Vermeer Corp. sustained extensive damage to its manufacturing facility last week when a tornado tore through Pella, Iowa.
The tornado hit Pella about 4:15 p.m. Thursday, according to reports. According to news reports, seven people were injured and taken to Pella Regional Hospital but were later released. Vermeer appeared to take a direct hit from the storm, causing major damage to several of its plants.
Vermeer CEO Jason Andringa got emotional when reflecting on the day’s events. “We are certainly going to rebuild and we’re going to come back stronger than ever,” he said, fighting back tears near the end of a press conference Thursday night.
Thursday started out as a day of a celebration at the Vermeer campus as more than 400 of the company’s dealers and customers were there to mark the company’s 70th anniversary as part of its 2018 Customer Conference — primarily an outdoor event.
Andringa said he was grateful that the injuries suffered were minor and he was proud of the quick response and action of the Vermeer team to move people to safety.
“Upon being notified of severe weather, we worked to quickly activate our emergency response system. The emergency alarms in all buildings sounded and team members, dealers and customers were directed to tornado shelters in all facilities on the Vermeer campus,” he said.
Pella Police Lt. Shane Cox, also at the press conference, commended the Vermeer staff for its actions in getting people to safety, preventing serious injuries.
All dealers and customers visiting the campus have been accounted for, as have employees.
There is significant structural damage and personal property damage across the Vermeer campus and process of assessing that damage began last night and continues. Andringa noted the early assessment last night, saying:
“Our corporate office, Plant 1, Plant 2, Plant 3, Parts Distribution Center, Global Pavilion, Lely and Yellow Iron Academy Learning Center appear to have zero to minor damage. Plant 4, Plant 7 and our Advanced Systems/Testing facility will need a structural assessment before we can determine the impact of the damage and the ability to continue operations. Plant 5 and Plant 6 both have significant structural damage that we believe, at this time, will limit our ability to continue operations. Our waste management facility is a complete loss.”
The company’s third shift was canceled for Thursday night. All operations, both office and production, are closed Friday, July 20. Andringa hopes to have the facility open as soon as possible to the plants that sustained minor damage, noting that no one would be allowed to return to work until all buildings are deemed safe.
“We are optimistic that a number of our facilities will be up and going in the near future,” Andringa said during his press conference.
He also said he is appreciative of the outpouring of community support in the storm’s aftermath, as well as the support from other manufacturing companies. “The outpouring of help from a variety of other manufacturing entities has been overwhelming,” Andringa said, adding the plan going forward is “to be up to full capacity as soon as we can.”
Andringa noted that the family-owned company had faced serious challenges during its 70-years in business and survived. This challenge would be no different. “We dealt with challenges over [our]seven decades of doing business … as we survived and thrived after every challenge, we plan to do it again,” he said.
Plants 1, 2 and 3 on the Vermeer campus were operational as of Monday morning, July 23.
Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.
This story has been updated from a previous version that appeared on July 20.