To Bee or Not to Bee...

When Rafael Ortega, a member of the Mid-States Fab Shop Team, realized his family was spending $300 per year on honey, he decided to take matters in to his own hands… literally.

Ortega, who has been on the Mid-States team for 6.5 years, turned to the man he had been purchasing all his honey from to learn. Denny Dodge of Double D’s Bees has become a mentor of sorts to Ortega.

He began his journey as a bee keeper last year, starting with just two hives. This year, he has six. Each of Ortega’s bee hives is composed of two brood boxes, where the queen lives and lays eggs; and a queen extractor, which keeps the bees from traveling to the honey supers, where the honey is stored. Currently, Ortega has somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 bees. There are three types of bees that are common to this area: Russian, Italian and Carniolian. Ortega has a mix of Italian and Carniolian.

To care for the bees, Ortega dons leather gloves, a heavy duty sweatshirt and protective vest. He utilizes a smoker, filled with pine needles which calms the bees down and gives him time to work. Ortega checks on his hives at least weekly.

”They fly around me, but if I work calmly, they leave me to work,” Ortega said.

To extract the honey, Ortega uses a blower to gently remove the bees from the frames. He then puts the frames on a honey extractor, breaks the capping open with a hot knife and then the honey extractor spins them so the honey collects in a bucket. The honey is ready to eat right from extraction.

The hives are located on conservation land and produce 100% pure honey. Depending on the time of year, the honey has a bit of a different taste. Ortega said the taste they get in July is more clover, whereas the taste they get in August is more Goldenrod.

It is important to note that Ortega tests the honey to make sure it is safe for consumption before extracting it. Ortega completes two harvests per year, and harvested about 17 gallons of honey this year.

He must leave enough honey in the hives to sustain the bees through the winter, and he also makes sugar cakes to help them get through the cold months. During winter, the bees will all huddle around the queen to keep her warm in the center. The rest of the hive will rotate between being on the inner part of the circle, or outer part of the circle so everyone survives.

While Ortega’s bee keeping first stemmed from the idea of saving money on honey, it has turned in to so much more. Contributing to the environment is an immensely rewarding part of what Ortega does.

Studies have shown a significant decline in the honeybee population in the U.S. Honey bees are essential for the pollination of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and support about $20 billion worth of crop production in the U.S. annually, according to ABC News.

Caring for the bees has also provided endless learning opportunities for Ortega and his four children - boys ages 9, 12 & 17 and a girl aged 15. He said the boys are particularly fascinated by the process. And his family has enough honey to get through the year, with a little extra to share.

Meet Our Team: Al Harrington, Tim Kyser & Eric Miller

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Al Harrington has been with Mid-States Concrete for 20 years and has been a field foreman for almost eight years. He started as third man on the road crew and worked his way up.

What Al enjoys most about his work is seeing the end product when installing a job, and the challenge of the work. The most important thing he has learned working at Mid-States is that you have good days and bad days and “we do what we can to get the job finished.” Al continues to do the work he does to take care of his family.

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Tim Kyser has been with Mid-States Concrete for 18 years and has been a field foreman for 10 of those years. He started as a member of the road crew and attributes hard work to helping him achieve foreman.

What Tim enjoys most about his work is the challenge of putting a building together and he continues to do the work he does to provide for his family. The most important thing Tim has learned is to work hard, fast and safe.

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Eric Miller has been with Mid-States Concrete for eight years and has been a field foreman for about three years. He started as the “low” guy on the crew and attributes achieving foreman to listening to the other guys on the crew to learn everything he needed to, as well as hard work.

What Eric enjoys most about his work is that every day challenge of being as efficient as possible to get the job done in a good timeline. The most important thing he has learned working at Mid-States is that with hard work and dedication, you can make a good living. You don’t have to get a college degree, like you’re taught in school, to be successful.

Eric continues to do the work he does because he honestly loves the hard work and the guys he works with. He said there is nothing better than putting in a day’s work and going home and seeing his family.

Visit us at AIA - Iowa

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Learn about new products and services from representatives of the region’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of design and construction industry products and services at the 2019 AIA Iowa Convention.

The Expo will be held Thursday, September 26 and Friday, September 27 at the Iowa Events Center, 833 5th Avenue, in Des Moines.

You can find Mid-States at Booth 36 giving away some reusable shopping bags, flashlight/bottle opener key chains, and plenty of precast concrete knowledge.

Design teams are such an important part of the success of any project. It is a privilege to get to partner with some of the best around. We look forward to seeing you there and learning about your latest projects!

