When the national recession almost drove Blue Ox’s recreational vehicle business over a cliff, the Northeast Nebraska manufacturer looked for ways to diversify. Last year, that road took the company to the U.S. military as it sought to adapt its technology and craftsmanship to military vehicles.
As reported by the Sioux City Journal, the small family business is known internationally for its line of towing products, such as hitches used to haul trailers behind RVs. But after the boom profit year of 2005, the company spent eight years trying to live up to its motto, “Strong As An Ox,” falling completely into the gutter in 2008, company President Jay Hesse said.
It appears Blue Ox turned the corner in 2013.
“It was an absolutely fantastic year, and this year even looks much stronger,” he said. “We’re looking for about a 15% increase in sales this year and more contingent growth on the bottom line.”
Blue Ox started developing tow bars for heavy-duty military vehicles such as Humvees and even tanks. The company, Hesse said, designed a modern product that is lighter and easier to use than the military’s current towing system, which dates to the 1940s.
Blue Ox’s defense-grade tow bars are capable of hauling more than 120,000 pounds, but light enough that a single soldier could quickly hook it up to a disabled vehicle. During combat, that could save lives and preserve valuable military assets.
To help navigate the competitive process of bidding for military and homeland security contracts, Blue Ox retained American Business Development Group, a defense consulting firm whose Arlington, Va., offices are near the Pentagon and National Guard Bureau Headquarters.
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Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox announced the newest innovation to its SwayPro weight-distributing hitch. According to a press release, the BXW4019 Signature Series Rotating Latch is a new bolt-on latch designed to accommodate frames from 3 inches to 6 inches tall.
The Signature Series Latch can be bolted directly to or around the trailer frame. The new design augments the existing trailer frame – some of which have difficulty absorbing the forces of a weight distributing hitch – and prevents trailer sway when used in concert with the SwayPro’s spring steel bars and innovative hitch head. Rotating the latch stops the chains from swinging, preventing sway before it happens, the company said.
“With the addition of this new Signature Series latch, Blue Ox continues to evolve the design of the SwayPro, the finest weight distributing hitch on the market,” noted Blue Ox Vice President Raymond Padgett.
Blue Ox offers the SwayPro weight distribution hitch in six tongue weights: 350, 550, 750, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 pounds.
Republican Nebraska U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer recently toured Blue Ox’s manufacturing plant and headquarters in Pender. According to a press release, she was hosted by Blue Ox Executive Vice President Ellen Kietzmann and Vice President Raymond Padgett.
“We’re delighted to welcome Senator Fischer to Blue Ox,” noted Kietzmann. “Time after time, Sen. Fischer has demonstrated her commitment to supporting policies that further the growth and deployment of manufacturing in Nebraska. Her outstanding work in Washington, D.C., has been instrumental in furthering laws and policies that help foster the growth of manufacturing throughout the nation.”
While at the manufacturing plant, Sen. Fischer spoke with Blue Ox executives and employees and discussed the implementation of federal and state policies that will help spur the growth of the manufacturing jobs in Nebraska and throughout the U.S.
Headquartered in Pender, Blue Ox is a key supplier to the RV industry.
Blue Ox President Jay Hesse and Vice President Ellen Kietzmann announced Tuesday (Oct. 1) an alliance with Forest River Inc. to equip select V-Cross and XLR models with SwayPro built-in sway prevention systems as optional equipment.
According to a release, Brent Stevens, national sales manager of the V-Cross and XLR divisions, is premiering the SwayPro system as an optional feature on the new 2014 lineup. Additionally, SwayPro is offered free as part of a special limited promotion on the Vibe brand through March 1, 2014.
“Blue Ox is the best name in sway control. Our customers will appreciate Blue Ox’s intuitive, easy to hookup hitch system that prevents trailer sway before it starts for a smooth towing experience. Each SwayPro system is specifically engineered for the weight of the unit it ships with,” Stevens said.
Blue Ox’s SwayPro hitch offers built-in sway protection that prevents trailer sway before it starts, under heavy loads, high winds and rutted road conditions with the latest in weight distribution technology. SwayPro’s spring bars are made from spring steel and flex to provide optimal weight distribution and improved ground clearance, providing a softer, smoother ride. There are no pins or clips to lose and no adjustments are needed. The tow-ready system comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Blue Ox, the leading manufacturer of towing products, has reintroduced the BrakeSafe, BRK4000, to its braking system line.
BrakeSafe is a supplemental braking system that allows for a smooth, proportional braking experience. It utilizes the motorhome’s air brakes to activate the brakes in the towed vehicle, reducing braking distances by an average of one-third.
The air cylinder is mounted discreetly close to the driver’s seat with a durable, black powder-coated bracket and a brake claw that easily attaches to a straight brake pedal arm.
It can be installed in less than an hour and, when not in use, can be removed in less than three minutes by disconnecting the brake claw from the pedal and the self-coiling hose from the towed vehicle.
BrakeSafe also requires no power draw from the towed vehicle’s battery; therefore there is no need to recharge it.
All units are equipped with ample DOT approved tubing for all applications, installation hardware and dust plugs to prevent road grime and moisture from potentially plugging the air disconnects. For more information, contact Blue Ox at (402) 385-3051 or visit www.blueox.com/p-1585-brakesafe.aspx for more information.
“Rollin’ On TV” announced the addition of Blue Ox as its newest advertising partner for the remainder of this year and into 2014.
“We look forward to working with Blue Ox in developing and producing a multimedia promotion package that includes both television and online advertising and promotions,” said Jose Moniz, executive director of “Rollin’ On TV,” in a press release.
Initial ads will begin airing the week of Sept. 29 with new ads being produced in November for the 2014 season.
