It takes grit, determination and teamwork to get a $70 million facility up and running in only two years. That’s exactly what happened in Oelwein when East Penn broke ground on a 345,000-square-foot battery manufacturing and distribution plant in June 2016. Thanks to the tireless efforts and talents of East Penn Oelwein employees, the state and local leaders, the ribbon on the brand new plant was cut in February 2018.
At the ceremony, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg said the facility was a “wonderful example of local state economic developers, and many people play a role in making announcements like this a reality. The state of Iowa was pleased to help this project become a reality because we know that East Penn could have chosen to expand their company anywhere in the United States or beyond. We appreciate their investment in Iowa and in our hardworking people.”
It’s the hardworking people of Iowa that have made East Penn feel right at home in Oelwein. Robert Flicker, chief operating officer of East Penn, said he likes Oelwein and that it is similar to the area around Lyon Station, Pennsylvania.
“This community is not much different than where we live,” Flicker said. "But it’s not always about location, location, location. Sometimes it’s about the people, and that is what we have found here, really good people."
People have been the backbone of the company since the very beginning. Founded in 1946 when DeLight Breidegam Jr., a young Air Force veteran, started a battery business with his father, DeLight Sr. The location of their new business was a small, one-room creamery in the village of Bowers, Pennsylvania. The company is now located in nearby Lyon Station, a community very similar to that of Oelwein.
In seven decades, East Penn has grown from a one-room shop with a product line of five automotive batteries to one of the world’s leading battery manufacturers. They produce more than 515 battery designs under their Deka brand as well as other well-known brands for cars, boats, motorcycles, forklifts, stationary backup systems and many other applications. The company operates the largest single-site, lead battery manufacturing facility in the world with over 10,500 employees in 34 U.S. states and five countries.
The East Penn Oelwein plant is home to 350 of those employees. Prior to opening the Oelwein battery finishing and distribution plant, East Penn operated a smaller distribution center in Oelwein for about 10 years. The new plant serves as a strategic location to enhance the product support of East Penn’s customers in the Midwestern United States and other key points across North America.
But beyond the location, the employees at East Penn Oelwein have been its biggest asset and the reason it has been so successful.
“It’s easy to buy the machines, but it’s the people behind the machines that make them run every single day, and really that’s the way East Penn has grown our business,” said Chris Pruitt, chief executive officer and president of East Penn.
As East Penn continues to grow, the people of East Penn Oelwein will play a key role. The company places the highest value on employees and is committed to fostering an atmosphere that honors the contributions of everyone.
It’s always been that way at East Penn, and that’s not going to change.
Persons interested in learning more about employment at East Penn Oelwein can visit https://www.dekacareers.com.