By CLAYTON RYE
CLARION - In 2011, Hagie Manufacturing, doing business in this county seat town in Wright County, was ranked 19th among Iowa's Top Workplaces.
—Messenger photo by Clayton Rye
Three Hagies prayers are nearing completion on the assembly line in the plant at Clarion.
In 2012, the company moved to 11th on that list.
This success doesn't just happen, said Alan Hagie, president of the family-owned company, as he spoke on Oct. 5 to Iowans from across the region touring the plant. It takes a lot of work and dedication among the company's leadership and its work force.
The name Hagie Manufacturing is associated with agricultural sprayers, but the company did not start out that way.
Hagie's family values
Hagie Manufacturing's employees devised a slate of working values that are placed strategically around the Clarion plant. These include:
Be passionate and determined.
Pursue growth and learning.
Respect, trust and honesty for everyone.
Build a positive team and family spirit.
Embrace and drive change.
Create fun and be adventurous.
Do more with less.
When Ray Hagie graduated from Iowa State University in 1933, he returned to his family's farm near Clarion with an interest in the new idea of the day - hybrid seed corn. He used 1.5 acres of the farm for his research.
Hagie's Hybrids was founded in 1934, and a drought in 1936 showed how his hybrid seed corn could perform in adverse growing conditions.
His seed business quickly grew.
Ray Hagie recognized the need for a better way to improve on detasseling seed corn by hand while walking down rows. World War II created a shortage in manpower so detasselers were largely women and young people.
He built a three-wheeled, self-propelled machine the workers rode with one person steering while several people, in a raised position, were able to pull more tassels with less effort. Hagie's personnel carrier for detasseling was a success and used throughout the seed industry.
The first herbicides had been introduced in the mid-1940s, and Ray Hagie saw a way his personnel carrier could be made into a sprayer. In 1947 the first Hagie high-clearance sprayer was built.
In 1954, Hagie Manufacturing moved into a new building in Clarion, next to the Hagie's Hybrids. In 1957, the company doubled the plant's size.
A sprayer model with four wheels and a front-mounted boom was introduced in 1960. Hagie Manufacturing continued to grow, selling directly to its customers, rather than using a network of dealers.
Another expansion of the building was completed in 1967 adding 20,000 square feet of capacity.
Hagie's Hybrids was sold to Asgrow Seed Co. in 1968 and more improvements were made to the company's line of spraying and nitrogen application equipment.
More plant expansions were completed in 1972, 1997 and 2011.
Ray Hagie's son, John Hagie, was named company president in 1981. His son, Alan Hagie, became president in December 2011.
Hagie Manufacturing employs 350 people at its Clarion plant and continues with its innovations to its sprayers and nitrogen applicating equipment, selling directly to its customers.
Hagie Manufacturing has received recognition rcently for its approach to manufacturing that uses a team concept for the various areas of manufacturing.
Alan Hagie said the team concept instills a sense of pride and dedication in its workers resulting in a level of high quality in its product and a stable work force that is motivated.
A recent tour of the facility arranged by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce showed visitors how the team concept is used throughout the plant.
Throughout the plant a list of nine items called Hagie Family Values are displayed with incentives rewarded to employees who have shown how they live by these family values.
The values were created by a group of high-performing Hagie employees.
These values affect how employees conduct themselves and interact with each other. Hagie Manufacturing wants its employees to have a sense of purpose rather than start each day by simply "filling a job," Hagie said.
Placards with the words "Hagie Upfront" can be read throughout the plant and on company literature. The phrase not only describes the company's sprayers with front-mounted booms, but a way of dealing with employees and Hagie's customers.
Hagie Manufacturing extends it philosophy of a team concept to include its customers as it looks to them for feed back on product improvements, an advantage in selling direct from the factory.
Recruiting employees to fit in a team requires a different way of hiring.
Hagie finds about 60 percent of its new hires from recommendations of current employees.
Before being hired an applicant is interviewed several times to determine if they fit in a team and where best to place them.
Once hired, a mentoring program is in place to continue their progress as they grow in their job.
Hagie Manufacturing has created the position of culture coach, a person whose duty is to recognize the needs of the employees in order to maintain a high level of work quality.
Employees meet regularly with supervisors as a team to discuss goals and tools needed to achieve them.
Employees have flexible scheduling and free beverages and popcorn are available to them. The company pops about 50 pounds of popcorn weekly for its employees.
Hagie Manufacturing has been recognized as one of Iowa's Top Workplaces, placing it in 19th position in 2011 and 11th place in 2012.
To earn this award, employees completed surveys about their company measuring overall employee satisfaction.
Besides its employees, Hagie Manufacturing recognizes its responsibility to the community and supports organizations in Clarion and Wright County including the Heartland Museum, Clarion Aquatic Center, Wright County Medical Center, and Clarion Public Library.
Nationally, Hagie Manufacturing contributes to Boys and Girls Club, March of Dimes, Boy Scouts and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.