Norfolk received its first look at the new and improved Mahaska facility on Thursday.
The opportunity arose during a late-afternoon open house celebration at the Norfolk bottler and distributor, located at 1106 Alaska Ave.
“It’s nice,” said Bob Boeckman, general manager of the Norfolk facility. “We were awfully crammed into the old office.”
The Norfolk facility’s workforce had grown more than 30 percent in the past three years. Throughout the past two and a half years, the facility has undergone an expansion that involved the addition of 10,000 square feet of warehouse space, as well as nearly 5,000 square feet of office space.
In addition to providing space for its increased workforce, the decision to expand was made so the business could accommodate the increasing demand for new products the company distributes and to accommodate the broader geographic area in which the products are offered.
“We’re getting into the snack business. We’re going to be getting into beer ... down the road,” Boeckman said. “We’re going to get into what we call our extended territory of Omaha, Sioux Falls and Grand Island."
Boeckman added, "With expansion takes more people. With more people takes more space and a bigger fleet. We just outgrew the building and outgrew the offices.”
A fifth-generation and family-owned company that has been in business seven generations overall, Mahaska has its headquarters in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The company is a bottler, or manufacturer and distributor of PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and a variety of other products from global brand companies, including some that are proprietary to Mahaska and its partners.
Mahaska was founded in 1889 by James W.V. McKinley on the back of his U.S. Patent No. 418,469 for a hand-pump and barrel attachment, which was one of the original pieces of bottling innovation that pre-dated the invention of several major carbonated soft drink brands, including Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola.
It acquired Hayes Brothers Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. in 1981 to establish its presence in Norfolk. Mahaska employs 40 people in Norfolk and hundreds more in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota and Texas. Mahaska is also a major shareholder and member of Wis-Pak Inc., which employs more than 100 in Norfolk and thousands across the country.
In the past six months, Mahaska and its affiliates launched a fully integrated craft brewery, taproom and alcohol distribution.
Mahaska CEO Branden Muhl — who was on hand for Thursday’s event — said he anticipates NoCoast Beer Co. to be launched in Nebraska within the next six months.
“It’s a very, very new brewery,” Muhl said. “We just launched in Texas three weeks ago. (We’ve had) great reception in the markets we’ve launched so far.”
Muhl said the expansion project in Norfolk was a significant investment in the community and the state’s economy and he’s looking forward to more opportunities that may arise from making Nebraska a key strategic market and a priorty in driving the company’s future growth.
For the Norfolk community, Muhl said the expansion means a continued Midwest “manufacturing renaissance” that has been witnessed in many different industries, including steel and oil.
“I think we’re participants in that economy and hope to be part of the growth and continue to support it,” he said.