Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Heather, Aaron Jantz - MJE
Feb. 23, 2022
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
“Moving heaven and earth.” That’s a saying to describe doing everything possible to make something happen.
Today we’ll meet a Kansas company which literally follows that philosophy. This company is an earth-moving business and much more.
Max Jantz founded Max Jantz Excavating in 1974 with a John Deere tractor, one pull-type earth scraper, and what he called “a love of the land.” The first work headquarters for the company was the old barn on the family place north of Montezuma, Kan.
At right: Aaron, Max and Heather Jantz | Download this photo
Max primarily did dirt work for commercial and municipal projects. He sought opportunities throughout the Midwest to grow the operation by expanding his skills, crews and equipment fleet.
By 2001, Max had gone from a one-man operation to managing a staff of more than 40 employees and an equipment fleet of more than 130. At that time, a strategic decision was made to focus on the development of turn-key dairy and beef cattle feedyard facilities. The company also underwent a name change and became the more inclusive MJE LLC.
As the business continued to grow, Max’s son and daughter joined the company. Today, son Aaron Jantz is chief executive officer and daughter Heather Jantz is chief operating officer.
Aaron and his wife have two children, as do Heather and her husband Aaron Albers who is a project manager with the company. Megan Elsey is director of public relations.
The expertise that company employees gained in designing, building and installing livestock equipment created an opportunity to serve others as well. In 2018, MJE expanded into a second line of business, called MJE Livestock Equipment. ]Having long ago outgrown the original barn, MJE constructed a multi-million dollar production facility in Montezuma.
One of MJE’s customers had experienced a bad situation when a storm came through and damaged multiple calf hutches, which are small shelters for young calves. In response, the MJE staff designed a calf hutch latch and tethering system that would win them an award.
In addition to the calf hutch latch system, MJE Livestock Equipment produces fencing panels, gates, feeders, waterers, mineral feeders, livestock handling equipment, and more. These products are manufactured at the company facility in Montezuma.
Heather and Aaron are very committed to their hometown of Montezuma. “They’re super community-driven,” Megan said. MJE staff helped initiate a Chamber of Commerce in Montezuma, and Megan Elsey is the chamber president. MJE helps sponsor various worthy projects, including the Young Guns Rodeo for children and youth up to 18 years old.
MJE also seeks to develop homegrown talent and create opportunities for local employment. “We bring out schools for tours,” Megan said. “We can arrange for (potential workers) to job shadow, and we’ll train on the job. We’re always looking for welders, fabricators, and truck drivers.”
Today, MJE LLC has grown to include more than 200 employees and more than 350 pieces of equipment. “We try to work within a 500-mile radius,” Megan said.
However, in 2010, Max and Heather traveled to China to help with feedyard construction. MJE’s expertise has helped design a feedyard in California, and the company was recently studied by another business in Argentina. MJE Livestock Equipment products have gone as far away as Italy.
One of the company’s very large earth-moving projects was the construction of HorseThief Reservoir in 2010.
It’s an impressive record for a business in a rural community such as Montezuma, population 975 people. Now, that’s rural.
Moving heaven and earth. That saying means doing everything possible to make something happen. It applies to MJE LLC and the company’s philosophy of responding to customer needs.
We commend Max, Aaron and Heather Jantz and all the people of MJE for making a difference with their community service, entrepreneurship, and family-oriented business. From what I’ve seen, if there’s a project to be completed, MJE will move heaven and earth to get it done.
And there’s more. Remember HorseThief Reservoir? We’ll learn more about that next week.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.