Businesses of Agriculture: Morton thrives due to Getz family legacy

Maurice Sharp of Granby, Colo., far left, and Greg Ure of Fort Morgan, Colo., both sales consultants for Morton Buildings, discuss building options to potential customer, Dean Mettler of Brighten, Colo., during the National Western Stock Show in the Morton exhibit in January. Other sales consultants from Nebraska, Kansas and other nearby states also worked the two-week national event.

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Founded on entrepreneurial spirit, Morton Buildings has a rich 100-plus year history based on hard work, quality products and customer service. Originally, Morton Buildings began as the Interlocking Fence Co. in 1903 by John Getz Sr. in Morton, Illinois. Getz first owned a hardware store and developed woven wire that gave the fledging company the highest quality product to offer their growing customer base.

The company then manufactured grain handling and storage products. Mail order and delivery gave Interlocking Fence Co. a distinct marketing advantage and helped build a solid reputation with their expanding customer base. After John’s death in 1925, his son, Joe A. Getz, took over the business until 1963.

After WWII, farm mechanization exploded and the company took advantage of this by offering machinery and providing livestock shelters. In the late 1940s, Henry A. Getz, at age 28, while working for his father as a sales consultant, had the foresight to add simple farm buildings, which was the foundation of the company.

It was in the 1950s Henry made the decision to do something to compete with another popular building company in the market. He decided to create a building with a “wow” factor in order to succeed, in hopes of pushing Morton Buildings to the forefront of agricultural structures.

So, he painted the buildings red gable trim and the red door trim gave Morton Buildings a distinctly different look. Under Henry’s supervision, the demand for Morton Buildings grew. The businessman spent a great deal of time identifying new markets and developing new ideas for building structures as trends changed.

One market to really grow was the post-frame construction. Henry recognized this trend and set the stage for product transformation from Interlocking Fence. Henry eventually took over the business from his father in 1963. As the company evolved, specializing more and more in structures, Interlocking Fence was renamed Morton in 1965.

Morton Buildings is well known for its success. By emphasizing quality, improved appearance, and value over cost, the company was able to differentiate itself from all others by constantly searching out and initiating innovations that included the best possible materials used in production.

This is a standard that has helped keep Morton on top, according to Maurice Sharp of Granby, Colo., a Morton Buildings sales consultant.

“Morton’s goal is to provide the highest level of customer service and project quality,” he explained. “We started out with pole-frame construction and now we have evolved with technology and Morton has expanded its markets. A high percentage of our industry includes living quarters in our designs whether it’s residential, commercial, suburban or agricultural.”

Sharp said that Morton Buildings are across the nation with offices in more than 40 states. “Morton brings jobs to communities and, of course, access for sales consultants to have buildings for costumers to look at,” he added. “What people don’t realize is that the sales consultant is the onsite project planner when constructing a Morton building.”

Another innovation that separates Morton from its competitors is its warranty that the company provides as evidence of its commitment to quality. This has helped build a solid reputation for Morton. Sharp also believes their unique construction model from beginning to end separates them from any competitors.

“We take a project from excavation to completion,” Sharp explained. “This is something key to our construction teams and we handle the entire project, other companies do not.”

Morton has 11 decades plus of dedicated service and a quality product that employees continue to strive to improve.

“We do all types of structures now,” Sharp pointed out. “People are not familiar with the scope of all that Morton Buildings can provide including residential, commercial, suburban and agricultural markets.”

As a result of the foundation and framework of the company that Henry Getz and his team built, Morton Buildings is well-positioned to maintain and grow its leadership position in the industry. He has left a legacy and brand name that is a credit to him, his family and the employees of Morton Buildings.

After 113 years of Morton Buildings being family owned, as of May 9, 2017, Morton Buildings is now employee owned. Being employee owned means that they continue the commitment of being an industry leader with a focus on innovative service and quality.

Morton operates in 43 states with 103 construction centers and eight manufacturing plants across the country.

Henry Getz was with the company until his retirement in 2002 and he died on Nov. 3, 2017. He is remembered for his impact and influence to the company and his generosity. He was honored in 2016 by the National Framed Building Association with the Bernon G. Perkins Award recognizing him for his decades of contributions to the industry. It’s largely because of that generosity and his passion for the company that Morton Buildings is now under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

The National Center for Employee Ownership has conducted research that shows that employee-owned companies perform better and create more jobs than non-employee stock ownership plans.

According to Morton’s press release about the change in Morton ownership, Morton President and CEO John Russell said that employee ownership stimulates enthusiasm and changes lives.

The result is that Morton’s employees will now own one of the 75th largest ESOP companies in the United States.

While Morton’s 1,700 employees continue a rich tradition of customer service and quality, they can remember that it was not a business of chance but rather a company and legacy built from the ground up through Getz’s leadership, forward thinking and innovative drive.

Becky Chaney can be reached at becky.chaney@midwestmessenger.com.

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