At Mid-States Utility, safety is one of our highest goals we strive to achieve on a daily basis. We are always continuing to find new and innovative ways to ensure our workspace is safe for our employees so they can focus on the work they’re doing and not dangers that can arise.
Recently, our company was recognized by the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council as part of the Iowa-Illinois Safety Awards they do every year. We submitted a number of presentations dedicated to portraying the various precautions and innovations we’ve made each year to enhance the safety within our company. We’re very proud of this mention and want to show you what we submitted and the steps we’re taking to ensuring the safety of our employees every single day.
The Community Enrichment awards seek to recognize companies that reach out to their community and make financial or or contributions to the community they hail from. These can include some of the following examples as listed on the IISC site:
Financial contributions, in the areas of safety, health or environmental efforts
Manpower, in the areas of safety, health or environmental efforts
Material resources, in the areas of safety, health or environmental efforts
Or other services, in the areas of safety, health or environmental efforts
Mid-States was proud to be able to submit a presentation that depicted ways we’ve been able to serve and benefit our community as shown below.
Every workplace has room for improvement when it comes to safety, so the IISC created this category as an initiative for employers to catch on to areas of improvement and implement changes that create safer environments within their company. Below are some examples of how we caught and fixed some safety concerns we noticed.
We will continue to better our working conditions in any and every way we see possible, and we will continue to submit to the IISA. We’re truly proud of our employees who work diligently to ensure the safety of themselves and their co-workers and are always vigilant for areas of improvement, as well as our safety manager Tom who is always on the lookout for new and innovative safety material.
As a company that’s been dubbed as “essential” it’s important that, during this time of difficulty, that we maintain not only the highest of safety and sanitary moderation possible, but also to maintain morale within the company. Our Omaha location found an incredibly creative way to do just that.
One of our employees, Crystal Reed, had to become an art teacher last night, she was talking about how hard it was to draw a bunny and a turkey with her daughter. With the recent COVID-19 situation being a bummer we decided to bump up morale and have some fun with a pizza lunch and Turkey drawing contest.
Mark Golden – Service Director, Omaha, NE
We had many submissions from all departments however in the end it came down to pure raw skill.
Mark Golden – Service Director, Omaha, NE
First place ribbon and $10 was Danny Foster “Trailer Tech.”
Second place ribbon was Kory Huwaldt “Parts Sales.”
Third Place ribbon was Roy Mellow “Painter.”
And finally, the prize for most realistic turkey went to Kyle Bugge “Lead Maintenance Engineer.”
As you can see from the pictures, our Omaha location also made sure to end the competition with a pizza party to really boost everyone’s spirits. With all the fear that’s been going around the world, it’s nice to take some time to just have a little fun and entertainment to keep everyone’s spirits high. We appreciate everyone in our Omaha branch who not only planned this unexpected and incredibly creative contest, but all those who participated as well to give everyone’s spirits an opportunity to be lifted.
At Mid-States Utility and Keizer Co we’re always pushing ourselves to stay on the cutting edge of trailer and trailer refrigeration technology. Part of this process of continued education rests on our departments meeting with each other and meeting with our vendors. We regularly have these types of meetings to ensure our staff are not only on the same level, but also knowledgeable of the opportunities and equipment that’s always evolving.
Make the Department a Team
Given the fact that we have three distinct locations for our parts departments: Sioux City, IA; Omaha, Nebraska; and Sioux Falls, SD we don’t always get a chance to talk face-to-face. So when we have the opportunity to meet together we try to make the most of it.
For our most recent meeting we sent the members of the parts department on a team-building exercise to a local entertainment establishment called Axe to Grind, a cool specialty place that allows you to throw axes at targets. The parts members had an absolute blast tossing some axes and sharing some laughs.
Team building, and general comradery helps to build communication between the staff and keep the mood positive. Meetings can often grow long and mentally strenuous, so keeping some fun and entertainment in the mix can be incredibly beneficial in maintaining focus later on.
Bring the Team Together
Great minds think alike, but they also have different ways of thinking as well. It’s ideal to have your staff come together as an incubator for ideas. Although all the staff may be from the same department selling many of the same things, they still have different experiences with customers or vendors and thus will have different questions to ask and different ideas to put forth that the other staff members may not have thought of yet.
After having the team-building exercise, your staff should be out of their shells and comfortable with each other to a point where it opens the door to the opportunity of ideas and experience-sharing.
We had meetings all throughout the day between our parts staff as they discusses new opportunities as well as the experiences they had over the past half-year with customers and vendors. Things they liked, and things they didn’t like. Things that could be improved on and ideas on how to improve on them. The team is never here to criticize or bring down, but rather to help. It’s not a competition when you all work for the same company. You are a team.
