Tarps far and wide

They can be seen on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Freedom Tower, in a farmer's field here in the Tri-States, and just about everywhere in between.

While this product can be seen all around the country, they come from Meredosia, Illinois.

The material used in the tarps was made for airbags in cars, but it was found to not be as effective as other products, so it has now found a new life. It's the building blocks of large tarps at Tarps Manufacturing in Meredosia.

"We have roll tarps for trucks and grain carts. Our biggest portion now are containment tarps for bridges when they sandblast and paint," Tarps Manufacturing President Jeff Davidsmeyer said.

Tarps Manufacturing actually started out making containment tarps for construction purposes back in 2004.

"It didn't take off as fast as we thought it would, but in the meantime we had farmers and truckers stop and ask if we could repair tarps and make new ones. We taught ourselves how to do that. That took off and kind of kept our doors open," Operations Manager Rich Ott said.

There are two employees dedicated to handling that aspect. Four others work here in the production part of the plant.

Besides the handful of employees, these machines are also considered colleagues. These sewing machines are 30- to 40-years-old, and that's the way the employees and management like it. They are very reliable and if they break down, they can be fixed right here.

Tarps Manufacturing also fixed itself about a year and a half ago. They changed the manufacturing process here to a lean management philosophy to eliminate waste.

"To do that, you have to have a continuous flow. We literally made the room upside down and shifted everything around. All of our roles are over there. We literally pull the roll off, cut it, and then it goes to the sewing machine. It finally ends up back here at the grommet machines," Davidsmeyer said.

That's next to shipping, where tarps can be folded and shipped to wherever they need to go. Some of the more famous places these tarps have ended up. Right now, they are hanging on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Freedom Tower in New York City. You may have even seen one prominently displayed during a memorial service at Ground Zero. This large American flag was made right here in Meredosia.

"I was very proud that that was ours. Still a little shocked. I wondered if it was ours, and I received an email from our customer saying that was the flag that we made," Ott said.

And that customer will likely recommend Tarps Manufacturing to other clients, which is what helped this business grow to what it is today.

Besides the containment tarps and tarps for farm implements, the folks at Tarps Manufacturing can make a tarp for just about anything.

The company is currently in talks to make tarps to cover the baseball field at John Wood Community College.

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