By Missy Mussman
LAKE LILLIAN, Minn. – Over the past 100 years, Hanson Silo Company has grown to be much more than just silos.
“We’ve reinvented our selves several times,” said Gregg Hanson, CEO of Hanson Silo Company.
Gregg and his two sons, Matt and Mike, are the third and fourth generations to own and operate Hanson Silo Company near Lake Lillian, Minn. The family hosted an open house on-site to celebrate their centennial on June 16.
“It was a fun reflection on how far we’ve come as a company,” said Matt, president of Hanson Silo.
After 100 years in business, Hanson Silo not only builds tower silos. They also do precast concrete for bunker silos, feed bunks, and commodity storage.
“It’s evolved from just being silage storage to storage for fertilizer, grain recycling items and other commodities,” Gregg said.
With the precast concrete, they also do concrete wall panels, beams and roof panels to build turkey, hog and dairy barns, and parlors.
“We even use it to create buildings for schools, grocery stores and manufacturing plants,” Matt said.
The Hanson family has also built equipment like the Easy Rake and Combine Header Transporter and marketed it under the Hanson name.
“Our product is designed in the feed room,” Gregg said. “We bring the idea to our customers (the farmers) and make any changes needed to make them work.”
Along with their equipment, they also make parts for other companies and manufacturers and have a line of Valmetal silo unloaders, conveyors, hammer mills and chopper equipment.
“We partnered with them in 2005 and took their products to our customers,” said Mike, head of sales and business operations.
Another division of their company is the powder coating painting and last month, they became a dealership of the Redneck Deer Stands.
Adding the different facets to the company is what kept their business going strong 100 years later.
“Being flexible and growing with the changes in the market and industry helped,” Mike said. “We did that a fair amount.”
However, other companies at that time did not follow suit.
“In 1979, there were 29 other companies doing exactly what we were doing, building silos,” Gregg said. “But they’ve been gone for close to 20 years because they didn’t pay attention to the changes happening.”
One of the changes in the ag industry the Hanson family saw over the years was the decline in numbers of dairy farmers.
“At one point, we had 80 percent of our clientele was dairy farmers. That’s when we were making 700 silos each year with 25,000 to 30,000 dairy farmers in the state,” Matt said. “The number of dairy farmers has declined, but they’re still an important part of our business.”
Those dairy farmers have also become an important part of the Hansons life outside of the office.
“We’ve become friends with them,” Mike said. “I like the family aspect of working with them.”
One thing they did not change was having quality employees.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today with out them,” Matt said. “We have five 50-year employees and many 40-year and 30-year employees.”
Celebrating their centennial not only allowed them to show their appreciation to their customers and employees but to share the company’s history.
“We learned a lot about our history that we never knew before,” Gregg said.
Gregg’s grandfather, Emil Hanson, started the company in 1916.
“It was during a time when there was a push to create food opportunities for the war effort,” Gregg said. “The government was encouraging people to increase production of milk, meat and grain.”
With a focus on building silos, Emil wanted to take it a step further.
“He planned to build a better product than what was on the market,” Matt Hanson, president of Hanson Silo Company.
Out of Emil’s nine children, four sons, stepped into the family business. Vernal ran the plant in Iowa; Donald managed the plant in Luverne, Minn., and Newell and Gregg’s father, Willard, took over the Lake Lillian plant in 1921.
Ironically, the Lake Lillian location also happened to be the family’s active dairy farm where they milked 50 cows, raised black turkeys and minks.
“They diversified by building silos,” Gregg said. “They didn’t want to put all their eggs in one basket. The farm was pitched right in with the silos.”
But by the 1940s, the Hanson family moved the dairy operation three-quarters of a mile northwest of the home site and sold the 140-cow herd to their herdsman in 1975.
“Once the silo business got bigger, they moved it,” Mike said.
Gregg started working full-time with the company when he was 9 years old.
“I was born and raised here,” he said.
After graduating college in 1970, Gregg started working in the family business.
“It’s a heritage our family built,” Gregg said.
However, during the ag crisis in the 1980s with the high interest rates and dairy buyouts, Gregg bought out the other partners at Hanson Silo.
“They wanted out, but I saw a vision for the future,” Gregg said. “We had a lot of experience, we had good people working for us, and we had a track record for creating a product that worked. I didn’t want to lose that and the heritage we built for the sake of a moment.”
So, Gregg took it on from them on.
“It was rough in the moment,” Gregg said of the 1980s. “It was a crippling event and we lost money those years, too. But our core values got us to where we are not. We got knocked down and got up again.”
In 1998 after Matt graduated from college, he returned to the family business and became president in May of 2007.
Mike graduated college in 2004 and worked in the Twin Cities for four years before returning to Hanson Silo in 2008.
Two years later, Mike and Matt each purchased 25 percent of the company.
“That’s where we are today,” Mike said.
Like many multigenerational farms, the Hansons work together to make big decisions for the company.
“We talk things though in a systematic approach,” Matt said. “We try to make the best decision we have with the information available.”
“When we do something, we look at the potential for repeatability,” he said.
Looking ahead, the Hansons are hoping to continue to grow the company into the next 100 years.
“We have the platform and infrastructure that will allow us to do that,” Matt said. “We’re excited about the opportunity on the horizon for both agricultural and commercial industry needs.”
But for now, the family is proud of reaching the 100-year milestone.
“I feel so blessed that God protected this place and people,” Gregg said. “We couldn’t be where we are today without each other.
Hanson Silo Company celebrates 100 years – Daily Star