We invited several vendors to meet and speak with our parts staff giving them the rundown on new ideas and products they can offer. They showed them hands-on examples and samples of their products that the parts team could not only look at but test out and ask questions on.
It’s also beneficial to have the vendors in front of you face-to-face so the staff could ask them questions directly. If they had a situation with a part from that vendor that a customer reported, they could bring it up there and then and see what the company was doing about that situation. Additionally, the vendor could engage them about what concerns or factors affect the sale of their parts. This gives the vendor constructive criticisms to take back to corporate thus creating a mutually beneficial meeting.
Once the dust settles and the vendors have all begun their drives back home it’s necessary to have a sit down with your staff and review all that had been offered during the meetings. Revisit the ideas that had come up, and address any concerns that had yet to be addressed.
It can be beneficial to have members of other departments in-attendance for this follow-up as well since they will now gain a new perspective on things that may affect them and their department, and it also gives the staff that sat in on the meetings to relay their newly acquired knowledge. Obviously, for Mid-States Utility we have three major departments: Sales, Parts and Service that work closely together. Thus, if one department has new and interesting information about new products or services, it benefits everyone to know about them when applicable.
Human trafficking is a topic we don’t typically like to discuss. The topic brings with it a sour taste filled with the unpleasant thoughts of such a horrific practice. We don’t want to imagine the horrors the victims of human trafficking go through, but it’s important that we don’t ignore a problem just because we see it as unpleasant. Knowledge, discussion and action are all steps that lead to change.
With January being National Human Trafficking Awareness Month we want to highlight an organization that is making a difference in stopping human trafficking and take a look at some of the training they offer in hopes that you too will know what signs to look out for in saving victims of human trafficking. We also want to encourage all transportation and trucking companies to think about initiating training for all of your drivers so they can know what sorts of signs to look for and how to act in order to stop traffickers and save lives.
T.A.T. (Truckers Against Trafficking)
We, at Mid-States Utility, work with our friends at T.A.T. using the tools and resources they offer to train our truck drivers and staff to see the signs of human trafficking and knowing how to respond to the crime. The organization has done a fantastic job creating a number of different training tools for trucking companies as well as partnering with law enforcement and government agencies to assist any way they can to strive towards ending trafficking.
Truck stops are popular locations for human traffickers to stop at and force their victims into horrible situations. It’s important for every truck driver to be aware of any potential suspicious activity he/she notices whenever he/she stops. These signs can include the following:
Signs that prostitution is taking place.
Women or children looking fearful, disheveled or crying.
Multiple cars and different men going in and out of a residence.
Someone (typically an older male) being controlling, threatening or even violent with an individual (typically a younger female).
Extraordinary security measures for a business or home.
It’s also important to note that many traffickers will attempt to advertise their victims using CB radio messages to passing truck drivers. If you receive messages that sound suspicious please report them.
We all have the ability to make a difference and save lives by simply being aware of our surroundings and knowing how to react when we see or hear something suspicious.
If you are a company looking to train your drivers to fight against human trafficking, please check out T.A.T.’s Industry Training Program and get them certified. Join over 800,000 people who are registered as T.A.T. trained and are currently making a difference all across the world.
Many companies have Christmas parties, but no one celebrates the holidays like Mid-States Utility and Keizer Co. With four locations, things get quite exciting, especially when three of those locations each needs to plan and host their own Christmas party. Each preparing and enacting their own activities and celebrations.
Today you get quite a treat as we delve into this years holiday celebrations from each location. What they did, the food they ate, and how they show the employees appreciation for the fantastic year we’ve had. Additionally, you’ll get to hear a couple of personal traditions and recipes from individual employees. We hope this helps to pump you up for your coming holiday celebrations and puts you in the Christmas spirit!
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The first Christmas party was held on December 6, 2019 at our Sioux Falls location. Like each location, many of the office and service staff assist in the preparation and setting up of the party as well as ordering the catering service and securing awards for the various games and activities they plan to do. It’s a lot of work, but it can also be an incredible amount of fun to prepare the day’s activities.
It doesn’t really matter what holiday you’re celebrating, food is an integral part of the celebration. Sioux Falls had a fried chicken focus with their caterer, complete with sides and a number of flavors of cheesecake and cupcakes for dessert.
