An Entrepreneur's Story
Hake stands by the rare four-wheel
steer Ford prototype jeep he restored. Of
the 1,500 Ford prototypes manufactured in
1941, only 50 were four-wheel steer. The jeep
King Michael of Romania purchased was this
have come full circle for native Tipton entrepreneur,
Ken Hake. Hake’s business, KHK Company, Inc.,
is now located in the same garage where he began
manufacturing his first product in 1945.
first product was a TV tower that I started manufacturing
because I saw a need for a good strong tower,”
shows a portion of an airplane wing that is
in the process of being restored at KHK Company.
who was born and raised on a farm southwest of Tipton,
got much of his early business experience by working
at his dad’s hardware store.
did all sorts of work for dad and that experience
helped me in manufacturing my first product,”
TV tower business kept him busy for two years before
being drafted to the Navy for two years. In fact,
the steel building he constructed to house his TV
tower manufacturing business created a lot of interest
around town and led to creation of another business.
saw it and liked what they saw and started talking
about how they could really use a building like
it,” says Hake.
that initial building, a business emerged that today
is known as TREB Construction, Inc., which still
has its headquarters in Tipton and is well known
throughout Kansas and Nebraska.
Upon returning from the Navy, Hake started developing
farm equipment and Kent Manufacturing got its start.
first product was a springtooth harrow that was
hydraulically controlled. We set up dealers and
sold them throughout several states,” says
Hake. “A grain dryer was next, then a fertilizer
sprayer and then different tillage equipment.”
son, Kent, joined the family business in 1984 and
over time was able to buy out two of his father’s
partners. In 2000, the father-son team decided to
sell their business to Great Plains. Although the
name has changed as well as the color equipment
is painted, which Ken Hake quickly points out, much
has stayed the same. Kent Hake remains manager of
the Great Plains Manufacturing facility in Tipton
and the company continues to employ many people
in the small town. Tillage equipment remains the
mainstay at the Tipton facility. Great Plains’
products are sold through over 2,000 independent
dealerships across the United States and are exported
“We still have six people in our engineering
department and 35 in manufacturing at this facility,”
says Kent Hake. “The business and employment
opportunities have been good for the town.”
sentiment is echoed by long-time Tipton mayor, Adrian
Manufacturing (now Great Plains) and our school
are the main reasons we are still here today and
we have to keep growing on that,” says Arnoldy.
Hake says other communities over time tried to entice
him to move his business and offered incentives
to do so, but he remained committed to staying in
started here and after I built my first building
I then had an investment to keep me here. Plus my
dad was still here with the hardware business and
I also had a group of loyal employees so I didn’t
want to leave,” says Ken Hake. “I haven’t
newest business to keep Ken Hake busy is KHK Company,
Inc., which specializes in restoring World War II
jeeps and airplanes. He says his interest began
when his son was a teenager and needed a vehicle.
really wanted to be able to teach him how to restore
and maintain a vehicle,” says Ken Hake. “We
found a WWII jeep and restored it together.”
Kent laughs when he thinks back to when he was looking
for his first set of wheels.
thought we were going to a car dealership, but instead
we went to a junk pile and started from there,”
says Ken Hake. “As we got going, dad found
a niche and saw a need for things such as replacement
parts, which helped lead him into his current venture.”
thing led to another and soon Ken Hake found himself
selling a couple of restored jeeps to Queen Anne
and King Michael of Romania and hosting the couple
in Tipton. Ken Hake and King Michael still remain
in close contact. Ken Hake considers this a highlight
of his business years.
Hake, who had flown since he was 18, soon became
interested in restoring WWII airplanes as well and
what started as a hobby grew into a business.
started restoring a 1941 Boeing Stearman airplane
about 20 years ago when I traded one of the jeeps,”
says Ken Hake. “About 12 years ago we started
restoring and building parts for Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
fighter planes that were recovered in the Aleutian
Islands in Alaska. We later recovered four more
P-40 fighters from Russia.”
The P-40’s were made famous by the Flying
Tigers, the American Volunteer Group of fighter
pilots and fighter planes in China.
restoration is all done in-house at KHK, but only
the part manufacturing and sheetmetal work for the
airplanes is done at the Tipton business.
Ken Hake is quite modest about his accomplishments
through the years, he acknowledges it has taken
a lot of hard work and dedication.
most challenging thing over the last 50 years has
been the learning curve and doing it all without
a college degree. I’ve had to figure things
out the hard way in my businesses,” says Ken
adds with agrin, “My wife Marcella has helped
me with bookkeeping all these years and she says
it’s time for me to retire.”
more information on Great Plains Manufacturing,
Inc., visit www.greatplainsmfg.com.