Made in Eastern Iowa: Garnavillo company has small turnaround, major local impact

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GARNAVILLO, Iowa (KCRG) Looking through the manufacturing plant at Guttenberg Industries, company leaders like to point out the longevity of the workforce.

Guttenberg Industries, in Garnavillo, has about 150 employees across three shifts with a heavy imprint in producing plastic goods that ship around the globe.

"It’s a challenge to get entry-level employees but, once they get here, a lot of people stay here," said Greg Yoko. "Thirty-five percent of our employees have been here 20 years of more. In a rural area, it’s a career and 75 percent of our managers here started as entry-level employees here."

Yoko, serving as the company's director of business development, said that Guttenberg Industries is a "manufacturer to the manufacturers".

"We produce plastic parts for 100 customers across the country and it’s a wide variety of things," said Yoko.

The process to take a handful of plastic pellets and turn that volume into a finished product can take less than a minute, according to president Dave Kreul.

"We have some operations where we start off at the entrance of a machine as plastic pellets and, forty seconds later, we have a packaged product that is ready to go to your local Walmart," said Kreul.

He pointed to an infant bath tub as an example of what Guttenberg Industries produces, a product with a global reach.

"Technology, in general, is advancing quite a bit," said Kreul. "I think that people are surprised that, in sleepy Garnavillo, Iowa, population 700 or so, that we’re doing all this advanced manufacturing. We’re doing products where we’re putting labels into a mold and molding plastic around them so they’re impossible to move."

Kreul talks as a stack of plastic plates, circular with mouse ears on one end, comes out of a production line as a machine presses the Disney labels onto the plates. While some companies work hard to broaden their reach within industries, Kreul said he likes Guttenberg Industries' positioning in the market.

"We have seen over the years, very often, that we do have one segment that’s down and another segment will pull us up," said Kreul. "Diversification has been a key part of the strategy for many years. We want them to know that we are making high-quality products that go all over the U.S. and all over the world."

One avenue the company has also worked with are on smaller-scale business operators. Amy Vohs, of Polk City, has a company called Little Psychic, which offers parts like the Lil' Sidekick, to secure spoons, sippy cups and small toys to a toddler to keep them attached.

"They helped us through all the stages."