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FEATURE: Workforce Development and Company Leadership Helps Make Business Go ‘Round

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Design Tanks, once a division of Raven Industries, moved into its existing location, broke off from Raven and became a stand-alone company in 2000. Fifteen years later, the new company president and CEO is ready to develop Design Tanks and take it to the next level. Enter, Marty Comes.

Comes grew up in Waverly, S.D., joined the military for three years of active duty, and returned home, graduating from South Dakota State University with a mechanical engineering degree. He started his career with Angus-Palm in Watertown, quickly moving up into a quality management position for the South Dakota and Minnesota facilities. In 1996, he was promoted to vice president of sales.

With the acquisition of a competitor’s factory in 2008, he eventually moved to South Carolina for a few years then returned to the company headquarters in South Dakota. In 2011, Angus-Palm was acquired by Worthington Industries where Comes continued leading and supporting Sales, Engineering and Product Development. The future outlook was to have Comes relocate to his next assignment at company headquarters—in Columbus, Ohio.

“I knew my future wasn’t in Columbus, I wanted to stay home in South Dakota,” Comes said. “I left Worthington Industries and began doing consulting work until May of this year when I learned of the opportunity to grow and develop Design Tanks. What I liked about Design Tanks was that it is very similar to Angus-Palm when I started 24 years ago. I saw a lot of opportunity for workforce development, leadership development and implementation of lean practices to grow the company in the fiberglass tank space,” he added.

So Comes, and other company leaders, began evaluating the company’s existing employees, implementing lean manufacturing activities, and reassigning job responsibilities.

“I saw a lot of potential in the employees. They each had a lot of tasks, but not necessarily the right tasks,” Comes said. “So we realigned the organizational structure to make job responsibilities more efficient, and ultimately more effective, which allowed our company to function at a more efficient capacity.”

Already Comes has meaningfully updated the Human Resources position, hired an IT person and shifted duties that better suit job functions and personnel strengths.

“The more we’re known in Sioux Falls and South Dakota as a growing, innovative place to work, we’ll not only be able to attract the best production workers, but engineers, IT and sales people as well,” Comes said.

“There’s a cultural element there, too,” Comes added. “Our ultimate goal is getting people to do what they do because they want to do it and because they enjoy doing it—not because they feel they have to. The culture used to be that ‘you do it this way or else’ and that’s not the culture we’re going to grow here at Design Tanks.”

At the end of the day, company leaders say that the work ethic in South Dakota is why South Dakota has an unemployment rate like we do—it’s because there’s a dynamic, robust group of people who work hard for a living. But not only that, the business community is just that, a community of supportive businesses excited to collaborate and encourage the success of their competitors.

Design Tanks continues to evolve and grow, empowering its employees to continually strive for a better company and a better place to work—something that is at the heart of the company’s success.

For more information about Design Tanks, visit its website,

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