Growing Businesses Find Fertile Ground in Crawford County
Many people associate Crawford County with the best of the Midwest: Close-knit communities, hardworking people, space to grow, and reasonable living expenses. Not only is this good for families and small business owners, it’s a great environment for inventors and entrepreneurs.
Todd Allison is the President of Apex Stages, a stage manufacturing company based in Pittsburg. Apex Stages is a product line of Progressive Products, which specializes in pneumatic conveying equipment. Todd says the company expanded into mobile stage production in 2005 as a way to diversify their business. Apex Stages is now the largest professional mobile stage builder in the U.S., and second in the market worldwide. Their stages have been used for an impressive array of events, including concerts by Blake Shelton, Bob Dylan and Martina McBride, live events for ESPN and NASCAR, and the Primary Presidential Debate.
The innovative leader of mobile stage manufacturing, Apex Stages has found new materials and building techniques to develop 5 top-class stages. “The APEX3224 was our breakthrough model,” Todd says. “The 3224 is made almost entirely of aluminum. Because of that, it is the largest mobile stage that can be pulled by a one-ton pickup.” The flexibility of transporting the stage opened up a niche market to the company: “It allowed us to reach up and coming production companies who were leery of buying a bigger stage because they would have to buy a semi.”
Apex Stage’s manufacturing process has garnered attention from well-known media as well. In 2014, Discovery Channel’s popular show “How It’s Made” featured the construction of an Apex stage from beginning materials to end product.
Overseeing an industry leader from the company’s base in Pittsburg, Todd believes the climate of Crawford County is ripe for growing businesses. “The past climate of being a blue collar town and experiencing economic hardship has made people practical and open-minded about new products and new ways of doing business. There are a lot of people in this town that know how to make businesses succeed.”
The commitment of local cities to helping businesses succeed is another level of support Apex Stages has seen firsthand. “Pittsburg is a town that’s ‘open for business,’” Todd explained. “It supports its business and manufacturing community.”
Similar to many business-friendly areas, Crawford County is home to a vibrant university. Economists have long talked about the benefits of universities to the local economy; increasingly attracting high-skilled workers with access to the university’s resources. Todd has seen these benefits himself: “The community has an unusually tight relationship with the University. And, the University is here to serve the community. PSU concentrates on giving students practical education with bankable skills. This allows students to either stay and be an asset to the community, or leave and find good jobs with well-known companies.”
Tie together all the benefits Crawford County provides, and it’s clear our area is as good for growing businesses as for growing families. Todd summed up all the benefits he has seen: “It has everything it needs: land, a close University, a supportive city, reasonable wages for manufacturing, and host of entrepreneurs who are there for advice. It is also a family oriented community that hasn’t let go of being small town America.”
Todd also sees big prospects for the area in the future, as momentum builds for businesses of all sizes in the area: “I think incredible things are going to happen in the community. It really has the potential to be the innovation capital of Kansas.”