Last edited 8:33 a.m., July 30, 2020
From its founding in 1940, a guiding principle at Paul Mueller Co. has been one of adaptation.
When Paul Mueller and Gordan Mann opened the doors of their business on Commercial Street, their focus was on producing heating and sheet metal products. With the arrival of World War II, Mueller moved into food processing. Soon came dairy equipment and storage systems.
Today, Mueller Co. has grown to make products for a wide range of industries, from beverage to pharmaceutical. Its largest plant – at more than 1 million square feet – remains on West Phelps Street in Springfield, but it also has operations in Iowa, the Netherlands and Vietnam.
Jon Sprenger, a sales manager over serving beer tanks and wine barrels, credits the company’s continuing legacy in part to the faith the company shows its employees.
“I think we’re given a lot of freedom to chase what the market drives,” Sprenger says. “We have a very talented group of designers and engineers that can come up with solutions to meet our customers’ needs and demands. And that’s all driven by what the market tells us is needed.”
Sprenger points to market changes just within the segment he directly serves. He continues to see strong business in beer, with serving tanks and taproom-specific products. But beer is holding steady compared with the rising seltzer niche.
“Seltzer is up 325% over this time last year,” Sprenger says. “It’s crazy. And now they can’t keep up with production.”
In light of this, some smaller brewing companies are getting into the seltzer market.
Adapting to market demands has allowed the company to grow to more than 500 employees locally and over 900 globally. Its 2019 revenue reached $197.2 million, of which $145 million was generated in Springfield. Profits were up more than 150% over 2018.
The company has an impact on the local economy in other ways. Mueller’s welding school offers employees a chance to gain skills and with them higher wages, and the company’s PMC Cares program contributed $10,050 to area nonprofits in 2019. Recipients included Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sculpture Walk Springfield and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Sprenger, a Springfield native who joined Mueller about three years ago, says he has every intention of retiring from the company. He’s attracted to the company’s Great Game of Business open-book management and its agility in the marketplace.
“I took this job with that intention because of the reputation of the company and knowing how they care for our people,” he says. “We have our hand in so many buckets from a product line standpoint, there’s always going to be room for us to grow.”
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