The Killdeer natives had moved back to North Dakota from Phoenix. Don Hedger, who earned a degree in electrical engineering at the University of North Dakota, had worked at Sperry Flight Systems in Phoenix for 19 years. Sperry is now part of Honeywell International Inc.
At Sperry, Don Hedger designed and sold aviation equipment. The Hedgers set an ambitious goal starting a company in western North Dakota to supply electronic gear to the aerospace industry’s giants.
“Our plan was to provide good, steady jobs for the southwestern North Dakota area, to reach out to the schools and their students, to introduce them to something a little different,” Patricia Hedger said.
That was 30 years ago. Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing has grown into a business that employs almost 300 people in Killdeer, Dickinson, Regent and Hettinger, and supplies gear to Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other prominent aerospace companies.
A model of the Boeing 777, one of the company’s workhorse commercial airliners, sits in the lobby of KMM’s manufacturing facility in Dickinson. According to Don Hedger, the company has about $38 million in annual sales.
Given the hubbub of today’s oil boom, it’s easy to forget about what southwestern North Dakota’s economy was like in the late 1980s.
The region was suffering through a scorching drought and low prices for oil and farm commodities. North Dakota’s oil production, which peaked in March 1984, had fallen 23 percent by the time KMM was founded in May 1987. The price of oil was about $19 a barrel, and a bushel of hard red spring wheat brought about $2.90.
Building lots that had been developed for homes during the early 1980s stood empty. Housing sales and prices were depressed, and hundreds of homes sat vacant.
The business began in a leased former hardware store in Killdeer, with about a dozen employees.
The fledgling company’s first job was making electronic parts for Washington-based ELDEC Corp., which is now part of Crane Co., a Stamford, Conn., based industrial products manufacturer.
Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing manufactures electronic gear to its customers’ specifications. The company has made sensor components that indicate whether an airliner’s landing wheels are down, and whether its doors are properly sealed. Its wire harnesses and circuit boards make up the brains and nervous systems of airplanes, helicopters and other aircraft.
“Every contract is so different,” Patricia Hedger said. “Where this product is going, what it’s going to end up doing, it’s a real challenge for the people who work in that particular manufacturing group. They all get together, and it just becomes almost like a family.”
KMM has gradually built a network of customers and a reputation as a reliable equipment supplier, established with the help of appearances at countless customer symposiums and regular sales calls on current and prospective customers.
“It was a long haul to get those relationships established,” Don Hedger said.
Like other businesses in western North Dakota, Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing has to compete with the oil industry for skilled labor.
The company recently opened a day-care center at its Killdeer location. Don Hedger said KMM is considering developing a 24-unit housing complex at Killdeer to provide affordable housing for employees.
Through research conducted with the U.S. military, another major customer, and North Dakota universities, KMM is developing proprietary products for future production.
Thanks to the dedication, hard work and outstanding skills of all of the KMM team, the company is looking forward to another 29 years and beyond.
The company is a family business. Don and Patricia Hedger are majority shareholders. The Hedgers’ children; Dan Hedger, Patrick Hedger and Deb Hedger work for KMM, as do two of their grandchildren, Kristin Hedger and Erika Hedger Bauer. According to Don Hedger, the company’s family ownership structure helps to assure continuity of the business, and Don and Patricia Hedger have declined a number of offers to buy it.
“The grandchildren both seem to be in areas of the company that suit their personalities and their desires so perfectly, and of course, our children, the same way,” Patricia Hedger said. “It’s just tailor-made for what they excel in.”
Article Credit of Adams County Record:
Boeing recognizes Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing
LAUREN DONOVAN Bismarck Tribune Apr 15, 2016
Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing Inc., a western North Dakota manufacturer in the aerospace and defense industry, was presented with the Excellence in Advocacy Award by the Boeing Co. for creating jobs and economic success in the industry.KMM, a third-generation, family-owned company that employs 350 people in Killdeer, Dickinson, Hettinger and Regent, makes electronic subassemblies for Boeing.
Don and Patricia Hedger, of Killdeer, founded the company in 1987 and accepted the award April 13 in Seattle, along with Dan Hedger, senior vice president, and Kristin Hedger, vice president for business development.Boeing recognized KMM’s work to regain lending authority for the Export-Import Bank, which had lapsed for five months. The bank plays a crucial role in financing overseas sales of American companies’ products.
Tim Keating, Boeing’s senior vice president for government operations, said KMM’s efforts helped Boeing to “navigate one of the most challenging sessions of Congress — helping to reauthorize the critical Export-Import Bank, garner funding for key defense programs and protect tax incentives across the country that secure manufacturing jobs.”
“KMM is committed to growing jobs, expanding the economy in North Dakota and in the United States. A functioning Export-Import Bank is critical to facilitating U.S. sales abroad,” Kristin Hedger said.
Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing supervisor honored by Department of Defense for patriotic support
DICKINSON, N.D. – North Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense office, announced Erika Bauer, supervisor of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing was honored with a Patriot Award in recognition of extraordinary support of her employee, Spc. Kendra Erdely, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 164th Engineer Battalion, North Dakota National Guard.
“The Patriot Award was created by ESGR to publicly recognize individuals who provide outstanding patriotic support and cooperation to their employees, who like the citizen warriors before them, have answered their nation’s call to serve,” said Richard Brauhn, Dickinson ESGR Committee Chair. “Supportive supervisors are critical to maintain the strength and readiness of the nation’s Guard and Reserve units.”
Erdely’s nomination reads: “Erika Bauer has ensured that I will not be penalized for any of my National Guard duties even when it requires me to be away from work. When I joined the Military Funeral honors, my company allows me to leave for an undetermined amount of hours during the day to support funerals. I am then allowed to stay late or work from home to accomplish my work at a later time. In the past year, I was accepted for a promotion in my company regardless if I were to deploy in the future. They would save my position and delegate my responsibilities to a team until I return.”
“Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing produces electrical cabling for aircraft and has several contracts for military aircraft. They employ veterans and have two active Army Guardsmen. They are a very military friendly company” states Brauhn.
On behalf of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, Erika Bauer participated in the ceremony by affirming their military support signing an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Statement of Support.
ESGR, a Department of Defense office, seeks to foster a culture in which all employers support and value the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve of the United States. ESGR facilitates and promotes a cooperative culture of employer support for the National Guard and Reserve by developing and advocating mutually beneficial initiatives, recognizing outstanding employer support, increasing awareness of applicable laws and policies, resolving potential conflicts between employers and their service members, and acting as the employers’ principal advocate with DoD. Paramount to ESGR’s mission is encouraging employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective, and proven leadership to the workforce.
For more information about ESGR outreach programs or volunteer opportunities, call 1-800-336-4590 or visit www.ESGR.mil.