NAPPANEE, Ind. – Gen-Y Hitch, 3400 W. Market St., Nappanee, held a celebration and open house Wednesday morning Aug. 16 for leadership, team members, suppliers, dealers and customers.
According to Marketing Director Donna Schmucker, Gen-Y Hitch started in 2012 by Carl Borkholder in his garage because he saw a need for adjustable hitches. “He’s created products for a number of different trucks and trailers and they’re all manufactured here.”
Gen-Y Hitch has hitches for bumper towing, fifth wheel towing, gooseneck towing and specialty towing plus trailer couplers, ramps, accessories and parts.
“There’s also a number of different products for the RV market, the Executive is the most popular and they have our patented torsion flex technology,” she said.
“It’s taken the RV market by storm,” Schmucker said.
The patented torsion flex technology offers up to a 90% smoother ride, the shock absorbers protect the truck, trailer and cargo, reduces driver (and animal) fatigue and according to Gen-Y Hitch’s customers, gives increased fuel economy.
The Executive Hitch has a towing capacity of up to 25,000 pounds. It’s especially beneficial on larger fifth wheels or toy haulers. The Executive torsion flex pin box and fifth wheel to gooseneck ball conversion will give a better quality ride as well as improve gas mileage. Each of the couplers comes with a standard five-year warranty with a lifetime warranty available for purchase.
This new facility is a “dream come true” for Carl Borkholder.
“I’ve always wanted to build something like this. I’m team-oriented so I place an emphasis on team building — I think it’s super important,” he shared. “When we designed and built this (facility) we built it around our employees. There’s a gym upstairs and showers and we’re building an addition for a day care facility, specifically focused on working moms; it gives them more of a comfort level.”
The company moved into its new facility two months ago. Stepping into the building you’ll notice the open concept, comfortable couches and tons of natural light. The Gen-Y Café is too high-end to be called an employee lounge and has a fully equipped kitchen.
Gen-Y Hitch currently has 60 employees working first and third shifts. Borkholder said he found employees preferred third shift over second shift.
Borkholder’s philosophy is that good customer service starts with making employees feel valued. “You hear a lot of business owners say ‘the customer is number one’ — I agree but also disagree. If you make your employees the number one priority then they will automatically make the customers number one for the company. Treat everyone with dignity, respect and honor and they will feel a sense of purpose.”
Gen-Y’s manufacturing emphasis is on automation. A robotic lathe that can run on its own for hours as long as it’s feeding raw material in, was cutting out parts.
The welding area is “fully temperature controlled—you won’t find that anywhere else in this area,” Borkholder said.
Day of Activities
Gen-Y Hitch planned a day of activities for attendees starting with breakfast, opening speakers, a ribbon cutting, guided tours of the facility, a golf outing and an evening boat ride.
Operations Manager Adam Yoder welcomed everyone, shared the company’s mission statement, acknowledged the owner team of founder and co-owner Carl Borkholder, President and co-owner Dan Miller and co-owner Scott Tuttle. He recognized the company’s first two employees who were present—Leon Miller, who still works with Gen-Y Hitch and Joel Helmuth who worked for free with Carl in the early days and only left Gen-Y because he felt called to full-time missionary work.
He suggested when visitors took the tour, they should look for the innovation, “Our main focus is to be a game changer” and how welcoming it is.
Joel Helmuth was one of the speakers and shared, “Carl gave me the opportunity to be a part of something—it was a ridiculous plan, really,” he laughed. “We thought if we could average one hitch a day, that’d be awesome. Carl’s innovation always inspired me. I’m proud of what you built here.”
Before Yoder introduced President Dan Miller, he shared a time when it was a struggle for Carl to get the hitches manufactured and Dan and Scott went to Carl suggesting they start manufacturing the hitches, which was first called Next Gen and is now Gen-Y Tech and five years later 95% of the products are made in the Nappanee plant.
Miller said, “Not only do we build the greatest hitches on the market, our people make it work. Scott, Carl and I put our heads together to keep Carl’s dream alive—it’s been an exciting journey and I look forward to many more years.”