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Blair Flavel, General Manager of Degelman Industries, looks around the parts distribution center Thursday morning. Jesse Trelstad/ Forum News Service

Degelman Industries sets up shop in Hillsboro, already planning expansion

HILLSBORO, N.D. -- The new distribution center for Degelman Industries rises above farm fields near Hillsboro, looking little like the building the company started in more than four decades ago in Canada.

"Manufacturing started in a barn," General Manager Blair Flavel said, sitting Thursday at the facility's boardroom table.

Flavel sat with Paul Degelman, who confirmed the story of how his father, Wilf Degelman, started the company in 1962.

"Dad chased the cows out of the barn and turned it into a plant," Degelman said.

The company has since grown into an international presence based in Regina, Sask., and manufactures equipment such as tillers, bulldozer blades and rock pickers that sport a characteristic yellow paint job. The 27,300-square-foot Hillsboro facility is the latest addition for Degelman Industries, one company leaders said will be fast-growing.

The distribution center was formerly located in Minot, N.D., where Degelman said the business of assembling equipment also was winding down. After scouting locations, the center found a home in Hillsboro, where company officials hoped to assemble equipment as well.

"This area has always been a really nice hub for Degelman Industries customers, so we have a bit of a connection with that," Degelman said. "The U.S. is probably one of our strongest areas, so it was kind of a natural fit."

Plans in Hillsboro have turned from assembly to manufacturing, a move that could add around 25 jobs at the facility within the next six months, Flavel said.

The new building is another anchor point for the area west of Interstate 29, where Hillsboro Mayor Mark Forseth said the city is encouraging development.

"It's a great a project, and it just reflects the amount of potential that is out there along the interstate for Hillsboro," he said.

Small town connection

Hillsboro's location, halfway between two of the state's largest cities Fargo and Grand Forks, should make hiring simple, but Degelman emphasized the hardworking attitude of small towns is something he finds outstanding.

"People are what make your business," he said. "It's not your product. It's not your brand. It's the people you bring in to do something with it. That's key, so we need good caliber people, and the work ethic of a small town is important."

Those people would fill welding, painting and other positions integral to the manufacturing process.

Production equipment has been ordered and manufacturing should be ready to start up before Sept. 1, Flavel said, adding the Hillsboro operation will pick up overflow orders from the company's Regina plant.

And unlike that plant, there is room for expansion on the 25 acres of land purchased by Degelman Industries in Traill County. The 200,000-square-foot Regina facility is landlocked, preventing addition workspace from being added to it.

That leaves the facility in Hillsboro, a city with an estimated 1,600 population, as an opportunity for growth.

"We're going to outgrow this place in a year," Flavel said, walking through the portion of the building that will house the manufacturing area. "We designed the building and developed it for expansion."

An addition would come on the building's western wall, extending out between 200 and 300 feet.

For now, workers are unpacking and stocking the shelves of the part department, which services the entire company.

Local ties

Before moving to Hillsboro, Degelman Industries had local ties to the town.

In its search for a new assembly location, Degelman said the company had heard of Total Ag Industries in Hillsboro. Soon a partnership formed, with Total Ag completing assembly work for Degelman Industries.

"Total Ag and their attitude and their work ethic really stood out," Degelman said, adding the ties helped draw his company to Hillsboro.

The pair of companies are now neighbors just off County Highway 11 west of Hillsboro.

Degelman also contracts with Weisgram Metal Fab of Fargo for fabrication work.

Having such partners and other services close by and accessible by an interstate is another plus of the Hillsboro location.

It's all good news to Forseth, who has worked with Degelman Industries over the past two years to bring the facility to Hillsboro. Much of the infrastructure such as sewer and electrical access already were installed, requiring little work on the city's end, he said.

"In general, the community is really starting to be -- even more so -- open for business," Forseth added. "There's just a lot of reasons to look toward Hillsboro for business opportunities, resident opportunities or whatever opportunity you're looking for."