ADMC: Building a Brighter Future

Improving Water Quality and Agronomics through Drainage Management

In a world where the conservation of resources is becoming increasingly important, supporting the mission of experts is going to be the key to ecosystem productivity, wildlife survival, environmental biodiversity and, in the drainage realm, farming success. The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) was established to promote this exact mission, and Fratco is proud to be an active member in supporting this important cause.

ADMC was formed in 2004 and serves as a resource for educating the public on the latest technologies in drainage water management systems. They aim to assist the agricultural and environmental communities by promoting practices that improve water quality and increase yields for food and energy producers. ADMC works at the local and state level to educate farmers, drainage and conservation groups as well as local, state and federal authorities to build an understanding of the latest drainage water management systems. In addition to controlled drainage, the organization promotes the use of other practices that improve water quality and agroeconomics, including saturated buffers and refined bioreactors.

“[We do] a little bit of everything. Starting with practice development, which involves finding these practical solutions that work in the landscape with our production systems and provide environmental benefits at the same time,” said Keegan Kult, the executive director of ADMC. “Once we have a good grasp on these practices, we begin educating people about them.”

On the education side of their work, ADMC offers training programs and workshops to inform and promote conservation practices. The types of people you see at these events range from water conservation district staff, farm managers, drainage contractors and sales representatives of drainage pipe manufacturers. This past year, ADMC facilitated activities at a two-day workshop for advanced conservation drainage training, which was organized by the Illinois Nature Conservancy. As highly-organized events like these increase in frequency, so will awareness of the environmental issues at play and best practices to hinder them.

The goal is to raise awareness for these practices to have them recognized as important and valuable in the industry. Then, companies can have candid conversations with their customers and clients, allowing them to make an informed choice when it comes to conservation practices.

ADMC also provides educational services to customers of companies who are involved with their programs to help explain the importance of these practices and the impacts they have.

“I really look at it as being the advocate for these conservation practices,” said Kult. “Just because we have a list of these practices that we know will work well in the landscape doesn’t mean that anybody is really picking up the charge to get them out there. It’s becoming more relevant that there’s increased pressure to start implementing these practices at a meaningful scale. It’s important for somebody to take that charge and that’s what ADMC is attempting to do.”

While raising awareness for these practices is a hurdle in itself, convincing landowners to front the cost for implementing them is another beast entirely. Kult explained that this is easier done with structural changes such as controlled drainage and drainage water management since those practices can illustrate their benefit through increased yields and higher profits. Saturated buffers and bioreactors on the other hand involve less personal impacts and instead have wider implications for national and even global water quality, which make them harder to sell. That said, part of ADMC’s work involves finding the most attractive financial aid packages for landowners. And by combining state and federal programs together, ADMC is often able to obtain 100-percent cost share for landowners to implement these practices, which is something they are very proud of.

As a voice of authority in the field, ADMC understands that actions taken in the midwest have a ripple effect, and can have bigger ramifications nationally.

Right now, a major concern for the organization involves looking into the effect the Corn Belt region has on the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River. For coastal waters, hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, tends to be a topic of great concern. To help address this issue, a hypoxia task force has been created to set nutrient reduction strategies for states within the basin.

Concerns that hit a little closer to home in the midwest involve water conservation efforts in the Great Lakes, especially the western Lake Erie basin. Without a national regulatory approach in place, each state is addressing resource concerns differently, making the work that ADMC does all the more important in order to align strategies.

ADMC is always open to new members and encourages people to get involved with their mission when and where they can. They strive to connect farmers and landowners

with resources in regards to funding that make conservation more accessible and are excited about a number of new projects they are kickstarting in Iowa in the near future. There is power and strength in numbers, so the more people they can rally behind their cause, the closer they become to fulfilling their important mission.

Visit admcoalition.com

Staying On Track

Launching Mobile Delivery Tracking

Constantly striving for innovation involves more than developing new products on the market. It also means frequently reviewing current processes and analyzing what improvements should be made in all areas of business. For Fratco, the most recent update comes in the form of streamlined communication with customers.

By leveraging a delivery management platform, Fratco now offers a seamless delivery tracking experience which allows customers to receive updates in real time directly to their phones. Additionally, customers can place a pin on a map to precisely indicate where they need their order dropped off as well as easily communicate with Fratco drivers and dispatchers via phone call or text message.

