By JIM OFFNER | Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

DIKE, Iowa (AP) — Nathan Garbes is the first to admit his company may be the best-kept secret in the Cedar Valley.

“I'm sure a lot of people who drive by our buildings aren't sure what we are or what we do,” said Garbes, plant manager at the Delta McKenzie Targets manufacturing plant in Dike.

Customers do know what the company does, though, and their number is growing, Garbes said.

“We do a heavy volume in a niche-type of market,” Garbes said March 13 as he was completing his first week on the job after having moved in from a job as production manager at MetoKote Corp. in Cedar Falls. “We have a couple of primary competitors but holding up strong against those. We have some good design people here working on some new projects that I can't speak to, unfortunately, but working on some innovative stuff, as far as the target market goes, and I'm very excited for what the future brings, especially in 2015 and 16, as well.”

The company's future had to have been a bit more cloudy in the not-too-distant past, especially after fire broke out in the early evening hours of Aug. 8, 2008, at the firm's former plant in Reinbeck. Fueled by chemicals in storage, the blaze swept through one production area and then another, leaving the plant a total loss.

“I think they needed to have an opportunity to continue to develop and make product as quickly as possible,” Garbes said.

A plan emerged quickly, and the company found new quarters within a few months in a recently closed tractor dealer in Dike, the bankrupt Walterman Implement Inc.

When the smoke had cleared and pain of the fire abated, the move turned out to be a positive for Delta McKenzie, which manufactures archery targets, decoys, accessories and replacement parts for bowhunters.

The new building is bigger and features an expandable layout, said Mike Shock, a product engineer with the company since 2011, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier  reports.

“The Reinbeck plant was 85,000-square-feet, and was land-locked,” Shock said. “They didn't have anywhere else to expand, so they were kind of stuck. After the fire, this building presented itself and for size, it's perfect.”

The Dike plant currently has 150,000 square feet, he said.

“Obviously, it has been redesigned to fit our needs and done well,” Garbes said. “We have some other key people that are changing over to capitalize what we can do here.”

Delta McKenzie Targets is a subsidiary of Salt Lake City-based Easton Technical Products Inc., and the Dike plant distributes its products across North America, Garbes said.

“Here in Dike, what we make is Delta McKenzie targets for bowhunting,” he said. “There are three primary ones – bag targets, layered foam targets and 3-D targets used not only in backyards but archery ranges.”

The parent company makes arrows and components for bowhunting and archery and a clothing line, Garbes said.

He said sales have been strong for the Dike manufacturer, which employs about 45 workers.

“As far as an employment, pretty good, as far as a small-town community,” he said.

Hunters who shop in stores like Cabela's and Scheels All Sports, even Kmart, will find targets made in Dike, Garbes said.

“Products can be found in multiple department stores; we do a lot in big-box retailers,” he said. “Cabela's carries our targets not only under our brand name but as a branded Cabela's target. We're working on some stuff with them in other areas, as well.”

Gov. Terry Branstad recently visited the Dike plant as part of a daylong tour through a number of manufacturers in the region.

Jeff Kolb, executive director of Butler County Development Corp. and the Grundy County Development Alliance, arranged the visit at Delta McKenzie, as well as a couple of other stops.

Kolb said the visit reinforced the notion that small-town manufacturers, such as Delta McKenzie, are important components in Iowa's economic health.

“I think it's good to showcase we have a wide variety of products made here,” Kolb said. “Not everything is directly related to agriculture or agriculture equipment. I guess it shows our diversity of the products that are made here.”