By Rebecca McKinsey, Daily Times Herald
This year's most-celebrated small-business owner in the country might hail from Carroll County.
The Small Business Administration named Ben Puck, founder and president of Puck Custom Enterprises in Manning, as the "Iowa Small Business Person of the Year." Puck will go on to Washington, D.C., during the week of April 30 - National Small Business Week - and is in the running for the National Small Business Person of the Year award.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," Manning Mayor Harvey Dales said during a Carroll County city roundtable Tuesday evening. "Just going to D.C., I think, is pretty good recognition in itself."
Puck started his business in 1979 with his brother, pumping and hauling liquid manure and eventually designing new equipment to improve manure application. He's received five equipment patents through the years.
Puck Custom Enterprises has grown to employ about 60 people.
"Puck and his company's contributions to the community of Manning are significant," a news release from the Small Business Administration says. "The growth of his business has fueled the type of employee growth that's vital to rural communities like Manning."
Puck has described his business as a combination of innovation and efficiency - the need for more-efficient manure application has driven the business forward.
"I like to say that we love technology, but technology is driven through efficiency," he said during the opening of PCE's new facility in 2010. "We are not a technology leader, we are an efficiency leader."
Also during the opening, he described the manure-application business as "a baby yet to walk," noting it has expanded most just in the past few decades.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad visited PCE in 2014 and noted the manure-application industry's relationship to livestock operations.
"This is really the future of livestock production," Branstad said. "It has to be done in conjuction with what you are doing."
"People are the only reason anything ever really happens," Jeremy Puck said. "The right people wanted to do something out of the ordinary."
There are more than 26 million small businesses in the United States, according to the news release. And Small Business Week is all about them.
"Since its establishment in 1963, the highlight of this annual tradition is the presentation of awards which focus on the outstanding contributions of small-business persons and champions at the district, state and national level," the release states.
Gaylin Ranniger, president of First National Bank of Manning, nominated Puck for the award.
"Aside from the economic impact he's made, Puck supports local churches, schools, businesses, charities and other community organizations," the release states. "Whether it's through monetary contributions or contributions of time - such as taking a leadership role in the IKM-Manning School's STEM program - Puck, his family and PCE have been invaluable to Manning's efforts to remain a thriving rural community."
Iowa Small Business Person of The Year 2017
by SBA.GOV | https://www.sba.gov
In an effort to save the family farm, Ben Puck ventured into another business during the 80s Farm Crisis and today finds himself teaching the world how to handle manure in the 21st Century. With help from the SBA, his ability to expand is paying off not only for his family but for a rural Iowa community by providing needed, stable jobs.
Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc., of Manning, Iowa is a liquid manure application and application equipment manufacturing company owned and operated by Ben and Kathy Puck.
Raised on a family farm in rural Iowa, Ben intended to continue the tradition of family farming. In 1979, with the Farm Crisis looming and interest rates on farm loans at 18 percent, Ben knew he had to come up with a new revenue stream if he wanted to save his farm. His efforts included becoming a manure applicator for larger farms and partnering with his brother to create Puck Brothers Pumping. Using two vacuum trucks, they began hauling liquid manure for area farmers. Four years later, Ben began running the business solo as Ben Puck Pumping and began growing the business into a six vacuum truck operation.
Ben soon replaced the vacuum trucks with tractors and “honey wagons” (wagons designed specifically to collect manure). In 1998 Ben added a TerraGator high capacity spreader and incorporated the business as Puck Custom Enterprises. PCE continued to expand its businesses capacity, adding a drag hose spreading system and in 2004 purchasing another TerraGator. In the fall of 2005, PCE built its own hose cart for drag hose application. That piece of equipment received a U.S. Patent in 2009 and Ben has received four other equipment patents over the years for his inventions to improve manure application.
PCE’s drag hose service grew steadily over the years and in 2010, the company tapped the SBA’s 504 Fixed Asset Financing program to help finance a new building for equipment manufacturing and sales. Since then, PCE has used the SBA 504 program three additional times to help expand its facilities and purchase additional equipment.
PCE’s employees are all certified through the state of Iowa as manure applicators. During the Spring and Fall seasons, the company focuses mainly on liquid manure application while during the Winter and Summer months, the company shifts its focus to building drag hose application equipment.
With over 37 years of experience in applying manure with everything from vacuum trucks and honey wagons, to TerraGators and drag hoses, PCE knows the obstacles liquid manure applicators face and uses this experience to determine what kind of equipment they manufacture and sell. The company employs 54 full-time and 10 part-time workers. Some are Iowa-certified applicators who spread liquid manure in the Spring and Fall and the company shifts their focus to building drag hose application equipment in the Winter and Summer. The company plans to hire more people and expand further, with some of the expansion coming from sales to more countries. Currently 10 percent of PCE’s sales come from exporting to countries including Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and Croatia. Plans are in the works to begin sales in Serbia and Romania.
Ben and his company’s contributions to the community of Manning are significant. The growth of his business has fueled the type of employee growth that’s vital to rural communities like Manning. Aside from the economic impact he’s made, Ben supports local churches, schools, businesses, charities and other community organizations. Whether it’s through monetary contributions or contributions of time - such as taking a leadership role in the IKM-Manning School’s STEM program – Ben, his family and PCE have been invaluable to Manning’s efforts to remain a thriving rural community.