“Top-notch customer service is something we really pride ourselves on,” said Chris Overmyer, President and CEO of Fratco. “We’re always looking for new ways of doing things or methods to improve existing processes. Our goal with incorporating delivery tracking is to further open the lines of communication and make things easier for our customers so we can help them continue to be efficient.”

The convenience of this service is further emphasized by the fact that customers of Fratco will not need to sign up or download any additional apps on their smartphones to opt into this service. Once they place an order, they will automatically be enrolled in mobile delivery communications, receiving text alerts about the status of their delivery. They will also be texted a link where they can track their delivery driver throughout the journey. For customers, this means there’s no more time wasted guessing when or where the driver will show up to drop off the delivery, allowing them to focus on other necessary tasks while Fratco handles the rest.

We’re Still Open!

As these unpredictable circumstances surrounding COVID-19 persist, our values are holding steady, which means our work to tirelessly serve our loyal customers continues.

While we are operating with limited staff, we’re still actively manufacturing pipe and fulfilling orders through dispatch across all of our Fratco locations. That said, our offices are closed to the public. If you need to contact us, call 800-854-7120 or email us at office@fratco.com

To our entire Fratco family who needs support now more than ever, we will continue doing everything we can to ensure your needs are fulfilled. Afterall, we are in this together. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make sure you are taken care of.

 

For guidelines on how best to proceed or to learn more about COVID-19, refer to communications and resources distributed by the CDC and WHO, which can be found below:

COVID-19: Fratco Update

To Friends and Family of Fratco,

We want to take a moment to acknowledge the current situation that is unfolding in our country. As a leader in the industry, I feel it is Fratco’s responsibility to set the tone in the face of adversity. So while we are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers, we move forward without fear. 

We’ll always stand behind our family here at Fratco, supporting the personal needs of our team members through this time of uncertainty. As we navigate the unpredictable nature of this situation, we can have concern and act accordingly to protect one another, but we want to avoid conforming to a herd mentality that elicits fear and idle behavior. We won’t allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear to the point where we lose sight of what’s most important at Fratco, which has always been ensuring our customers and our employees are taken care of. By supporting our customers in the agricultural industry, we are playing our part in supporting jobs and operations that are vital to our country. 

We encourage you to continue forward with strength and without fear, and to let us know if there is anything we can do to help you do so. If you have any questions or concerns pertaining to Fratco, please contact us at 800-854-7120. 

Thank you for your unwavering support and trust in Fratco. We wish you and your families health and safety.

Sincerely,

Chris Overmyer

Fratco President and CEO 

 

For guidelines on how best to proceed or to learn more about COVID-19, refer to communications and resources distributed by the CDC and WHO, which can be found below:

R-Series: The Power to Choose

As concerns regarding environmental well-being continue to rise, industry standards are changing and consumers are demanding that adjustments be made to the products they buy and the investments they make. To fulfill customer desires and project requirements, many companies have sought ways to provide the same products and services they are known for but with a lower carbon footprint. With R-Series, Fratco customers now have this option, too.

R-Series is a family of recycled resin blends utilized to manufacture certain lines of their corrugated pipe, providing a recycled option for TruFlo, SingleCorr and SmoothCorr.

Made by melting a blend of high-quality recycled HDPE plastics, R-Series pipe is comprised of at least 50 percent recycled materials.

Additionally, R-Series spent ten years in development to ensure customers would ultimately receive a product of the highest quality.

While always top of mind, Fratco’s customers were not the only motive for entering into the green game. In fact, changes in the industry further spurred them to prioritize developing recycled pipe options. These changing standards have allowed for recycled pipe to be used in municipal projects, and this is only the beginning. Some experts suggest there could come a time where the government mandates the use of recycled pipe only.

Before recycled pipe can gain more traction in the industry, though, negative opinions that exist regarding the performance of recycled pipe must be overcome. Prevailing notions assume that pipe manufactured with recycled materials is inferior to virgin pipe in regard to its durability and strength. While not all recycled pipe is made the same, rigorous testing has proven that R-Series is just as dependable as its V-Series counterparts—Fratco’s virgin pipe series. Furthermore, unlike some recycled pipe options, R-Series is not made of post-consumer plastic, so your water bottles and laundry detergent containers will not end up as Fratco pipe. Instead, excess post-industrial plastic is repurposed into R-Series, keeping plastic out of landfills.

