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Shining a Light on Manufacturing Day: Ledwell’s Commitment to Inspiring Future Innovators

Panel of manufacturing industry leaders in Texarkana

Every year, on the first Friday in October, Manufacturing Day is celebrated across the United States, reminding us of the vital role manufacturing plays in our economy and society. It’s a day to acknowledge the manufacturing industry’s significance and inspire the next generation of makers, creators, and innovators.

The Texarkana Chamber of Commerce selected Ledwell to host a panel of local professionals from six manufacturing facilities for 60 students from four local high schools: Arkansas, Liberty-Eylau, Premiere, and Redwater. This event exemplifies the commitment of local businesses to invest in the future workforce and promote careers in manufacturing.

Panel of manufacturing industry leaders in Texarkana

The panel of local professionals represented the diverse careers available within manufacturing. Hailing from six different manufacturing facilities in Texarkana, they shared their journeys, challenges, and accomplishments, offering valuable insights to the eager young minds in attendance. From journeymen and foremen to human resources and owners, the panel embodied diverse opportunities in manufacturing.

The panel discussion was an informative experience for the attending students. They discovered diverse career paths, made real-world connections, and gained insight into the skills and qualifications needed for manufacturing careers.

Manufacturing Day is not just another date on the calendar. It’s a day to celebrate innovation, technology, and the people who drive the manufacturing industry forward.

As we look to the future, let’s continue to invest in our youth and nurture their passion for manufacturing, ensuring a bright and innovative future for this vital sector.

Manufacturing Plant tour at Ledwell
Manufacturing Tour with local students at Ledwell

Why Manufacturing Day is important:

Raising Awareness:

Manufacturing Day creates awareness about the manufacturing sector’s importance to the economy, job creation, and technological advancements.


Changing Perceptions:

It helps change the outdated perception of manufacturing careers by showcasing modern facilities, cutting-edge technology, and diverse job roles.


Inspiring the Youth:

It inspires young students to consider careers in manufacturing by exposing them to real-life success stories and role models.

Ledwell hosts Manufacturing Week student tour

Fostering a Community of Growth

Ledwell hosts signing day

Ledwell takes great pride in its commitment to growth and community development. To showcase this dedication, our Education Outreach Team organized a signing day that served as a platform to welcome talented individuals who will join Ledwell this summer.

Signing Day was a special event celebrating the achievements of high school graduates pursuing a manufacturing career.

Ledwell hosts signing day for local high school students
Ledwell attends Pleasant Grove signing day

Deoriq Dixon, Xavier Nash from Atlanta High School, John Calvin, and Perry Hack from Pleasant Grove High School were among those we welcomed into the Ledwell family. These talented individuals have shown exceptional promise and dedication, making them stand out in their pursuit of a career in the industry.

The company’s innovative approach to recognizing high school graduates entering the manufacturing workforce serves as an inspiration to the next generation. The achievements of these four individuals demonstrate that success is attainable through alternative educational pathways.

The hope is that this event sends a powerful message to young individuals that they can build a fulfilling and prosperous career in manufacturing, utilizing their unique talents and skills.

Ledwell welcomes these new employees with open arms, ready to support and empower them on their journey to success.

Atlanta Texas High School Senior at Ledwell Signing Day
Atlanta High School Senior at Ledwell Signing Day
PG High School Senior at Ledwell Signing Day

Ledwell Celebrates Manufacturing Space Expansion

Ledwell Celebrates new manufacturing space with ribbon cutting

Ledwell recently announced the expansion of its manufacturing space with the addition of 66,000 square feet to supplement the existing twelve acres of space under roof.

With this significant expansion, Ledwell aims to add new jobs and increase efficiencies by focusing on technological refinements to its production line and engineering.

Ledwell Celebrates new manufacturing space with ribbon cutting
Ledwell celebrates additional 66,000 square feet of manufacturing space
Ledwell celebrates additional manufacturing space
Ledwell celebrates additional manufacturing space in 2023

Ledwell hosted a ribbon-cutting event on Thursday, May 18th, 2023, to celebrate. The Ledwell workforce in Texas and members of the community attended the event. The celebration was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Ledwell team.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was led by Lesley Ledwell, President, who expressed her gratitude to everyone who has supported the company over the years. “We would not be where we are today without the support of our customers, employees, and community.”

Ledwell is known for meeting customer challenges with innovative solutions. This time, the solution is a brand-new manufacturing facility with endless possibilities. The new facility will offer the flexibility to fabricate and enhance its diverse product offering.