Meet Our Team: Andy Windsor & Jimmy Timze

Andy Windsor, Yard Foreman

Andy Windsor, Yard Foreman

Andy Windsor has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for a total of 16 years and has been a foreman for almost five years. His career with Mid-States started when he was still in high school and served on the cleaning crew of the office as a part-time job.

One day, he got asked if he’d like to work out in the plant and joined the Elematic team for two years. After a short break from Mid-States, Andy came back and has now spent 13 years in the Yard. He attributes his knowledge of the job and safety for helping him achieve foreman.

Andy is a third generation Windsor at Mid-States Concrete and what he enjoys most about his work is building important buildings within the community - like the Hononegah High School Field House and Nature at the Confluence. He also enjoys being able to show off the company’s work to his family and friends.

The most important thing Andy has learned at Mid-States is how fast things can change, but he said we have good people on our team who are able to handle changes well, problem solve and keep the job site moving. What Andy enjoys least about his work is a rainy day. Once your feel get wet, it makes for a long day, he said. However, Andy continues to do the work he does because he likes to be part of building meaningful buildings in the community. As a yard foreman, Andy takes pride in the work he does and enjoys teaching others and sharing his expertise.


Jimmy Timze, Yard Foreman

Jimmy Timze, Yard Foreman

Jimmy Timze has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for a total of five years and has been a foreman for one-and-a-half years. He started his career with Mid-States on the Wet Cast pouring crew, left Mid-States for a short time, and when he returned was brought into the Yard team. He credits his knowledge, initiative, leadership, and problem solving with helping him achieve foreman.

What Jimmy enjoys most about his job is the people he works with. He said they are a good group of guys who have fun and joke around while getting the job done.

The most important thing Jimmy has learned working for Mid-States is the importance of team work. He said if everyone works together, it makes everyone else’s job easier. The toughest thing about the job is the inclement weather - extreme heat and extreme cold are the worst! However, Jimmy continues to do the work he does to be able to do things he wants in life.

One thing people might be surprised to learn about Jimmy is that he has been playing guitar for 15 years. His favorite song to play is Forever by As I Lay Dying.

Meet Our Team: Steve Jero & Rob Champlin

Steve Jero, Wet Cast Foreman

Steve Jero, Wet Cast Foreman

Steve Jero has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for six years and has been foreman for three of those years. He started out working on wall panels, and credits hard work and dedication to the job for helping him achieve foreman.

What Steve enjoys most about his work is his crew. He said it is fun to be around a bunch of guys who can have fun and joke around, while still getting the job done. Because of the ebbs and flows of the work, Steve and his crew have to be ready for anything. The most important thing Steve has learned working at Mid-States is to embrace flexibility and roll with the punches.

Steve continues to do the work he does not just for the paycheck, but because he genuinely enjoys what he does. He said to take a piece of concrete from how it looks when his crew gets it, to making it all shiny and nearly marble-like is very satisfying.

One thing people might not know about Steve is that he actually helped deliver his current dog - Willy, now eight-years-old. Willy’s mom belonged to Steve’s cousin and when she went in to labor, she really struggled with delivering Willy, who was coming out butt first, so Steve helped. From there he really bonded with Willy and now they are best friends. And now, he has hundreds of photos of his dog on his phone.


Rob Champlin, Lead Yard Foreman

Rob Champlin, Lead Yard Foreman

Rob Champlin has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for a total of 23 years and has worked for all three generations of Harkers. He has been a foreman for 11 years total.

Rob’s career path through Mid-States is somewhat of a history lesson. He started in PermaBand doing screeded rails before moving to beams and columns, when they were still cast outside. After that he transferred to Flexicore, but left the company for a bit after that. When he returned, Rob spent one year in Wet Cast before transferring to the yard where it took him only one-and-a-half years to become foreman. Rob even had the opportunity to train current President Hagen Harker when he was starting out, as well as the third generation of Harkers - both Charles and William.

What Rob enjoys most about his work is the team he works with, as well as the tasks and challenges of the work. He finds it satisfying to face the challenge of completing all the work that needs to be done every day.

While the cold days outside can be a challenge for Rob, he still wouldn’t want to do anything else. He truly loves his work. He is also very proud of working for the same company his father, Bob Champlin, worked for. Rob credits Bob with teaching him much of what he knows, and helping put Mid-States on the map.

And family means so much to Rob. Every day after work he spends the afternoons with his five grandchildren.

