Roll With the Changes
One thing about being in business for 26 years, you learn how to handle just about anything that comes your way: a recession, a cancer diagnosis and, yes, even a pandemic of unprecedented proportions.
“We have learned that in the times when business is most challenging is when we were able to learn things that allowed us to take on work that was more complicated because of the skills we learned during this time trying to pick up new business accounts. Sometimes what you think is tough, complicated or too much to do sets you up to take on better or more work and separates you from the competition. We have seen a lot of changes through the years and sometimes business gets to be challenging but, in the end, it is also very rewarding to see what you and your employees can accomplish,” reflects Pat Stadick, who, along with his wife, Laura Stadick, owns G & S Manufacturing in Courtland.
There are a few things they’ve learned over the more than two decades they have been in business, top among them don’t panic. At the very top though, is trust your employees.
“When the governor made the decision to close ‘non-essential’ business because of COVID-19, Laura and I met and discussed all options as how to or can we proceed?” says Pat. “We met with the employees that same day and announced that we will be remaining open and it will be ‘business as usual’ here but with some safety modifications with social distancing. The entire crew has stepped up and have showed up for work daily, through this entire ordeal to give their time and talents to support our customers, we are really proud of them for doing this and practicing the social distancing policies through this.”
G & S Manufacturing, LLC is an industrial metal fabrication shop with 87,000 square feet to fabricate items of all shapes and sizes. They take pride in handling demanding structural steel, metal fabrication and/or production runs.
The COVID-19 crisis is not the first crisis the Stadicks have had to endure, so they have learned to roll with the punches and have learned to come out on the other side stronger.
“In 2008–2009 the big recession hit,” reflects Pat. “We were doing a lot of contract work for other shops. Well, that dried up in a hurry and we were forced to lay off a large part of our work force for four to six weeks. That has been the only layoff to date—knock on wood—and we used the experience to change our philosophy on business. One of the biggest changes that we made was that Laura and I decided to diversify our customer base. Today we are nicely balanced between various industries such as coal, grain handling facilities, grain processing facilities, dust collection equipment, large tanks, large utility companies, shooting range components, contract work for other companies and more.”
The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings back in 1994.
Pre-G & S, Pat worked for New Ulm Steel and Recycling as a lead person for the first five years after high school, Laura was working for J&R Schugel Trucking.
Pat says, “I went to work for an air compressor manufacturer and then to Caterpillar in New Ulm, this is where I picked up my welding training and experience. After I got laid off from Caterpillar, I decided to start a business. Even though Laura was a little unsure of this decision, she eventually fully supported it and helped to get the business off the ground.”
The Stadicks brought in a partner, Pat’s high school friend, Mark Guggisberg.
“Mark was someone I knew who was smart and who could work as hard as me. Laura took care of getting all the accounting in place and keeping books for us while working full-time and raising two young children,” says Pat.
Pat not only gained experience in earlier jobs, but he gained future clients as well.
“Our first big job was at New Ulm Steel & Recycling as Walt (the owner) was putting up a rather large building that needed infrastructure built inside of it. We were very fortunate to have this job as it carried us through the first five months. During this time, I was called back to work at Caterpillar full-time, so I was working 16 hours a day for two or three months. Everything we made we put back into the business to make it grow. We soon picked up other accounts that were friends of New Ulm Steel owners, Walt and Bev Luneburg. Those two were very instrumental in teaching me the business side of things, such things as structural steel and repairs for local businesses in New Ulm. These jobs really carried us through the first year.”
They built their business slow and steady, and as the business grew so did their need for space.
“Our first building was a machine shed located out on Mark’s farm for the first six months or so. Then we moved into a small storage shed on Front Street in New Ulm. We started getting into sandblasting when a friend from Caterpillar let me know that he wanted to get out of that business, so we decided to diversify into that, also because it complimented the steel work and painting that we were doing. This created the problem of needing more square footage, we decided to build a 5,000 square foot building on the north side of the 3M plant in New Ulm. We decided to lay in a press brake, shear, and plasma table at this point.
“This building opened a lot more opportunities, and we also had a dedicated blasting and paint area. This is also when we started adding more employees, including a part-time bookkeeper, who took over Laura’s duties. Things continued to grow, and we were able to add an additional 7,000 square feet on to that building about two years later. At this point we were doing everything from farm repairs and small production runs to specialty projects for other companies and steel structural work. We were running out of room to expand on the current lot.”
That’s how G & S became part of the Courtland community, expanding their footprint nationwide—all from Courtland, Minnesota, population 700.
