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July 16, 1998

Kurt Andrews made a fascinating presentation to the Rotary club the other day, describing how the Charles Machine Works, Inc., covers the world in marketing the product that made Perry famous, the Ditch Witch trencher. Perhaps we who live here are prone to take this company for granted because many of our lifelong friends work at CMW and we are virtually next door neighbors of the sprawling installation out near the west end of Fir avenue. It is hard for us, being so close to the very core of this business, to realize just what we have here.

Kurt sounds very sincere and humble when he tells his own story as a Perry boy who grew up here and came back to his roots after earning a degree at the University of Oklahoma. He now serves as marketing director of CMW, and that is a very prestigious position. As such he oversees a small army of men and women who have dedicated themselves to the task of continuing the Ditch Witch tradition of setting the pace in the underground construction industry, not only in this country but on an international basis.

CMW is a giant in its field, the acknowledged leader in designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing its equipment. Roger Layne, the company's product development manager, introduced Kurt to the Rotary gathering and commented that in any business, "nothing happens until you sell something." That underscores the importance of marketing.

Ed Malzahn and his father, Charlie, produced the first Ditch Witch trenchers some 50 years ago at the old CMW location in downtown Perry. Engineering at that time often consisted of chalk drawings on a cement floor in a building where custom welding and machining were still the principal business elements. "Research" meant taking prototype machines to local job sites for test runs in digging ditches for sewer lines. "Marketing" then was loading a Ditch Witch unit on a trailor and hauling it behind a pickup to plumbers or other prospects and hoping they would order one. My, how times have changed.

Today Ditch Witch products are seen throughout the free world and they are beginning to appear in some former Iron Curtain countries. They are considered to be among the best-made American products. The company's employees, all 1,300-plus of them, are part-owners of the business and they are among the productive men and women in all of the U.S. Cutting-edge technology is in use every day in the manufacturing, engineering and marketing areas, and the company's integrity is legendary. It is No. 1, Numero Uno, the very best there is, whatever phrase you choose to describe it.

And the people who put it there and keep it there, from Ed Malzahn and right on down the line, are our neighbors, the people who mow their lawns regularly, take part in civic activities, and load up their cars for soccer games, pee-wee baseball and any number of things. They are our friends, and we should never take them or their importance to this community for granted.