Additional research and testing of recycled pipe have corroborated Fratco’s findings. Researchers at Villanova University in Philadelphia completed a controlled, three-year study to examine the performance of recycled-content corrugated HDPE resin in commuter rail installations.

The verdict? The recycled pipe’s performance was indistinguishable from pipe made of virgin materials.

Durability and dependability are not the only attributes you will find in R-Series. It also tends to be a more economical choice for customers when compared to virgin pipe, although prices do vary based on raw material market fluctuations. It should also be noted, however, that R-Series is not meant to replace V-Series. Truthfully, there are many projects which require the use of virgin pipe.

R-Series simply serves to provide customers with the power to choose the product that best suits their individual project needs and constraints. Plus, as industry standards continue to shift, R-Series allows Fratco to evolve with them.

At the end of the day, choosing Fratco for your drainage needs means receiving high-quality, dependable and long-lasting solutions—and that does not change just because of recycled symbol. R-Series is a suitable choice for drainage projects that permit the use of recycled pipe because it is backed by the same Fratco promise customers have grown to trust.

Meet Alan Kruszka

While Fratco’s sales team consists of people of all ages, Alan Kruszka is notably the oldest of the bunch, and he is not shy about pointing that out. The western sales rep is coming up on his ten-year work anniversary with Fratco, though his adventures in the drainage industry began 23 years ago.

His history leading up to his introduction to the pipe industry is not a linear one, with his resume including time spent buying livestock, working for a farm-building company and helping out at his parents’ resort. The areas he served over the years range from the entire East Coast to the fringes of Nebraska.

When Kruszka began working at Fratco, his coworkers quickly became family. Shortly after he joined the sales team, his wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Through her multi-year fight and eventual passing four years ago, Kruszka leaned on his Fratco family for support, something he says they are exceptionally good at providing.

Offering support is an effort Kruszka excels at himself. Having worked for so many companies over the years, Kruszka has developed an approach to customer service that speaks for itself.

“I’ve always been one who believes in taking care of your customers, getting involved with their lives and taking an interest in their family,” said Kruszka. “I think there are times where I talk with customers more about their family… than business. It’s just part of it.”

With 43 years of agricultural sales under his belt, there is little he has not seen on the job. Many of the younger reps on Fratco’s sales team will reach out to him for insight and advice. And while some may see him as an expert, Kruszka is candid about his desire to continually learn.

“In this business you never stop acquiring knowledge,” said Kruszka. “I refer back to my younger associates and some of my colleagues that have been in the business and I gather information from them as they do from me. You pick things up from the young guys. You just can’t be in this position for as long as I have and say, ‘You know what, I know everything.’ No one ever knows everything.”

It is this attitude that has helped Kruszka build Fratco’s western territory and win the Minnesota LICA Associate of the Year Award in 2018; an accomplishment he says he was very surprised and humbled by.

With such an esteemed history, he does wish he had done one thing differently while working in the drainage industry: That he had started out at Fratco from the beginning.

“What stands out more than anything about Fratco is the family atmosphere and how well they take care of their people,” Kruszka said. “We may not be the largest player, but we are the best when it comes to a company that cares about its own people. You have to be honest and a hard worker and the company will take care of you. They really will.”

New Beginnings in Algona

Promising high-quality products and an unwavering commitment to customers seems like it should be the bare minimum for companies to uphold. Unfortunately, that promise is not one that is always kept—especially as companies expand and grow. They may lose sight of what has brought them success in the first place.

Fratco, however, has made exceptional customer service the cornerstone of their company from the beginning. Finding ways to better serve their customers is one of the reasons they have chosen to expand over the years and was one of the major factors in their decision to move their plant from Sioux City to Algona.

The Sioux City plant opened back in 2017 as the company’s fourth location. However, Fratco quickly realized that the facility left little room for expansion, stunting their growth. They incurred large freight costs to transport pipe where it was needed and often found it difficult to meet product demands.

“The facility in Sioux City wasn’t adequate to manufacture pipe at the levels we needed to and actually the facility was awful to try to work out of,” said Bill Champion, COO of Fratco. “We knew we had to move, and moving East was the only way to go.”

After careful consideration, Fratco set their sights on Algona as an ideal place to call home. The small town of 5,560 people seemed to be the optimal location, based on proximity to their customers and the prevalent agricultural market in the region, among other factors.

“The Algona move worked really well for Fratco because there was an existing building that seemed perfect for what we want to do,” said Scott Craig, plant manager at the Algona facility. “When we moved to Algona, the only thing that was in the facility was a ceiling light and an HVAC system. Everything we have here is from Sioux City that we had to reinstall.”

The actual process of completing facility modifications, however, was not without its hiccups. Following the harsh winter and uncharacteristically wet spring, the March start date to begin the excavation, tiling, grading and graveling of the storage yard was delayed until June. After taking possession of the facility on July 1, they began moving equipment from Sioux City a week later and completed the moving and installation process by July 15, three days ahead of schedule.

Champion was quick to praise the maintenance supervisor at the Francesville plant, Scott Elston, and his crew, Tim Ballard, Glenn Ingram, Chad Watts and Charlie Hounchel, for leading the move to Algona and doing “a masterful job.”

With this expansion came new opportunities for members of the Fratco family, namely for the newly appointed plant manager of the Algona location, Craig. His history with the company spans states and many years, starting at the pipe manufacturer shortly after high school at their Francesville plant and eventually moving to the Souix City location as a maintenance supervisor. Now based in Algona, he is excited for the chance to help Fratco expand.

But it was not just existing Fratco employees who were excited for the opportunities that Algona brought—the people who live and work there were thrilled with the prospects this new facility would bring. Fratco received massive support from the community, and the town has continued to be proactive in assisting with the move.

Even with delays at the beginning of the process, the facility officially opened for business two weeks earlier than anticipated. The operations at this plant include the manufacturing of two lines of pipe with a third expected to be added in the coming year. According to Mary Newton, the office manager at the Algona facility, the employees have been adjusting well and seem enthusiastic about their work.

“With my previous job [at a staffing agency] I know that sometimes the places where people can work in Algona are limited,” said Newton. “It’s a huge deal to be able to offer job opportunities to the community.”

With this new location, Fratco is confident in their ability to serve existing customers more readily, while generating interest from new clients who have not yet had the opportunity to work with them. The risks associated with this move were ultimately worth it for the company, as they acted in the best interest of their customers—something they have promised since 1923, with no chance of stopping now.

Fratco Cares: Investing in Youth

Driving through the streets of Monticello, Indiana, you may stumble upon Woodlawn Elementary School—a seemingly unsuspecting building that is bursting with soul. While it no longer functions as an elementary school, that has not stopped little feet from galloping through the halls. The space is used as a local food pantry, but more prominently, serves as a home to the Boys and Girls Club of White County.

On any given day, about 190 school-aged children pass through the doors of the Boys and Girls Club for after-school programming, and a total of 532 community members are served annually through a combination of programs, including summer club.

“We see a lot of lower income students, but you don’t have to be low income to benefit from the Club,” said Dan Fry, Unit Director of the Boys and Girls Club of White County, Indiana. “It’s a great place for kids to come for after-school interaction and socialization, especially if they aren’t involved in sports. It’s something that’s affordable and safe that helps to develop a sense of community.”

During the school year, children in the club are transported via school bus and can enjoy an after-school snack, socialize with their peers, receive homework help and partake in activities that Fry refers to as “high-yield” learning, which incorporate multi-disciplinary benefits, from leadership development to physical activity to character-building. The children are also introduced to career-speakers and have the option to join specialized clubs for more individualized learning, like gardening club and nature club.

The Club initially began operating out of a functioning elementary school, but membership quickly grew too large, forcing them to move to the more permanent location of the vacant Woodlawn Elementary school building. This rapid growth coupled with the significant impact the Club plays on young people’s lives in the community makes it surprising to learn that a few short years ago there were questions as to whether the program would be successful.

Following the decline and ultimate failure of a similar local program shortly after its launch, there were concerns about the sustainability of starting a local Boys and Girls Club chapter. In 2013, the community established a steering committee to conduct a needs assessment and facilitate open discussions with the community and schools. One of the members of that steering committee was Chris Overmyer, President and CEO of Fratco.

