This is our first guest episode of the podcast! The folks over at Renew Rural Iowa were kind enough to allow us rebroadcast rights for the interviews they do with their monthly Leader Award winner.

LoriIn this episode, Bob Quinn of WHO radio visits Fairfield Iowa to talk to the founder of Agri-Industrial Plastics, Dick Smith. Also featured in the episode is President of the company, Lori Shaefer-Wheaton.

Agri-Industrial Plastics has been around for nearly 40 years and they make some incredible products. From fuel tanks, to kayaks, canoes, playground slides, and pig feeders, they do it all.

Their operation, located in Fairfield, Iowa, employs around 200 people and, like many in the manufacturing industry, is looking to continue to grow. Automation plays a key role in their company as unemployment in Jefferson County sits below 3% making finding workers a challenge.

This episode was made possible by the folks at Renew Rural Iowa.

The Iowa Farm Bureau has an innovative program to enhance and improve economic growth across the state. It’s called Renew Rural Iowa. Renew Rural Iowa is designed to help increase the enterprise value of new and existing businesses in Iowa’s small towns through a program of business education, mentoring, and the financial resources to help businesses grow. By bringing together seasoned business experts and critical resources at each seminar, business owners can tap into an array of services – all at one time.


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Wow, where to begin??? Basecamp 2017 was a smashing success. a dozen middle school-aged kids for the second year in a row took over Summit Products in Altoona, Iowa, for a weeklong summer camp focused on manufacturing. But it’s so much more than that.

The campers get to go hands-on with welding, bending, cuttings, cnc, plasma torches, Solidworks, and everything in between. It’s a camp about problem solving, building, creating, and working with your hands to create something amazing.

In this episode I chat with a couple of the base camp students about their experience, what they think about manufacturing now that they’ve had some experience, and also what they want to do with their future. I also sit down with the founder of Basecamp, Albert Marasco, to learn about why he started the camp and what the future holds.


It was such a rewarding experience to spend the week with these young people and see just what they are able to come up with and create when they have the freedom and tools at their disposal. One of the most rewarding things was the project itself. This  year the project was for the kids to design a solution for a wheelchair-bound individual whose goal was to remain in their manual wheelchair as long as possible. The creative solution they came up with was really flippin’ awesome.

This year we also incorporated a “Shark Tank” element where the kids got to pitch their product to a panel of “sharks” to try and get them to invest in their invention. Throughout the week various speakers from many different industries, including, virtual reality, electronics, batteries, business coaching, patenting, and more, came in to help teach the kids and work with them on their project.


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