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By Samantha O’Conner / Reprinted from the Baker City Herald – Date: March 22, 2022

Hands-on learning: Touring Baker Technical Institute

A rainy day didn’t deter the Baker Technical Institute from welcoming state legislators, county commissioners, Blue Mountain Community College representatives, and company representatives from around the region for a tour on Monday morning, March 28th.

State Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, whose district includes Baker County, had visited BTI, which is based at the Baker High School campus, a couple years ago. Findley, along with BTI President Doug Dalton, worked with the Eastern Oregon Workforce Board to plan the tour showcasing what BTI has to offer students and adults. About 20 people participated in Monday’s event, including another legislator, Sen. Bill Hansell, a Republican from Athena, in Umatilla County.

The facility, which started about eight years ago in the Baker 5J School District, offers a heavy equipment operator school, a truck driving school, a health care program, training in agriculture, natural sciences and natural resources, and it recently partnered with Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative to start a utility worker training center.

Sandy Mitchell, program coordinator for BTI, explained that BTI is a technical college.

“We contract back with the Baker School District and provide all of the (grades) 7-12 CTE (career technical education) programs and then we also are licensed as a technical college in the state of Oregon through HECC, Higher Education Coordinating Commission,” Mitchell said.

She said BTI partners with industries across the Pacific Northwest to take BTI training programs to other communities.

“Right now, we’re in Eastern Idaho. In Idaho Falls, we have 20 students that we’re training in construction,” Mitchell said. “So, last week they actually poured concrete and they’re learning concrete masonry at a rest area. We do community projects and our instructors will go in and teach them.”

She said all 20 of the students learned skills in blueprint reading, construction math, how to find the volume, what you need for concrete, and how to order it.

Mitchell said BTI instructors also set up at remote location mobile classrooms with trailers that contain simulators that students use to learn how to operate heavy equipment such as backhoes and excavators.

“We feel really strongly about getting students as many certifications as possible,” Dalton said.

In healthcare, Dalton said BTI has mobile labs that allow instructors to work inside hospitals across the region, including in Pendleton, Heppner, Wallowa, John Day, Burns and Ontario.

“We’re now building labs to be able to teach medical classes from here into even smaller rural communities,” Dalton said.

HANDS-ON TRAINING
Participants in Monday’s tour experienced the mobile heavy equipment simulators, including truck driving and logistics training. “These trailers go all over the Northwest,” Dalton said.

Patrick Raimondo, plant manager at Behlen Country’s livestock equipment factory in Baker City, attended the tour along with the plant’s human resources manager, Stacy DeLong, and Angi Boruch, quality and safety manager.

Delong and Boruch chose the truck driving simulator. Users settle into an authentic truck seat that moves just as a real truck would depending on terrain and road surface.

Patrick Raimondo using truck driving simulator
(Patrick Raimondo, manager of Behlen Country’s livestock equipment factory in Baker City, takes his turn operating a heavy equipment simulator at Baker Technical Institute on Monday, March 28, 2022.)

Three screens showed the view through the windshield, windows, and rear view mirrors.

An instructor chooses different driving scenarios for the student to deal with, including inclement weather, a deer leaping into the road, or a blown tire or other mechanical problem.“I’ve got to give it to the truck drivers, this is not easy,” Boruch said after her turn on the simulator.

“This is wild,” DeLong said.

AGRICULTURE, HEALTH CARE OFFERINGS CONTINUE TO GROW

Dalton led the tour from the simulators to the FFA greenhouse, where students were tending to flower baskets for the Mother’s Day sale. It will be held in person.
“90 percent of our ag program is directed at high school students, (the) FFA program here,” Dalton said. “We’ve got a full plant science pathway and a full animal science pathway, both. And then we offer ag business and ag technology and innovation classes.”

The BTI ag program was voted program of the year for Oregon and the region.

BTI also has an ESports team, the first in Oregon. The team participates in electronic sports tournaments.

In health care, BTI has courses focusing on rural medicine, including wilderness first aid.

“We train everybody from physicians that need continuing ed and we’re approved through the American Medical Association to give them rural life support skills,” Dalton said.

Dalton noted that BTI has a student base of about 2,000 students around the area and they are continuing to grow.

“We have a contract with the Baker School District, we do all their high school CTE (career technical education) and we ship middle school students up here to get started,” he said. “So, they are earning industry certifications here as high school students, which is awesome. We’ll train about 400 during the day here up until afternoon, and then at about 2:30 the adults start coming in.”

Dalton said the average starting salary for students who had completed classes was $56 per hour. He said BTI students learn to prepare resumes, go through mock interviews, and understand entrepreneurship and financial record-keeping.

“We celebrate work ethic and we talk about it every day,” he said.

BEHLEN PRESS RELEASE – February 1, 2022

Behlen Mfg. Co. Acquires Freeland Industries, Inc. and Freeland Trucking, Inc.

Columbus, Nebraska, February 1, 2022 —  Behlen Mfg. Co, headquartered in Columbus, Nebraska, has signed an agreement with Freeland Industries, Inc. and Freeland Trucking, Inc. (Freeland), located in Portage, Wisconsin, to acquire industrial tank and feeder assets to expand their product offering.

Lynn Van Epps, President of Freeland, and the current leadership team will continue to manage the daily operations of the Portage, WI manufacturing facility and trucking company crews. Jen Miller, President of Behlen Country, will lead the efforts to integrate Freeland and Behlen through the transition.

“Today’s announcement increases our product offering to the farm, ranch, and home markets. Behlen Country brings a strong distribution system that supports many different items being on one truck directly to our customers,” said Jen Miller, President Behlen Country. “This acquisition expands our offerings to meet the ever-growing demand and rapidly changing needs of our customers.”

Freeland Industries, Inc. is a family-owned company in the fourth generation of ownership and leadership. Freeland was established in 1909 and manufactures steel stock tanks, hog troughs, creep feeders, and structural foam plastic tanks. Freeland has been providing customers with high-quality products for over 110 years. The goal at Freeland Industries is to “provide the highest level of quality at a fair price, along with service and friendliness!” Bringing together the Freeland goal and approach to business with the Behlen vision statement, “Where Teamwork and Change Make Customers & Employees Better Off!” is a winning combination, continuing a culture of customer service and family values.

Freeland Trucking, Inc. was established in 1983 to provide an “Irregular Route Common Carrier” for transportation and delivery of Freeland products. Behlen Mfg. Co. has BMC Transportation with a common carrier license to provide delivery throughout the contiguous 48 states and Canadian provinces. Combining these two trucking fleets will continue to support the growth and keep pace with the expanding customer business, quality products, and timely deliveries.  

Behlen Mfg. Co., headquartered in Columbus, Nebraska, is a world-leading metal manufacturer with diverse business units, including Behlen Country (the nation’s leading manufacturer of livestock equipment), Behlen Building Systems, Trident Building Systems, Behlen International & Diversified Products (grain systems, strip joining presses, and custom fabrication), Behlen Technology & Manufacturing, and Hilton International Industries (precision winding machines). BMC Transportation has a fleet of over 100 owner-operators, which delivers Behlen products throughout the U.S. and Canada. www.behlenmfg.com. Additional U.S. locations include Baker City, Oregon; McGregor, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Sarasota, Florida.

Freeland is the 13th acquisition for Behlen since its return to local ownership in 1984.

BEHLEN PRESS RELEASE – November 30, 2021

Behlen Mfg. Co. Announces Tom Boal as President

Columbus, Nebraska, November 30, 2021 —  Behlen Mfg. Co. is proud to announce Tom Boal has accepted the role of President of Behlen Mfg. Co.

Phil Raimondo “I am honored and grateful to be given the opportunity to become the President of Behlen, a position I will not take for granted.   My goal in leading Behlen is to build on the foundation and strategic direction to continue our great relationships resulting in helping customers grow so we can grow.”

Tom began his career with Behlen in June of 2018, where he has served as the President of the Behlen Building Systems division. He was elected to the Behlen Board of Directors in August 2021. Tom has proven to be a strategic and innovative leader who energizes his team. He has demonstrated the ability to create a vision and drive change through forward-thinking solutions, streamlining processes, improving quality, and strengthening customer service.

In making this decision, Chairman Emeritus -TR Raimondo noted the following, “Tom is a key member of our Leadership Team and success, and we are confident in selecting him as President of Behlen.  Behlen Culture is built on the foundation put in place through our Global Values and Basic Beliefs, which is important to our Partners in Progress (employees). Tom supports maintaining this culture at Behlen.”

