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Burlington Innovations: Bigger, Better Sprinklers, Truck Boxes and More

Hitchcock Inc. moves from little old shack to international agricultural products


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HITCHCOCK INC.  |  Product: Industrial  |  Made in: Burlington

Back in the 1950s, Kenneth Hitchcock was farming sugar beets in the Burlington area. He wanted to farm 1,000 acres, about four times the norm, but couldn't get a contract.

"It was so labor-intensive," says his son, Duane Hitchcock, the company's current president. "There wasn't any machinery to accommodate that size of operation."

So Kenneth Hitchcock solved the problem himself: He started manufacturing bigger and better sprinklers, truck boxes, cultivators and other agricultural equipment in 1961. "Of course, the neighbors saw it, and they wanted one," his son says.

The company moved from a "little old shack" on the farm with "no insulation, very little lighting, wooden floors, and no locks" to a Quonset hut on the farm. "The farm crew would manufacture on the off time and farm on the farm time," Duane Hitchcock says.

After the company opened a factory on its current site in the late '60s, Duane and his late brother, Royce, took over in 1975, while their father continued to farm.

Great Western Sugar shut down its sugar beet operations in the area in the late 1970s. "It impacted us quite a bit," Hitchcock says. "Within an 80-mile radius, the sugar beet industry was tremendous."

To cushion the blow, Hitchcock Inc. started distributing for Valley Irrigation and Chief Buildings. The company also repaired and maintained equipment and took on a wide range of custom manufacturing projects. "Our motto is, 'If we can't build it, you probably don't need it,'" Hitchcock says. "People come to us and we build it."

The company has made everything from manure spreaders to large underground irrigation systems for clients in Colorado and Kansas as well as Texas, Hawaii, Australia and Ukraine.

Every Cargill feedlot in the U.S. has a High Rider, another highlight of Hitchcock's innovation. Hitchcock Inc. now has about 50 employees at its main facility in Burlington and another dozen at its location in Goodland, Kansas.

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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