PELLA, Iowa -- It has almost been a year since an EF-3 tornado ripped through the Vermeer Corporation in Pella. Friday they are celebrating how much they have rebuilt in that year with an event for their shareholders and employees.
Fortunately, there were no serious physical injuries from that tornado on July 19th in 2018, but it tore right through the middle of the Vermeer Corporation leaving extensive damage.
“I will never forget after coming out of the tornado shelter and seeing the damage for the first time, those images are seared in my brain,” Vermeer President and CEO Jason Andringa said.
“The Eco-Center was completely collapsed; it was just a pile of rubble,” Andringa said. “I came around the front and basically saw 400 cars turned on top of each other.”
That day Vermeer was celebrating their 70th anniversary with 400 dealers and customers and nearly a thousand team members on sight when the tornado hit.
“About three hours after the tornado is when we learned that we had no serious physical injuries and already at that moment it felt like we started to see those silver linings,” Andringa said. “I distinctly felt at that point; well we have everything we need to rebuild; we’ve got our people. Obviously, we have massive damage but as long as we’ve got our team, we have everything we need to rebuild.”
And since that day they have rebuilt almost every building except production plants five and six, which were flattened by the twister. But in that empty space, there will be an approximately 500,000 square foot facility. The large facility should be finished in the fall of 2020 but between now and then there are two other smaller facilities going up.
“To build our products in a more efficient way, a better way than we’ve ever done before,” Andringa said.
Even though a lot has been rebuilt, there are still some challenges.
“The single biggest challenge is we are currently producing record amounts of volume in the smallest production footprint than we’ve been in in more than 25 years,” Andringa said.
There is a celebration event showcasing the progress made and the future of the corporation on Friday July 12th at the Global Pavilion on the Vermeer campus beginning at 9:45 a.m. You can also watch a live stream of the event on the Vermeer Facebook page.