Lester Building Systems: Standing the Test of Time
Published on Tue, 07/18/2017 - 10:10am
Lester Building Systems: Standing the Test of Time
By Steve Weisman
Standing the test of time. This phrase aptly describes Lester Building Systems (LesterBuildings.com), which is celebrating its 70th year in the building manufacturing business. With headquarters located approximately 45 miles west of Minneapolis in Lester Prairie, MN, Lester Buildings Systems is recognized in the construction industry as a company that builds people’s dreams. That’s why over 150,000 Lester buildings have been built across the United States since 1947, and Lester Buildings has become the go-to builder for farmers, ranchers, hobbyists and business owners.
Lester’s niche in the livestock market has been due to its ability to custom-design dairy barns to meet the producers’ needs. From small single building expansions to large multi-site commercial-style operations for some of the country’s largest producers, Lester can do it all. Lester has built a company of approximately 225 employees with plants located in Lester Prairie, MN, Charleston, IL and Clear Brook, VA.
Not only do they build dairies and farm shops, Lester also builds housing for other livestock such as beef cattle, hogs and chickens. In addition, they build horse stall barns and arenas, commercial offices and storage buildings, smaller garages and hobby shops – and even buildings for residential use.
According to Stephanie Beste, Brand Manager, “Here in Lester Prairie, we have a plant where we manufacture laminated columns and trusses, along with other wood components. At our Charleston, IL plant we roll form our own steel and trim, and we also produce columns and trusses there. We employ several in-house engineers and many drafters to design, engineer and draw the buildings.”
Lester Buildings has two distribution models. In parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, nine sales people are employed who sell directly to customers. Beste adds, “We also have construction crews to build buildings in those territories. Then we have approximately 140 independent contractors who are our dealers, and they sell and erect our buildings in 38 states.”
Craig Loger, who is Vice President of Sales, “We truly believe that we are helping build people’s dreams. No matter the size, we take what the customer wants and then our engineers work with them to come up with a plan. We have the engineering capability to build exactly what the customer desires.”
Brian Spors, Design Engineer, agrees. “Once we learn what the customer wants, we then have a lot of back and forth between us to get the exact plan designed. It is about building a relationship and trust with each customer.” Paul Boor, VP of Engineering and Product Development, provides leadership in paving the way for new product designs and innovations.
According to Loger, Lester can take care of everything beginning with the engineering expertise, to quality-tested materials shipped directly to the building site that provide structural integrity and long-term longevity. In most cases, buildings are erected by Lester’s own crews or those of a Lester Dealer. In some cases, producers choose to manage the building process. “At the plant, we pre-cut as much as possible in a controlled environment, which reduces labor at the building site. Detailed plans are also sent along with the materials with pieces and sections numbered and color-coded to help with installation.”
Dairy producers know that the key to their financial success is owning healthy cows. The environment in which the cattle live is a major key in the animal’s health. That is why the facility in which the cattle are housed is so important. Lester Buildings provides the structural integrity and ease of maintenance that dairy producers are seeking. Lester also works closely with dairy equipment suppliers to accommodate large curtain openings and fans for proper ventilation. As a result, many of Lester’s customers are repeat customers who come back looking to erect a larger barn or add on to an original building.
Riverview LLP: a repeat customer multiple times
Riverview LLP began as a small family-owned crop and beef farm in the late 1930s in the Morris, MN area and has since grown into a multi-faceted agribusiness that covers a wide range of venues including agronomy, beef, dairy and facility construction. Dairy has become a huge part of Riverview LLP. Lyle Grimm, who joined the Riverview team 10 years ago and now works with construction teams and is a project manager for Riverview Construction, says Lester has been a major partner with Riverview LLP since 1995. “Our first dairy building back in 1995 was a Lester building. It was a 500-cow dairy, and we have worked with Lester ever since. Lester has sold Riverview many buildings for more than 10 dairy sites in the last 22 years.”
Grimm continues, “Our needs have changed over time, and so has Lester’s ability to address those needs. We like the structural integrity of their buildings. We feel that the wood works better with the moisture that occurs in dairy barns. We don’t have to worry about steel rusting and the building eventually having structural issues. We like the environment that Lester Building Systems can provide.”
Over the years, Riverview LLP has added several new dairy sites, and the size of the herds and buildings have increased. “We have been able to work with Lester’s engineering staff to customize our barns to fit our needs. They are always up for the challenge and looking forward to helping us make the project work. At this point, we now do our own initial designs and then work with them to get their ideas. We then work back and forth until we are satisfied with the final plans.”
Prior to construction, Grimm says Riverview LLP will put specs out for bid for any approved contractors who want to make a bid. “Lester is always very competitive in the bidding process. As our building needs have changed and our buildings gotten larger, Lester’s engineers are always able to use their expertise to make sure that the design is sound and the structure of the building will be good. Now, with our own construction crew, we have the plans and materials sent to us, and we are able to erect a building in 7-8 months.”
Meadow Star Dairy
Both Lester Building and Riverview LLP can take the credit for putting together Meadow Star Dairy, a huge dairy operation located five miles west of Willmar, MN. The large dairy freestall building covers nearly 20 acres under one roof and houses 8,500 cattle with a rotary milking parlour that allows 106 cows to be milked at once with 7,000 cows milked twice daily.
According to Loger, the size of the barn is 608’ x 1450’… “it’s over a quarter mile long!” It is the largest facility that Lester Building Systems’ engineers have ever tackled. In fact it is believed to be the largest post frame building under one roof ever built. Grimm notes, “With a building this size, working with Lester’s engineers, we were able to overcome obstacles that we didn’t have to deal with in the past with smaller structures.” Spans of wood had to be addressed and special details had to be adhered to in order to make a building that would stand the test of time.
Lester Buildings has two videos on their website featuring the Meadow Star Dairy. Check these out for fun facts and to get a bird’s eye view of the complex.
Build your dream
Since 1947, Lester Building Systems has been delivering its customers the pride and peace of mind that comes from owning a Lester engineered post frame building. The customer’s vision, Lester’s design team and local building experts collaborate to bring the dream to life. It all begins with a call to (800) 826-4439. The website, LesterBuildings.com, provides all the information you need to plan your dream building, including a downloadable guide that provides all of the questions you should ask your building supplier, so that you can make an informed and confident decision.
Join in the celebration: 70 years strong
There is pride in being in business for 70 very successful years. According to Beste, it all has to do with the quality employees, the quality product and the relationships developed with the customers. Beste hopes people across the country will join in helping Lester Building Systems celebrate its 70 years in the building business. “We will be at farm shows across the Midwest this August and September. At each of the four shows below, we will have an Anniversary Celebration the first day of the show.”
Look for Lester Buildings’ display buildings at each of these tradeshows:
Dakota Fest in Mitchell, SD on Tuesday, August 15
Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN on Thursday, August 24
Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL on Tuesday, August 29
Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, NE on Tuesday, September 12