WATERLOO — While the obvious world player from the Cedar Valley is John Deere, with its green tractors rumbling across prairie and lowland, plenty of other Cedar Valley businesses make their mark well outside Iowa’s borders.
If you’ve ever knocked in a testy 5-foot bogie putt, odds are you plucked the ball out of a cup produced by Standard Golf in Cedar Falls. The company produces a wide range of products for golf courses on every continent, save for Antarctica.
And anyone who’s been to a high school ball game or watched a college game on TV, be it football, basketball or even soccer, there’s a chance the team uniforms were made in Waterloo by Powers Manufacturing.
“Our distribution is all 50 states,” said Powers CEO Mark Weidner. “We are a licensee for Under Armour, and a lot of the product is Under Armour brand manufactured by us.”
Prior to that, the company worked with Nike for more than a decade.
While the majority of Powers’ business is in the U.S., the company does distribute some products to Canada and may expand its international reach. “We’ve been doing some exploring to Turkey,” Weidner noted.
Powers has been manufacturing high school and college sports uniforms in Waterloo for more than a century. Weidner attributes the company’s longtime success to producing top-notch products.
“We’ve been very good at the quality we produce. We are known for that,” Weidner said. “Particularly football. It’s a tough sport that needs good production, good materials for the intended purpose. When players are being pulled and dragged down, those uniforms have to hold up. Durability has really kept us at the edge.”
Other companies in the Cedar Valley are making their mark outside of Iowa as well. Martin Brothers of Cedar Falls has trucks criss-crossing the country, delivering food products to schools, restaurants and health care facilities around the Midwest and beyond. Bertch Cabinets distributes stock and custom cabinets of all shapes, sizes and colors from coast to coast. All told, the Cedar Valley has a solid business footprint across the globe.
“We like the Cedar Valley. We really do,” said Erik Lee, who co-owns the Jerald Sulky Co. in Waterloo with his wife, Shelli. “It’s awesome. It’s just the right size. It has everything you need here and a bunch of stuff you want. There’s a lot of cultural stuff — cool stuff at the Gallagher Bluedorn. And there’s so much great food. We really like it here a lot.”
The Lees moved to Waterloo from Minnesota in early 2016 when they acquired the 118-year-old horse carriage company. Jerald Sulky is “the last commercial manufacturing facility for horse-drawn show vehicles on the planet,” Lee said.
The company distributes the stylized carts across the globe, with broad distribution across Europe, South Africa and Australia. “We’ve even shown up in Namibia,” Lee said.
Jerald Sulky employees are highly skilled, crafting carts that dominate the world stage in the industry.
“In the industries that we serve, we make the cover of trade magazines 30-40 percent of the time,” Lee said. And in the horse racing business, “we were behind every major winner for a really long time. Nevele Pride held records for 30 years. We were the cart behind that. It’s always been a Jerald in the winner’s circle.”