Made in Eastern Iowa: Plastics from Belle Plaine to the world

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BELLE PLAINE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- As Lon Weber walks the manufacturing floor at Iowa Mold & Engineering, on the southern tip of Belle Plaine, he notes the space to walk.

Iowa Mold & Engineering has been open since 1994 and updating equipment and adding space ever since. The plastic products end up around the globe or here in Eastern Iowa.

"This is 10,000 square foot added on a few years ago," Weber said. "We continue to grow. We like a wide open space. We don’t want our employees tripping over each other, tripping over machinery."

Weber said in late July the company was making space for a "five-axis machine center" to make production of injection-molded plastic pieces even more efficient.

"The technology has changed," said Weber. "Rapid machining. High speed machining. Whatever we can do to take the labor out of it and run out machining 'lights out'. We’re a highly-skilled workforce. Therefore, our labor costs are high and we want to keep that down by running by automation, on the weekend and 'lights out'."

Iowa Mold & Engineering runs on two primary shifts, with that focus on "lights out" at the other times. Weber said that the skill set constantly evolves to stay updated with the current machinery that comes into play.

The products that emerge from Belle Plaine can end up all over the globe or with familiar businesses here in Eastern Iowa, such as The Crystal Group in Hiawatha.

"Our marketplace is and has been primarily injection molding companies and they are custom companies with a wide range of customers also," said Weber. "We service those guys and they may have thirty of their own customers and we serve thirty of those guys. When you multiple those out, we serve a very wide industry."

The most recent statistics in Benton County reveal an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent (April 2017). For a company like Iowa Mold & Engineering, that makes an inviting workplace is mandatory to keep and sustain solid workers who may have options.

"We search out, we try to find good, quality people to train," said Weber. "Our industry, our business is not only a hands-on business but a technical business but also the computer skills and the mechanical skills to work here."

You can learn more about the company by visiting their website.