Ledwell add more manufacturing space in 2023
Aerial view of Ledwell's newest manufacturing shop
Lesley Ledwell speaking at ribbon cutting celebrating new manufacturing space at Ledwell
Ledwell ribbon cutting

Putting the Woman in Manufacturing

Girl Power to the Max Competition Winners

What comes to mind at the mention of women in manufacturing?

Rosie the Riveter, perhaps?  Our minds revert to a throwback from the early 1940s.  The only reason we have that icon is because men were off to war and someone—women—had to do the job.  Once the necessity was over, the Rosies went back to non-manufacturing duties.  Subsequent potential Rosies were prohibited or, at the very least, discouraged from taking technical and skilled trade classes. 

Today, a smaller percentage of women are choosing to be Rosies than the originals, despite the evolution of STEM and manufacturing.  Fortunately, an initiative is growing to put more girls in contact with manufacturing equipment.

Girl Power to the Max Competition Judges
Girl Power to the Max Competition
Girl Power to the Max Competition Organizers

In partnership with three regional Arkansas education cooperatives, Ledwell kicked off Women’s History Month by hosting a manufacturing competition for high-school girls.  The “Girl Power to the Max” event, held on March 1, showcased the entries of 21 finalists.  Similar to applying for a job, the finalists were judged on creativity, construction design, technical skill, and interview responses.

The winners, including Kinlee Stivers, Mallory Abercrombie, and Emily Lewis, received trophies from Boss Laser, cash awards, and $500 tuition waivers from the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.

Girls from De Queen-Mena, South Central, and Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperatives created projects, ranging from decorative to functional, using CNC cutting and lasering with an emphasis on welding and power structural systems.  CNC, or computer numerical control, involves using specific computer-programming language to control the movement of factory machinery. 

Essentially, it is modernized manufacturing and applicable STEM.

The goal of the competition is to increase the number of females seeking and qualifying for high-paying, high-demand, and highly skilled innovative construction/manufacturing occupations.   Forty girls participated in last year’s competition, but that number increased to 125 this year. 

Not only did more students enter the contest, more girls surveyed after the event answered that they would be interested in working toward a future in STEM or manufacturing.  This is a big win for the competition!

Another win for the program includes significant grants from the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Career and Technical Education that have been awarded to districts without the latest CNC and laser equipment.  Therefore, students will be learning to use machines that are being used in today’s manufacturing workforce. 

Girl Power to the Max Competition Winners

Technical teachers are also receiving professional development led by welding instructors to update their skills and knowledge.  Ledwell has offered to be in partnership in this endeavor.

With its educational outreach and in conjunction with “Girl Power to the Max” organizers, Ledwell plans to put more Rosies in the manufacturing workforce.  Rosie will no longer be an image from the past but a trailblazer of the future.

Proof is in the Patent

Ledwell Gull Wing
tilt deck trailer with Ledwell maxtilt

Innovation is a marker of success at Ledwell. Ledwell holds numerous patents for its unique designs of individual parts as well as entire apparatuses to make work more efficient for its customers.

Among the first patents applied for by the company in 1974 was for a chicken harvesting and transportation system. More recently in 2022, Ledwell obtained patents for original features found in its Gull Wing, HydraTilt Truck, and the MaxTilt Trailer.

When Ledwell discovered that the kind of hydraulic cylinders that lift weather-resistant doors of its Gull Wing was the only product of its kind produced in the United States by an American manufacturer, the company filed for a patent, which covers a complete truck body package. The Gull Wing provides convenient loading and unloading, protecting users and products from less favorable weather conditions and keeping them safe.

Patents can also pertain to specific aspects of designs or machines. In Ledwell’s case, a unified hinge used in HydraTilt Trucks and MaxTilt Trailers is covered by a patent. This part of the design is essential to raising the main decks to an unmatched level of up to 32 degrees of tilt.

Ledwell designed and Ledwell made—American protected.

Manufacturer Ledwell Patented Equipment

Manufacturing the Future

Ledwell is expanding!

An additional 66,000 square feet of manufacturing space will be added to the existing 12 acres of space under roof.

To support growing industries, the company’s new state-of-the-art facility will offer the flexibility to fabricate, produce, or enhance machinery. Ledwell hopes to increase production efficiency by creating 100 or more jobs and adding more automation with the expansion.

“The expanded building is not just adding production capacity for our customers; it is also a strategic step toward enhancing our skilled workforce with innovative manufacturing technologies and advancements in automation, robotic welding, and material handling, “ says Michael Hawkins, Director of Operations.

