In 1969, man took those first historic steps on the moon and the Vietnam war continued in Southeast Asia. Long-hair and bell-bottom jeans were in style and Richard Nixon was the President of the United States. Here in Neosho, 1969 was the year that Crowder Industries began operation.

In 1969, man took those first historic steps on the moon and the Vietnam war continued in Southeast Asia. Long-hair and bell-bottom jeans were in style and Richard Nixon was the President of the United States. Here in Neosho, 1969 was the year that Crowder Industries began operation.
The first location was in a former fire station in the Crowder area but they soon relocated to the current site.
In 2013 voters approved a sales tax to provide assistance for the developmentally disabled in Newton County. A board to administer the funds collected was form and the Newton County Development Disabilities Service Board, also known as the SB40 board, was formed. Two years later, the SB40 board and Crowder Industries merged, with the SB40 taking responsibility for operation of Crowder Industries.
Today, under the guidance and partnership of the Newton County Developmental Disabilities SB40 board, Crowder Industries remains a vital part of Neosho.
"First of all, we're a business," Greg Cook, Crowder Industries general manager said. "We're also a sheltered workshop so the two have to go hand in hand."
Crowder Industries continues to provide meaningful employment to the disabled community of Southwest Missouri. A recent invitation to area business and professional people to tour the facility came from a desire to make more people aware of what Crowder Industries can do for other businesses.
The tours provided an opportunity to showcase what it is they do at Crowder Industries.
Tours are still available for area businesses and industry with advance notice. "We'd love to do a tour and walk them through," Cook said. "We're proud of what we do."
Currently, Crowder Industries has 115 employees, 73 of which are disabled. More than half earn the minimum wage thanks to certification through the United States Department of Labor that allows time studies to determine what rate workers are capable of producing so that they are paid for how they arre able to perform.
"We have a pretty stable work force," Cook stated. Five employees have been on the job for at least forty years, seven more for thirty years, and sixteen employees have marked 20 years at Crowder Industries."
One of those with 40 years of employment is Wayne Ray. Wayne is a dedicated and hard-working member of the Crowder Industries team. "Wayne is normally the guy we can count on to get it done," Cook said.
"When people do business with us, they are helping friends and neighbors hold meaningful jobs in our community," Cook said. "It's not just a job. There's some socialization that occurs too."
Some of their employees might be able to work in competitive workplace but prefer to remain at Crowder Industries. "We think a disabled person should have a choice," Cook said. "And that's why we're here. Our slogan is that our people make the difference. That makes it unique - the edge we have is what we've doing with the folks with Crowder Industries. Many would not have a job and that's the real difference. Look at what you're going with the community."
Some of the current manufacturing firms that contract work with Crowder Industries include La-Z-Boy Midwest, K & S Wire, Snag It, Roxell USA in Anderson, a manufacturer of poultry and farm products, Level Ride Manufacturing Company, Cardinal Scale, Nutra Blend, and Dig Defence. Crowder Industries also creates boxes, in many different sizes for various uses.
"We have a niche within the box business," Cook said. "We can make any kind of box."
A customer survey done last spring yielded all positive feedback.
"We have a great bunch of customers," Cook commented. "So why do we want more? Well, since the SB40 was established, we've stabilized and our facility has improved. We have a little money in the bank but we still want to improve. We want to keep disabled hands busy."
With the money collected through sales tax revenue, the SB40 board has overseen a number of improvements to the facility. One of the major projects involved the roof.
"Three years ago when I started, if we had a lot of rain, the roof leaked.  It leaked a lot," Cook said. "Tamko and the SB40 Board fixed most of the roof on the main building. Then, the tornado that hit Goodman last spring, the same storm dropped hail on Crowder Industries so they got the rest of the roof replaced."
Other projects have included remodeling the restrooms, installation of new LED lighting thanks to Empire District Electric Company and the SB40 board, and some painting.  Upcoming plans are in the works to convert existing space into a new cafeteria/break room area that will include a kitchenette. Hopes to add an onsite doctor/dentist office on site are also ongoing and for that proposed addition, the board is working with Access Family Health Care. An older model Chevrolet truck with over 500,000 miles on it was also replaced by a less used model with just over 100,000 miles.
"The SB40 board has made significant changes," Cook stated. "Since they came in, we're brightening up and remodeling. We have a good relationship with the SB40 Board. We have a landlord that cares about us. They want us to have a good place to work."
Employees enjoy an annual picnic each year as well as a Christmas banquet. This year's Christmas banquet is scheduled for December 7 at The Civic in downtown Neosho. Dinner, dancing, and giveaways will all be part of the evening's events.
Crowder Industries is a small company that is a not for profit sheltered workshop. They do packing, assembly, and make corrugated boxes. Products include metal cutting and riveting, welding, assembly of mechanisms, packing, sorting, fabric cutting, drilling, shrink-wrapping
With employees that make the difference, Crowder Industries offers customers and prospective customers a reliable workforce, quality products and service, on time delivery, and competitive pricing.
Crowder Industries is located at 3707 Howard Bush Drive in the Neosho's Industrial complex.  Greg Cook, general manager, can be reaching by calling 417-451-5075.