The folks at Bixler Marketing Group, Inc. (BMG), Council Bluffs, Iowa, paused a moment recently amid the hubbub of serving the electrical, utility and telecommunications construction markets in Iowa, Nebraska and western Illinois to look back on its legacy of 50 years as a leading electrical manufacturers' rep agency.
Launched in February 1957 as Bixler O'Dougherty Co., the agency's journey began when two neighbors who shared a Des Moines duplex, Jim Bixler, then a salesman for Kellogg's, and Bob O'Dougherty, a counter salesman for WESCO's Des Moines operation, hatched a plan to form their own agency. With nothing more than the money in their pockets, they drove to Mankato, Minn., and met with Jack Habinger, owner of Midwest Electric Products. Habinger hired them on the spot and gave them an advance on their first month's commissions, perhaps guessing they barely had the money to make it back to Des Moines, says Bixler's son Jeff.
In June this year, Jim Bixler made the trip to Mankato again, this time accompanied by his three sons who now own the firm: Jim L. Bixler, Jeff Bixler and Joe Bixler. Midwest, now a division of General Electric, closed early that day and held a reception honoring Bixler Marketing for its 50 years of service.
The firm's success over that half-century involved many changes:
Co-founder O'Dougherty died in 1963;
The company got into the warehousing business in 1973, then got back out in 1996 in response to market changes;
Jim Bixler Sr. became a founding member of the National Electrical Manufacturers' Representatives Association (NEMRA) and then served as its president in 1980;
A promising young salesman named Ron Haedt moved out to the West Coast and eventually bought his own agency, Electrorep;
Bixler Marketing moved its headquarters to Council Bluffs and expanded with field offices in Urbandale and Bettendorf, Iowa;
Jim Bixler Sr. retired in 1996 after 44 years and sold the firm to his sons, who by that time had well over 60 years of combined experience working for the company.
“Bixler Marketing Group Inc. is continually looking to the future and plans to stay in the Council Bluffs area for generations to come,” says Jeff Bixler.
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