Vermeer Corporation ravaged by a tornado
Vermeer is quickly steering back on track after a tornado caused significant structural damage to two plants July 19 at the Pella, Iowa, campus. More than 400 dealers and customers were on site during the storm, in addition to the 2,700 team members usually present.
“The emergency response system was enacted immediately upon threats of severe weather, and team members, dealers, and customers were directed to tornado shelters in all facilities on the Vermeer campus,” Andringa said.
The extra dealers and customers were present for the 2018 customer conference to celebrate the company’s 70th birthday. With more than 3,000 people on campus, the damage and injuries could have been far worse if Vermeer wasn’t adamant about safety.
“The quick acting of Vermeer as far as putting in their emergency response [system] and getting team members to shelters within the buildings, those types of actions, are paramount in coming out of something like this with only minor injuries,” said Lt. Shane Cox, Pella Police Dept. Public Information Officer.
Only seven people sustained injuries that required they visit the hospital, Vermeer President and CEO Jason Andringa said in a report. They were released from Pella Regional Health Center the same day the tornado tore through.
“The care of our team is our top priority,” he said. “We are most pleased that all injuries were relatively minor injuries, and all those that went to the hospital for treatment have already been released; that’s the single thing that we’re most happy about.”
Damage is still being assessed as of Tuesday, so the company was unable to say if existing inventory and machinery has been damaged, but they are hopeful that they can get on track soon.
“We’re still assessing damage,” said Liz Sporrer, of Vermeer Corporate Communications. “We are 100 percent focused on recovery. They are long days, they are hard days, but this team is strong, this team is determined, and if there’s a team that can do it, it is this team.”
They know for certain that the corporate office, plants one, two, and three, parts distribution center, global pavilion, and Lely and Yellow Iron Academy Learning Center have been nearly or entirely unscathed. Plants four and seven, which they hope to restore by the end of next week, and the advanced systems/testing facility will need further structural assessments, and plants five and six have significant structural damage, the Vermeer website states. The waste management facility is a complete loss.
“We’ve dealt with lots of challenges in seven decades of doing business; this is a new major one. As we have survived and thrived after every challenge we have had thus far, we plan to do so again,” Andringa said.
Vermeer was able to continue operation in viable buildings on Monday. Within 12 hours, a release from Vermeer states, the “parts distribution center, which received minor damage, was back online.” As of Tuesday, 72 percent of the team has resumed work with intent to grow that number each day.
The company’s headquarters rests on the farmland of the founders, and while they serve the globe and customers throughout the world, they are proud to serve Americans and not let something like a tornado keep them out of the game for long.
Gary Vermeer started the company in 1948 in a small shop under the name Vermeer Manufacturing Company. Gary’s son Bob joined the company in 1974 and became CEO in 1989; Gary’s daughter Mary Vermeer Andringa joined the business in 1982 and became president and COO in 1989.
The third generation, Jason Andringa, took his turn in 2015 as CEO and president, a role he still holds today. Mindi Andringa Vanden Bosch, another third-generation, serves as improvement manager at Vermeer.
Vermeer offers equipment for agriculture and farming, utility installation, pipeline, recycling, forestry management and more.
Vermeer has two locations in the United States, including a manufacturing plant in Freeman, South Dakota, and locations each in the Netherlands, Singapore, Brazil, and China.
“We do drills, of course we live in Iowa, so periodically we have a real tornado warning,” Andring said. “I myself have taken shelter several times. I’m certainly glad that we have done those drills in the past and I am glad we put the effort that we have into being prepared for something like this.”
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A strong windstorm blew through Garfield County, Nebraska, the afternoon of May 12, bringing damage to the rodeo grounds in Burwell, the home of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo.