HOLSTEIN, Iowa -- On one of the shortest days of the year we bring you the tale of a Siouxland giant, a young pro who thinks big, acts bigger.
Taylor Nees, 27, of Holstein, owns three homes, all of which he's renovated. He currently rents two of them and has one for sale.
Nees stands 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 290 pounds. (He's smaller than the high school senior from Holstein we featured in the Sports section Thursday. That's Ezra Miller, a future Hawkeye offensive lineman who stands 6 feet 7 inches and tips the scales at 310 pounds.)
A project manager for the family firm, Holstein Electric, Taylor Nees goes back and forth from his hometown to Eagle Grove, Iowa, where he's working with RP Constructors to get power going at the Prestage Farms plant being built in that Wright County community.
Oh, and then there's this sideline for Nees: He's hatching a dream called Muff Waders. In short (there's nothing short about this guy), they're overalls designed to quench big thirsts that hunters, football fans, workers and outdoor enthusiasts often possess.
"We put a video on our Facebook site for Muff Waders and in seven days we've gotten 101,000 views," he says.
Nees works with fellow Muff Wader creator Garrett Lamp in seeing through these bibs built for work and play. The overalls are designed with an insulated cooler pouch sewn into the chest area, one large enough for a six-pack of beer, soda, water or energy drink. On each leg there's also an insulated pocket for a bottle of beer or water. There's even a koozie with a magnet on the back, which sticks to a piece of metal at the chest, a piece that doubles as bottle opener.
"Multiple times, I've worn this on a job site and filled the pockets with bottles of water," Nees says.
Nees and Lamp pitched their brainchild to 80 designers and manufacturing firms until a company in the Twin Cities bit. The company made a prototype as Lamp and Nees made progress on a pair of patents, which are pending. Patents, he muses, take quite a bit of money. So does manufacturing.
Which brings us to Saturday's launch of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the Muff Waders dream. Nees says he and Lamp, through Kickstarter, must raise $135,000 in 60 days in order to have 3,400 pairs made. The bibs sell for $85.
"If we get to $135,000, you'll get a pair of the Muff Waders with a care package that we'll include," Nees says. "I know for sure that every care package we send will have a personal note in it."
If the effort falls shy of $135,000, Nees says, Kickstarter will send folks their money back. Those interested can find information by going to www.muffwaders.com and clicking on the Kickstarter button.
Nees says they're not expecting investors to ante up hundreds or thousands of dollars. Rather, he sees this as an effort where most contributors will order a pair, maybe two, of their Muff Waders. "This is totally grassroots," he says.
"We've had some hunting shows contact us, but we've not had any help yet in advertising," Nees says. "We've gotten good feedback, but I'm really pretty nervous. Just because someone watches a video doesn't mean they'll buy."
To get his overalls a running start, Nees planned to make the requisite watering-hole stops on Saturday evening (Dec. 22) in Holstein, the Kickstarter campaign's first day. The project manager/contractor/inventor believes he owes something to his hometown pubs. After all, that's where Nees & Co. hatched this concept.
"The idea hit me one year ago," Nees says. "We were at a bar with some buddies. We drew it up on a napkin."
SIOUX CITY -- It's one of the worst potholes in Sioux City, but city officials say their hands are tied when it comes to fixing the deep void at the railroad crossing near the intersection of Sixth Street and Lewis Boulevard.
Councilman Pete Groetken mentioned the void between the tracks at a city council meeting on Dec. 10 and asked who is responsible for fixing it -- the city or BNSF Railway. Groetken, who said he often drives over the void on his way to Morningside to run errands, has since learned BNSF is responsible.
"When I'm driving down the street and I see cars in front of me, I start to slow down about two blocks earlier, because I know if they don't hit the brake lights a block ahead of time they're going to get a surprise when they get there," said Groetken, who said that hitting the void could result in a flat tire or a broken tie rod.
What Mayor Bob Scott called "by far the worst pothole in the city," appeared Friday to have been patched. The Journal contacted a BNSF representative Wednesday to inquire about the crossing.
There are four lanes of Sixth Street. Recent patching spots could be seen Friday in the two eastbound lanes, and there were no patching places on the two westbound lanes. Cars going in both directions mid-afternoon were still braking to nearly complete stops and rumbling slowly over the tracks.
BNSF spokesman Andy Williams told the Journal in an email Friday that the Sixth Street crossing is routinely inspected and safe for trains and the public.
"This week crews cold patched the void between the rails and will monitor the crossing's condition to ensure it remains safe," Williams wrote.
Sioux City Neighborhood Services Manager Jill Wanderscheid said the void has been on the city's radar since 2014. She said the city has asked that asphalt be placed in the void, but she said the city would prefer that the crossing be replaced.
In 2016, the city approached BNSF hoping they would partner on a repaving project, but the railroad company declined. Wanderscheid said citizen complaints have been relayed to BNSF.
"The city can push, but it's BNSF's responsibility to fix," she said. "If the city could fix it, we definitely would."
Editor's note: The Journal today continues the countdown of the Top 10 Stories of 2018 in Siouxland, as chosen by Journal editors. The No. 1 story will be revealed on Dec. 29, and the Journal's annual Newsmaker of the Year will be named on Dec. 30.
SIOUX CITY -- In a little more than a year, Seaboard Triumph Foods went from fewer than 20 people on staff to more than 1,800.
The pork producing plant hit one year of operation in October, and STF now looks to boost its workforce to 2,000, slaughtering 20,000 hogs per day.
"We are continuing to hire, continuing to ramp up," STF Chief Operating Officer Mark Porter said in October. "Six million hogs (annually) is our destination, late 2019 is where we see reaching that."
The second shift, running from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., comprised roughly 900 jobs.
The plant first went online in September 2017 after two years of construction and two years of discussion and planning before that. A second phase of construction wrapped up in early 2018, bringing the total investment to around $330 million.
The 942,000-square-foot plant is the second-largest fresh pork plant in the world and among the newest of its kind in the United States. Seaboard Triumph Foods is a 50-50 venture between Guymon, Oklahoma-based Seaboard Foods and St. Joseph, Missouri-based Triumph Foods.
The plant hired around 1,100 workers for its first shift, with 900 paid hourly and 200 on salary.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded Seaboard Triumph $16.5 million in state tax credits and sales and use tax refunds that allowed the project to move forward. The city also provided financial incentives, including a $7.7 million property tax waiver for the first five years, based on a scale that will gradually reduce the exemption.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott visited the plant in October. Scott presented the company with a "Growing Sioux City Award."
"They have been nothing but good corporate citizens since they came here," Scott said in October.
Reynolds said agriculture-related businesses are vital to Iowa's economy. Moreover, she said such businesses have a big role in providing "a green, food-secure future" for the rest of the nation and internationally.
"We share the vision of providing safe, quality food," Reynolds said.