Bob Owen of Owen Industries

Family-owned steel processor is forging its own competitive advantage

The owners of Owen Industries in Carter Lake, Iowa, are using their new warehouse (and innovative machinery) to continue growing the company’s reputation as a steel processor.

July 15, 2015

Since 1885, Owen Industries has supported the nation’s railroads, bridges, farms, factories, construction companies, and cities — with steel. It’s now one of North America’s leading steel processors.

“It’s still a cyclical business with lots of ups and downs,” says Bob Owen, CEO and chairman of the board.

Bob Owen
Bob Owen

A series of floods during the past decade at Owen Industries’ headquarters in Carter Lake, Iowa, made expansion difficult. So company leaders decided it was time for a new business model. Faced with the challenge of financing equipment and real estate, Owen Industries turned to Wells Fargo.

The company secured the funding to build a new warehouse and purchase new machinery (a Red Bud Stretcher Leveler), which allows Owen to stretch and flatten steel to three-quarters of an inch thick, putting Owen Industries at the forefront of steel processing technology, according to Owen’s president, John Sunderman.

Matthew Howe
Matthew Howe

“The more we got into developing the business model, the more we decided that it was important not to copy everyone else out there,” says John. “We wanted to pursue a niche and do something different that gave us an advantage.” The Red Bud Stretcher Leveler is one of the largest in the world and provides Owen the ability to process a larger range of material over the majority of its competition, he says.

Wells Fargo’s Matthew Howe organized a team from three areas of Wells Fargo for the real estate and equipment deal. John says the new leveler (and warehouse space) is projected to increase Owen’s revenue by 20 percent over the next few years.

“Wells Fargo is more than a banker,” says Tyler Owen, general manager for Owen’s steel fabrication division — known as Paxton & Vierling Steel Company — and great-grandson of Owen’s founder. “I can’t imagine a more positive relationship with a bank.”

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