By KAREN RIDDER
Photos by EMMA HIGHFILL
Some Topeka businesses have been able to stay local, because they have gone global.
Warehouse 414 and Custom Dredge Works are using the global market to grow beyond what the local market can support. The result of their expanding reach brings money from around the world back home, giving Topeka’s economy a broader opportunity to thrive.
Custom Dredge Works
Custom Dredge Works (CDW) is another local-global success story. The company is an arm of the business Midwestern Metals, which started in 1982. Company president CJ Jones moved into the specialty dredge building business in the early 2000s.
Dredging is the operation of removing material from one part of the water environment and relocating it to another. It is commonly used in mining sand and gravel and for the environmental purpose of clearing waterways.
CDW designs and fabricates custom hydraulic dredges for all types of dredging projects as well as providing refurbishment and repair services.
“We design and build to customer specifications, and then we go and install,” Jones said.
The custom dredge manufacturing took off when CDW started shipping to global customers. In fact, the lion’s share of business has shifted from the metal fabricating business to custom dredge building.
The company has grown to nearly five times the employees since it began. Jones says the business is ideal for going global, particularly since there are many hot spots for dredging around the world and not many custom manufacturers of dredging equipment.
Jones says CDW benefits from a global marketplace because the company can meet the needs of a very specific niche, but it was only able to achieve that global reach once technology had advanced enough to help make it happen.
“We went through an education process. Some stuff manufactured in this area would do fine in the U.S. but would be hard to make any money on if you exported it,” Jones said.
Even though it has been a good business move for CDW, not every business fits so smoothly into a global market. Dredging fits this model in part because what used to be a mining industry has evolved into an industry that works in ports and harbors. Dredging equipment can help make those waterways deeper for bigger ships. Dredges are also now used to help clean up after flooding around the world.
Since CDW does not go through a third party to get goods to global markets, the company has had to deal with a variety of communication barriers. Jones says one of the hardest things to deal with in an international market is financing because they are generally dealing with governments or government entities. Figuring out how to get guaranteed money from a world bank can be a challenge.
Jones believes that CDW’s move into the global marketplace has been good for Topeka.
“We put a lot of payroll into the economy, in the Topeka area. We bought the ground and pay taxes on that. I also am able to buy local products, giving business back to local companies,” Jones said.