John Green The Hutchinson News

HAVEN - Looking for a part-time job to supplement his income from farming and custom-cutting wheat, Delmar Kincaid applied one winter at Chain Machine Co. in Haven.

The owner, Wendell Chain, however, was himself planning to move to a new full-time job at Haven Steel and offered to sell the business outright to the inquiring 25-year-old, according to Kincaid's daughter, Kim.

Kincaid agreed to buy a half-interest and see how things went. He took full ownership of the company, which made stationary bundle threshers, after just a few years.

Shortly after starting at the machine shop, Kincaid discovered in a back lot of the downtown Haven business a discarded prototype of a self-propelled combine that Chain had created. With a knack for crafting things, learned on the family farm, Kincaid began to experiment with his own ideas for the machine.

"He's a handy guy, and able to figure things out," Kim Kincaid said.

He took his redesigned machine to the American Society of Agronomy trade show and returned home with eight orders. With delivery of the first machine to Oklahoma State University, Kincaid Equipment Manufacturing was born.

The Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce last week named the 45-year-old business its Small Business of the Month for March.

From the one-man shop he started in 1969, Kincaid hired his first help a year later, his daughter said.

Today the plant at 210 W. First - its third, ever-larger location - employs 38 people, including Kim, 45, as office manager. She started there more than three years ago, after graduating from Kansas State University with a marketing degree.

Kincaid, now 70, added a number of other products over the years, including threshers, planters, increase combines and split combines. But the company's line of 15 products remains targeted at the seed research industry.

Kincaid Equipment wholly manufactures some of its equipment, while other machines are imported and modified by the plant for use in seed research, Kim Kincaid said.

"Kincaid Equipment is definitely in a niche market, as there are only two other similar companies in the United States," she said.

Its customers are primarily universities and large seed companies, but business is booming, Kincaid said, with a fourth expansion in preliminary discussion.

"We are proud of the fact that we have many long-term employees," Kincaid said.

The longest has been with the company 38 years, while a couple are in the 20-plus range and several have been there more than a decade.

"I think we do a good job of being flexible and understanding the balance of work and home," Kincaid told Tomi Ann Foust, an interviewer for the Chamber who completed the award application. "When it's crunch time here, everyone is good about doing what it takes to get the product out on time. On the other side, we understand that there are times there are priorities at home. We stay competitive with wages and provide opportunities for training. We know there are times we ask a lot of our employees and hope we do a good job of letting them know how much it's appreciated. It's an overused phrase, but we truly couldn't do it without them."

The business supports local school fundraisers, is an annual sponsor of the Haven Fall Festival and Fun Run, and its employees were involved in fundraising efforts for Kolton Kincaid, who was paralyzed after a skid steer accident. It also is a member of the Haven and Reno County chambers of commerce and the Haven Business Council.

"We're proud to be a Kansas business, and we think our employees are some of the best people around," Kincaid said.