When a Story County-based lighting company wanted to sell off its plastics sector to focus on LED products, it shone light on the perfect opportunity for Ryan Gruhn and Lana Leander. In early 2021, the married duo and business partners who desired life in a close-knit Iowa community purchased Hawkeye Molding with locations in Roland and Albia. Their desire to keep and expand the business in rural Iowa has earned them Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) Entrepreneur Award.

Hawkeye Molding specializes in Iowa-made, custom-injected molded products. From appliance components, office furniture and point-of-sale lottery ticket displays to industrial parts and agricultural equipment, their work can be found everywhere.

“It’s a diverse mix of products,” says Gruhn. “A lot of things you generally don’t think about, but once you’ve been through our facility you start spotting things and say, OK, I’ve seen that in various places—even coffee makers. You might have a coffee maker that has a part made here in Iowa.” 

Between the two manufacturing facilities, Hawkeye Molding supports more than 35 employees. Iowa Farm Bureau Regional Manager Maggie Cannon is grateful business owners like Gruhn and Leander can help add economic opportunity to rural Iowa. “It’s such an impact on the community when businesses like this bring jobs and are invested in the success of the area. It brings notoriety and helps spotlight a small town in Iowa,” she says. 

While the pandemic has interfered with business as usual, Gruhn says it has also created opportunity for small towns like Roland and Albia. “The supply chain challenges a lot of companies have been facing overseas have caused big companies to rethink some of the offshoring they’ve done over the past years and think about moving that manufacturing back to the states,” he says, adding he and Leander plan to double their staff in the future.

Director of Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service Ron Cox, who nominated the company for the RRI award, recognizes the power of small companies with huge growth potential.  “There’s a lot of manufacturing jobs in rural Iowa, and small-town manufacturers pay higher than average wages,” he says. “With a diversity of jobs, and high paying jobs, it keeps small towns in Iowa healthy.” 

RRI is an Iowa Farm Bureau initiative that supports new and existing businesses through education, mentoring and financial resources. Since its inception, RRI has helped create more than $125 million in economic impact for rural communities. For more information about RRI and upcoming business seminars, visit http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI.