New Beginnings in Algona

Algona water tower
As seen in the Tried & True Winter 2020 issue

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.