When Jon Kinzenbaw opened a welding and machinery repair shop in 1965 in a small town in eastern Iowa, he never envisioned he’d someday receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree and deliver remarks to the spring graduating class of students at Iowa State University. On May 5, 2018, he did just that.
For more than 52 years, Kinzenbaw, CEO and chairman of the board for Kinze Manufacturing Inc. in Williamsburg, has brought innovative technologies and mechanization to production agriculture, all while continuing to farm himself.
Kinzenbaw was born in 1944 near the town of Victor to a frugal, hardworking farm family. In 1965, with $5 in his pocket and a $3,655 bank loan, he bought a set of tools, made the down payment on a 1,400-square-foot building in Ladora and opened Kinze Welding, which would become Kinze Manufacturing.
Kinzenbaw’s success as a “disruptive innovator” is evidenced by the growth of the company, with its 520-employee headquarters in Williamsburg, and a second manufacturing facility in Lithuania; by his 37 patents, including two in 2017; and by his passion for helping farmers be successful.
Innovations help farmers
In 1975, as corn and soybean planters became larger, they became too wide to pull on public roads. The common solution at the time was to unhook the planter from the tractor, load it lengthwise onto a trailer, pull the trailer to the next field, unload the planter from the trailer, reattach the planter to the tractor and resume planting. Kinzenbaw saw the need for a better system and invented the rear-folding planter, allowing farmers to move from one site to another and resume planting without ever leaving their tractors.
In the early 1970s, he designed and began marketing the first two-wheeled grain cart. Most of the company’s business is built on grain cart and planter sales.
Kinzenbaw has received numerous awards over the years for his business expertise, innovation and outreach activities, including the George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award from ISU’s College of Ag and Life Sciences; the 2009 No-Till Product of the Year Award; Iowa Engineering Society Governor’s New Product Award; and the Iowa Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. He is a member of the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame, Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame, and Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame.
Core values focus on customer service
Kinzenbaw’s career exhibits extraordinary achievement by bringing a continuous stream of successful innovations to agricultural mechanization, say faculty members from ISU’s department of ag and biosystems engineering, who nominated him for this honorary degree. “His achievements, work ethic and adherence to core values are models to be emulated by all Iowa State students,” says ISU President Wendy Wintersteen.
RIGHT PEOPLE: “When a company gets to the size we’ve grown to, there are many areas one person can’t do alone,” Jon Kinzenbaw says. “The key is to surround yourself with people who can help do the things necessary and do them right.”
As the company grew over the last half-century, the five core values that Kinzenbaw established for the business many years ago still ring true today: integrity, customer focus, excellence, innovation and mutual respect.
Source: Iowa State University, Kinze Mfg. Inc.