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Jun 12, 2017 11:54AM

Rolling with the times: Midland Davis celebrates 125 years


By Natalie Dal Pra
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Todd Mizener / tmizener@qconline.com
Midland Davis is the epitome of a family business. The Moline business features five members of the Davis family (left to right) Eric Davis, customer service manager; Michael Davis, logistics manager; Mitch Davis, vice president; Marty Davis, president; and Laura Davis, controller. The fifth-generation business provides industrial, commercial, residential and drop-off recycling services from its headquarters on 15 acres at 3301 4th Ave.
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From 1892, when his great-grandfather collected scrap with a horse-drawn wagon, to the successful corporation of today, Midland Davis president Marty Davis says the company's priority always has been customer service.

"We are a business that depends on other businesses in the area," Marty says. "Providing the best possible service at a fair market price is the goal — and that's the way of doing business that's been handed down to us."

Marty says that his great-grandfather, Louis Livingston, started the company by collecting whatever scrap metal he could find in his wagon. Times were tough, so Livingston's priority often was to feed his horse rather than himself because the horse had to work harder than he did, Marty says.

In 1908, Livingston bought the company's first property in East Moline. The business moved to Moline in 1946, and now resides at the corner of 34th Street and 4th Avenue.

When Marty's father, Hank, took over the business in the '60s, the company served as a scrap yard. At the time, Quad-Cities manufacturing businesses were booming, enabling the company to process and recycle much of the scrap in the area.

"We had a record month for tons processed in 1979. Things started to change in 1981," Marty says. "International Harvester had a strike that they never recovered from. Facilities started closing; John Deere closed one of their plants. ... Things were bleak."

In order to keep up with the changing times, Midland Davis had to expand its services. Seeing a need for it, paper recycling became the next endeavor in 1986. The company finally was able to rebound by the '90s.

After years of inquiries about pallet recycling, the company purchased a tub grinder and now processes pallets and other wood into mulch.

"Wood recycling is a big part of what we do now, and it sets us apart from other companies in the area," Marty says. "As far as I know, we're the only ones in the area that do all of it — paper, plastic, iron, steel, wood."

In 2008, Midland Davis began its curbside recycling program. The company now provides services for Rock Island, Moline and East Moline.

The company currently is operated by Marty and his brother, Mitch, who officially took over after their father's death in 1991. The brothers first had started working for their dad shortly after graduating college.

"I worked out in the yard because I liked to be hands-on," says Mitch, who serves as vice president of Midland Davis. "Marty came back when our dad was having open-heart surgery."

"I knew I was always going to come back here and work, I just didn't know when." Marty says.

In 2005, Midland Davis started a paper brokerage division, which has offices in St. Louis and Milwaukee. That year, Marty's oldest son, Eric, returned to the Quad-Cities after graduating from college and began working for the company. He now serves as the customer service manager.

Marty's youngest son, Michael, joined the team as the Logistics Manager in 2010, and his daughter, Laura, became their controller in 2014.

Marty says he never pressured his kids to work for the company, but instead reassured them that they always would have a job to fall back on at Midland Davis, if they wanted it.

"We said to them, 'you've got the luxury that I didn't have. I'm healthy; your uncle Mitch is healthy. I don't know if you want Midland as a career, but we're always here.'"

"The business had grown and developed so much at that point that we had a need for what they're doing," Mitch adds.

Through all of the changes that have occurred during the company's 125 year history, Mitch says Midland Davis has remained successful because of its ability to adapt to the changing times.

"We've diversified over the years. We broker from coast to coast, now. We've transformed ourselves into a paper-selling company that handles metal without losing sight of our roots," Marty says.

To commemorate the company's anniversary, Midland Davis is planning an open house celebration, tentatively scheduled for this fall.
Natalie Dal Pra is a regular Radish contributor. For more information about Midland Davis, visit midlanddavis.com.




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