Made in Eastern Iowa: Apache as a leader in customized rubber

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Rubber products may be not a commodity people constantly think about but they're part of nearly all of our lives.

Apache, of Cedar Rapids, is a leader in customized rubber products. The company has kept Cedar Rapids as its headquarters for decades.

At least Gregg Hanson of Apache in Cedar Rapids thinks about rubber.

"We are in the rubber business, whether it’s hose or conveyor belts, that’s about all that we think about," said Hanson, the vice president of sales and marketing.

First launched back in 1963, Apache has kept the city as its headquarters. Now an employee-owned company with about 150 workers in Cedar Rapids, company leaders maintain Apache is a global leader in rubber products and offering those around the world.

"Most people don’t realize our products are doing things for them," said Kyle Gingrich, who heads up operations at Apache. "Delivering their food products or delivering their grain or delivering their rock or aggregate products in quarries. People don’t think about industrial hose or conveyor belting but it’s out there everywhere and working in all kinds of applications."

Apache can be somewhat immune to the tendencies and the volatility of markets, given that so many industries need rubber.

"We’re extremely diversified, from worrying about gas prices are up or down, that affects one segment of our business," said Hanson. "Why agriculture is doing, how the commodity prices will affect our business. What’s nice about our business is normally we have a pretty good balance and we’re normally busy no matter what."

For example, Hanson said the food industry is "always steady" and that energy can be up or down so they'll just shift into what is robust at the time.

On the operations ends, the work of customized rubber products is not that different than, say, 15 years ago. The method of efficiency, however, is a constantly evolution.

"We’re always looking for robotics and to incorporate robotics into our operation," said Gingrich. "Right now, we’re really working on lean processes and lean concepts to increase speed and productivity through our operations."