DEWITT, Iowa – There’s a photo collage near the front door of the Black Cat Wear Parts plant here that chronicles the company’s milestones over the past decade. The information in the collage includes: Black Cat opens in DeWitt: May 5, 2012 First warehouse shipment: Jan. 8, 2013 First blades manufactured: Oct. 17, 2014 First […]
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DEWITT, Iowa – There’s a photo collage near the front door of the Black Cat Wear Parts plant here that chronicles the company’s milestones over the past decade.
The information in the collage includes:
Black Cat opens in DeWitt: May 5, 2012
First warehouse shipment: Jan. 8, 2013
First blades manufactured: Oct. 17, 2014
First blades shipped: Dec. 8, 2014
First carbine insert blades shipped: Aug. 21, 2015
First heat treated blades shipped: Sept. 16, 2019
The next milestone that might be listed is: 10-year anniversary and continued growth, 2022.“We have plenty of opportunity for expansion here,” said Josh Daniel, plant manager at Black Cat Wear Parts, 224 Industrial St. “You look at any growth chart for companies, and it’s always up and down. But it’s mostly been up here.”Black Cat is a global manufacturer and distributor of wear parts for the construction, mining and road maintenance industries. The DeWitt facility makes blades for those industries. The blades go on state snowplows, bulldozers, wheel loaders, motor graders and mining shovels in big industrial mine sites.The company averages about 8,000 pieces a month, or about 500,000 pounds, Mr. Daniel said.“March was a record-breaking month for the team, and we did 12,000 pieces and over 900,000 pounds,” he added.In its 10-year history in DeWitt, the company has gone from four employees to about 55 this spring. And business is expected to get even stronger with the spring road construction season and more projects in the works – spurred by the recent infrastructure improvement law.“The construction forecast right now is very strong,” said Mr. Daniel.That is, the company is in a great position for growth if some current events and the labor shortage don’t drastically hamper the future.The company has been busy putting out the digital “Help Wanted” signs for more workers. It is advertising through the DeWitt Chamber of Commerce’s website for machine operators (first and second shifts); has ads for workers appearing on the big screen before movies at the DeWitt Operahouse Theatre; and ads posted on the usual national job websites.“We feel we can teach most people just about anything,” said the plant manager, adding that perhaps the top trait he is looking for in new employees is “reliability.”In addition to recruiting new workers, the company has been taking steps to help create a new generation of potential employees by working with local high school students on job shadowing. The company also is considering an apprenticeship program.Mr. Daniel said that many of the recruitment efforts have focused on attracting local people to the company. In this era of high gasoline prices, many people might not want a big commute to work, he added.Other issues facing the company include the ongoing supply chain logjam, the pandemic, inflation and retirements. But Mr. Daniel is optimistic about the future. He has seen outside forces impact his company before.In 2018, tariffs were put in place that imposed a 25% tax on all steel imports to the United States from Canada. (Black Cat gets its steel from Canada to produce blades.)The company had to lay off some 10 production workers for a time. The Black Cat facility in DeWitt found itself in the national spotlight for a short time as Mr. Daniel fielded calls from news outlets nationwide and even from Turkey about the tariff issue.But that issue turned out to be just a bump in the road for Black Cat.The company plant manager believes Black Cat will remain a strong business partner in DeWitt and will hit many more milestones in the coming years.
At a glance: Black Cat Wear Parts
Here are some quick facts about Black Cat Wear Parts:
Black Cat began making cutting edges in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1968. In the following decade, as machine sizes and horsepower increased, the company invested in the latest technology and equipment to produce higher quality, harder, tougher edges.
The company operates in Canada, China and the United States. Its products are sold through an international distribution network as well as directly to original equipment manufacturers.
Edmonton is home to the company’s head office, a 36,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and a 24,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility.
The DeWitt, Iowa-based Black Cat facility is described as a 59,000-square-foot operation set up to “efficiently supply and service original equipment manufacturers and replacement part customers.”
Black Cat has been listed as one of Canada’s “Best Managed Companies” since 2015.