Family-owned LF Machine is Large Business of the Year

Focus is on employees and quality products

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Brent, left, and Chris Schulte are the current owners of Little Falls Machine, named Large Business of the year in Little Falls. Their father, Ray Schulte, retired last year. He purchased it from his father, Michael, who acquired it in 1948, from Louis Litchy.

Brent and Chris Schulte’s grandfather, Michael Schulte, purchased the shop after it had been moved to Little Falls in 1948. Since then, it’s grown exponentially and has remained in the Schulte family.

In 1974 or 1975, Brent and Chris said their father began working at Little Falls Machine. Their parents, Ray and Dianna, purchased the business in 1980.

Ray officially retired in 2013, and now Brent and Chris are continuing what has become the family business.

The Schulte brothers started their careers at Little Falls Machine as youngsters mowing lawns and sweeping floors, continuing into their teenage years.

Their father asked that they get a college education and work for someone else, to discover what it was like in the employment world and how they would like to be treated as an employee.

Neither was required to return to the family business, but eventually, both returned.

Little Falls Machine employs 42 people, with the average length of service to the company at 17 years, said the Schultes. Chris noted that during an annual get-together, several were honored for 30 years with the company, a couple for 35 years and one employee for 40 years.

The nomination for Little Falls Machine as the Large Business of the Year, offered one reason for the longevity of the staff at the company, stating, “Because of their involvement in the community, the business culture of encouraging and supporting their employees to give back to the community through numerous volunteer opportunities and the work environment found at Little Falls Machine.

“With the up and down trends of the local, state and national economy, a stable workforce is something everyone should be proud of and be publicly acknowledged for,” said the nomination.

Some of the long-standing commitments the Schulte family has in the community were also noted in the nomination.

“Morrison County 4-H’ers are able to coordinate their annual fruit sales in donated space provided by Little Falls Machine. The Boy Scouts stage their popcorn sales with Little Falls Machine as well,” the nomination said.

So too, the company and the family support the Morrison County Relay for Life, the Flyer Athletic Boosters and the Hockey Alumni game and more.

When the Lindbergh Lions holiday display on the grounds of Lindbergh Elementary School was damaged in November 2011, the nomination said Little Falls Machine straightened the frame on the custom-made plane that is the replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

Several of Little Falls Machine’s employees are volunteer firefighters in Little Falls.

“Leaving the job to protect the community is done with the blessing of the Schulte family,” said the nomination.

Over the years, the company has focused on slow, steady growth in a business that provides custom-made equipment and services, for the most part in a five-state area including Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Brent said the Little Falls Machine team often works to come up with a custom-designed product for a special task. A recent job had the crew designing a special piece of equipment to meet specific needs for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Both Chris and Brent credit their employees with producing the high-quality products their company has become known for nationally.

“We have a great crew,” said Brent. “Loyal and hardworking.”

While their main business is focused on snow plows, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for the equipment in states where snow is seldom found.

With the reputation for quality products the staff can be proud of, Chris said they were able to sell snow plows to a city in, of all places, Florida.

The city ordered a couple of the plows to use in clearing its streets of debris after strong wind storms.

Chris and his wife, Tammy, have two children, Mitch, 22, and Katie, 19. Brent and his wife, Julie, also have two children, Jack, 18, and Grace, 14.

The Schultes will be recognized along with the Small Business and Volunteer of the Year Thursday, during the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet at the Falls Ballroom.