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Earl K. Harbaugh

Earl K. Harbaugh's entrepreneurial passion began in high school. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture from Penn State University in 1961, then worked with Cooperative Extension in Erie, Pennsylvania. He managed and started three family-owned businesses before founding five Illinois-based companies.

His business acumen brought him to the attention of the founder of Charles Machine Works, which is the manufacturer of Ditch Witch.  Ditch Witch Midwest is Earl’s first family-owned enterprise.  The company provides products, services and training for the underground construction industry and was founded in 1970.  Rentals Plus, an affiliate of Ditch Witch Midwest, is an underground construction equipment rental business founded in 1973.  The third business that was founded in 1983, Illini Power Products, is a full-service generator dealer providing sales support, parts and service. Gen Power, an affiliate of Illini Power Products, specializes in the marketing of generator and electrical distribution equipment since 1993.  Lastly, in 2011, 1st Choice Equipment was started and specializes in Kubota construction equipment sales, rental and service.  Earl is most proud that the family now operates the enterprises successfully. He believes that a key to having passion for entrepreneurship and innovation is creating and recognizing unique products and services that are distinctive.  A specialized distribution channel for these products and services has certainly given him his “key for success”.

Professionally, Earl has served on numerous boards including Bradley University Trustees, The Charles Machine Works Board (Ditch Witch) and Fox Valley Airport Authority.  He has also served as a Director of West Suburban Bank in Illinois.  His business leadership and acumen led him to serve as President of the National Association of Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) and Founder of the AED Foundation.

Earl has earned many awards in his lifetime.  In recognition of his service, the city of Carol Stream, Illinois gave him its first ever “Businessman of the Year” award in 1992 and has received the AED Founders Award. Among Earl’s many contributions to Penn State University, he has received numerous College of Agricultural Sciences awards and most recently the 2012 Penn State Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the University’s highest individual award. The Harbaughs’ philanthropy to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences includes two scholarships, an international program endowment, an endowment for entrepreneurship, a teaching excellence endowment, and the creation of the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Faculty Scholar.  Earl and his wife Kay, as life-long partners, have teamed to co-chair the College’s Development Council for the University’s For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students and Earl previously served as a volunteer during Penn State’s Grand Destiny Campaign.

A Waynesboro, Pennsylvania native, Earl currently resides in The Villages, Florida and St. Charles, Illinois with his wife Kay. The Harbaughs are very active in the Penn State community and are members of the Mt. Nittany Society and lifetime members of the PSU Alumni Association.