CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- This is a success story that goes far beyond the balance sheet, or the walls of a business.
Burk "Skeet" Miehe's business has grown from one building to three and nine employees to 49.
American Pattern & CNC Works started in 1994 primarily doing prototype foundry molds for John Deere. Now, Miehe's customers include Caterpillar and numerous other manufacturers in addition to Deere. He's reinvested millions each year in new facilities and equipment - $3 million in just the last three years.
Miehe, who earned the nickname "Skeet" for a scrappy wrestling style that high school buddies likened to a mosquito, has done quite well for himself.
But the Cedar Valley's done more for him than provide a foundation to build a successful business. It provided a place for him to grow up. To raise his own family. To care for those he cares about most in his life.
And, just like a good farmer whose machinery was molded from some of the castings his own company helped create and perfect, Miehe has put a little back into the soil of the Cedar Valley.
"I said the other day, ‘Let's focus on giving local to the people who really need it,'" he said.
After his two children graduated from Union High School in La Porte City, Miehe donated toward a scoreboard for a new baseball and softball complex so other girls could enjoy the sport his daughter, Beth, did. He also has supported the youth hockey programs his son, Blake, enjoyed, as well as an exhibit on the history of hockey in Waterloo at the Grout Museum. Both children work at his business.
When his mother, Wanda, died Sept. 9, 2011, Miehe was so grateful for the care Cedar Valley Hospice provided that he gave back to that organization, as well as local American Cancer Society efforts.
"I'll be honest with you: Probably the best part of this business is I wouldn't have been able to take care of Mom this last 10 years, because she went through cancer and this and that."
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Hospice "was very good" to Miehe's mother, he said. "We donated to them, too," so others seriously or terminally ill and their families could benefit from that care.
And when he heard a group in Waterloo was trying to put together an Honor Flight program to fly aging local World War II veterans to see their national memorial in Washington, D.C., Miehe stepped up, called co-organizer and Black Hawk County Supervisor Craig White and helped pay for a flight.
He did it for a veteran who would not be on such a flight - his dad.
Herb Miehe died in 2003. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve unit in Waterloo and was called to active duty in the Korean War. He was wounded in the bitter winter battle at Chosin Reservoir - the "Frozen Chosin" - in the winter of 1950-51. The encircled Marines fought their way out of a Chinese Communist trap to the seacoast and safety.
As for his father, "That was one of the reasons we paid $100,000 to the Honor Flight" when organizers were looking for a major donor. "I wasn't able to do it for Dad, but I figured there were a lot of guys like him that weren't going to be able to go. And it worked out great."
Miehe and his wife, Julie, could have gone on that particular flight as guardians for aging veterans. Instead, they opted to take a later flight and help veterans without nearby immediate family.
They also have financially supported Becker-Chapman American Legion Post 138 in Waterloo when it was beset by financial difficulties from an aging, dwindling membership base.
Herb Miehe worked at the John Deere Foundry, now one of his son's best customers.
Just as the fruits of one's labor come full circle, so, too, does the good one does in life. Miehe has given back what he and his family have received, many times over.