Walker Mowers: Made in the USA
Fort Collins, Colo.
When friends Jim and Linda from Illinois asked if we could take them to see where their Walker mower was built, I called to see if we could peek inside the building. To our delight, we were told the four of us could have a tour. The white and green sign, huge white building and immaculate grounds made a good and accurate first impression of this family-owned business.
The receptionist visited with us as we waited for Ken Weaver, Walker’s Human Relations man, to give us the tour. Jim explained to Ken that he has a Walker mower and wanted to see where it came from.
“He has a smile on his face the whole three hours he mows,” said Linda. “I’ve had other mowers that broke down often and weren’t easy to use when they did work,” said Jim. “My Walker is easy on my back and is dependable.”
We were amazed at the cleanliness of the plant. Ken called the employees by name. Many have worked at Walker for over 15 years. Ken showed us around and explained what procedure each station was performing.
The mowers are distributed throughout the United States and 28 different nations. Australia and New Zealand have very fine grass which requires special blades to get a good cut. A metallurgist has designed blades that won’t bend or break.
To keep the high standards that are a Walker tradition, most all of the parts are manufactured here; the few parts, seats, and plastic covers that aren’t, come from Minnesota.
In 1979 the third prototype mower was displayed at fairs and farm shows.
Max and his wife Margaret began to drive around the country to demonstrate the mower. They let farmers drive the mowers and to help perfect their mowers, Margaret wrote down the opinions and ideas that Max got from talking with these prospective buyers.
Max was a full-time farmer in Kansas, with an entrepreneurial gift of equipment designing. In 1953 he built a miniature model Caterpillar for his son, Bob. His inventive mind soon came up with bigger and better things. In 1957 he built the gasoline powered Walker Executive Golf Car in his shop, all the while continuing to farm full time. Next came the Walker Power Truck that he designed to be a run-about vehicle for industry. It was also adapted to a floor scrubber for aircraft carrier decks and factories. The company relocated to Casper, Wyo., in 1968 to be in a more industry-oriented community.
In 1971, Byco, a company in Greeley, Colo., approached Max to develop a tractor cab cooler. His son Dean helped develop tooling and welding fixtures in preparation for the 1972 production. Byco urged Max to move the operation closer to Greeley, so in 1974 Walker was moved to Fort Collins. Bob and Dean joined their father in the business in 1975.
Seventy thousand coolers were built from 1972 to 1983 when the contract ended.
After attending the national power equipment show in September 1981, national marketing began in 1982. The easily maneuverable mowers were well received by commercial lawn care companies and homeowners with large lots.
Over the years snow blower, rotary broom, and dozer blade attachments added and made the mowers much more versatile. They continue to introduce new improvements and to keep great customer service. When they found that springs used to activate the operator seat safety switch have a tendency to break prematurely, an urgent recall was issued in April 2007. All owners of the affected units are encouraged to get them replaced free of charge.
In 1990 Walker moved to a new 76,000 square foot facility and increased production made it necessary to build two additions, to provide a total of 216,000 square feet on 60 acres.
One of the most fascinating processes to observe on the tour was the paint area. They use a powder electrical magnetic coating. It is sprayed on and the excess goes back into a hopper to be used again. The only waste is what sticks to the painter’s clothes and shoes. The parts are then baked at 450 degrees, making the finish 10 times more durable than regular paint.
In the ’90s, Max, who had built the company with integrity, ingenuity and hard work, gradually turned control over to his two sons. Bob oversees the business and marketing areas and Dean is in charge of product development and manufacturing operations. Young members of the family are now working in the business.
Each June the Walkers host a free “hymn sing” on the lawn of the plant. Taking a picnic and lawn chairs, makes it a great family time.
The second Walker Family Reunion is scheduled for August 1-2, 2008. To celebrate the production of 100,000th Walker Mower, they invite customers, dealers, distributors, suppliers, and friends to join together at the plant in Fort Collins. There will be food, Walker World Championship Obstacle Course, supplier booths, entertainment, Sunday morning worship, and much more. Complete details and information on how to volunteer to help, go to http://www.walkermowers.com.
The company is located at 5925 E. Harmony Road, Fort Collins, Colo., 80528.
To schedule a tour or for more information on their mowers please call (970) 221-5614.
Walker Ware clothing and miniature mowers are available at http://www.walker-ware.com, or by calling (888) 204-0048.
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