Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Didn't get a chance to finish your story? Purchase a day pass digital subscription and you'll receive unlimited online access for one day (24 hours). You will have immediate access upon completion of your purchase.

Pries past roots hold firm: Preparing for prosperous future

Pictured above is an aerial shot of Pries Enterprises taken with a drone in 2018.

n the mid 1970’s, Pries Enterprises was not a known custom aluminum extrusions business in the Independence area. But in 1976, five local friends came together after Titus in Waterloo closed its doors, leaving unfinished orders, future profitable projects, and many customers that wanted to continue their business in the area.

James Gemerdinger, Richard Deardoff, Merle McMahon, Arthur Pries, and Michael Welch each put forth money or machinery to get the manufacturing company off the ground and running in the Waterloo area. Back then, it was just a fabrication plant, but it added the extrusions component as it grew.

In 1984, Pries Enterprises was built in Independence for its key location (701 17th Street SE); right off of Highway 20 and 150. Throughout the mid 1990s into 2001, two new additions went up in Independence, and the Waterloo plant shut its doors for good, thus leaving all custom aluminum extrusions to be produced and shipped from Pries in Independence.

“We’re in a phenomenal spot, with a lot of manufacturing around the Midwest,” noted Matt McMahon, current owner of Pries.

McMahon is the son of one of the founding five friends; Merle McMahon. Merle ended up buying out his four counterparts throughout the years and was the sole owner until his death in 2010. After that, his son Matt took over the business, even though he was residing in New Jersey with his wife and three children.

“I was always interested in the business, but Dad pushed me to do my own thing,” said McMahon.

McMahon worked on Wall Street until his father Merle fell ill. At that point Matt offered to keep Pries Enterprises in the family and take over the existing extrusion business. McMahon continued to work on Wall Street and visit the Iowa plant until 2013, until his main focus fell solely on Pries.

Today, McMahon is very hands-on with Pries, visiting as often as he can – he noted the advancements in technology make it possible to work remotely as well.

“I have such great people here,” commented McMahon. “We’re blessed with a great crew – they make it happen. It’s nice to see things being made and people working.”

Before McMahon officially took over Pries, the employees were very nervous about what the future held in store for them and the company.

“This was a good move … I like the little things; knowing you’re helping people provide for their families, and knowing you’re impacting them and their community. You’re also putting your hands on tangible goods and I like that a lot,” said McMahon. “This was a nice transition, but I am still learning. My biggest obstacle is keeping people employed and continuing to grow.”

Since McMahon has become the sole owner of Pries, he has kept the existing successes of the business and expanded on them. He has also brought in some fresh ideas, projects, and people to the mix.

“The whole pie has grown 400 percent since 2013,” mentioned McMahon.

McMahon brought on Operations Manager, Jason Joyce two years ago, and Human Resources Director, Angie Helmrichs in 2018.

“Jason has helped to boost morale and production,” commented Helmrichs. “The people here are my favorite. This is a relaxed environment where we promote personal and professional growth. I enjoy how we give back to employees, and I love going to battle for them!”

“We have quarterly profit sharing – it’s a big deal and it changes the mindset,” added McMahon. “We have referral bonuses and training – we’ll pay for anything that helps you do your job.”

McMahon, Joyce, and Helmrichs want to ensure that Pries is financially successful, but that the employees feel fulfilled and needed as well.

“We also have an attendance bonus for those with no unexcused absences within a quarter,” noted Helmrichs. “It’s a great incentive. Matt [McMahon] is a big believer in job security.”

Helmrichs also mentioned that Pries is partnering up with Hawkeye Community College for further employee training – this is once a month to encourage team leadership, motivation, and success within a career. They intend to incorporate AED and CPR training for employees as well!

“We really just have a lot to look forward to,” said Helmrichs. “We are definitely looking to get more involved with the community and encourage local internships, as many of our employees are from Buchanan County. We want to keep giving back.”

For the fall of this year, Pries will be completing a fourth addition, which will be constructed with the help of Larson Construction of Independence. When this project is finished, Pries Enterprises will go from 150,000 to 200,000 square feet in size. This additional space will help the business with storage and production. It will also allow future growth.

Today, Pries Enterprises is known for the manufacturing of custom aluminum extrusions and aluminum fabrications. The business really works with almost every market, and they also work on competitively priced finishes. Pries employs almost 200 people and operates 24 hours a day, with three shifts.

For more information on Pries Enterprises, visit their website at: www.priesenterprises.com, or check them out on FaceBook.