Tuesday, November 13, 2007

125 Years of Excellence!

The major business in town when I was growing up was the Siemer Milling Company. At the time it was run by the first cousin of my Dad and today his son Rick, my second cousin, is doing a wonderful job of growing the company into new directions. And, it is still one of the major businesses in T-Town.

Rick’s great-grandfather was one of the originators of the Hope Roller Mills in November, 1882. He and his son bought out the other family members in 1906, renaming it Siemer Milling Company.

Rick related to me that in 1906 the milling industry was the largest industrial business by dollar value of sales in the USA with over 12,000 mills dotting the USA countryside. Virtually every town had a flour mill and the business was mostly local and regional, at best. Today it is global and Siemer Milling is one of the handful of survivors left, having grown into a second and third mill in Hopkinsville, KY, producing over 450,000 tons of product annually, with annual sales exceeding $100 million.

The company employs 75 people in Teutopolis and is always one of the main contributors in the community. I was privileged to attend their 125th Birthday celebration last week and wished Rick and his team another 125 years of prosperity.

Rick gave a wonderful brief history of the mill during that celebration which was attended by many customers, suppliers and past and present employees. I sat at the table with Allie and Bernie Ruholl and their wives. Each had worked over 40 years for Siemers and each spoke very highly of the company and the family atmosphere of it. Rick referred several times to the unique culture of Siemer Milling which has been evident in the many contacts I’ve had over the years with Rick and his many employees.

That first mill cost $40,000 to build and could produce 30 tons/day. Over the past 125 years the company has had to innovate numerous times, essentially reinventing the business and also streamlining ownership. Or, as Rick referred to it in his talk, “Pruning the family tree.”

The major innovations for them occurred in the 1920s when they replaced all of their worn out equipment with state-of-the-art milling machines, in the 1960s when they again replaced everything with the latest Swiss technology, a major rebuilding in 1979 and again in 2003 when Siemer built the first heat treated flour process in the western hemisphere.

The “pruning of the family tree” started in 1906 when Rick’s great grandfather bought out his other family interests. His grandfather bought out his four sisters in the 1910s and 1920s, one of which was my Grandmother Schultz. Several years ago Rick gave me the loan passbook which showed when his grandfather made his yearly principle and interest payments to my grandmother. It is one of my prized possessions, showing $500 to $1,000 payments from 1916 to the final $2,000 paid on July 4, 1927, totaling all of $5,000! Seeing how well Rick has developed Siemer Milling, I wish she had kept the stock!

Rick divided the wholesale end of the business off to his uncle, bought out his siblings and some cousins and set up an ESOP in 2000 to ensure that the business continues on for many years into the future.

If you use Duncan Hines Cake Mix, eat a Rolls Gold Pretzel or buy Girl Scout Cookies, there is good chance that you are consuming some Siemer flour. They are one of the many companies that make things for us and do so in a competitive and ethical manner. They also have been providing employment opportunities for hundreds for over 100 years. I’m hopeful that they make it for another 100+.

No comments: