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Regional Steel has served the Crossroads for 30 years


Feb. 18, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 17, 2012 at 8:18 p.m.

Carl Schrank operates a coping machine, cutting 4-foot sections from a 50-foot steel beam at Regional Steel Products. The end sections are coped as a service to contractors who save time by eliminating this step on site.

On any given day, the warehouse at Regional Steel Products is a whirlwind of activity. Sparks fly off welding equipment while customers grab up purchases and, inside, the non-stop calls jingle in.

And, while it might be busy, it's an organized sort of busy.

With 30 years in business, the company has its operation down to a science.

A steely start

Regional Steel first opened its doors in 1981, a small company on U.S. Highway Business 59.

At the time, the company that offered metal for everything from deer blinds to plant facilities boasted just a handful of employees, said Elton E. Calhoun Jr., who has been there since day one. Calhoun took the reins two years later and the operation grew with time, he said.

The business moved to its current location, 4853 U.S. Highway 87 South, in February 1986 and, today, employs more than 40 people.

Staying relevant, moving forward

The long-term success didn't come by accident, said Chad Hall, Regional Steel's general manager. Instead, it's a mixture of ingredients that work.

A team of dedicated employees and a family-like atmosphere helps push the business forward, he said, and organization also keeps things running smoothly.

The company uses a color-coded system to allow workers to locate certain pipe sizes at a glance, for instance, while a vertical racking system keeps other materials within reach, but off warehouse floors.

Regional Steel recently purchased the area's first commercially-available CNC computerized coping machine to assist in measuring and cutting the metal, he said. Not only does it mean accurate cuts, but it also takes a fraction of the time to complete a job and get the product to customers.

"When we help them to succeed, it helps us to succeed," Hall said.

Calhoun agreed that customer satisfaction is another key component, and said it spans beyond wait time. He also makes sure project estimates and the like are as accurate as possible.

"I had a guy tell me once, 'Don't tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what you can do,'" he said. "If you don't have the trust of your customers and vendors, you won't succeed."

Overcoming obstacles

As with any business, Regional Steel faced its share of hurdles over time, Calhoun said, noting it's weathered at least three or four major economic downturns. The key is to structure the business to be able to survive in the lean times, rather than to rely on the healthier ones.

"I'm proud to say I've only laid off two people," he said of his years in business. "And, with the big recession in '09, we didn't lay off anyone. We've been very fortunate."

Steel prices are another obstacle.

To make it in any business, Calhoun said, it's important to know what's coming down the pike. Although Regional Steel does what it can to prepare, sudden market changes sometimes mean the company must lower its prices and, at times, operate at a loss.

"People ask if I go to Las Vegas to gamble, but I say no," Calhoun said with a smile. "I don't have to. I gamble here every day."

Looking ahead

While Regional Steel fares well now - 2011 was a record year for both tonnage and sales, management said - the future will bring change.

Although the company doesn't do much fabrication work now, Hall said plans are to incorporate more of that in day-to-day operations. As new machinery calls the business home, he said, other change is likely.

And Calhoun agreed. He said he still feels like his company will continue to grow and serve the Crossroads.

As for where exactly the company is headed, however, nobody knows.

"Only the economy will tell us that," Calhoun said. "But we'll be there, fighting for our part of the business."



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