Meet Our Team: Shaugn Evans & Adam Smith

Shaugn Evans, Field Foreman

Shaugn Evans, Field Foreman

Shaugn Evans has been part of the Mid-States Concrete Industries team for nine years, and has been a Field Foreman for about six of those years. Shaugn started as the third man on the crew and through hard work, paying attention to the details, and utilizing an “I can” attitude, he worked his way up to foreman.

While grouting can make for a long day, Shaugn knows it is something that just has to be done. What he enjoys most about the work is the actual installation. He particularly enjoys unusual installs, like double picks with two cranes.

The most important thing Shaugn has learned while working at Mid-States is to look out for the other guys on his team, as they look out for him. Shaugn continues to do the work he does to support his family, and because he truly enjoys doing something different every day. One thing people might be surprised to learn about Shaugn is that he is also a welder.


Adam Smith, Field Foreman

Adam Smith, Field Foreman

Adam Smith has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for ten years and has been a Field Foreman for about seven years. Like Shaugn, he started as the third man on the crew, and attributes hard work, paying attention to the details, and possessing a can do attitude to helping him achieve foreman.

What Adam enjoys most about his work is working with the other crew members. The most important thing he has learned working at Mid-States is that hard work really does pay off.

Adam continues to do the work he does to support his family, plus he likes being outside - except when it is really cold, or really hot! Something people might be surprised to learn about Adam is he has been raising farm animals since he was a kid, and now his kids do it, too.

Mid-States Company Picnic This Weekend

CIO Michael McNett takes his dunk tank duties very seriously.

CIO Michael McNett takes his dunk tank duties very seriously.

It’s almost time for one of my favorite days of the year! On Saturday, Mid-States Concrete Industries will host its annual company picnic. About 200 adults and 75 kids are expected to come out for some delicious food, fun activities, plant tours and more.

Why is this one of my favorite days of the year? I’m glad you asked.

First, with running a 24-hour operation here, this is one of the few days each year where all of us are on the same schedule. This means we get to see people we might not have the chance to see very often. It is a wonderful time to get to know people on the team, especially given the amount of time we spend with each other.

Second, I love to see our team bring in their families and show off Mid-States as a place they are proud to work. With tours of the plant, spouses and children get to see what their partner/parent does every day. We’re all here to take care of our families.

Third, it is just plain fun. With bag toss, ring toss, sack races, a bounce house, water balloon toss, and delicious food, what’s not to enjoy? Plus, the dunk tank is coming back this year! Get ready to dunk members of our leadership team!

Cross your fingers for good weather and we’ll see you there!

Meet Our Team: Shane Churchill, Tom De Armitt & Keven Remillard

Shane Churchill, Cage Tie Foreman

Shane Churchill, Cage Tie Foreman

Shane Churchill has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for 14-and-a-half years and has been foreman for 14 of those years. He started his career with Mid-States in Cafe Tie and quickly became a foreman when his foreman moved to management.

What Shane enjoys most about his work is organizing his team to do the job as efficiently as possible, and problem solving. And while sometimes the stress of the schedule can make for a tough day, the most important thing Shane has learned working at Mid-States is hard work and dedication.

Shane continues to do the work he does because it allows him to provide for his family. Something people might be surprised to learn is Shane is an off road adrenaline junkie.


Tom De Armitt, Maintenance Foreman

Tom De Armitt, Maintenance Foreman

Tom De Armitt has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for six years and has been a foreman for two of those years. Tom started his career with Mid-States on the maintenance team and credits working hard and taking ownership of the responsibility to keep things running at Mid-States as helping him achieve foreman.

What Tom enjoys most about his work is always having new things to work on and problems to solve. He never stops learning.

The most important things Tom has learned working at Mid-States is how to deal with high pressure situations and lots of mechanical confidence.

As a child, Tom always liked to fix things. His father was a mechanic his whole life, so Tom has followed in his footsteps. One day, Tom would like to be the maintenance manager.


Keven Remillard, Maintenance Foreman

Keven Remillard, Maintenance Foreman

Keven Remillard has been with Mid-States Concrete for six years and has been a foreman for four-and-a-half years. He started his career at Mid-States with the maintenance team and although he said he became foreman “by default,” Remillard had years of experience prior to becoming foreman.

While Keven enjoys fixing things that are broke, he would much rather spend his time doing things that would make other people’s jobs easier - work as a creator and innovator, if you will.

Keven truly finds his work interesting and has always enjoyed mechanical work. He has always liked to take things apart, see how they work, and put them back together again.