Tom earned his MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University graduating with honors as a Welch Scholar. He has a BS in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. Tom is slated to become Chairman of the MBMA (Metal Building Manufacturers Association) Board for 2022; he is a member of ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers); and NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers).

In addition, a team of TR Raimondo, and Lyle Burbach (Senior Vice President), now serve as Office of the CEO, while Tony Raimondo, Jr. (CEO of Hilton International Industries) serves as Chairman of the Board.

Reprinted from The Catalyst – By Dawson Brunswick (Columbus Chamber President) & KC Belitz (Previous Columbus Chamber President) – Date: December, 2021

Remembering Phil Raimondo

As we close out manufacturing month, I, along with the entire team at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, want to acknowledge the impact and contributions that Phil Raimondo had, not only at Behlen Mfg. Co., but to the local and state manufacturing community, especially the Columbus area.

Phil Raimondo

While I only had a few months to get to know Phil, I quickly realized he was a pillar in the Columbus area. This was especially demonstrated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he helped lead the manufacturing community throughout Nebraska on weekly Zoom calls by sharing best practices and the procedures they had put in place at Behlen to protect their Partner in Progress (employees). Behlen Mfg. Co. also stepped in to help employ those that other employers furloughed through the uncertainty of the pandemic.

It is also important to note that through Phil’s leadership, Behlen has been committed to supporting the community through various programs (too many to list all), such as Drive For Five, United Way, STEM Education, the Quality of Life initiative, Dream It. Do It., Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Go Red For Women, Habitat for Humanity, and most recently, the Cattleman’s Ball and Kramer Education Center.

In June 2021, Behlen celebrated their 85th anniversary, where KC Belitz was the emcee. KC, a longtime friend and colleague of Phil and previous chamber president, also shared the following comments:

“Phil was proud to be a manufacturer. By definition, that means he like making, creating, building things. That describes a lot of manufacturers. What made Phil unique was how he took that desire to “build” and applied it across his life.

Phil was truly interested in building people and building his community, just as much as he was interested in building grain bins, gates, and steel buildings. He invested in the Behlen Mfg. Partners in Progress personally and through his corporate decision-making. He was always so proud when he talked about how much Profit Sharing the employees earned during any given year!

He was equally invested in building his community. When it would’ve been easier to say “no,” Phil said “yes” to Columbus. He and his family invested in the Quality of Life Centers and the Columbus Area Future Fund campaign as lead donors. They invested in schools.  They supported almost every cause in our community.

Just as important as the financial investments, Phil invested his own time in community projects. He certainly could’ve sent others to be campaign chair for United Way or serve on the Chamber committee to build workforce recruitment incentives, but instead, he did it himself and spent hours of his time as a result. But by doing so, he built a stronger community in his adopted hometown.”

Phil led a successful company and took that responsibility very seriously. He was a proud manufacturer. But he also saw that company as a vehicle to build people and build community, and in that, he was a unique leader and a unique human being.”

Phil was a great person, a leader in every sense of the word. The Chamber team is grateful for the time we had with him and his commitment to the Columbus community.

Reprinted from The Husker Harvest Days Program Guide – By Curt Arens – Date: September, 2021

John Kearney – A Great Guy To Work With

You really can’t talk about live cattle handling demonstrations at Husker Harvest Days without mentioning John Kearney. He was a vital part of the cattle handling demos, including the first session that demonstrated only three livestock chutes.

John Kearney

For well over 30 years, John worked with Lexington veterinarian and entertainer, Dr. Joe Jeffrey, to educate HHD audiences. John, age 72 of Overton, passed away on July 13, 2020, at the CHI Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.

Born on Jan. 16, 1948, John graduated from St. Ann’s High School in Lexington in 1966. He worked for area farmers until he entered the U.S. Army in 1968. After his service, John worked as a welder at Perkins Manufacturing, and later as a salesman for Big Valley and Behlen Mfg. Co., traveling all over the country to farm shows like HHD.

FOUNDING FATHER
When HHD added live cattle handling and side-by-side chute demonstrations, John was one of the early organizers. “He was a great guy to work with,” says Jeffrey of his old friend. “He was fun to be around. John always had his talk ready to go during the chute presentations, and we would try to trip him up. But he never missed a beat.”