Activities & Contests
Ugly Sweater Contest
A classic tradition for Mid-States and Keizer that you will notice at each of our locations is the annual Ugly Sweater Contest. Employees are encouraged to buy or make an ugly sweater and wear it that day (during the party) and all employees get a vote to whose they think is particularly grotesque or just plain funny. Below you can see a number of pictures depicting just how unpleasantly creative the Sioux Falls employees can be with their choice of Christmas sweaters.
(Side Note) You may notice that we keep an open-mind to what can be entered into the “sweaters” contest. We also allow suits, vests, and anything with a ridiculous Christmas tone to it.
Who is that Baby?
A fun, new addition to the Christmas party was the Who is that Baby picture contest. A poster board featuring a number of baby pictures brought in by several employees. The pictures were labelled from numbers 1 – 14. Each attending employee received a paper with 18 names (4 extras to throw people off a little bit). The employees were tasked with figuring out which baby picture corresponded with the appropriate name on the sheet. It was a tough challenge and it was a huge success with employees gathering tightly around the poster-board of pictures trying to find those tiny hints and giveaways on the pictures.
A fun, new addition to the Christmas party was the Who is that Baby picture contest. A poster board featuring a number of baby pictures brought in by several employees. The pictures were labelled from numbers 1 – 14.
Each attending employee received a paper with 18 names (4 extras to throw people off a little bit). The employees were tasked with figuring out which baby picture corresponded with the appropriate name on the sheet. It was a tough challenge and it was a huge success with employees gathering tightly around the poster-board of pictures trying to find those tiny hints and giveaways on the pictures.
How Many M&Ms
A classic challenge that involves filling a jar up with M&M candies and challenging attendees to guess how many of the treats are hidden inside. Winner gets the jar of M&Ms as well as any other prizes you decide to tack onto it. It’s important to know that there are math equations that can often times help employees get incredibly close to the total. If you’ve filled a jar or another cylindrical shaped receptacle it can be as simple as calculating the area.
A = 2πrh+2πr2
But there’s a very simple way to discourage this little trick. Add different sized M&Ms into the mix. Peanut M&Ms are the largest of the candy’s variations, whereas mini M&Ms are the smallest. It makes calculating the potential number nearly impossible. Whatever the case we had a lot of fun with this quick competition.
The Special Seat
Most attendees didn’t realize that, hidden on the back of the chair they sat on, was a number and anyone that might have noticed them had no idea that it was part of the party. Near the end of the celebration they did a surprise raffle, drawing one of the numbers from a tin and employee sitting at the corresponding seat won a prize. Simple as that.
Our Omaha branch is known to be the “king of company parties” with their annual Halloween Party always being a huge success and the Christmas holiday is no different. Oftentimes, the Des Moines branch and its employees will come to Omaha to celebrate the holiday alongside them.
Whereas Sioux Falls went with fried chicken, Omaha decided on BBQ, alongside some brisket and of course the appropriate sides. They also offered cheesecake for dessert. No one left hungry after this holiday celebration.
Activities & Contests
Ugly Sweater Contest
Just like with the other two branches, Omaha holds a vote on who wore the ugliest sweater to the holiday party and a prize is awarded to the one sweater that really stuck out. Below are some of the awesome contenders for the ugliest sweater.
Special thanks to Lisa, one of our newest members to the Omaha team, for putting in an incredible amount of time and work to get the many baskets ready for the Christmas Party. Each basket had a theme to it and a number of items inside that fit that theme. Each attendee was given a set number of tickets with their names on them. These tickets could be placed inside the drawing bins next to each of the themed baskets. That way, if you really wanted a particular basket, you could put more of your tickets into it. Mark then drew from each basket to determine the winner. To ensure that everyone had a chance, he only gave one prize to each employee, even if their name was drawn more than once. Some examples of the beautiful baskets are featured below.
A Holiday Recipe
Crystal, an office staff at the Omaha branch, offered a popular recipe she prepares for her family every Christmas.
Sioux City, Iowa
Finally, came the Sioux City Christmas Party. Sioux City took a couple notes from the books of the other branches and incorporated those aspects into their own celebration.
Sioux City followed Omaha’s lead in the BBQ front, hosting a meal of pulled pork and brisket as well as all the sides and fixings. For desserts they offered a number of cookies and cupcakes from the well-known local bakery Sugar Shack.
Activities & Contests
Ugly Sweater Contest
We continue with one of the most popular and well-known Christmas Party competitions: the ugly sweater contest. People at the Sioux City branch got just as into it as the others did, with quite a lot of clever creativity. Below are some examples of the ugliest sweaters out there.
Who is that Baby
After seeing the success of Sioux Falls’ Who is that Baby photo contest, Sioux City decided to hold their own. Managing to bring together 25 baby pictures of employees the game presented quite a challenge. The winner of the competition scoring 13 of the 25 correct. Although it was tough, it was an incredibly fun activity.
