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Great Plains Industries’ Roots Run Deep into Engineering

Great Plains Industries’ Roots Run Deep into Engineering

Did you know that Great Plains Industries was founded by an engineer? Charlie Peer took a career downturn and turned it into an opportunity for countless people when he started GPI. Because his first company, ASC, was an aircraft company and the aircraft industry was in a slump, Charlie turned to his knowledge of refrigeration technology to introduce an evaporative cooler for farm equipment, as well as a transfer pump under the company name Great Plains Industries.

GPI founder Charlie Peer showed a mechanical inclination early on. His curiosity led him to try making gunpowder in the basement – YIKES! -- and his parents even allowed him to take apart and rebuild the transmission on their only car. When he was in high school, a family friend gave Charlie work during the summer, repairing industrial refrigeration units. His employer encouraged him to attend college and Charlie saved all his summer earnings to pay for Engineering School at the University of Michigan.

Charlie Peer(left) and friends in high school show off their model airplanes.

Growing up in Michigan, Charlie Peer’s father worked in the automotive industry during the unionization of the automotive manufacturers. The violence that resulted shaped Charlie’s view of what an employer should be. He felt that workers were not treated well or valued enough, and his experience in the military showed him how different work could be when there was a team mentality.

Charlie Peer working as an engineer at the Coleman Company.

 When Charlie Peer decided to start a business (ASC/GPI) rather than find a job, his two partners were also both out-of-work engineers themselves, willing to “work for stock in a worthless company”. He felt strongly about the importance of research and development and the company invested heavily in product development. Charlie himself admitted,

“We made some mistakes. We rebounded immediately. […] One of the things that was really important when we made mistakes was that we recognized them immediately and made the necessary changes almost instantaneously.”

Within his newly founded company GPI, Charles Peer felt it important to instill innovation and adaptability within its fabric, and to ensure the company felt like a family. Not only was it priority to have the company remain locally owned (by the family, investors, and employees), but Charles also wanted his employees to be successful in ways that didn’t feel possible at other businesses,

“We have what I believe is a pro-employee philosophy here. We try very hard to do things that will help them grow.”

GPI offers many benefits outside of the typical: a wellness program, profit sharing, and educational reimbursement to name a few. Charles also believed in promoting from within, which is a frequent practice to this day.

Great Plains Industries employs MANY engineers, some in engineering roles, some not! In fact, GPI’s president holds an engineering degree. And, the president of our sister company ASC is also an engineer! To our engineer founder Charles Peer, innovation and adaptability were critical to business success and in a manufacturing company like GPI, engineers remain a critical role helping answer customers’ problems. This week, and every week, we celebrate our engineers!

Charlie Peer during his time in the Army.
Charlie Peer (left) during his time in the Army.
Young Charlie Peer (left) and younger brother, Jerry in Michigan.
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