Not only did Overmyer gather community support by spearheading many of the meetings surrounding the establishment of the Club, he also involved Fratco to help the Club jump a hurdle that every startup faces: gathering an appropriate amount of funds.

“Fratco did more than simply provide financial clout,” Fry said. “They brought validity to the Club by showing other businesses that, as something kids in our community need, it is a viable option for investment. Financially, Fratco set the tone and benchmark for what we’d like other donors to be.”

The Community Foundation of White County offered a matching grant of $20,000 which encouraged other businesses to contribute. But the Club’s first donation was made by Fratco.

According to Fry, Fratco’s financial pledge showed the Boys and Girls Club of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, the governing body of the Club in White County, Indiana, that there was interest and encouragement within the community to make the Club successful. With this support, the Club was able to open its doors early.

“Having Fratco’s initial backing allowed us to focus on the foundation rather than the funds,” Fry said. “Frankly, I can’t say for certain if [the Club] would have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for Fratco’s assistance and Chris’ guidance.”

Fratco’s involvement did not cease following the Club’s launch. They provide ongoing support and make donations to the Club annually; a contribution which is necessary to embolden the development of the children served as membership continues to increase. These donations are seen as investments in the future of the community, as those who attend the Club’s programming advance their skillset and pave hopeful paths for themselves.

“It’s great to have the support of such a prominent, family-oriented company in the community,” Fry said. “Both organizations value similar things. I treat all of the children here like they are my own and treat the staff like my brothers and sisters. We really feel like a family, and that’s the notion I get from Fratco as well.”

In January of 2019, the Boys and Girls Club of White County, Indiana celebrated their fifth birthday and are looking ahead to what the next five years have in store. Like Fratco, the Club constantly strives to innovate and change their way of thinking, staying flexible to welcome new ideas as they come. Together with open minds and open hearts, Fratco and the Club provide an invaluable impact on the community, bolstering young dreamers today to become leaders tomorrow.

Meet Dan Koebcke

If there is one thing that every person who grew up in Francesville, Indiana has in common, it is that they know Fratco. At least that is what Dan Koebcke, a yard supervisor at Fratco says.

Koebcke, a Francesville native himself, has worked at Fratco for over 30 years. While he grew up with Steve Overmyer, the former CEO of Fratco, the opportunity to work there unexpectedly fell into his lap.

“It’s funny how I actually came [to work at Fratco],” Koebcke said. “I was working for a local business at the time and was at Steve’s house. When I left, he actually followed me home and offered me a job. I wasn’t looking for a job but there it was!”

Once he started working at Fratco, Koebcke was surprised by the family atmosphere and the connections he made with his coworkers. Many within the tight-knit group went to school together, go to the same church and have witnessed each other’s children grow up, which only helps to solidify that connection.

But it’s not just the people he works with that make Fratco such a great work environment for Koebcke. He expressed his gratitude for the ways in which Fratco supports its employees.

“I always try and tell the younger guys to think of this job as more than just an income,” Koebcke said. “Fratco does so much for us. I’ve been on the fire department for 35 years and Fratco encourages that. They want you to be an active member of the community which is something you don’t always see with employers.”

Providing more than just support for extracurriculars, Koebcke described Fratco’s willingness to train employees. He explained that they encourage employees to better themselves and provide opportunities to learn new skills, even if that means expanding their skillset so they can explore other career paths. He says Fratco helped him personally by teaching him patience and what it means to work as a team.

As far as Fratco’s own progress goes, Koebcke says he’s witnessed many changes over the last three decades, but in the best way.

“I watched them build the building I’m standing in and tear the old one down,” Koebcke said. “Just a lot of good things have happened here, and I’ve seen [Fratco] grow immensely. They’re just constantly trying to make things better.”

Over the years, Koebcke has played his part in the bettering of Fratco. He’s loaded countless trucks and has helped innumerable customers. When asked why he thought customers choose Fratco, he responded without hesitation that it was the people behind the Fratco name.

“Don’t get me wrong, the products are great,” Koebcke said. “But the customers like dealing with us. We’ve got guys that take good care of our customers, and customers notice when people are gone for the day. The people here really make a difference.”

