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We’re celebrating our 90th year of business in 2022! Follow along  with our 4-part series as we dive into what makes us innovative, genuine, exceptional and engaged!


Nothing lays a foundation for a great origin story like a little electricity and a dash of old fashioned hard work. Here’s a deeper look into how we got our start. 

It’s 1934, right in the middle of the Great Depression, and I found myself in the middle of nowhere… wondering how I was going to fix the flat on my Studebaker.  I began walking down this dusty county road in the middle of Nebraska, surrounded by farmland and fields of corn as far as I could see. It’s hot out, really hot. My shirt is soaked and the sweat drips from the back of my neck as I kick my tire down the dusty dirt road. It was just a few days before my 29th birthday and I found myself staring at the road in front of me and the miles of rural electric lines running over my head into the hazy distance. Where are they going? I thought to myself.  What does this mean? Who uses this power, and how?

It wasn’t long before a grizzled old man with a leathery face and overalls stopped and asked me if I needed some help. I threw my flat tire in the back of his truck and jumped in. I introduced myself…”I’m JD Forney”… and thanked him for the ride.  I asked him about the power lines running overhead, along-side the road. He thought about that for a few minutes and said it really has changed their lives. As we turned into the rutted dirt driveway, I noticed the heavy black wires coming from the power pole directly into his house and barn.

“We have lights where we had candles and kerosene lamps a decade ago”, said the farmer. “We now have a washing machine, a water heater, a toaster and oven, a few small appliances, and a radio.” We walked to the barn and stepped into a large open space that included a work bench and some hand tools.  He jumped right in and pulled the tire apart and slid out the innertube. He fixed that tire in nothing flat. He let me pump up the tire with a hand pump. The next thing I know I am back at my car and this grizzled old farmer helped me get on my way.

I thanked the old guy for helping me and offered to pay him for his help. He refused the offer as that is what people did in the middle of a depression. We help each other.

A few years later those REA lines still intrigued me. I had invented a welder to sell alongside a new way to run a demo in the farmland. So, I did what any resourceful 30- something entrepreneur would do. I tied a power cord around my waist and shimmied up that pole. I was able to hook a positive and negative lead to the power line and then ran that lead to the welder sitting at the base of that pole. I was surprised it actually worked. I went to the REA (Rural Electric Association) the very next day and convinced the Association to allow me/my company to climb those poles and hook power leads to the welder. We were the only company in the US allowed to do that. This opened a whole new market for us. The farming industry represented nearly 7 million farms. We had a product that helped a farmer mend things. A company and a product that helped the farmer fix his tractor, a plow or repair a combine. Money was scarce during the depression, but if it meant a farmer could fix it himself, that would save him money. This opened up endless possibilities for us and we took advantage of it.

Story by Steve Anderson, President & CEO of Forney Industries, as a testament to the innovation that began his family's company 90 years ago.