The 2016 Montana Young Farmer & Rancher Ag Tour is coming up May 20-21, and the first tour stop on Saturday, May 21 will take us to Spika Design and Manufacturing, Inc. Guest blogger and Lewistown native Lane Nordlund is on the tour planning committee, and he’s here to give us a preview of our stop at this amazing Montana business. 

Across Montana it's a common sight now days to see small towns shrinking. We have all seen it. I think of the mom and pop stores I grew up with that are closing their doors. It’s common to drive two hours just to get groceries! Our once vibrant communities are drying up.

As I walk down Main Street in Lewistown I recall as a child peering through the glass windows of a store front taking in all the eye could see.  Today, it's hard to glance through the grime on the window. But, there is nothing to see but a large empty space. There seem to be no new business opportunities or jobs that are sustainable.

In a small town you can hear the complaints of people on this same subject. But, many do just that. Complain about it. On the other hand, there are people who do their best to do something about it.

In my opinion, that is what Tom Spika is doing for Lewistown. If you read about Tom you will find out that he, just like many, grew up working hard on a farm. He was also a talented welder and machinist. With ups and downs in farming and ranching, Tom saw what was happening in Central Montana.

Whether it was the diminishing prospects for farmers and ranchers or employment options on Main Street, Tom decided to make a stand and become a job creator. He risked losing everything by mortgaging the farm and creating a business that would provide a sustainable living for employees and benefit Central Montana. He risked everything.

Tom and his wife Carol, created Spika Design & Manufacturing that employs 50 people. This business is not your typical welding shop. The industries they cater to include: aviation, manufacturing, defense and space, marine, railroad, combat vehicles and heavy equipment.  Tom and his team create products for all branches of the United States Military, Boeing, BNSF, ext. Their products range from industrial work platforms, specialty trailers, welding carts and more. I never imagined my home town providing products like this!

Tom also is an advocate of providing technical training on a community level. The purpose is to provide resources to all who want to join the skilled workforce. For rural America's Main Streets to be vibrant, there has to be jobs. It's not easy starting a business in a small, rural town. But, that did not stop Tom Spika.

That is why the YF&R tour is stopping by Spika Design & Manufacturing: to see what products are produced there, but more importantly, to also see what can be done to provide employment and create jobs in small town U.S.A.

Join the Montana Young Farmers and Ranchers May 20-21 in Lewistown, Montana for the 2016 Young Farmer & Rancher Tour. For more information, visit the event Facebook page or register online at The first stop stop on the tour is a visit to Mountain Meadows Pet Products, followed by Arntzen Angus Ranch. We'll end Saturday afternoon at the CHS Big Sky Fertilizer Plant. Register today!