Jack Daggett remembers the day two years ago when he thought the coronavirus pandemic might be the end of Pride Solutions, the Hutchinson manufacturing company started by his father nearly two decades earlier.
“Once COVID hit, a lot of things went through my brain about … the economy is going to shut down, we’ll have to shut our doors. Layoffs, all that kind of stuff,” Daggett recalled of that frightening spring day in 2020.
Fears did not become reality.
Two years later, Pride Solutions is celebrating its 20th anniversary and in the midst of an expansion project that will add 20,000 square feet of manufacturing space to its Hutchinson campus. May Wes, the subsidiary that led to creation of Pride Solutions, also is celebrating an anniversary — 50 years, a lineage that goes back to its founding on Mavis and Wesley Bruns’ rural Gibbon farm in 1972.
It’s certainly a much brighter future than Daggett feared he and the company he now runs might be facing in the early days of the pandemic.
“COVID certainly had an effect on us negatively,” Daggett said. “But then, also positively.
“Quite honestly, the opposite happened,” Daggett said. “As soon as the governor said, you know, ‘Go home, shelter in place,’ I got 10 letters, like immediately, … saying, ‘You’re a supplier to us, that makes you critical. Figure out a way to keep the doors open.’ That was an interesting time.”
Rather than layoffs, the company has nearly doubled its workforce, from 25 employees to 42, with the company currently considering the addition of another three or four positions, Daggett said.
“Since I took over as president here, I’ve been working on a lot of different initiatives,” Daggett said by way of explaining the company’s growth. “On top of that, I have an excellent team here. We’ve worked very diligently to create an excellent culture, get the highest quality people in the right seats as we can. And we’re really seeing it pay out.”
There’s been no magic to the growth and success of Pride Solutions or May Wes, Daggett said. It has come about because of hard work by all members of the team.
“It wasn’t one thing,” he said. “It wasn’t, ‘Hey, we changed this, and it was phenomenal. No, it was a lot of hard work from a lot of people throughout the organization. And then it just kind of meshed.”
Hard work and innovation are the themes that carry throughout the history of the organization, which boasts customers throughout the world and a diverse product lineup that reaches into industries from agriculture to recreational vehicles.
Pride Solutions — the umbrella company that includes May Wes, C&A Pro, Pride Engineered Plastics and Pride Assembly — specializes in ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMW-PE products. According to company literature, UHMW-PE is one of the world’s most durable and slickest plastics. The company’s services include compression molding and overmolding, CNC routing and lathe, line bending and thermoforming, in-house CNC metal turning and engineering CAD/CAM design.
Pride Solutions divisions offer contract assembly for product and sub-assembly from prototypes to high volume, supply chain management, serializing and documentation, electromechanical assembly, mechanical assembly.
“Pride Solutions has come a long way in 20 years,” Daggett said. “We owe our continued success to our loyal customers and dedicated employees.”
It started on the farm
It’s a legacy that follows two tracks, one that began on a farm near Gibbon with a farmer looking to improve harvesting equipment, the other with a family manufacturing business in Hutchinson.
First, the farm.
May Wes Manufacturing was founded by Mavis and Wesley Bruns in 1972, taking the company name from a combination of their first names. The couple saw an opportunity to help farmers improve operations with aftermarket products that could increase efficiency and yields. Some of their first products included galvanized steel “Grain De-Viders” to guide grain into headers and “Gravity Flow Hoppers” that folded out for unloading.
After a few years in business, the Brunses discovered that grain headers moved across fields easier and lasted longer if they attached plastic shoes to their underside. That innovation — UHMW poly skid shoes — remains one of May Wes’s top-selling products.
But the product that brought even greater acclaim arrived almost a decade after the company’s founding when May Wes introduced the “Original Stalk Stomper” in 1983. The invention protects combine tires from damage that can be caused by genetically modified cornstalks. The Stalk Stomper continued to evolve with feedback and assistance from customers, and in 2018 May Wes introduced its G4 Stalk Stompers, which earned a Best Game-Changing B2C Product award at the Made in Minnesota Manufacturing Awards. The G4 Stalk Stompers are now the company’s top-selling product, available for corn heads, tractors and planters.
After Wesley Bruns died in 1995, his sons Mark and Steve took over the business, and by 1997 May Wes had outgrown its space on the family farm near Gibbon, so they relocated production to its present facility in Hutchinson. The company added compression molding capabilities in early-1990s when it began molding C&A Pro snowmobile skis for racing legend Dale Cormican. C&A Pro skis today are the choice for most professional snowmobile racers.
Growth brought financial challenges at May Wes, however, and at one point, the production facility closed.
Tom Daggett, the second generation to run the family metal fabrication business, Hutchinson Manufacturing Inc., agreed to a four-month position as a contracted manager at May Wes in 2002. He brought back much of the workforce who had lost their jobs in the closure, and eventually decided to purchase May Wes.
“(May Wes) shut the doors in July, which is a terrible time for an agricultural business focused on harvest products to be closed,” Jack Daggett said. “There was literally products sitting on the floor ready to ship when they shut the lights off.
“Dad ran it for a couple months, basically wanted to take a look at the business (and brought the employees back, as many as he could,” Jack Daggett added. “Then in November of that year, he ended up purchasing it.”
In short order, the third generation of the Daggett family became involved in the new company formed by his father as the umbrella over May Wes and other divisions to follow. Still in high school, Jack Daggett worked part-time doing a variety of jobs, from inventory to sweeping the floors.
Along with the owner’s son, several of the employees who came back to work at May Wes during those challenging months in 2002 remain on the team to this day — a fact Jack Daggett proudly highlights as part of the company’s success story.
The resurrection, accomplished as Tom Daggett implemented operational changes and invested in new manufacturing equipment, led to further expansion of the company’s product line and the creation of “four synergistic divisions” of Pride Solutions — May Wes, C&A Pro, Pride Engineeered Plastics and Pride Assembly.
And more than a decade after he started working on the production floor after attending college, and after serving three years as operations manager, Jack Daggett became president of Pride Solutions. Now, at 33 years old, he has moved into ownership, as well.
Along with good team members, Daggett credits the companies’ success to good planning. Under his leadership, Pride Solutions implemented the Entrepeneurial Operating System that he says put it on the path to growth. The company continues to invest in processes, adding its first robot-assisted CNC lathe and an additional CNC router for plastic fabrication.
Those additions and many others created the need for physical plant expansion, and Pride Solutions broke ground this year on the addition that will double the size of its current production facility and add compression molding capacity. The company currently rents about 9,000 square feet of warehouse space, which it will be able to bring onto its campus when the addition is complete.
“We’re running (supplies) a couple blocks over quite a few times a day,” Daggett said of the of offsite warehousing. “So to have everything underneath one roof will help with efficiencies. And then, obviously, we’ve got room to grow. It’s going to free up a lot of space in the existing building. It’ll be really nice. It’s a big, empty, open building right now, but we’re looking forward to filling it up.”