For 30 years Billings has been home to a small home-grown manufacturing business that has rapidly grown to selling their innovative product for turf growers around the world.

Trebro Manufacturing was highlighted during the recent Small Business Week celebration. Those attending the events surrounding the visit of Isabel Casillas Guzman, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, were invited to tour Trebro’s facility at 6840 S. Frontage Rd.

They were guided by company owner, Chris Jackson, and John Wetzel, General Manager.

Trebro manufacturers turf harvesters that reduce the manual labor involved in harvesting and transporting the turf that is most commonly used to landscape residential homes. Besides dominating the US market with their patented machines they sell to 22 countries around the world – -and it all began in Billings, Montana, some 30 years ago.

Trebro was started by the Tvetene family, who moved their turf growing business to Billings from Minnesota in 1968. It is hard to say exactly when the manufacturing business started, because Ted Tvetene and his three sons, Mike, Gregg and Don, drew upon their experience and expertise as turf growers, which began many years before. They spent a couple of decades designing, experimenting and planning the process of developing the machines, which they patented and now market for between $400,000 and $600,000, depending upon the specifications of their customer.

One of their sub-contractors for many years in the production of the harvesters was Craftco Manufacturing Solutions, a fabrication and machining company in Sheridan, Wyoming. Rather recently, Craftco purchased Trebro from the Tvetene brothers, because it seemed a perfect fit with Craftco, said Jackson.

Interestingly, the Tvetene family began focusing on inventing a harvester that could be operated by one person in response to labor shortages they were experiencing – an issue that remains problematic today, Jackson told SBA Director Guzman. In a round table discussion, Jackson said that besides acquiring the labor needed, the biggest problem for his industry is getting financing, when it is needed.

Trebro’s business naturally follows the trends of the housing market, so it is currently down considerably from peaks of the past. Currently they are manufacturing about two units a month, when normally, in a more robust housing market, they were producing six to eight a month. When housing regains its footing, Jackson said the goal is to increase production beyond even eight a month.

Trebro currently employs 28 people, which includes marketing representative who travel the world. The company also maintains fully stocked warehouses in several locations in the world from which they sell online parts, 24 hours a day.

At times in the past the company employed more than 60 people.


You must be logged in to post a comment.