WILLMAR—West Central Steel of Willmar is expanding for the ninth time in its nearly 40-year history, bringing more services to its customers and more jobs to the region.
“It has been quite a project,” said Jeff Pattison, president of West Central Steel.
The latest project has been in planning for several years, but officially kicked off in fall 2016, when the company obtained over five acres of land next to its current location on U.S. Highway 12 near the Willmar Industrial Park. This past spring nearly 54,626 square feet of building was demolished, including the company’s first building and the old Chappell Central location. In its place a new 85,000-square-foot metal building is going up, to house the company’s parts production facility.
“We are creating a parts production model to provide our customer with parts so they can do the assembly,” Pattison said.
The plan is to hopefully begin moving into the new building next month, which will include installing several pieces of new equipment.
“We have an aggressive schedule,” Pattison said, adding the company hopes to have the new facility up and running in the spring. “We have customers who really need parts manufactured for them.”
One of the largest new pieces of equipment being added to the company is a 30-foot-wide, 1,100-ton Ursviken press brake, built in Sweden, which bends steel to the desired shape.
“It’s huge,” Pattison said.
Also being moved into the new building is an 80-foot-long Tanaka 6,000-watt CO2 laser from Japan, a Kinetic plate processor from New Zealand, a Python X steel shaping system from Canada and two German Behringer saws.
“We have a general sense that we have things people really want,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Allinder said. “In our value-added area, we are looking at doubling our business in the first year.”
Local contractor Marcus Construction is building the new structure, which includes 200,000 square feet of concrete, 36 semi trailers of steel building materials and 570,000 pounds, or 104 miles, of rebar, provided by West Central Steel for its own building.
The expansion will also allow the company to spread out a bit, making for more efficient layout and production.
“It is fun to have the added capacity,” Allinder said.
West Central Steel has come a long way since its beginnings in 1949. Then the business focused on steel salvage and was known as Hy’s Salvage, founded by Hy and Beverly Rosenbaum. In 1961 it became Hy’s Steel Company and started distributing new steel. Delbert Allinder and Orvis Pattison purchased the Rosenbaums’ interest in the steel company in 1972 and completely turned it into a distributor of new steel products. It became West Central Steel in 1978. Jeff Allinder and Jeff Pattison completed their purchase of the company in 2012.
“Slowly over the years, we’ve added buildings and equipment,” Allinder said.
Today, West Central Steel processes carbon steel by using 3D lasers, plate lasers, plasma and oxygen sheet and plate burning systems and saws that can cut steel shapes. Customers comes from across the upper Midwest and the company can usually deliver its goods within two days of order, thanks to the 24-hour work force.
“What sets us apart is our speed of delivery,” Allinder said.
All totaled, West Central Steel has gone from its original 5,600-square-foot building circa 1968 to now having almost a quarter of a million square feet of space.
“That is a lot of growth,” Pattison said.
Also growing is the number of employees.
“We had in the beginning seven to 10 employees,” Allinder said. Today that number, across West Central Steel and its sister company Central Minnesota Fabricating, is closer to 150.
With its current expansion, the company is hoping to add at first 15 to 20 new employees, along with training its current team on the new equipment. The number of jobs could increase when the new plant is running with three shifts.
“We’ve got a great employee base. They can grow with us,” Pattison said.
The expanded services and product to be moved in and out of West Central Steel’s campus should also mean increased workload for other businesses, like the local haulers the company contracts with.
“It is a ripple effect,” Pattison said.
With the latest expansion on its way to completion, Allinder and Pattison foresee a successful future for West Central Steel, adding on to its already proud past.
“We’re very positive about this company,” Pattison said.
West Central Tribune by Shelby Lindrud