Jeffrey, along with chute operators and sales staff from different companies, who put on the cattle handling at HHD worked hard to build the demonstrations into something that was educational and entertaining. “We had a lot of fun teasing each other,” Jeffrey says. He notes how early organizers like John worked together to make the demonstrations as popular as they have become.

Jeffrey says that John was very good with people and knew how to talk with producers. When he wasn’t working, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, going out to eat and attending church. He was buried with military honors at St. Ann’s Cemetery in Lexington.

The team at Husker Harvest Days, as well as Nebraska Farmer magazine, extends our sincere condolences to the Kearney family, and gratitude for all of John’s hard work in building up HHD cattle handling over the years.

 

Reprinted from the Columbus Telegram – By Molly Hunter – Date: July 24, 2021

Behlen awarded funds to boost STEM

A $116,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development will help build on existing Columbus Public Schools programs that promote manufacturing, engineering and information technology jobs.

The grant is part of the Department of Economic Development’s Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), launched in 2015. During a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the 2021 DYTI grant winners — Behlen Mfg. Co. and Great Plains Health.

Behlen applied for the grant with Columbus Public Schools (CPS), and the money will provide a boost to art, computer and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming at Columbus Middle School.

“For instance, in the STEM classroom we already have a CNC machine but we’re going to increase safety measures. We’ll have some new router bits that will allow the kids to have a little bit more creativity with projects,” CPS Marketing Director Nicole Anderson said.
Students with STEM toys

(Students take toys apart in preparation for a robotics project at the CPS STEM Camp in June at Columbus Middle School. The robotics programming at the middle school will benefit from a $116,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development)

Anderson said the funds will also allow CMS students to do some new things with coding and robotics.

“From the standpoint of art, they’re going to get some things where they can take their artwork and we’re going to have the entrepreneurship part of it so we can take that artwork and put it on a T-shirt,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the school is also working to introduce software that will allow students to implement their own artwork in computer games.

“It’s about taking things they love to do already and (show them) how to apply it in another way,” Anderson said. “It’s taking our curriculum and giving us another way to apply it and show real-world application.

Anderson said the money will go to Behlen, which will direct it to CPS. She said the funds will work by reimbursing the school for investments and upgrades it makes, and that the grant should cover expenses over a two-year period, starting now.

The grant also builds on an existing relationship between Behlen and CPS.

“I think it’s a natural step. … The original investment that Behlen made in the school system was when they built the new high school,” Behlen Mfg. Co. Chairman and CEO Phil Raimondo said. “We wanted to focus on the STEM academy there.”

Phil Raimondo and Gov. Ricketts

According to a press release about the grant winners, DYTI aims to introduce middle school students to careers in manufacturing, information technology, engineering and health care.

“We used to go the community college to recruit people to work. And that was good and it’s still OK but now we’re trying to reach kids in high school,” Raimondo said.

Behlen has tried to do that outreach in several ways.

“The apprenticeship program we did a few years ago is still active and doing well. We also have a lot of interns, some high school and some college kids,” Raimondo said.

Automotive shop
The automotive shop at Columbus High School. Nicole Anderson said boosting the STEM, art and computer programs at the middle school will inevitably support opportunities at the high school that are relevant to careers in manufacturing and technology.

Supporting middle school programs takes that involvement one step further, Raimondo said.

“(For) that middle school age, we feel like there’s a great opportunity to get them exposed to manufacturing, get them comfortable with some of the things that we’re doing in our plant,” Raimondo said. “If we can get them thinking about that earlier, we feel like we’ll have a better opportunity, not just for Behlen, but for all the other manufacturers in the community.”

Growth of the middle school programs is also bound to boost things at the high school, Anderson said.

“If they grow at the middle school level, it’s going to force growth at the high school level,” Anderson said. “We knew what our goal was at the high school and now we’re feeding it at the middle school level to keep improving and keep expanding.”

Media Release: Gov. Ricketts Announces 2021 Developing Youth Talent Initiative Grant Winners – Date: July 23, 2021

Gov. Ricketts Announces 2021 Developing Youth Talent Initiative Grant Winners

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced Behlen Mfg. Co. and Great Plains Health as the recipients of the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI) grants for 2021. Launched by the Governor in 2015, DYTI introduces middle school students to careers in industries such as manufacturing, information technology, engineering, and healthcare. DYTI is administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED).

