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Hyland Systems finds home in former school building

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:20 PM

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WEST CONCORD, Minn. – It's been two years since Hyland Systems moved into the former Triton Middle School in West Concord.

Owners Jess, Justin and Dylan Harris had outgrown their space in Mantorville and were knee-deep into the beginning stages of building a new facility when the school became available. They looked at it, considered their options and decided to purchase the school rather than build a new facility.

A lot of work had to be done to ready the building for their manufacturing and millwright business when they moved in during January 2011.

"It was a mess," Jess Harris said.

The school district left equipment behind, the boiler hadn't been cared for and vandals had done some interior damage. However, the building offered plenty of space for their business to grow.

They started out in the school shop, unloading load after load of steel to begin building grain legs and other grain handling equipment. They were up and running by February 2011.

They have grown to using about 75 percent of the building's space. The choir room houses their hardware and former classrooms across from the gym entrance have been removed and the area converted to raw steel storage. Belts hang from hooks along the wall leading from the office to the shop. Their business offices moved from what some call the weight room into the school office. Manager Brad Smith, who went to middle school in the building, has the principal's office. Jess Harris has the nurse's office. The library is used for training.

Their latest expansion was into the gym. They took out the wood floor and bleachers and the floor is concrete. The scoreboard donated by the FFA still hangs on the wall and the stage curtain backdrops hang from the ceiling of the stage. Vehicles are parked beneath the basketball hoops, which are pulled up into the rafters. The gym is their new shop with the old shop remaining the welding center.

Purchasing the building allowed them to grow their business faster than if they had built a new facility, Harris said. They were able to invest in equipment rather than a building, he said.

Their business is small, Harris said, with 15 employees.

The business has changed since it began as agriculture has changed. Hyland Systems started in 1999, just as the ethanol industry was taking off. For a time, they had employees who worked in plants servicing equipment. Then, those plants were sold and those employees were out of work. Now, they focus on manufacturing components that other millwrights as well as farmers purchase.

They can design and manufacture anything from an auger for somebody raising chickens to equipment used in ethanol plants. Most of their equipment is used in agriculture. They also sell MFS grain bins and are a Sentinel steel building dealer, Smith said.

Hyland Systems has clients in the United States and internationally, Harris said. They have two crews of three on-the-road to service and install grain handling equipment.

The company is hosting its first open house on Jan. 18 to show the public what they've done with the former school building. People often stop by to see what's going on, Harris said.

They're curious, Smith said. He understands their curiosity. He grew up in West Concord, which is a tight-knit community. People have a connection to the building, which was the community's high school and junior high before West Concord Schools consolidated with Claremont and Dodge Center to form Triton in 1992.

"It's nice to see the school building being used for something," he said.

It's a unique space, Harris added, but they've made it work.