Ledwell is known to meet customer challenges with innovative solutions – this time, the solution is a brand-new shop with endless possibilities.

Engineering Advancements

Manufacturer Ledwell Engineering Advancements
Manufacturer Ledwell Engineering Advancements


In Ledwell’s early years, engineers created line drawings by hand with pencil and paper. Engineers used huge pieces of drafting paper and kept the drawings on hand to reference when needed.

Even when computers and electronics became available, the drawings were still 2D, and those engineering advancements were not as detailed as the electronic drawings we have today.

Ledwell engineer


Ledwell’s engineering department has come a long way in 75 years. Today, engineers use software that allows them to draw equipment and parts using exact measurements. They can add chassis to truck
bodies to determine the weight of a finished product.

They can even go as far as moving axles to meet bridge laws in certain states. These drawings give a 360-degree view of a completed piece of equipment. Documents like the one below are sent to each shop to guide them through cutting and constructing components.

DLA Distribution Red River Team Increases Performance to 98% On-Time from 87% Thanks to Custom Gull Wing Delivery Trucks

Ledwell serves the material handling industry - Gull Win unloading

The Opportunity

During his 25-year career in the military, Seth Olmstead traveled all over the world—including Japan.

“Japan has a very narrow road network,” he said. “They have to maximize the space they have. One of the things I saw while I was in Japan was delivery trucks that opened on the sides to allow for quick, easy unloading.”

Fast forward to 2020, when Olmstead served as the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Distribution Red River Commander.

He was helping his team troubleshoot moving inventory in inclement weather. DLA services the Department of Defense and State throughout the world, Olmstead said, and when a requisition comes in for material, they fulfill it.

“We were having trouble moving material due to the rain,” he said. “We had $13 billion of inventory, but most of it was stored in cardboard boxes. When it rained, the only thing we had to move the material between warehouse and shipping locations was a flatbed trailer, but you can’t move cardboard boxes on a flatbed in the rain.”

Frustrated with the rain’s impact on his team’s performance metrics, Olmstead knew they needed a better solution—like what he’d seen in Japan.

Ledwell Gull Wing

The Solution: Ledwell Gull Wing

“I told my team to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get one of those trucks,” he said.

His team researched trucks in Japan and began reaching out to vendors, but those companies would not export them to the United States.

Then, Olmstead’s equipment specialist came to him with good news: not only had he found that type of truck here in the U.S., but it was also made locally at Ledwell.

A meeting was immediately set for him and his team—including a driver and safety personnel—to visit Ledwell and see a Gull Wing, Ledwell’s version of the trucks Olmstead had seen in action in Japan.

Originally developed as a custom product for Wholesale Electric, Ledwell’s patented Gull Wing helped the electric wholesaler revolutionize its distribution model. Its watertight side doors keep valuable cargo dry and make it easier for delivery drivers to unload specific pieces of equipment quickly.

“Steve [Ledwell] and his team were very accommodating,” Olmstead said. “They answered every question we had no matter how crazy or off-the-wall it was. We figured out in about an hour that these vehicles would make a difference. DLA Red River purchased three of the vehicles.”

Adapting the Gull Wings to fit DLA’s unique needs is a process Ledwell is familiar with. Engineer Gary Gathright said several changes and safety features were incorporated into DLA’s Gull Wings, including a safety feature that prevents the truck from moving if one of the wings is open.

“We did the controls differently. We’ve since added those upgrades to all of the new Gull Wing units, whether it be for them or another client,” Gathright said. “We changed how things are operated in the cab, incorporated a greaseable hinge that makes the service life better for the whole unit. A lot of our improvements are customer-driven. We end up incorporating those not just into a unit for that particular customer, but into the unit as a whole, so we ultimately make our entire product line better.”

The Results

With its new Gull Wing units, Olmstead’s team was able to deliver efficiently no matter the weather.

Their performance metrics lifted from 87% on-time to 98% on time in a matter of weeks.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of success. Seeing DLA’s numbers inspired Anniston Army Depot to make their order, which Ledwell is customizing to accommodate Anniston’s lower awnings.

“It was almost seamless,” Olmstead said. “Gary was able to do the calculations for those changes on the fly, and Anniston immediately found confidence in the truck because the engineer gave them the nod that this equipment would work for their needs.”

Founded by a veteran, Ledwell has always had a soft spot for projects that help our military succeed.

“Just being a local source to provide a solution for what is ultimately a local portion of a worldwide provider of support services for our warfighters could, in the future, open up a lot of doors for us to continue our reach as a worldwide company,” Gathright said.