“DYTI grants support partnerships between the public school system and Nebraska employers to prepare our youth for the careers of tomorrow,” said Gov. Ricketts. “By introducing middle school students to in-demand jobs early in their studies, we can start them down an educational pathway to a great-paying career here in Nebraska when they graduate.”

Gov Ricketts Grant Winners
(From left to right: Sign language interpreter Thomas Beyer, DED Director Tony Goins,
Great Plains Health CEO Mel McNea, Gov. Ricketts, and Behlen Manufacturing Chairman
& CEO Phil Raimondo.)

DYTI provides competitive grants of up to $250,000 to for-profit employers, who partner with area middle schools to design and implement innovative curriculum that inspires seventh and eighth graders to explore careers in manufacturing, information technology, health care, and other high-growth industries.

“It’s crucial that we reach out to our students at a young age to illustrate the high-tech, rewarding careers waiting for them right in their hometown, in fields where their talents will be in-demand and well-compensated,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “DYTI allows our employers and educators to combine forces to achieve that goal in an engaging and useful way.”

Since its inception, DYTI grants have reached up to 22,665 students across 59 Nebraska school districts. In all, over a dozen companies and more than 60 schools have participated in DYTI since 2015. The two companies receiving today’s awards – Great Plains Health and Behlen Mfg. Co. – are set to impact at least 1,800 more students across two counties and seven public school districts.

With an award of $134,000, Great Plains Health, in partnership with North Platte Public Schools Foundation and District, will purchase augmented reality and virtual reality equipment to be installed in Adams Middle School classrooms and the Great Plains Health Education Center Simulation Lab. This will enable at least 1,200 students throughout Lincoln County to experience an interactive healthcare curriculum and engage hands-on with the latest industry technology. Additionally, the grant will help launch the first Summer Healthcare Engage Camp in North Platte in 2022, where students will participate in interactive workshops and explore areas of medicine alongside real-world doctors, nurses, and other industry professionals.

“We appreciate the focus that Governor Ricketts and Nebraska DED have placed on developing youth talent throughout Nebraska,” said Mel McNea, Great Plains Health chief executive officer. “As part of our strategy to close the healthcare workforce shortage in west-central Nebraska, North Platte Public Schools Foundation and District and Great Plains Health have been actively involved in finding new and innovative ways to develop a young talent pipeline interested in healthcare in Nebraska. The DYTI grant allows us to deploy advanced technology and interactive camps to engage our young people in the healthcare  profession and ultimately encourage them to stay in Nebraska as adults.”

Receiving $116,000, Behlen will partner with Columbus Middle School to implement the Anchoring Manufacturing, Technology and Entrepreneurship (AMTE) project to enhance students’ knowledge and interest surrounding manufacturing careers, coding, broadcasting, and entrepreneurship. The effort will be part of a consortium with Dream It Do It and the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition (NAMC), and will incorporate an after-school program, educator training, and interactive technology and equipment. The program intends to impact at least 1,200 students.

“Behlen Mfg. Co. is excited to partner with Columbus Middle School and NAMC/Dream It Do It,” said Phil Raimondo, Chairman & CEO of Behlen Mfg. Co.

“The DYTI grant program is making a huge impact in Nebraska communities by providing young students with valuable experiences that could spark an interest in viable, in-demand career opportunities in manufacturing.”

To learn more about the DYTI program, visit opportunity.nebraska.gov

 

Reprinted from the Columbus Area Choice – By Andrew Kiser – Date: July 10, 2021

Businesses Hiring Amid Pandemic

Employees look to fill numerous positions amid pandemic.

The number of jobs in Colum­bus is easy to come by, but filling those positions is another story, according to Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Presi­dent Dawson Brunswick.

He said, “You could throw a rock” and it would land next to a business that was hiring. It’s not just one type of work that is available here, Brunswick noted. He cited manufacturing companies and local restaurants as just a few examples of what kind of jobs that are open.

Brunswick said he believes there are two reasons why it has become difficult to fill those roles.

He said first, more residents are reaching retirement age than there are younger people to take over those positions. Second, the world is still readjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, making some people still afraid to leave their homes, Brunswick added.

“A lot of our current workforce is looking to exit the workforce through retirement;’ Brunswick said. “It really comes down to: How do we replace those (workers) and how do we keep our students? Because we have great school districts not only in Columbus, but the Columbus area that produce a lot of great students.’’
Brunswick said there have been efforts to maintain graduating high school students. The chamber has the Drive for Five initiative where it works with Lakeview Community and Co­lumbus Public schools.