Meet Our Team: Jose Martinez, Matt Stringini & Jeremiah Lerch

Jose Martinez, Elematic Foreman

Jose Martinez, Elematic Foreman

Jose Martinez has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for 13 years and has been a foreman for 12 of those years. He started his career with Mid-States in Elematic on second shift. Jose credits hard work and learning fast for helping him achieve foreman so quickly. He added there were also great guys that showed him the way - Rafael Carbajal, Freddy Rodriguez, and Apolonio Picon.

What Jose enjoys most about his work is the team he works with as he has known many of them for a very long time. He also really enjoys teaching his newer team members about the job. The most important thing Jose has learned from working at Mid-States is safety. Jose wants to make sure he is around for his kids, and teach them how to be safe.

Jose continues to do the work he does to provide for his family and help the company, which he said has given him so much. One thing people might be surprised to learn about Jose is he works with two of his nephews, one brother and his son-in-law.


Matt Stringini, Elematic Foreman

Matt Stringini, Elematic Foreman

Matt Stringini has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for six years and has been a foreman for about one year. He started his career with Mid-States on the Wet Cast set up crew, then moved to second shift finishing on a wall panel bed, and then he was part of the absent relief operator pool, filling in wherever he was needed. During that time, Matt worked in every single department, except Cage Tie. He credits his knowledge gained, as well as his can do attitude and giving 110% every day with helping him to achieve foreman.

The thing Matt enjoys most about his work is the team he works with. He said they are a great, positive group who get along really well and all pitch in to get the job done together. The most important thing Matt has learned from Mid-States is safety. Everyone really looks out for each other. He has even implemented some of the safety programs here at home.

Matt continues to do the work he does to take care of his children, and because he has always loved building. One thing people might be surprised to learn about Matt is that he used to play semi-pro football and is a two-time national champion with the Roscoe Rush.


Jeremiah Lerch, Detail Crew Foreman

Jeremiah Lerch, Detail Crew Foreman

Jeremiah Lerch has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for four years and has been a foreman for three-and-a-half years. He started on second shift pouring crew and credits hard work and being willing to take on anything with helping him achieve foreman.

What Jeremiah enjoys most about his work is the guys he works with. He said they are easy to talk to and get along with. And while some days can be really tough, especially hot and humid days, Jeremiah really enjoys what he does. He likes physical work and being outside and does what he does to take care of his family.

One thing people might be surprised to learn about Jeremiah is that he was an MMA fighter from the ages of 27-34 and only gave it up when he didn’t have time for it anymore.

Meet Our Team: Tim Vavra, Efrain Mendiola III & Aurie Harrison

Tim Vavra, Sand Blasting Crew Foreman

Tim Vavra, Sand Blasting Crew Foreman

Tim Vavra has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for five years and has been a foreman for a little over two years. He started his career on the yard crew as the cut guy, then learned supplies, yard horse, small fork truck, loader, bobcat, big fork truck and shuttle before achieving foreman. Most recently, Tim took over as foreman of the hill.

What Tim enjoys most about his work are the guys he works with. He said they are a hard working group and aren’t afraid to get dirty or go outside of their comfort zone to get the job done. The most important thing Tim has learned at Mid-States is patience and not rushing through things. It is important to get things done right the first time.

Tim continues to do the work he does to better himself as a person and contribute as a valuable member of the Mid-States team and move up in the ranks. Tim added Mid-States is a great company to work for and you get our of it what you invest into it. Hard work and dedication definitely pays off.


Efrain Mendiola III, Elematic Foreman

Efrain Mendiola III, Elematic Foreman

Efrain Mendiola III has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for a total of six-and-a-half years and has been foreman for about six months. He started his Mid-States career on the Elematic cable crew and worked his way to the Elematic stripping crew. Efrain credits his expertise and knowledge of Elematic for helping him achieve foreman.

What Efrain enjoys most about his work is getting the job done as a team and working together. He likes to go above and beyond to do the job better than expected.

The most important thing Efrain has learned working at Mid-States is to give each other respect and to work as a team to get the job done. He said having a positive attitude will take you far. Efrain does what he does because he enjoys working hard. He is part of the third generation of Mendiolas working at Mid-States.


Aurie Harrison, Cage Tie Foreman

Aurie Harrison, Cage Tie Foreman

Aurie Harrison has been with Mid-States Concrete Industries for about 14 years and has been a foreman for nearly two years. She began her career with Mid-States on the Elematic Cable Crew before moving in to Cage Tie. Aurie credits her willingness to take initiative with helping her to achieve foreman.

What Aurie enjoys most about her work is that she always gets to learn something new. Aurie continues to do the work she does to support her family.