From Highways to Fields

Highway Equipment Company is celebrating its 70th year in business in 2009. The company was founded in 1939 by Roy Gaddis who introduced the model DD to spread sand on roads.

In the 1940s, Highway Equipment established the New Leader product brand with the first New Leader lime and fertilizer spreaders.

"The company started with 20-inch conveyors on its first fertilizer spreaders and now we provide 24-, 30- and 34-inch conveyors," said Rachelle (Rocki) Shepard, president, Highway Equipment.

The company, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is now owned by Matt Rissi and Rocki Shepard (siblings), their mother, and the rest of their siblings. The company employs 150 people, and the company is divided between its three product lines.

Adding to its Hi-Way brand, the company acquired the Flow Boy line in 2005. The Flow Boy line includes 42-foot asphalt trailers with live conveyor bottoms for transporting asphalt and aggregate.

Change Over the Years
Shepard said a big change over the company's 70 years is the percentage of business distribution. "In 1991, I'd say the business ran 60 percent toward the Hi-Way equipment and 40 percent toward the New Leader line," she said. "Today, I'd say that the New Leader side of the business brings in 60 percent of the business and the Hi-Way and Flow Boy lines bring in 40 percent."

The reason for the change, Shepard said, is due to the increased sophistication of the product and the company's partnerships with major manufacturers such as AGCO, Case IH, John Deere and GVM. Spinner technology now is more technical than it was even 15 years ago.

"With so many new environmental laws in place and the need to precisely place nutrients, spinners have had to be upgraded to keep up," she said. "Now our machines have to be able to handle variations in product and rates from lows of 40 to 50 pounds of fertilizer to up to six tons of lime per acre."

To keep up with the changes in the industry and the demand from customers, in 2002, the company introduced the New Leader G4 Spinner. Then in 2008, the company introduced its MultiBin spreader, which allows applicators to divide one bin into as many as four bins for variable rate application. The company also recently introduced the L5034G4 compost spreader to help them expand into markets that need a high-output spreader to broadcast compost, sludge and other environmental materials.

Looking ahead
Shepard expects strong growth in overseas markets for the agricultural New Leader brand and the roadway Hi-Way brand. "We expect to partner with a European company that is non-ag related. We expect to see growth by expanding beyond North America while also developing new customers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"We may be the highest priced lime and fertilizer spreader company, but we have the highest quality products," Shepard said. "We do not sell direct. We are the only spreader manufacturer that sells exclusively through a dealer network to ensure a high level of service after the sale."

Shepard explained the loyalty its customers have to the brand. "We would not be where we are today without our dealers and customers. Our customers know that no matter how old their spreader, we will repair their product. Our customers know that our products will last them 15 years or more."


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