“We engage their students and tell them about opportuni­ties;’ Brunswick said, adding the Chamber is trying to include this initiative at other area schools. “ … I think a lot of it comes down to building relationships with those students.”

He added, he knows those high schoolers “want to go off and do these amazing things” but such endeavors can be done here lo­cally.

“Columbus is the manufac­turing capital of Nebraska” Brunswick said. “We have a lot of opportunities.’’

He added that while there are jobs on the manufacturing line, there are also engineering jobs, which are regularly needed.

“We have all these opportuni­ties that we need to expose our students to,” Brunswick said.

Behlen Mfg. Co. Human Re­sources Generalist Emily Vasina said the manufacturer – which has some 120 jobs available cur­rently, has found it a bit hard to hire. She added “for a while it came down to the unemployment and extensions benefits that people had received during the COVID-19 pandemic.” A lack of applicants and general hiring needs have also made it difficult.

The Nebraska unemployment benefits included an extra $300 after the pandemic hit. But start­ing last month, the state will not add those additional funds to unemployment checks going forward.

Behlen has a variety of jobs available ranging from welders, galvanizing lines, paint lines, loaders/unloaders to general labor, Vasina said. These hours can vary as the manufacturer is hiring full-time and part-time workers, as well as weekend and 12-hour, three­ days-per-week shifts.

Due to this current situation, Vasina said Behlen has re-evaluated its criteria when it comes to hiring and has been more aggressive with its advertising. Now it seems ev­eryone is trying to hire and there are only so many bodies to fill po­sitions.

“As an example, we’ve focused more on having on-site career fairs and made employee referrals a focus:’ Vasina said.

Behlen Lighted Billboard
Lighted billboard sign near Highway 30 at Behlen Mfg. Co.’s Columbus plant.

Meanwhile, the Chamber is try­ing to target a demographic that has been difficult to reach: Millennials.

Brunswick said it’s not only Co­lumbus that has struggled to reach folks in the 18-34 age range, but Nebraska as a whole.
“A lot of people leave the state during that age and they come back here later on in life, raise a family and be closer to their family,” Brunswick said.
Brunswick said such a way to get young profes­sionals would be through smart­phones, apps and social media. He praised Columbus Area Convention and Visi­tors’ Bureau Director Katy McNeil for creating the Something Good app as a way to reach an age group that’s more “app-based!’

Still, Brunswick said, more needs to be done in targeting young professionals.

Some of the ones that are here now are only in Columbus on a temporary basis as they go to college elsewhere, Brunswick said.
Although this issue won’t go away soon, Brunswick said he be­lieves the ultimate way to fill the local workforce shortage long­ term is to work with current high school students.

“It comes down to that education piece, exposing those stu­dents and building those relationships:’ he said.

Andrew Kiser is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at andrew.kiser@lee.net.

 

 

Reprinted from the Columbus Telegram – By Sam Ficarro – Date: June 18, 2021

Behlen Mfg. Co. celebrates 85 years in business

On a 100-degree day, hundreds came out to celebrate Behlen Mfg. Co’s 85th anniversary held Thursday afternoon. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Columbus Mayor Jim Bulk ley were among the dignitaries who spoke at Behlen.

Walt Behlen   Walt Behlen
Picture 1:  K.C. Belitz was MC for Behlen’s 85-year celebration in Columbus on Thursday. Picture 2: Behlen Mfg. Co. Chairman/CEO Phil Raimondo speaks during the company’s 85-year celebration in Columbus on Thursday.

Originally founded in 1936 by Walter D. Behlen, Wickes Corp. took over the company with TR Raimondo becoming the general manager.

Raimondo, along with Dick Casey, Bob Theilen and Steve McGill, bought Behlen Mfg. Co. in 1984 to return the Columbus based company to local ownership.

They lost $7 million in their first year on $30 million invested.

“All of our friends in the banking world ran,” Raimondo said.

Now, the company is at $300 million and Raimondo attributes that to their Partners in Progress (employees).

“Our customers continually tell us that our people take better care of them than their competitors,” Raimondo said.

His son, Phil, is now Behlen’s chairman and CEO.

