Made in Eastern Iowa: A familiar brand to clean the surfaces in Dubuque

Higley Industries, in Dubuque, is closing in on a full century of chemical solutions, usually for cleaning.
Higley Industries, in Dubuque, is closing in on a full century of chemical solutions, usually for cleaning.(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 16, 2018 at 7:41 AM CDT
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The children in Dubuque County may recognize a familiar logo when walking the halls at school.

"Little kids will come up to us and say 'hey, we saw your logo in our school, like Western Dubuque or Dubuque Schools'," said Luke Hoffmann, business development manager at Higley Industries. "A lot of people don't realize that, even in Dubuque in the Millwork District, all of the floor finishes, we make here. A lot of people use our products and don't even realize it."

Higley is just five years shy of celebrating a full century, opening in 1923 as a chemical element mixer. The demand has shifted over the decades but the robust variety of products have that common denominator. Keeping something clean.

"When we originally started, it was more towards the schools and (World War II) Navy ships," said Hoffmann. "It shifted into shifted into schools for the last 60 years but for the last couple of years, it shifted into cleaning beer lines. Basically, every bar in America does that."

Higley came about from the work of Henry "Parker' Higley and his chemistry background. The company said that, during the Great Depression, Higley developed cleaning solutions for the schools, the city of Dubuque and even the state. During his years as a chemist and in business, Higley himself developed more than 1,000 formulas.

"A lot of the younger generation doesn’t necessarily know Higley and we’re working to change that," said Lance Hummel, a co-owner and chief operations manager at Higley. "The older generation knows the products are solid. The custodians in Western Dubuque and Dubuque use it. If somebody needs something custom formulated, we can do that as well."

Eight full-time workers are at Higley, just south of downtown Dubuque, along with a handful of part-time employees depending on the demand.

"As the economy goes up, construction and floor coating may go up," said Hoffmann. "General cleaning is always there but it may go up. It balances ebb and flow. Schools do a lot in the summer when the kids are out but in the winter months, people are doing other things. The spring rush is to power wash and do other things."

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