History

A Family Legacy

We've regenerated from a flour mill to a digital mill.

Our name comes from our old family business "Sparks Milling Company", a well established flour milling operation founded by David Rhodes Sparks (Captain, U.S. Cavalry) in the 1800's in Alton, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River.

The company expanded into a co-op of millers in the midwest and opened several locations in river towns including Terre Haute, Indiana. As part of the growth and expansion, David Rhodes Sparks also founded Miller's Mutual Insurance, which conducted business in Alton for decades under the leadership of family member George Milner.

While the original grain elevators are still in downtown Alton (now part of ConAgra), the original Sparks Milling Company operation has long since been shut down.

We're a family-business family, having worked and run operations in the St. Louis Metro area since the 1800's. Grandfather Ned Sparks operated the Sparks Milling Company into the 1950's. Great Uncle Paul Cowsley was Editor & Publisher of the Alton Evening Telegraph. Grandfather John E. McLaughlin was Chief Engineer for Owens-Illinois Glass. Uncle Pat McLaughlin was with Olin Brass for a lifetime.

James R. McLaughlin, Sr. (Dad) owned and operated Thau Screw Products in Crestwood and Kirkwood, MO. His early career included a tour of duty in World War II, serving as an officer and pilot in the Army Air Corps. James, Sr. was stationed in India and was part of the elite group of "Hump Pilots" who flew over the Himalayas range. Dad went to work everyday flying a C-46 Cargo Aircraft over Mt. Everest. Yep, we have pictures. On his return to civilian life, he immediately opened his own business - a plating company - in Alton and started a family. For the rest of his life he remained passionate about his family, and business, and golf. He led and inspired all of his children to move forward with business pursuits of their own.

Jim McLaughlin (Jr.) founded our company in 1997 as Option Technologies, Inc., an IT consulting and software development job shop. Custom software programs that we’ve designed and deployed have helped our clients automate processes, cut cycle times, streamline operations and simplify compliance issues. Expanding on our consulting and software roots, we grew into a nationally recognized dealer for both Intermec and Symbol wireless bar code equipment, providing systems for a range of clients including large distribution centers operated by ADM, Casssens / Chrysler Corporation and Lanter Distribution.

In 2009, we re-branded as Sparks Milling Digital in order to bring our IT, creative and consulting practices together under one mark and focus as a digital technology team. We’ve worked for organizations ranging in size from Fortune 50 to small local operations. Our solutions are deployed across a range of industries from manufacturing to agriculture to non-profit.

Today, we’re a thriving small business continuing our family traditions with deep midwest roots. We're an American workshop with a vision to grow, create jobs, support our community and be a best-value supplier to our clients.