Reader Profile: Chris Loehmer

May 31, 2016

Chris Loehmer’s secret to success is “if anything shows its ability for profit, the readiness to change what you’re doing and move into that direction.” Loehmer has been doing just that for 20 years since he started Loehmer Ag Products in Monterey, IN, with a backhoe and a small truck. His company has mushroomed to 29 employees working in a 100-mile radius, running a fleet of three Doosan wheel loaders—two DL250 models and one DL420 model—as well as six excavators, including a Doosan DX420, two Doosan DX300s, two Doosan 225s, and one older Hitachi 550.

“We kept working for farmers who were growing and for other people and we kept growing in size as well,” notes Loehmer. “Once we grew with a piece of equipment, we’d find some more work for it.”

His company became more diversified as he added dump trucks and expanded services such as custom-spreading manure for farmers and selling peat moss to bagging companies. The company now does a great deal of ditching and dredging work at county river sites for which Loehmer has had to purchase long-reach machines.

“We use a big machine to dredge out sediment traps and remove tree jams on some of the smaller rivers in Starke County,” he says. “We go through with the long range machines to pull trees out of some of the rivers and clean the ditches.”

The company also does site preparation earthmoving and grading work for dairy farm barn and building construction. Loehmer’s business strategy has been rooted in his ability to change to various lines of work that present growth opportunities.

“There might be a lot of ditch work one year and the next year, there’s hardly anything,” he points out. “When agriculture is real good, there is a lot of irrigation work and some tree removal and barn building. When agriculture was down for a while, we were big in the housing market. Then it fell away and never really came back in this area.”

Loehmer says he does not monitor trends “as much as they monitor me. Some jobs lead into other jobs. It’s about having the availability to offer what they need and them being comfortable working with you.”

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What He Does Day to Day
Loehmer spends a great deal of time excavating in such jobs as installing tiles for subsurface drainage for farmers and counties as well as digging for deep water mains and irrigation pipe for irrigation companies. His company also does the underground work and site preparation for new dairy facilities, new cattle barns, and milking facilities.

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What Led Him Into This Line of Work
Loehmer’s family is in dairy farming, where tractors and loaders dotted the farming landscape. “I was told I had a knack for moving dirt or leveling something,” he says. “I was getting into dairying when I was young and decided moreso to get into the equipment end of it. I sold what few cattle I had and started buying some equipment. The ability to run equipment and move dirt came naturally to me and I was able to make a profit, so my business kept growing.”

What He Likes Best About His Work
Loehmer, a father of three sons and two daughters ages four to 15, looks forward to the weekends when his sons join him in his work, which sometimes involves digging ponds. “They like coming out and working with me,” he says, adding that he enjoys it as well. He says he hopes he’ll be able to passthe business on to the next generation.

His Biggest Challenge
Finding enough employees to meet the job demands is Loehmer’s greatest challenge. “One of the reasons we’ve been able to grow over the years is that we have had real good employees working for us, but to find more is becoming a challenge,” notes Loehmer. There is some hope that a pool of good workers is still out there, he says, pointing out that there are many young people in the area who drive trucks and run excavators. Loehmer says the next step may be for him to start working with local schools to train potential employees for jobs that are available in the excavating market.
About the Author

Carol Brzozowski

Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to resource management and technology.

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