Truck Body Manufacturer Ledwell patented Gull Wing
Ledwell serves the material handling industry - Gull Win unloading

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Decades of Innovation

Ledwell Innovation over the Years

For 75 years, Ledwell has continued its legacy of excellence with an expansion of services, an eye for quality, and dedicated customer service. As our customers’ needs grow and evolve, Ledwell’s innovation and product offerings.

You’ll find those developments on this timeline along with some fun facts about Ledwell, including its stint as a film distribution company in the ‘70s.

1946 Buddy Ledwell and his father start Ledwell & Son, a lumber hauling company.

1950 Ledwell shifts to building pick-up racks.

1955 Ledwell begins manufacturing dump trucks.

1955 Buddy incorporates Ledwell & Son. Moves to his new shop at the corner of Waco Street and Robison Road in Texarkana.

1957 Ledwell sells its first feed body and delivers it 100 miles away.

1966 Ledwell becomes a Bobcat dealer.

1971 Ledwell builds satellite antenna that is shipped in sections to South America.

1972 – 1975 Ledwell Film Distribution releases Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), Bootleggers (1974), and Winter Hawk (1975).

1976 Ledwell constructs first HydraTail Trailer.

1977 Ledwell builds first set of water trucks.

1980 Ledwell buys its first Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machine, a significant step for in-house parts production.

1986 Ledwell celebrates four decades of innovations and relationships.

1990 Ledwell expands and modernizes machine shop, allowing for increased production and ability.

1999 Ledwell expands its international presence with more products going into Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

2008 Ledwell opens office in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to serve customers in the area.

2009 Ledwell Machinery opens, providing Bobcat, Toro, and Stihl equipment to the Texarkana area.

2009 Ledwell partners with First Response Team of America.

2010 Ledwell enters the vacuum truck industry.

2012 Ledwell Office opens.

2013 Ledwell builds its first TMA Crash Truck.

2016 Ledwell manufactures patented Gull Wing.

2017 Ledwell adds powder coating facility.

2019 Ledwell designs and builds first TrakVac.

2019 Ledwell installs first robot welder.

2019 Ledwell manufactures patent-pending HydraTilt Truck.

2020 Ledwell manufactures patent-pending MaxTilt Trailer.

2020 Ledwell receives Innovation Award for Solar Lift Loading Ramp.

2021 Ledwell celebrates turning 75!

Manufacturing Solutions for 75 Years

Buddy Ledwell manufacturing solution

How it started

After returning from WWII in 1946, Buddy and his father L.W. Ledwell Sr. started a lumber company called Ledwell & Son in Texarkana, Texas. One day Buddy needed a certain kind of truck trailer to haul lumber, so he rolled up his sleeves and welded the frame he needed to get the job done.

A neighboring farmer saw the trailer and asked, “Where’d you get that? I need one!” So Buddy built it.

Pretty soon, Ledwell & Son had a burgeoning side business building pickup racks and livestock trailers, and it soon became the focus of the operation. When a farmer or a feedlot owner identified a problem with their equipment, Buddy and his father found a way to manufacture a solution.

Original location of Ledwell and Son Lumber

How it’s going

Seventy-five years later, Ledwell builds custom trailers and truck bodies for just about every industry—from water and feed trucks to their own patented hydraulic trailers—for customers all over the world. If a need arises for a truck or trailer to perform a job or haul a particular piece of equipment, Ledwell finds a way to manufacture a solution.

“We build our trucks and trailers to be tough,” said Steve Ledwell.

“Things that are add-ons for other manufacturers, like stronger steel and thicker water tank linings, are standard on our products. With proper care and maintenance, we expect our customers to get decades of service out of our equipment. That’s what ‘Ledwell Made’ means to us.”

The company also prides itself on service and its US-made equipment, with more than 85% of their parts manufactured in-house.

Today, the legacy of the 75-year old business continues under the fourth generation leadership of Buddy’s granddaughter, Lesley Ledwell Dukelow. Ledwell has grown to employ more than 500 workers and has vastly expanded the company’s plant footprint in Texarkana, along with adding a location in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“The fact that the business has grown to provide so many jobs while still maintaining a family atmosphere is something we’re very proud of,” Dukelow said. “The level of dedication and service that our team  provides our customers has only gotten stronger over the last 75 years.”

buddy ledwell with lumber
Ledwell vintage business card
Ledwell Original Pickup Rack
Early Ledwell Feed Truck
Buddy Ledwell operating chicken catcher
Ledwell Feed Truck for Purina Chow
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