How Many M&Ms
Another take-away from the Sioux Falls celebration was the How Many M&Ms challenge with a prize of candy and more candy! Christmas is notorious for the number of sweets and treats consumed during the season and that’s no different here at Mid-States Utility.
Both Sioux City and Sioux Falls handed out sheets of Christmas-themed questions for attendees to answer. They graded the sheets and the individual with the highest score received a prize! It’s important to throw in questions from different Christmas related “genres” from movies, to music to holiday history that way everyone has a chance.
A Tradition and Recipe
One of our HR representatives, Marlenne, shares with us her family’s holiday tradition as well as one of their delicious recipes.
Okay so we celebrate Christmas Eve we make a lot of good Mexican food, one that a lot of people would be familiar with is red pork tamales. We do a Mexican tradition of “the birth of Jesus”. So we have one baby Jesus which we pray and sign to him. We pass him around and everyone kisses his forehead and get some candy.
A Common Practice at All Our Branches
There are a handful of activities and traditions that all our branches typically their Christmas celebrations with. Those are listed below. Each one is meant to show both the owners’ appreciation for each and every employee that works for them, as well as to show the owners and the company itself how much appreciation the employees have.
A Christmas Gift
Following the food and activities the owners of the company, Shane and Stacy, take the stand where they are presented with their gift from the company. Employees pitch in and put together a financial gift in their name to a charity decided on by the employees.
Sioux Falls decided to make their donation out to one of their customers who supports The Warrior Ride. The customer, Paul Thacker, is a former X Games champion who jumps snowmobiles. The organization he manages offers snowmobile experiences for disabled veterans, giving them an epic and thrilling ride.
To learn more about Paul’s organization check out this awesome video!
Omaha donated to Secret SantaSociety and Sacred Heart of Omaha which works to give kids the various necessities and gifts during the holiday season that will help them out for the rest of the year.
Sioux City donated to the organization Partners for Patriots which trains and gives service dogs to veterans who are disabled or struggle with PTSD. A representative and one of the dogs stopped by during the Christmas Party to give a demonstration and talk about their organization.
A representative from local news station KCAU was there to record the gift and it later went out on the news. Below is the feature from that news story and the article that was published with it.
Every year the company gives out awards to employees who stood out throughout the year in some way. These awards are decided on by votes from other employees. It’s always a pleasure to be able to recognize the hard work and personal growth in our staff. After each award is given it is followed by a hearty handshake by the owners to seal that gratitude. The awards that went out have a range of different recognition such as those below.
Rookie of the Year
Best Customer Service
Safety Recognition (Within Service and Non-Service departments)
Top Sales (Within Parts and Trailer Sales)
Finishing off the festivities is Shane Keizer, son of Jim Keizer who founded Mid-States Utility and Keizer Refrigeration, who offers up a speech about the year past and the year to come. He thanks his employees for their hard work and he, and his sister Stacy, hand out Christmas cards addressed to each of the employees. The two hold true to their father’s motto that “It’s all about the people.” Of course, that applies to our customers, but it also holds true for the employees as well. A company is only as good as those working for it and maintaining it. The Christmas Parties are in place to show gratitude for each of the employees that work for the company and to celebrate another great year thanks to their hard-work!
We hope that our Christmas Parties brought joy to your holiday season. We want to thank everyone for making 2019 such a great year for all of us at Mid-States Utility and Keizer Refrigeration. We hope you all have an enjoyable and safe Christmas holiday and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
The basic needs of every human include food, water, shelter, and clothing. Without these things we cannot survive. Thankfully, for those without the resources necessary to procure these items, there are organizations who strive to ensure these necessities are distributed. Groups like soup kitchens and shelters ensure that the homeless or needing individuals within our communities are cared for, but even organizations like these need things. They need donations as well as volunteers who can distribute the items donated.
From 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM the Sioux City, IA soup kitchen hands out hot meals to the various needy in the Siouxland area. Thanks to donations from various community members, local businesses and organizations the kitchen is able to maintain a steady stream of good food that it’s staff prepare each day for those in-need, but it often finds itself in need of people to help run the operations of serving the food to those who attend. Kerri Toben, of the Sioux City Mid-States Utility branch saw this need and decided it was time something was done.
Kerri went to work creating sign-up sheets for the night of Tuesday, December 3rd to help the kitchen with staffing. She managed the names that came in and worked with the soup kitchen to set up times. It wasn’t long before she had so many names that the kitchen was overwhelmed. They decided to push past a single night and managed to organize enough volunteers for three Tuesdays: December 3rd, 10th, and 17th.
