Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. (AIP) recently celebrated their 43rd anniversary. The company is the classic entrepreneurial success story.
“My dad, Dick Smith, founded AIP in June of 1978,” said Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of AIP. “We began in a small shop with 10,000 square feet of lease space, one used blow-molding machine, four employees and a startup loan through Iowa State Bank. Since our start 43 years ago this month, the company has grown to include 354,000 square feet, 28 machines and approximately 200 employees.”
The company has grown steadily over the years in response to increasing demand for quality blow molded parts.
“We’ve developed unparalleled capability in application development and the conversion of other materials to blow-molded plastic,” explained Lori. “Our design, engineering and process know-how has become the hallmark of our reputation in the industry. Our growth over our 40-plus years has been supported by our investment philosophy. We invest our profits back into our people, our machines and technology, as well as our facility.”
Today, approximately half of AIP’s business is in the non-automotive fuel tank industry.
“We have to meet the same regulations with these products as automobile manufacturers, however, we are making tanks for items like off-road vehicles and lawn mowers,” shared Lori. “The other half of our products are our monolayer products, and can be anything from a mechanic’s creeper to a grass chute and include products for local long-term customers like Hickenbottom Tile and TrafFix Devices. We believe that product and customer diversification makes us a stronger company overall; one that will stand for the next 43 years.”
Today, AIP has over 200 employees with diverse experience and skill sets, all focused on delivering high-quality products and exceeding customer expectations. AIP offers in-house capabilities to assist their customers in new product development.
“We have engineers to help with the design process, quality experts to ensure we are meeting all necessary standards for regulatory bodies and our customers, as well as a purchasing department to help procure whatever materials and components are necessary to make the finished part,” explained Lori. “When you think of manufacturing, people oftentimes think only about the production side of the business, however, we have a wide variety of careers from robotic technicians to customer service representatives. There are also lots of opportunities for advancement; many of our employees started on the manufacturing floor and worked their way up to leadership positions.”
As a plastics manufacturer, one common concern is the environmental impact of plastic waste. “Though plastic has a bad reputation for filling up landfills and oceans with harmful waste, our facility does not add to that,” explained Lori. “We produce very little waste here. In fact, the excess plastic from every part we make goes into a grinder and put back into the next part. If we are unable to reuse plastic, we have another company that purchases our waste and reuses it.”
“We’re always looking for ways to innovate and promote a sustainable business model,” continued Lori. “From installing a solar array that was the first of its kind at an advanced manufacturing facility with battery energy storage, to continuing to be pioneers in the blow-molding industry, we want to do what’s best for our community and business for the long-term. As we grow, so will the career opportunities we are able to offer, helping keep our workforce local.”
Throughout their 43 years, AIP has always had one location in Fairfield.
“We have always been solely located in Fairfield, which continues to be very important to my family,” explained Lori. “Giving back to the community is also a huge part of who we are as a family and organization. Most recently, we were able to donate to the new child care center, which will help provide much-needed resources in our area. By supporting these local efforts, we hope to see Fairfield continue to grow and thrive for years to come.”
Founded in 1978, Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. is a leading industrial blow molder of large parts including non-automotive fuel tanks for the recreational equipment, lawn and garden, agricultural and watercraft industries. Based in Fairfield, Agri-Industrial serves a diverse customer base and offers unparalleled expertise in part and mold design, engineering, part production and assembly.
The company’s 354,000-square-foot manufacturing facility currently houses 20 monolayer accumulator-head industrial blow molding machines and eight multi-layer continuous coex machines specifically for non-automotive fuel tank production. For more information, visit agriindustrialplastics.com.