By serving as a mentor and role model for newer Fratco employees, Koebcke truly contributes to that difference.

Decades of Drainage & Perfect Pairings

Few people are fortunate enough to find success in a self-made business right out of high school and still genuinely enjoy what they do decades later, but Phil Tribby has managed to do just that.

Phil Tribby and his wife, Sue Tribby, run Tribby Inc., a drainage and excavation company in Kansas, Illinois. Phil Tribby and his brother first founded Tribby Brothers Tiling in 1979. The two grew up gaining experience in the industry through their father’s bulldozing and excavation business and saw a chance to rectify a shortcoming in the area.

“We started the business because there was a need for it,” said Phil Tribby. “There weren’t any other contractors around here at the time and I loved this type of work. It was a natural fit.”

The business pairing between Phil Tribby and his brother, however, eventually dissolved as the two decided to part ways.

Phil Tribby maintained his drainage contractor business while his father independently continued his bulldozing and excavation business. After several years, the two merged the complementary businesses to become Tribby and Tribby. They worked this way until 2013, when Phil and Sue Tribby bought the company and converted the name to Tribby Inc.

40 years since he first began, Phil Tribby is enthusiastic as ever about his business, likening the work to a big kid playing with large Tonka toys in a giant sandbox. And while Tribby Inc. is not the first contractor in the industry to reach a 40-year milestone, they may be the only contractor to have as unique of a collection as Phil Tribby. Through the years, Phil Tribby has accumulated an impressive assortment of tile relics, some pieces dating back to the late 1800s. This miniature museum of the industry’s past is indicative of the passion he feels for his work. 

“It’s been really exciting to see the changes in the drainage industry over the last 40 years,” said Phil Tribby. “The advancements definitely make jobs quicker and simpler, but we think about everything we’ve done in the past and are proud of it all. I can’t imagine how that’s going to change even more with new technologies.”

While technology continues to advance, one thing that has not changed is Tribby Inc.’s commitment to their customers. Their success over the last few decades has lived on repeat business, resulting in the maintenance of a customer base who trusts them. Some of these existing customers have worked with Phil Tribby since the very beginning of his operations.

“Our customer service can’t be matched,” said Phil Tribby. “We treat the guy with a 1-hour backhoe tile repair the same as we treat the guy who’s got a 200-acre system. We don’t put anyone ahead of anyone else or treat anyone better than anyone else.”

Tribby Inc. has built their reputation on providing superior customer service and quality work, and they prioritize working with companies who share similar values. They’ve maintained an ongoing relationship with Fratco for the last 25 years for this very reason.

Phil Tribby was first introduced to Fratco shortly after he started business laying clay tile. He says the salesman at the time seemed to genuinely care about Tribby Inc. as a customer and also provided a high-quality product. Initiating business between the two was well-suited.

As time has gone on, Phil Tribby says his respect for Fratco has only continued to grow. From last minute changes to jobs, to timely quotes and large jobs that required staggered shipping distributions, Phil Tribby says he can count on Fratco to take care of everything—something which goes a long way for him.

“I can install [Fratco products] with confidence and know I’m not going to have to come back later and explain why the pipe failed,” said Phil Tribby. “We guarantee our work to be right, so if something were to happen, we’re fixing it on our dime. The continuous quality of the product has been the biggest thing I’ve appreciated about Fratco products.”

Yet another aspect that the two companies share is their obligation to soil and water management. Fratco is a member of eight state chapters of LICA and Tribby Inc. has co-chaired four LICA soil and water shows in different parts of Illinois.

“[Phil] truly loves the land,” said Sue Tribby. “That is something I really admire in him. He always looks for the best interest of the land.”

Serving as certified Technical Service Providers, Tribby Inc. has developed a sort of mantra they adhere to: Future generations are dependent on how well we maintain the soil today.

As for the future of Tribby Inc., they are looking to continue the same pattern of success by doing whatever they can for whoever walks in the door. Seeing the impact they have on farms and being able to provide a beneficial service to those around them assists in continuing to find enjoyment in the hard work they do.

“When it stops being fun then it’s time to quit!” said Phil Tribby.

And for him, the fun doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.