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Made in the Midwest: Akkerman's Tunneling Equipment

Posted at: 11/05/2012 8:31 AM
Updated at: 11/05/2012 8:35 AM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It sits along County Road 56 in rural Mower County. Population 678.  A farm community. But is also home to one unique manufacturer. The only one of its kind in the entire U.S.

"You almost need pictures to describe it to people...its difficult," said James Fleming, field technician at Akkerman.

It's complicated to grasp when you talk technical, but when you boil it down, Akkerman makes one-of-a-kind tunneling and pipe-jacking equipment.

Their eye-catching machines, with their bright reds and blues, dig sewer and stormwater systems. Drills that can break up boulders.

Some powerful equipment developed by Maynard Akkerman's father years ago. Now the Earth Pressure Balance Machines are used all around the world, in all kinds of terrain.

Some of the machines made are brought back to be fixed up. The wear and tear on them shows just how rough the underground conditions are.

"We really take pride in what we do," said Aaron Bishop, CNC programmer at Akkerman.

That pride has lasted despite some setback. A couple of years ago they were very busy, now business has slowed.

"It feels like we're idling. Our volume is half of what it was in 2008. "

A bad housing market and tighter government budgets have a direct effect on Akkerman's work load. If new neighborhoods aren't built, no need for sewer systems.

"We would love to put out more work and re-hire some of the people we've let go," said Maynard Akkerman, president of the company.

Despite economic pressures, the Akkerman name remains in Brownsdale.

"I guess I've never given another area a thought...we have a good workforce, I'm perfectly happy with what we have here," said Akkerman.

That is something Bishop is glad to hear.

"Its so nice that I can have a job so close to home and that we're making parts in the U.S." Said Bishop.

Made not only in the U.S., but in tiny Brownsdale, Minnesota. A company that's pushed through the recession and cycling toward a busier future.

"Our international sales have picked up and I'm hopeful when the U.S. market bounces back and it will come back, I see a big resurgence in our market in the U.S." Said Akkerman.

This year Akkerman was recognized by the Minnesota Safety and Health Achievement program. It's just one of 39 companies in the state for having an outstanding health and safety program.