WASP’s Move to FAST Global Solutions Shows how Local Manufacturing Affects Lives Worldwide

Employee Owner
FAST Global Solutions’ headquarters in Glenwood, Minnesota, coordinates the production of high-quality conveyors and ground support equipment. In addition to the headquarters facility, the company operates from five other facilities across central Minnesota and in Nebraska for nearly 500,000 square feet of space from which to serve customers around the globe.

WASP Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of non-powered ground support equipment for the airline and air cargo industry and a leading manufacturer of conveyors for the parcel delivery industry, changed its name to FAST Global Solutions to better reflect the breadth of products and continued company growth to meet customer needs. The 36-year-old company acquired FAST Manufacturing, a leading manufacturer of agricultural sprayers and liquid fertilizer equipment, in May.

“Our continued growth allows us to better provide solutions for our customers around the globe, and it’s making a positive impact on the Midwestern communities where we live and work,” said Dane Anderson, FAST Global Solutions president and CEO. “By diversifying our products for three key industries — ground handling, packaging and agriculture ¬— we know our team will have enhanced job stability no matter the economic forecast.”

Anderson said the company growth brings value to local communities, including Glenwood and Windom, Minnesota, as well as Falls City, Nebraska, which have a talented workforce to draw upon. WASP employed about 350 employees in 2014, and expects to reach 650 by the end of this year. The growth includes a range of positions, including engineers, account executives, welders, production managers, foremen and safety coordinators.

To support the rapid expansion, new employees receive as much as a $2,500 sign-on bonus following eight months of employment. Additionally, they have the opportunity to work with some of the latest manufacturing technology. In the past year, the company invested more than $12 million in large-format metal manufacturing equipment including flat sheet lasers, robotic welders, a tube laser, machining centers, heavy press brakes, and a continuous motion, state-of-the-art powder coat paint line.

WASP started its Employee Stock Ownership Program in 1997 when founder Jim Watkins sold his stock in the company. Growth since then provides additional bonuses for all employee-owners. Employees at the Windom location, who were not part of the ESOP before the acquisition, received their first bonus checks in July. Verlyn Fast, founder of FAST Manufacturing, said that’s a key reason for choosing to merge with WASP.

WASP acquired FAST Manufacturing, an agriculture sprayer and liquid fertilizer equipment manufacturer, in May 2015, creating a more diverse line of FAST solutions that feature consistent quality.

Now the combined companies will share the same name.

“While the name started thanks to Verlyn’s passion and expertise, it allows us to better showcase what we do: We provide FAST solutions to customers,” Anderson said. “Thanks to our dedicated employee-owners, there’s consistent quality in everything we produce. That instills confidence in our abilities and our products, which leads to additional growth.”

Many employee-owners have worked at the company for 20 to 35 years because of the loyalty they feel in producing equipment that benefits companies throughout the world.

“Many things changed in the industry since I started, but the company remains dedicated to creating a positive, supportive environment — for our team and our customers,” said DeWayne Nelson, vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s fun to come to work and be surrounded by talented people while knowing we’re making a difference by providing our customers some of the longest-lasting equipment they’ll ever own.”

FAST Global Solutions has six locations in four Midwest cities where it employs nearly 700 skilled employee-owners building equipment used in every U.S. state and 65 countries. Employees work around the clock to ensure that orders are fulfilled within five to eight weeks.

FAST Global Solutions will continue WASP’s legacy of contributing to community organizations and events where they are based. For example, the company actively supports the Lakes Area Chamber in Glenwood and Waterama, an annual festival there. They also are active with the Falls City Economic Development and Growth Enterprise in Falls City. They support education initiatives and school districts in Glenwood, Windom and Falls City.

WASP Inc. began in Glenwood as Watkins Aircraft Support Products in 1979, named for company founder Jim Watkins. Jim’s vision and the focus on quality and safety allowed the company to grow quickly. They soon diversified with a package conveyor line in 1985 and a military trailer line in 2002. In 1989, they opened a manufacturing facility in Falls City. In May, WASP merged with Windom-based FAST Manufacturing, a 25-year producer of high-quality sprayers and liquid fertilizer equipment for the agriculture industry.

The combined companies, now known as FAST GSE, FAST Conveyors and FAST Agriculture, encompass 500,000 square feet of workspace in six Midwestern facilities.

WASP and FAST equipment is used across the United States and in more than 65 countries.