The first group, including Ashlei, Ben, Darlene, Justin, Kerri, and co-owner of Mid-States Utility and Keizer Stacy all assisted at the December 3rd night. Four of them handing out the food, while the other two made sure dishes were getting cleaned and prepared for the next day.
“It’s pretty organized.”
Ben Clark – Salesman
The kitchen was managed by Tony, a veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He maintained his military-minded organizational skills at the kitchen with an incredibly capable, but simple schedule. First are the women and children from the nearby women’s shelter who come and partake in the meal. They are followed by the rest of the community. Depending on the donations for the day the kitchen offers seconds at a specific time and cuts off food distribution at exactly 6:00 PM. Although somewhat strict, it is a necessity to ensure that everyone there manages to get a fresh meal that night.
In-between handing out the the various vegetables and hot dishes to the attendees, the staff was able to talk with many of the individuals, hearing their stories and making conversation. Learning about the people that attend the nightly meals.
Overall, it was a great experience and I would definitely like to try to get down there again to volunteer.
Ashlei Hanks –
“I’m so glad we did it, it was awesome. The biggest thing was just how thankful they were.”
Kerri Toben – Organizer of Soup Kitchen Volunteering
It leaves a warmth in one’s soul to give back to the community and the people around you. We highly recommend finding a local soup kitchen or other volunteer opportunity where you live and find out how you can participate or work with them to better the area where you live. You’d be amazed how much a couple of hours of service can truly mean to those in-need in your area.
“There is no such thing as a simple act of compassion or an inconsequential act of service. Everything we do for another person has infinite consequences.”
Keizer Co and Mid-States Utility are no strangers to charity and service work. The companies set up or participate in a number of service projects throughout the year with a number of service organizations. This year, we wanted to try something new: a food drive.
The idea started simple, and at the Sioux City branch. Let’s do a food drive. The idea grew into wanting to involve the Sioux Falls and Omaha branches as well. How could we do it in a way that really promoted the charity and also increased the potential for donations to truly support our communities. This is when the idea for a competition came into play. Each branch was known to have a strong competitive nature. We all enjoyed trying to beat one another in various sales and service challenges in the past. So we decided we would do the same with this particular charity as well.
After contacting and confirming the rights to hold the challenge with each of the respective food banks: Food Bank of Siouxland, Feeding South Dakota and Food Bank for the Heartland who were all as excited as we were to kick off this competitive food drive. They were incredibly easy to work with and immediately sent us all the resources we would need to handle the charity.
We officially started the food drive on Monday, October 28. Our plan was to go through the month of November, ending the week before Thanksgiving (the final day being Friday, November 22), to ensure the food banks had enough time to receive, process and distribute the food by Thanksgiving Day. We began advertising the drive on social media in hopes of reaching out to many of our customers and other followers to offer them the chance to get involved and help their communities.
The first set of stats came in on Friday, November 8 and were posted that following Monday with Sioux Falls holding a sizable lead in the competition.
The second week began to get very competitive, especially between the Sioux Falls and Sioux City branches. The second sets of stats were posted on Monday, November 18.
Sioux City managed to take a small leap ahead of Sioux Falls with Omaha silently filling up their boxes in the background. Sioux City made sure not to get too comfortable in their slight lead and continued to build up.
Word started going around that some employees were “sandbagging” or otherwise bidding their time until the last minute to collect every possible item that they could to donate. The branches became fairly secretive of their numbers, hoping to surprise everyone with their final scores. An email was sent out shortly after the numbers were posted reminding people that Friday, November 22 would be the final date to bring in items for the food drive before the items were all taken to the various food banks.
Finally, Friday came. All of the employees who had been saving up their donations began bringing in those final food items. Each branch did their best to hold off on making the delivery to the food banks until the very last second in hopes of giving every employee enough time to bring in every item possible. But, by the end of the day, the final scores were tallied and locked in with the results to follow that Monday.
It was a somewhat close, but decisive, victory by the Sioux City, IA branch. We were incredibly blown away by the fact that, between the three branches, we managed to collect over 3,500 items! Everything was taken to the respective food banks who were incredibly gracious for the resulting donations.
The competition even sparked some interest from one of Sioux City’s local news stations who contacted us for an interview about the food drive and produced the following news story to detail it!
We want to say a huge thank you to all the food banks we worked with for making the process of setting up the drive so easy. We also want to send out a massive thank you to everyone who got involved in donating various non-perishable food items. Every single one of those items will go on to make a difference in the lives of those living in our communities.