “That is why we give them good quality and good service.”
Mi-T-M’s growth has been strong during the past decade.
Spiegel said the company opened the 2010s with about 250 employees. That figure has since swelled to 470, due in large part to a deal with German chainsaw and power equipment company Stihl.
Company officials foresee more growth in Mi-T-M’s future.
“We seem to grow every year with products, more salespeople or more customers,” Spiegel said. “It is a constant thing.”
Anderson emphasized that consistency with the workforce is paramount. She noted that many employees have been with the company for three or four decades.
“This business is very relationship-driven, so it is important to have those key employees in those positions where they can work well with customers and have that relationship with them,” she said.
The relationship with employees is valued so much that Mi-T-M has altered its production schedule in an effort to keep them.
In the past, Mi-T-M would work at a frantic pace through most of the year and experience a lull in the winter months, forcing the company to lay off a portion of the staff.
Concerned about losing good people, officials altered the company’s approach. Today, workers spend the slower winter months manufacturing and stockpiling popular products, keeping employees busy and allowing Mi-T-M to quickly fill large orders once the busy season resumes.
The personal touch is equally important when it comes to customer interactions.
Spiegel noted that those who call Mi-T-M always will hear a person answer the phone, rather than a recording. If the sales support staff cannot answer the phone, an alarm will sound in the department alerting other employees to pick up the call.
It is a small touch with Spiegel’s fingerprints all over it.
“I think it all starts with him,” Anderson said of the company’s leader. “He influences everyone here, and he is very passionate. He likes to have passionate people around him.”