By Alicia Cunningham | Dec 13, 2015
Founded: Purchased by the Robinson Family in 1910
R. Sherman Robinson has worked at Lehi Roller Mills for fifty years, which means, he says with a chuckle, he started working at the mill when he was only a year old, of course.
Though much has changed in those 50 years, Lehi Roller Mills remains dedicated to their original mission of utilizing the best wheat to make the best flour.
“We’re three times the outfit we were when I started 50 years ago,” Robinson says. “And we’ve diversified. We still make several different kinds of flour: whole wheat and white flour, organic and conventional. But we also provide a variety of mixes.”
These mixes – everything from cookies, muffins and brownies – were primarily formulated by the Robinson family. “A lot of our formations were done by my wife,” Robinson says.
The majority of sales for Lehi Roller Mills comes from selling organic and conventional flour into settings like bakeries and restaurants, though their products are also sold in various retail locations.
But off of the grocery shelf, Lehi Roller Mills is a local rock star. First, Lehi Roller Mills was part of a restaurant revolution when it provided the flour to bread the chicken sold by the first KFC in the United States. Does that mean the Robinson family saw the secret recipe? You’ll have to ask them.
Second, the towering mill provided the background for the 1984 movie Footloose. Remember when Kevin Bacon was busy packaging flour? That was at Lehi Roller Mills.
Since 1984, the City of Lehi has experienced incredible growth to the point it no longer resembles the isolated town depicted in Footloose. But this growth has been a great benefit to Lehi Roller Mills.
“The people around us, they eat three meals a day. So our business has grown. Yes, we have a few issues with getting in and out of here with the traffic, but overall it has all worked out really well for us,” Robinson says.
Especially for his family. All of Robinson’s daughters have worked at one time for Lehi Roller Mills, and Robinson’s son, Alex, continues to work with him. Many full-time employees also have their kids get their own first job at the mill, and Robinson is proud of all the careers and successes that started at Lehi Roller Mills.
“Lots of kids get their start here. That’s been a good experience, watching that happen,” Robinson says.
The best part of Robinson’s job? Making and keeping promises. “I really like telling people that we are going to do something and then do it. The best part of my job is being able to execute on that.”
Challenges: Mother Nature will always provide a challenge to Lehi Roller Mills. Every year the weather affects the type of product which will reach the mill. “The wheat profile changes every year. But we have to keep the product consistent. We have to adjust. And we do. We seldom have a crop that we cannot use. But every year Mother Nature will provide a challenge that we have to respond to. But it’s a fun challenge,” Robinson says.
Opportunities: Next year, 2016, will be an important year for Lehi Roller Mills as they introduce new technology into the mill process. “We’ve invested in the excess of $2 million for new equipment to grow the certified organic part of the business,” Robinson says. “And we will expand the capacity of the mill again.”
Needs: By far, Robinson’s greatest need for Lehi Roller Mills is for the government, both federal, state and local, to help his business and his employees and stop being a hindrance for the mill. “The biggest challenge we face is the overreach of government into a number of areas of our business. From the Department of Agriculture to the EPA. Government regulation has been our number one problem, and it is absolutely getting worse. If something is not done, small businesses will not survive. No one will survive, including us.”