Where steel meets wood
New owner of Fletcher Wood Products came from background in steel
After 24 years of working in the steel manufacturing business his father started, James Works was ready to branch out and run his own operation.
“My dad started a business (B&W Trailer Hitches, headquartered in Humboldt, Kansas) in 1987,” Works said. “I started working for him full-time in 1997.”
Works, who ended up working primarily in sales, watched that company grow from 19 employees to 450.
When it came time for Works to explore his own venture a couple of years ago, he wasn’t necessarily just interested in the steel industry.
“I wanted to get back to a smaller company,” Works said. “Just looking at different options for owning my own company. I was searching for manufacturing opportunities.”
Meanwhile, 380 miles north in Fort Dodge, Clark Fletcher and Joe Jackson, longtime operators of Fletcher Wood Products, were looking to sell.
In 2018, Fletcher Wood Products, 428 Central Ave., was officially on the market.
Fletcher, Jackson and Works each had at least one thing in common. They were selective in terms of the it being the right fit for both parties.
During a period of about two years, Works said he explored between 60 and 70 companies before finding Fletcher.
In January, he met Fletcher and and Jackson.
Works gravitated toward the Fletcher company after reading about it online.
“This one just felt right from the start,” Works said. “From looking at the basic overview of the company online, visiting with the owners and seeing the community.”
Within a week of visiting with Fletcher and Jackson, an initial agreement was in place, according to Works.
“We finalized everything May 12,” Works said. “Pretty quick from my first visit to actually closing.”
Works said he liked that Fletcher is a family business.
“They (Clark and Joe) have built a very good company that’s been around for a long time,” Works said. “Easy to talk to. Very open. They seem to be very selective on who they wanted to sell to — someone who would move into the community and not be remote.
“Obviously, I come from a family-owned business so finding a family-owned business was high on my list. Some people shy away but I know the value of family and family mindset in running a business.. Being a family of workers.”
Jackson, who began working at Fletcher 27 years ago, said Works offered the qualities he and Fletcher were looking for in a new owner.
“Boy, he was a perfect match for what we wanted,” Jackson said. “Help our employees grow and improve themselves. Family-oriented as well — that they have time for their families and we have time for ours.”
Works’ marketing and sales background was also coveted.
“That’s exactly what we were looking for and we were exactly what he was looking for,” Jackson said. “We are thrilled to have him be the new owner, for the business, employees and community.”
Fletcher, whose father started the company in the basement of his Fort Dodge home in 1961, is confident in the transition to Works.
“We feel fortunate James has made this dedication to move his family up here and bringing a wealth of contacts and background experience,” Works said. “We are really excited for him.”
Works has made his home in Humboldt, the same name as the city in Kansas where he’s spent most of his life.
“Both are off (U.S. Highway) 169,” Works said. “That’s kind of a neat coincidence.”
While working at B&W, Works served as a sales manager for a company that sold globally.
“We served Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe,” Works said. “Expanding into those markets is what I plan on doing.”
Currently, Fletcher sells primarily in the Midwest in states like Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois.
“This is a company that’s stood the test of time and is ready to grow,” said Works, who has been in sales for 20 years.
Fletcher employs 16 people including engineers, saw operators and machine operators.
Works plans to create more jobs.
“We are in the process of adding the first job and most likely two to three more in the next few months,” Works said.
Fletcher sells commercial products for contractors.
“We don’t necessarily complete the whole job here,” Works said. “It’s made so contractors can easily install them on the job site.”
Much of the cabinetry at Friendship Haven came from Fletcher, for example.
Schools and hospitals are other examples where the cabinetry would be seen.
Works said his primary goal is to continue what’s already been started.
“To obviously grow number of sales and continue family environment Clark and Joe have instilled and fostered here,” Works said. “Invest in our employees and be able to give back to the community.”
More about Fletcher Wood Products
William Fletcher founded the company in 1961 in the basement of his Fort Dodge home.
“He was down in the basement for about three months,” Clark Fletcher said. “And I think that for the next 40 some years, my mother still claimed there was dust in the vents from the time he had his wood shop in the basement.”
Fletcher’s father had been working for Will Construction before he honed in on cabinetry.
Next, he moved into the basement of a store called Tractor Supply on First Avenue South.
“I was 7 or 8 years old and downtown Fort Dodge was a fun place to be,” Fletcher said.
After outgrowing that location, the company moved to a building on Avenue C overlooking the Des Moines River.
Next, from about 1968 to 1977, the business was located in a building near Party Productions on First Avenue North.
In 1977, the business was moved near City Square Park, where it’s been ever since.
Fletcher’s father inspired him to enjoy woodworking.
“My father had great patience and I always wanted to be like my dad,” Fletcher said. “He bought me a little table jigsaw when I was probably 8 or 9. I’d cut stuff out and go down to wherever his work shop was on Saturday. He would be in the office and I’d be out in the shop doing stuff that kids do.
“I feel blessed to have been able to work and learn with my father up until three years ago.”
William Fletcher passed away in 2017.
Jackson started working for Fletcher Wood Products in 1993. He was tasked with starting a new venture to supply cabinets for Dodgen Bornfree recreational vehicles in Humboldt.
“I had been looking for a teaching position,” said Jackson, who holds a business administration degree from Iowa State University and a business education degree from Buena Vista University. “But with nothing opening up and my daughter on the way, I met Clark at the right time.”
Jackson focused on the supply to Dodgen for about five years before that company put in their own cabinet-making facility.
“After that I started handling other sales for commercial work and cutting cabinet parts for other people,” Jackson said. “And also starting to do some of the business side of things, handling insurance for employees or for the business.”
Then about 15 years ago when William Fletcher retired, Jackson became a part owner.
Jackson said being in the business has been a pleasure.
“It’s been great,” Jackson said. “Clark and I have been really good partners and just really enjoyed our relationship. The business relationship and of course we are good friends, too. We know we have had our ups and downs through the years. The recession (2008) was tough. We got through that and things have been growing since.”