Featherlite’s 50th

CRESCO - Featherlite Trailer’s 50th Anniversary kick-off celebration was held on Aug. 15 at its Cresco facility across from the Howard County Fairgrounds. The event featured guest speakers Justin Queensland, Vice President and General Manager; Tim Masud, CEO and Owner since 2019; and Conrad Clement, former CEO from 1988 to 2006.
Queensland opened the celebration by welcoming all the Featherlite employees and guests in attendance. 
“I want to thank everyone who helped put this (event) together,” Queensland said. “It’s been about five years since we’ve had a group get-together. Thanks to the planning committee, the marketing team and everyone who put this together.
“It takes a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears to get this company to where it is today. We’re about to kick-off our 50th anniversary and not many companies make it that long. We are able to get here because of each and every one of you that currently works for us today.
“There are a lot of people from the past who have helped us get here. Although we couldn’t get everyone back, we’ve invited some people to join us. I want to introduce Jeff Mason, who was a CFO, and thank him for coming over. I want to recognize Gary Ihrke and give him a round of applause. He was VP of operations for many years. Don Fenske is here. Rick Ruden, director of HR, is here. Thanks for making the trip. I want to thank Missy Hvitved from the Chamber of Commerce for coming.
“All of us are a part of something special. This celebration will kick-off our 50th anniversary. We’ll have a year’s worth of fun remembering how we got here. I want to let Tim (Masud) introduce the next person,” Queensland said.
“I think everyone will remember his name,” Masud noted. “Mr. Conrad Clement, please come up (to the stage). Conrad was instrumental in taking this company from a livestock trailer company into what it is today. I’m so glad and honored that he is here.”
Clement gave kudos to Masud and the Featherlite workers.
“I can tell you that 50 years is a long time,” Clement said with a smile. “I remember when we had our 25th anniversary, which was a big deal, but this (50th anniversary) is a bigger deal. I think you can tell from the tone of the people that the company is back in good hands again.
“Because of Tim and his management group, the whole vibe and feeling about Featherlite and northeast Iowa is kind of like how it was when we sold it in 2006. (The company) got out of control for a while but Tim brought things back under control,” Clement said.
“I had a good teacher,” Masud said, referring to Clement.
“Let’s all give Tim a big hand,” Clement said. “We had some agreements and disagreements. He got most of what he wanted (in the past). Now he’s got all of what he wants, and he’s got a bigger job. Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.”
“On behalf of the whole Clement family, we appreciate being invited here. This is your 50th anniversary. Give yourselves, Tim and Justin a big hand,” Clement said.
“We also want to give you a big hand, Conrad,” Masud said, with a big grin. “The Clement family will always be a part of Featherlite.”
Masud took the stage to address the workers.
“Thank you, Conrad, for those kind words,” Masud said. “Also, thanks for coming. We appreciate you being here.
“It’s an honor to be here with everyone. It’s especially an honor because we are celebrating 50 years, which is a long time. I want to take a walk down memory lane.
“We were established in 1973. We’re here to celebrate the beginning of our 50th anniversary. The trailer here (next to the stage) will be the first one with a model designated as 2023.
“The company started in 1973 in Oklahoma. In 1979, the manufacturing moved to Cresco, when they broke ground on plant one here and went into production in 1980. In 1992, we built our first race car transporter here. There was a guy they built it for named Dale Earnhardt. That was a pretty big name.
“Corporate headquarters were built in 1993 in Cresco. The company went public in 1994, which was a big deal. In 2006, the company went private when it was bought out by a company named UTC.
“In 1988, Golden Gait became a dealer. The 100th transporter was built in 1995. In 2017, we were named the No. 1 stock trailer for the eighth straight year. We were No. 1 for eight years, which was a big deal.
“In December 2019, my dream of buying Featherlite came true. My partner, Howard Palmer, and I are honored to work alongside all of you,” Masud said.
He noted that at the present time, there are more than 400-plus Featherlite employees and more than 100 dealers in the United States. There are 650 vendors worldwide.
“That’s a pretty big statement for a company in Cresco,” Masud said. “It impresses me.
“What is Featherlite? Most people would say it’s a brand and it is. But I think it’s more than that. It’s right here (with the workers). Every person standing in front of me is Featherlite Trailers. Nothing happens without the workers.
“I’ve told a lot of people you can buy building or equipment anywhere. But you can’t get this (the Featherlite workers) anywhere, so give yourselves a hand. You are the brand,” he said.
Masud noted that more than one-third of the current Featherlite workers have been employed here for at least 25 years. He added that some workers have been with the company for 30, 35 and 40 years.
“It’s a testimony to the company that people would want to stay and work here for 40 or more years,” Masud said. “That’s impressive. Anyone who has been here 40 years has just earned an extra day of vacation. I didn’t get you a gift, so I thought you might like that.
