Made in Eastern Iowa: Curbtender with a new name but an evolving mission

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Mark Watje is in the middle of a re-brand.

Curbtender, Inc. in Cedar Falls has a new name with a re-brand but the enhanced mission of manufacturing vehicles - the trucks and sweepers - for trash and recycling.

"The company was Wayne Engineering for over fifty years and, in October 2017, we became Curbtender so it was kind of a transition," said Watje, the president of Curbtender, Inc. "My father and I purchased the company with investors. Curbtender used to be a product of ours that we made and now we’ve actually named the company after it. Before, we were known as the Curbtender company because everything that we do is 'at the curb'."

A simple walk around the Cedar Falls facility reveals the complex stages of assembly, from the steel and other raw materials coming in, to the welding, robotics stations for the most particular points and the eventual finishing area. Curbtender makes all sorts of vehicles.

"We create a lot of innovative, durable products to keep communities clean," said Watje. "A sweet sweeper or a garbage truck and we are proud of our communities and we want to live in clean places like everybody else."

Watje said their product is picking up containers as far away as Australia and New Zealand, as well as all over Canada and the United States.

"We’ll do left-side operated, right-side operated and some trucks have two steering wheels," said Watje.

About ninety employees work at Curbtender as the company is on track for a second shift as demand is increasing. Another trend in the technology is cleaner-burning trucks.

"The industry is changing fast and everyone is aware of electric vehicles," said Watje. "We’re in the forefront of electric vehicles in our industry. Two electric garbage trucks on the road today and we expect to be awarded a couple dozen orders for electric garbage trucks… that’s a huge growth opportunity for us."

The robotics also play a substantial role in making the trucks and sweepers that emerge from Curbtender. After decades in the business (Watje said he has "been in the garbage industry" since he was only seven), integrating workers with the most efficient technology is crucial.

"We’ve done a lot more with robotics and there’s always a concern with skilled labor," said Watje. "We live in a millennial age where people aren’t necessarily wanting to weld but people are wanting to work with robots. We’re incorporating more technologies, more advanced laser and cutting devices."

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