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Looking back 60 years

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

LOOKING OVER PHOTOS from Art’s Way’s past are, from left, Steve and Cathy Underwood, of Ringsted, and Wayne and Shirley Lubenow, of Armstrong. The two men are former employees of Art’s Way, having started working when the company was in its formative years.

ARMSTRONG – They arrived by the carloads at about noon on July 27 to have a burger on Art’s Way.

The company, started by Dolliver-area farmer Arthur Luscombe, was celebrating its 60th anniversary by serving lunch to vendors, past and present employees and the community.

Besides reminiscing and looking over ag-related machine products Art’s Way manufactures, visitors took advantage of plant tours to see the facility’s evolution to date and gaze over vintage photos of the company as it used to be.

Steve Underwood, of Ringsted, and Wayne Lubenow, of Armstrong, were among two of the hundreds of visitors. They found themselves in the company break room where a collection of photos and company memorabilia were on display.

Underwood owns and operates a hardware store in Ringsted, serving as a dealer for Art’s Way parts. Before that, he said he managed the company’s facility in Indiana until 1983, then relocated to Armstrong as the service and parts manager. He finished his career with Art’s Way in marketing.

PLANT TOURS at the Art’s Way Armstrong facility were conducted for all visitors at the July 27 60th anniversary celebration. Many of those touring were former employees. Leading the tour is John Schwager, far left, gesturing, the welding supervisor and a 25-year employee.

Lubenow, who retired 16 years ago, started as an Art’s Way welder when the company was in its fifth year. Eventually he ended up running the parts room, being in inventory control and finished his tenure heading up customer service.

“Back when we were here,” Underwood said, “it was all like one big family. There were a lot of long-term employees.”

Lubenow said position titles and job descriptions meant little back in the day.

“Everyone just pitched in,” he said. “If someone got behind, others helped out.”

The work environment was congenial, Underwood said.

JOHN SCHWAGER, right, Art’s Way welding supervisor, leads visitors through a tour of the Armstrong plant on July 27. Art’s Way held a 60th anniversary celebration for all vendors, past and present employees and the community.

“I always felt like Art’s Way was mine.”

Lubenow agreed.

“Arthur (Luscombe) really took care of us,” he said. “There were times when we had to wait a week to get a check. Everyone just kept right on working because we knew we’d get paid.”

“Arthur was a real pleasure to work for.”

According to the company’s website, Luscombe founded Art’s Way Manufacturing in 1956 to produce and sell a PTO-powered grinder mixer he developed on his farm near Dolliver. His first product was a great success that marked the beginning of his career as an inventor and entrepreneur.

In 1959, Luscombe moved the company from his original plant in downtown Armstrong to its present location along Iowa Highway 9. The grinder mixer line was expanded to include original equipment manufacture work for Massey Ferguson, Owatonna and International Harvester, now known as Case.

Today, Art’s Way has approximately 200 employees and operates its four business units in seven facilities. Luscombe’s dedication to innovation, quality and durability remains the central focus of company products and business practices.

“We take pride in the quality of our grinder mixers, sugar beet harvesters, graders, plows and other farm machinery, and continue to expand our product lines to meet the needs of our customers,” a statement on Art’s Way’s website said.

Milestones in the company’s history include:

  • 1966: Art’s Way acquired the Silamix product line, a chain mix feed wagon. A line of scales was added to the product offerings, allowing livestock producers to accurately measure feed ingredients. This new venture was organized under the brand name WeighTronix and scale systems were designed to adapt to grinder mixers and Silamixes, as well as platform and industrial applications.
  • 1970s: Art’s Way became a publicly-traded entity upon its initial public offering.
  • 1980s: Art’s Way acquired the Sunmaster line from Rotech. This move added mowers, cutters and shredders to the company’s product offerings.

The Heath Farm Equipment line was also purchased, allowing Art’s Way to begin manufacturing sugar beet harvesters and defoliators.

The company secured the patent rights to the John Deere design “wheel” harvester and soon became the industry leader in that market.

A potato harvester, previously available only in the Red River Valley, North Carolina and Canada, was also introduced to the product line.

The WeighTronix division, created to build scales for Art’s Way grinder mixers, was spun off from Art’s Way.

The Armstrong Rim & Wheel division, created to build wheels for Art’s Way grinder mixers, was spun off from Art’s Way.

  • 1990s: Art’s Way acquired the Peerless line, and began offering a roller mill in feed processing products. Stationary feed processing/mixing equipment was also added.

The Eversman product line was purchased, bringing land preparation equipment (planes, levelers, ditchers, scrapers) to the product offerings as well the PreSeeder, a minimum tillage tool.

The SupRaMix TMR vertical mixer was added to target the dairy and beef markets, and the SSP 150 was introduced, adding a portable roller mixer designed exclusively for the hog producer.

Art’s Way acquired the Logan Company line, and expanded potato offerings to include a planter, windrower, and additional harvester, as well as a line of bulk boxes.

The DMI design grain wagon was incorporated into the product line, along with several lines purchased from United Farm Tool. They include the no till grain drill, the “Speedy” bean cutter, the multi crop shredder and the high dump wagon.

  • 2000s: Art’s Way began producing the Landstar/KanAm pull-type grader, complementing the Eversman land preparation product line.

In 2004, Art’s Way introduced its newly developed, state-of-the-art 12-row sugar beet harvester, the 6812, featuring unprecedented capacity and efficiency. Its performance remains unparalleled and makes the 6812 the market leader.

In 2005, its farm equipment division introduced a new industry leading grinder mixer, the 5165, featuring the largest capacity and greatest efficiency of any grinder mixer in the marketplace. Art’s Way created the new Art’s Way Vessels division in Dubuque to manufacture pressure vessels and other custom steel products.

In 2006 Art’s Way created its scientific division in Monona to manufacture modular laboratories for research and other purposes and began exhibiting at farm equipment expositions in Europe.

In 2007, the Art’s Way farm equipment division expanded its product offering with the acquisition of the venerated MillerPro and Badger hay and forage equipment product lines. New products include forage boxes, forage blowers, hay rakes and mergers. Additionally, the Board of Directors named Carrie Majeski as president and CEO of Art’s Way after several years as company CFO.

In 2008, Art’s Way founder Arthur Luscombe died at age 86, and Art’s Way is recognized by Fortune Small Business magazine as the 57th best small market cap company in America. Months later, Art’s Way was recognized by Forbes magazine as the 54th best small company in America. Art’s Way also expanded its farm equipment product offering with the founding of Art’s Way Auger in Salem, South Dakota, entering the grain auger manufacturing business.

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