Traer-based Clearline Industries has been a staple of the community since its founding in 1979, and has earned this month’s Iowa Farm Bureau ‘Renew Rural Iowa Entrepreneur Award’ for the many ways the company has positively impacted the community.  To most Tama County residents, Clearline Industries is known as a knife factory, but the manufacturer has evolved and grown the business beyond the cutlery they are world renowned for.  

After a company has made more than six million knives, as Clearline Industries has done, it’s understandable that most members of the community think of Clearline as just a cutlery manufacturer.  Clearline Industries co-founder, Rex Betts, said his company began selling cutlery for church fundraisers, but over the past 35 years, the company has evolved into a manufacturer of food industry blades, metal finisher, and custom pipe maker, among several other projects.   

Today, Clearline Industries produces a wide variety of finished metals that are sent to customers across the globe.  In addition to the cutlery that was Clearline’s claim to fame, the manufacturer now makes dozens of products including chrome tailpipes for motorcycles and other metal pipes that will eventually become a part of a car’s muffler and exhaust system.  Innovation and custom work has been the key to Clearline Industries’ success and growth, making the company an integral part of the community.

 “I woke up one day when I was probably in ninth grade, and I thought I’d like to be a carpenter or a machinist when I began my career,” Betts explained.  “I grew up loving tools and the engineering process, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

The 40 employees of Clearline Industries and members of the community are certainly glad Betts chose to start a manufacturing business, too, since STEM jobs are hard to find in rural areas like Tama County.    

“Clearline Industries is very important to our community and school system,” said Tama County Farm Bureau member Rebecca Dostal.

“When we lost Traer Manufacturing, we lost a major employer in Traer and northern Tama County.  “Clearline Industries provided jobs for many people who lost their job, which allowed them to continue raising their family here.”

The business and economic development community also appreciates the success and stability Clearline Industries provides.  The manufacturer is respected not only as a major regional employer, but also as a strong member of the county.  “The worldwide customer base and growth of Clearline Industries has been a stabilizing force for Tama County,” said Heath Kellogg, executive director of the Tama County Economic Development Group.  “The community of Traer has seen their share of hardships with the loss of a large employer, and Clearline Industries has been a perfect fit and great partner.”

Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) is an Iowa Farm Bureau initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources.  The next Renew Rural Iowa Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” takes place on February 15 in Sioux City. For more information, go to