Three-part renovation in progress at Progressive Foundry

AFS Corporate Member Progressive Foundry, a ductile and gray iron matchplate job shop about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, is approaching completion this May on two-thirds of a three-phase, $6.8 million renovation of its Perry, Iowa, facilities. The company serves a variety of markets including different types of pump companies, industrial vacuum and blower systems, municipal castings, agricultural, heavy truck and industrial burner systems.

Phase 1, 15,000 sq.ft. of new construction completed in November 2020, nearly doubled the size of the foundry’s core room; it also included remodeling of a 25,000-sq.ft. purchased building that now houses maintenance and storage. Opening this spring, Phase 2 comprises a new state-of-the-art employee center with men’s and women’s locker rooms, large indoor and outdoor-patio break areas with a fully-equipped kitchen. A new metallurgical lab, as well as offices for the quality manager and all Progressive’s foremen will be in the same building, which, in emergencies, is also becoming the company’s storm shelter. 

“Once we got the room, we jumped right on it, even in a terrible pandemic year,” said Progressive Foundry President Darek VanKirk, who co-owns the company with his brother Kirk. “We didn’t stop anything because we knew we wanted to do this for our employees.  A lot of people in our industry know right now it’s not easy to get good employees and retain them––so we’re working hard to give them the facilities they deserve; to retain these good employees that we do have and also open the doors toward hiring more female employees in the future.

Kirk VanKirk, also president at Progressive Foundry added, “Not only are we reinvesting for our employees and community, it shows our commitment to our customers that we are a company that is planning for the future and the next generation.”

Short on space for decades and using outdated buildings from the 1950s, Progressive employs 93 people today, about twice what they started with when the VanKirks’ father, Pete, assumed ownership in the ’80s. Land restrictions beyond its control finally broke down in 2019 when Perry’s city council unanimously voted to allow closure of a bordering street behind Progressive’s property. At the same time, owners of a nearby building Progressive had unsuccessfully tried to buy in the past suddenly approached the VanKirks with an offer to sell. 

“We purchased their building and the rest of the block from them and went straight forward into planning the new core room that was going to be built where the street had been,” said Darek VanKirk.
Designed for compliance with the silica dust control rule, Progressive’s new core room has an air makeup system whose duct work delivers fresh air to each individual workstation, as well as 10 overhead doors to create optimal air quality.

The foundry’s upgrade is projected to conclude early in 2022 with Phase 3’s newly constructed office building for management and administrative personnel. Vice President of Sales Jackson VanKirk, Darek’s son, says it will feature a large conference room that will be an informational showcase for visitors, plus a large kitchen to accommodate guest events and staff needs. True to their commitment to retain and attract good employees, the VanKirks are also having an employee fitness center installed in this building.