“Rollin’ On TV,” now wrapping up its third year of production and syndication, has a total combined reach of 30 million homes on cable plus Direct TV and Dish Network.
Headquartered in Pender, Neb., Blue Ox is a longtime industry supplier of quality hitches, tow bars, steering and braking systems, and suspension products. For information on Blue Ox visit www.blueox.com. For information on ‘ROTV’ programming visit www.rollinontv.com
Industry supplier Blue Ox announced that Raymond Padgett has been named as vice president of marketing, effective Aug. 19.
According to a press release, Padgett has worked with Blue Ox in a variety of capacities for over 15 years. Prior to Blue Ox, Padgett worked for 12 years with Stag Parkway Inc. along with Keystone Automotive, where he helped the company expand into the RV market.
Padgett also holds board seats with the Recreation Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The teams reporting directly to Padgett will include marketing and rally sales and service.
“I am looking forward to Raymond joining the executive team at Blue Ox,” said Jay Hesse, president of Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox. “I’ve always had a deep respect for Raymond and I’m confident that he will be a strong presence in helping us grow our business in all the markets we serve.”
Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox has developed a variety of double lugs that replace the standard triple lug on new or existing tow bars, allowing the tow bar to be connected to most aftermarket bumpers without any modifications.
According to a press release, these aftermarket bumpers cause problems for vehicle owners who want to dinghy tow their vehicles. “The baseplates that Blue Ox and other companies manufacture will not work on vehicles that have these aftermarket bumpers,” the release stated.
In other cases, where the connection points are not available as part of the aftermarket bumper, the purchase of a customer-designed Blue Ox baseplate that bolts to the vehicle frame will be needed to tow. Installation is usually less than 1 1/2 hours (depending on model) and requires standard tools.
Blue Ox’s towing equipment is constructed of durable steel and Finite Element Analysis tested. For more information visit http://blueox.com/p-1570-off-road-adapters.aspx.
Pender, Neb.-based Blue Ox held its 18th Annual Service Award Banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux City on June 15.
According to a press release, the supplier hosts an annual banquet to show appreciation to the associates and their years of dedication. Associates and their guests were treated to a social hour and a gourmet meal before the award presentation began.
Blue Ox honors its associates at five-year intervals. Those honored at this year’s banquet were:
5 Years – Ward Barelman of Wayne (IT department).
10 Years – Ed Isaac of Bancroft (service tech), Todd Kubik of Pender (material handler), Aaron Mahaney of Walthill (maintenance), and Mike Thelander of Melbourne, Fla. (outside sales).
15 Years – Kim Bargmann of Bancroft (supply chain specialist), Delwin Kai of Pender (fabrication), and Deanna Wendte of Pender (customer care).
20 Years – Ron Duncan of Pender (Welding) and Cory Meyer of Pender (Shipping and Assembly).
25 Years – Duane Kratke of Pender (fabrication), Ray Potter of Thurston (assembly), Billie Rager of Emerson (fabrication) and Paul Thomsen of Pender (customer care).
35 Years – Keith Brehmer of Pender (material handler) and Doug Glaubius of Wisner (fabrication).
40 Years – Joan Beckman of Pender (assembly) and Larry Witt of Wakefield (welding).
In appreciation of their years of service the honored guests received various gifts including;
• Beautiful detailed, life-like Terry Redlin deer sculptures, modeled after Redlin paintings.
• Beautiful clock with a walnut frame, gold/silver accents, and a pendulum with crystals from Swarovski components.
• Beautiful world globe inlaid with over 25 hand carved semi-precious gemstones on a gold plated table stand with a built-in compass.
• $1,750.00 credit towards a trip for two to a domestic destination of choice within the 48 continental United States.
• Beautiful 10k patented Sunshine Gold Blue Ox ring with genuine full cut diamonds set in square collects in West German Fire Blue Spinel stones
• Beautifully designed classic styled grandfather clock.
•Trip for two to Ireland.
• Hawaiian cruise for two.
Blue Ox President Jay Hesse and Vice President Ellen Kietzmann completed a trip to Washington, D.C., last week where they visited members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation – Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fisher and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry – to discuss the role of Blue Ox in providing material to the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to a press release, Hesse said he and Kietzmann have been working with the American Business Development Group, which specializes in helping to develop contracts to supply equipment to U.S. military forces and introduce Blue Ox to Nebraska’s representatives in the nation’s capital.
“We were in Washington, D.C., to meet with our representatives to let them know who we are, where we’re at and what we do including diversifying what we already do,” said Hesse. “We’ve been manufacturing in the agricultural and the RV industries and we wanted to emphasize that we have the capabilities to work in the defense industry.”
Known for making hitches to haul trailers and vehicles behind utility, commercial, agricultural and recreational vehicles, Blue Ox also makes tow bars of defense-grade materials that can haul 20,000, 40,000, 80,000 and 120,000 pounds. “These would be pulling heavy military vehicles,” Hesse said of the heavy-load tow bars. “These would be from HUMVEEs and other similar-sized vehicles up to some tanks.”
Hesse said that Sens. Johanns, Fischer and Rep. Fortenberry plan to tour Blue Ox facilities in August. “We have our headquarters in Pender but we’re looking at expanding the engineering and logistics of our two facilities in Lincoln,” said Hesse who noted that retired Major General Roger Lempke, former adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, will also tour Blue Ox facilities “We’re looking at acquiring equipment and expanding the Lincoln facilities to handle defense contracts,” said Kietzmann. “Our goal is to put the Department of Defense side of our operations in Lincoln.”
For more information about Blue Ox and its complete line of Blue Ox towing and braking systems, steering controls systems, sport carriers and accessories, along with its agricultural products, visit www.blueox.com.