MPCC experience leads to mobile welding business
Tim Ledford is using skills he gained through Mid-Plains Community College to fill a niche in Nebraska’s ag sector.
Ledford is the owner of Patriot Welding, LLC in Grant. The mobile welding business caters primarily to farmers and ranchers within a 100-mile radius of the rural community, saving them time and money by taking welding services directly to their operations.
“There’s a real need for this type of work in the agriculture industry,” Ledford said. “Producers can’t always drop everything and take their equipment to town for repairs. Now, they don’t have to.”
Ledford’s business serves a dual purpose in that it allows him to stay connected with a way of life he’s come to love and appreciate.
“I’ve always liked farming, ranching and being around livestock,” Ledford said. “Unfortunately, I’m no longer able to do a lot of the physical tasks those jobs require.”
That being said, he’s no stranger to hard work or to charting his own course through life.
His ties to Southwestern Nebraska run deep – even though he didn’t start out there.
A self-described “army brat,” Ledford was born at McChord Field, a U.S. Air Force Base south of Tacoma, Wash. Following his father’s retirement from the military, Ledford’s family moved to Imperial.
Ledford was 16 when he quit high school, got his GED and entered the workforce. College wasn’t in the cards for him at that time.
Instead, Ledford spent about 15 years working on a farm at Imperial. It was there that he learned how to weld. It was also there that he rolled a four-wheeler in a creek.
Ledford injured his back trying to push the vehicle off himself but stayed at the farm another year – working despite the injuries.
“We were kind of like migrant workers,” Ledford said. “We went wherever the farm jobs were. We moved to Otis, Colo. in 2015, and I did some more welding for a farm out there. My wife and I then got into the hog business for a while, and that allowed us to generate enough capital to buy our first house in Benkelman.”
They moved to Benkelman in 2018, and Ledford accepted a position with Valley Farm Industries, making belts and trailers for distillers grains.
“We built equipment from the ground up,” Ledford said. “That’s where I really got my interest in welding. My boss at the time was very patient and taught me a lot. We had an alum from Mid-Plains Community College working there who told me about MPCC’s welding program. Something clicked in my head, and I thought if I ever got the chance that I would like to go to school and then open a business one day.”
Valley Farm was the first job he’d had with insurance since his accident. So, in the summer of 2019, at the urging of his boss, Ledford underwent corrective surgery on his back.
He was still on light duty when COVID hit – slowing business and resulting in layoffs at Valley Farm. Ledford was one of the casualties.
“I got laid off in March of 2020 and sat around until April trying to figure out what direction I was going to go,” Ledford said. “It didn’t take me long. That August I enrolled at MPCC. I decided it was the perfect time to pursue my dream of going back to school.”
He started out at MPCC’s campus in McCook but moved to the welding program in North Platte halfway through when he and his wife bought a house in Grant. MPCC helped Ledford take his welding skills to the next level and prepared him for business ownership.
“MPCC is a tremendous asset to our area, and the applied technology programs that it offers are extremely valuable,” Ledford said. “Mid-Plains gave me an opportunity to better myself that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise based on my location. The instructors and staff were great and had a major part in getting me to where I am today.”
Ledford started college at the age of 42. He graduated in May with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Welding Technology.
“I feel like I had a better perspective on education as a non-traditional student than I would have had as a traditional student,” Ledford said. “I was more focused, driven and had a goal to achieve, and that was really important in helping me succeed.”
While in school, Ledford worked with Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation to conduct a feasibility study and draft a plan for his new business.
“What I found is that there are some welding shops in the area, but very few offer a mobile service,” Ledford said. “Mobile looked like it was going to be a lot easier to get into economically, and it would also allow me to return to the farming environment, which is where my heart is.”
On April 1, Ledford launched Patriot Welding – a name selected based on his family’s military background and on his personal beliefs.
“Given the time we live in, it seemed appropriate,” Ledford said. “I’m a patriot of these United States. I love my country and want to express that.”
Demand has been steady since the business’ inception. Ledford is currently running operations by himself but hopes to eventually expand by adding a brick-and-mortar element and hiring employees.
“For now, I’m just grateful to be doing something that I love,” Ledford said. “I’m thankful to MPCC for the lessons and encouragement the college provided on my way to here, and I like to think I’m proof that it’s never too late to go back to school. I would encourage anyone of any age and in any situation to jump on that bus if they have the opportunity.”