“I’m not sure if everyone realizes the brand that is Featherlite. I am fortunate enough to travel around the world. It amazes me that anytime I bring up the name, Featherlite, everyone recognizes it. I don’t care where I am - South America, China, Africa, Europe, Russia - when I mention Featherlite, they know it. They know it for one word - quality. Anyone who has any knowledge about trailers knows us.
“It’s an international brand and not just in the United State. The trailer (in front of the stage) was built about eight or 10 years ago. There are six of these trailers in the world. Two of these trailers are in South America. They are the only hospitals in some cities there.
“When I delivered the first one of these trailers (to South America), I got there at 6 a.m. It was set up in the parking lot of a soccer stadium. There were 2,500 people lined up at that time to go into that hospital. Since then, those hospitals have seen more than five million patients and there have been several hundred thousand surgeries performed in them.
“Sometimes you don’t quite realize the magnitude of what you create and build. Give yourselves a hand for building that trailer,” Masud said.
He noted that he enjoys watching the workers build the trailers.
“I like to walk around (the company) and manage that way,” Masud noted. “I was in Oklahoma City, and someone had wrote on a board in my office, ‘Management by wandering.’ When I thought about, I realized that probably is the way I manage.
“I like to wander around, see people and talk to people. That’s important to me. Why do I do that? I love craftsmanship. I can watch someone weld, rivet or caulk something for hours. To me, if you are trying to do your best at something, you are an artist. It’s impressive.
“We build trailers for the most prestigious cars in the world. We build trailers that respond to some of the worst natural disasters in the world. We make trailers for the military to defend our country. Our trailers haul livestock that help feed the world. We build medical trailers that save lives around the world.  We’re not just a livestock trailer company. It’s pretty impressive what we do.
“If you ever wonder if your job matters, think about that hospital again. It’s somewhere in Ecuador. If the person in Cresco, Iowa, that manufactured the trailer didn’t caulk the roof very well or didn’t do the craftsmanship, when it starts to rain and there’s a surgery going on in the front, the rain would short everything out. That’s a pretty bad dad. Everything you do matters. It means a lot to me that we have the capabilities to build a trailer of that magnitude.
“If someone tells you that you build trailers for a living, correct them quickly. Tell them, ‘I build Featherlite Trailers.’ There’s no other company that does what we do. Period. No one builds the breadth of trailers, the style and quality that we do. We’ve been doing it for 50 years.
“I want us to cement this moment in time, our 50th anniversary, with our 2023 model. Raise your glass (of champagne) to salute the 50th anniversary trailer. Here’s to 50 more years of quality trailers built by the best people in the world,” Masud said.
He concluded the event by securing a ‘50 Featherlite’  gold plaque on the 2023 model trailer.
Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor:
In the recent 50th Anniversary Featherlite article, their was no information or research done on “the who,” “the how” or “the why” Featherlite came to be in Cresco. It was Don Gooder who brought Featherlite to Cresco. Without his early belief in “why aluminum trailers make good sense” and that he could sell them, there would be no Featherlite in Cresco.
It started with his family farm needing a livestock trailer. He spotted the very first Featherlite trailer made, Vin Tag #1, in Southern Minnesota on a Sunday drive in1973. Don ran down the farmer and got the name and phone number of the manufacturer. He called them and at that time, Featherlite was based in El Reno, Oklahoma, he talked to one of the original founders, an engineer named Roy Culp. Roy told Don that “they don’t sell trailers to Iowa.” Don promptly asked why and Roy said “You can’t afford them.” Don said, “I’ll order 10 trailers”, that was the start of Don Gooder Distributing and relationship with Featherlite through 1988. Don’s sales grew, but he needed better quality and workmanship than the trailers being built in Oklahoma. He told Mr. Culp, “If you build a plant in Cresco, I will sell every trailer you build.”
In 1978, production of trailers began in Cresco. The Don Gooder Family became the marketing and distribution arm; selling, promoting and delivering trailers nationwide. From the famous “Original 15 employees,” mostly local farm boys, the company had grown to over 250 employees by 1988.
In was Don Gooder with the help of other leaders in the community that made it a goal to bring jobs and particularly manufacturing jobs to Cresco starting in the early 1970s. Why? They knew with large farm families, many young family members would leave their farm and Cresco without jobs. Don knew these farm families and their work ethic and that they would make great welders and craftsmen. It didn’t take long and a high quality product was being produced in Cresco.
Don Gooder and his family set the foundation of a national dealer network that continues today. Now you know “the who,”, “the how” and “the why” Featherlite came to Cresco.
In memory of Don Gooder, Don & Rosie Gooder Family
Submitted by Gary Gooder

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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