A large expansion at a lead-acid battery factory required an extensive amount of rock fill, creating opportunities for a rock quarry operator and a heavy equipment dealer.
East Penn Manufacturing Co. of Lyon Station, Pennsylvania, decided to expand its 100,000-square-foot Corydon, Iowa, factory. The company purchased the property in 2006 from Voltmaster Co, another battery manufacturer. It produces batteries and battery accessories for cars, marine, industrial, agriculture, commercial and other markets. East Penn considers itself one of “the most technologically advanced battery manufacturers.”
The Iowa Economic Development Authority board awarded East Penn $1.4 million in financial assistance and tax benefits through the High Quality Jobs program. At the Corydon location, the company will start production of dry, uniformed batteries. Those batteries will be finished at the company’s Oelwein, Iowa, plant.
The company’s $171 million expansion in Corydon added more than 200,000 square feet to the facility on 4.5 acres. East Penn anticipates creating more than 200 new jobs, hiring locally and paying at least $15.14 per hour. The project required filling in a large 17-foot-deep ditch with rock from Cantera Aggregates.
“We appreciated the opportunity to work with them,” says Doug Bailey, General Manager of Cantera Aggregates in Plano, Iowa. “It was a leap of faith on everyone’s part.”
The project required Cantera Aggregates to produce 100,000 tons of crushed rocks in two months. Cantera Aggregates’ crews worked seven 11-hour days per week to deliver the required limestone rock.
“Josh [Kratofil] had a big job presented to him in Corydon, needing 100,000 ton of rock, and he said, ‘yes’,” says Beau Kaplan, Sales Representative for Housby Heavy Equipment in Des Moines, Iowa. “He also needed to up his equipment with a couple of more trucks and an excavator. We put our heads together, and it’s flowing pretty good.”
Tackling a large project, such as the East Penn plant expansion requires the right equipment – bigger machines that can get the work done quickly. Cantera Aggregates’ fleet includes two John Deere 400 trucks, a Caterpillar dozer and a Komatsu backhoe. It also uses a 1966 Cedar Rapids crusher, which can crush 300 tons per hour. The old crusher, capable of producing 100 tons per hour, has become a secondary crusher.
For the East Penn project, Cantera Aggregates rented Volvo equipment from Housby, which included articulated haul trucks, a large excavator and a wheel loader.
“Housby did a good job for us, getting the equipment we need at a price we can afford,” Bailey says. “The Volvos are great machines.”
The Volvo 100,000-pound EC480E Crawler Excavator features a 4.5-yard bucket capacity, 373 gross horsepower and a reinforced undercarriage. It also operates efficiently to reduce fuel consumption and features an electro-hydraulic control system. Cantera Aggregates used the EC480E to remove limestone at the bottom of the quarry.
Cantera Aggregates employed the Volvo L150H Wheel Loader to dump the rock into a waiting truck. This wheel loader model also features a powerful, yet fuel-efficient engine, an upgraded transmission and an 18.3-yard bucket capacity.
“It’s flexible and has reverse by braking,” says Kaplan. This patented system works to decrease stress on the drivetrain. When an operator starts to change direction, the wheel loader slows the machine down. That leads to a big savings in fuel, Kaplan explains.
The A40G truck has a 40-ton payload capacity and can carry 31.4 yards. It is designed for heavy hauling and off-road operations. Again, one of its key benefits is fuel efficiency. The hauler’s engine has a low idle speed, which contributes to the efficiency.
Housby started carrying Volvo equipment in 2017, says Kaplan. He says there is a good team atmosphere at the company, which was founded 50 years ago by Jack Housby as a Mack Truck dealership. It now has three locations in Iowa and sells and rents several different brands and offers service, parts and site management.
Bailey reports that not only did Cantera Aggregates need more equipment, the company also needed four more people to operate that equipment and deliver the rock.
“The Volvo equipment has been easy to learn,” Bailey says. “The equipment also has been reliable. The operators enjoy it, because the cabs are comfortable.”
A Great Opportunity
Josh Kratofil, purchased the 14-year-old rock quarry in October 2017 from a construction firm, creating Cantera Aggregates. The quarry had gone through several prior owners.
“I was born and raised in the quarry business,” Kratofil says. “I had the opportunity to purchase the quarry and jumped into it. We see fast growth.”
Kratofil had worked construction and other jobs, after graduating from Centerville High School. He also worked with Bailey, as did his father.
“I decided if I was going to work 80-hour weeks, I wanted to work for myself,” Kratofil says.
Kratofil launched his career as an entrepreneur and businessman in 2010 when he started a vehicle body, tire, and repair shop, Kratofil Auto in Centerville, Iowa, which he continues to own.
Cantera Aggregates serves four counties in south-central Iowa and employs about 15 people. The quarry has about 30 acres, and Bailey anticipates that will provide enough stone for the next 30 years.
“We are trying to take Cantera Aggregates to the next level,” Bailey says.
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