“In 2002 I found some land in Courtland that was the old Supersweet research farm, it consisted of an old dairy barn and hog barns. The decision was made to move operations out of our site in New Ulm. In Courtland, we ended up with about 12 acres which provided us with a lot more room for growth. We added on to the existing building and this doubled our square footage to 25,600 feet. We were doing a lot of work for the soy diesel and ethanol industries at this point. We were also doing a lot of stair towers, tanks and other structural work as well as for Caterpillar, where I used to work. Seemed strange that the place that had laid me off, is the place I was now doing work for.”
The land in Courtland has served them well. They added on to the original building three times and currently have about 88,000 square feet. They have 30 employees who they say are the life blood of the business.
“We have been very blessed with the employees, both current and past, that we have. They are very dedicated and a hard-working bunch. Without them we would never have been able to grow to the size that we are. This has been a key to our success and probably one of the toughest resources to acquire these days, as there is a lot of competition for welders and painters,” Pat says.
There may be stiff competition, but there are also great local programs churning out great local talent.
“We have been very fortunate to find a lot of good solid workers coming out of South Central College–North Mankato welding program. We feel strongly about this program and donated $20,000 to help with the upgrade they did last year to expand.”
The Stadicks show appreciation for their employees in a number of ways.
“We offer them a four-day work week with alternating two- and four-day weekends, competitive pay, health and dental insurance, and a retirement program. We have been able to pay an annual bonus each year. Also, we try to promote employees from within whenever possible, either by a position change, taking on more responsibility or learning additional equipment.”
In 2007, the Stadicks’ partner, Mark, left G & S to start his own company. So Laura decided to dive in full time to help get things better organized and prepare G & S for future growth, which Pat says is really her strong suit.
“She has a strong accounting and professional business sense. She brought G & S up to speed in safety, maintenance, documentation, record keeping and building a business that meets the criteria of dealing with large businesses that from time to time will audit us on our safety, calibration of equipment needed to test our paint application, record keeping of materials used, etc.”
In 2008, their children came back to work for them. Jessica Kloeckl works on the office and accounting side and John Stadick on the fabrication side. (See side bar, below.)
With the family now all together in business, Pat says his dream and vision for the business is becoming reality. As a business, they have positioned themselves to be able to handle any size customer thanks to the technology they have been able to purchase.
“Today we have a business that has computer controlled press brakes up to 500 ton, computer controlled rolls that can roll up to 5/8″ plate 10′ wide, a plasma table with two separate stations on a 12′ x 54′ bed, handrail cutting machine, angle rolls, large structural saws that can handle up to 20″ x 30″ beams, two drill lines for large structural steel that can handle up to 40″ tall beams weighing as much as 400 pounds per foot, angle line, computer design software that can draw huge structural facilities and a lot more.
“We can take on large million-dollar projects or do the local repair for a farmer. We have shipped across the continental U.S., as well overseas, built an indoor shooting range for his royal highness in Abu Dhabi, shipped ballistic panels to Morocco, as well as material into Canada. We have built large airport hangar doors, coal conveying equipment, ash handling equipment, feed mill structural steel and bins/hoppers. We also have built a 600′ long roller assembly for gas transportation, 12′ diameter x 80′ long concrete forms, 35′ diameter hoppers, 100′ tall stair towers and a lot more.
“John and I are both Certified Weld Inspectors (CWI) and we also have people trained in paint inspection. We have grown from a two-person business to where are today, and we have no outside sales or do any advertising, everything is word of mouth and customers approaching us.”
Working As a Family to Tackle Health Situation
“Jessica and John have also been working their way up through the various position and taking more responsibilities. Working with family can have some issues as we see each other all the time and we sometimes tend to step on one another’s toes. We have learned to create boundaries as to who oversees certain job duties. In 2019 through a routine physical at Mayo Clinic I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer, low grade,” Pat reflects. “In 2020 it was moved up to being more aggressive and surgery to remove it was required, just two weeks ago. This has put me out for a few weeks, and everyone has stepped up to fill my shoes through this. Jessica and John stepped in fill Laura’s and my shoes though this and are on their way to being able to take it over at some point in the future, should they decide to. They have been very instrumental in bringing G & S into more modern ways of doing business and connecting G & S to the younger generation, sometimes Laura and I are old school in the way we see or do things. We find ourselves very blessed to have been able to get where we are at today, we learned a lot through our past employers and utilized that in a big way to mold our business.”
G & S Manufacturing, LLC
Photography by Jonathan Smith