Made in Eastern Iowa: The twist and turns of business amid endless knobs in Maquoketa
When Mary Rupp goes through the layers of sizes and shapes of plastic knobs that emerge from Jackson Manufacturing in Maquoketa, the specifications could take all day to jot down.
"With the knobs that we offer, there are 13 basic styles here," said Rupp, the company's operations manager, while standing over a display table at the company headquarters. "For instance, the three-point knob, we have it available in three difference sizes. You can get it with a brass insert, a zinc stud, there's a variety and the length of the stud. Three inches is length is the max for us."
On the eastern edge of the city, Jackson Manufacturing has about twenty employees overall, twelve in full-time positions and others who are sub-contracted out.
"We are producing plastic molding parts to the customer specifications," said president and CEO Jack Hasken. "We also produce our own set of control adjustment knobs. I own that tooling - I sell those knobs to distributors and end users."
The uses for Jackson's plastic products can be found on windows and doors, water purification systems, even on the occasional golf course tee box yardage marker.
The price of the materials has a thick influence on the bottom line for their own products as well as the end users. Hasken said the relatively stable fuel prices of late also stabilize his business.
"Resin is very stable for our customers," said Hasken, as resin is used in the plastic pellets to manufacture the products. "When the price of oil is high, so is resin so we're happy about that."
Jackson has been set up in a 20,000-square foot facility going back to 1987, initially as an injection molding and assembly plant from Illinois Tool Works.
The company was also a setting leading up to the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, as then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum visited Jackson in July 2015 as Santorum took a focus on American-based manufacturing during his campaign bid. The company's website said that Hasken bought the company four years ago and works to keep a theme of "American Made - Midwestern Proud" in its outside contact.
A contact that can be seen in the uses for plastic that people may encounter each day and not even be aware of it.
"These are used in telescopes, wheelchairs, I.V. stands, lawn and garden equipment, kayak racks, quilt stands," said Rupp. "Just a large variety."