“I’m very proud to be leading this team right now:’ Phil said. “It’s a great honor, especially with the way businesses go today. We really feel very fortunate with all the things that have happened throughout the world… throughout the U.S. We just feel very fortunate to be able to provide for 1,250 families.”

Ricketts (below) said he was honoured to be at Behlen. As someone who is a part of a family business, he understood the difficulties that it could present.
Pete Ricketts Visits Behlen

“How you keep a company continuing to be able to provide a high level of service, continuing the Partners in Progress and continuing to serve the community here in Columbus,” Ricketts said, “at the end of the day it’s about people. That’s one of the keys to leadership of the Raimondo family and at Behlen Mfg.”

Ricketts noted the company’s involvement in the community, specifically an apprenticeship program with Columbus High School that allows high schoolers the chance to learn about manufacturing and enter the workforce out of high school.

He also mentioned the donation of 3D printers to Columbus High and lauded Behlen’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When some of the local folks were being furloughed from their companies, Behlen stood up to offer them temporary employment to help them get through a rough patch,” Ricketts said. “That’s what Nebraskans do. They help out their neighbors!”

After his remarks, Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring June 17th as Behlen Manufacturing Day.

Phil Raimondo was grateful for the turnout from the community given the hot temperatures.

“I know people really care about Behlen and it’s not just our Partners in Progress and not just my family, but there are so many families in Columbus that depend on Behlen,” he said. “I think it’s great to have this many people here, especially on a 100-degree day.”

Phil said operations have become smoother as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, including posting a record number of orders and shipments this year.

“The last three months we started to see more interactions with customers because a lot of the times last year, it was only being able to talk to customers on the phone or through a zoom meeting,” Phil said. “Now that we’re able to get back together, it just seems there are a lot of good things happening!’

Phil is optimistic that the first 85 years can be matched over the next 85 years. However, he’s focused on the present.

“We know that we’ve gotten to this 85-year celebration one day at a time, so as long as we’re mindful of taking it one day at a time, not getting too far ahead of ourselves and making the best business and customer decisions that we can.” Phil said, “I think we will be able to get pretty close to that if not all the way there.

Reprinted from the Metal Construction News – By Marcy Marro Editor – Date: June, 2021

Walt Behlen Inducted into Metal Construction Hall of Fame

A PIONEER IN METAL BUILDINGS, BEHLEN HAD AN EYE FOR CREATING SOLUTIONS.

In 1949, Walter D. Behlen created the world’s first “stressed skin” metal building in which sheet metal was corrugated to produce structural panels. His frameless building concept was used to develop buildings with clear spans up to 288 feet. 10 inches in a variety of root profiles. In each case, the corrugated panels and other components were made from sheet metal, serving the dual purpose of sheeting and structural support Behlen’s contributions to the metal building industry, including the commercial market. had significant influence on their mainstream acceptance. So much so that a Nov. 3, 1958 article in Time magazine called him the “Corn-belt Edison.”

Walt Behlen

EARLY LIFE
The second of nine children, Behlen grew up on a small farm near Columbus, Neb. After his high school education was interrupted by illness, he returned to school at the age of 20, graduated at age 23, and began Behlen Manufacturing Co., Columbus, as a one­man operation in 1936. When working as a railway expressman, Behlen began producing stee l toe caps for wooden-soled industrial shoes using various hand tools. a grinder poured from scrap metal and a homemade forge he had installed in his garage workshop.

Over the years, Behlen invented a long line of products that were designed and fabricated in the factory. The part-time operation continued until 1941, when Behlen and his father, Fred, began manufacturing small products full time. In 1946, they were joined by Behlen’s brothers, H.P. “Mike” Behlen and G.E. “Gib” Behlen. At that time, the product line included the Behlen corn crib, portable farm grain dryers and grain tanks.

METAL BUILDINGS
Behlen Manufacturing really began to grow when Behlen introduced metal buildings for large commercial grain storage and other commercial applications.

In 1962, the company designed and built a 282-foot by 432-foot column-free arch building for the North Dakota Winter Show that is still in use today. Until dealers were trained to do the erection work, Behlen Manufacturing had its own construction crews. And, as pionee rs in the metal building industry, Behlen could not purchase much of the equipment he needed for manufacturing, so they built their own by creating a large tool and die department.

The self-framing metal buildings come in all sizes, shapes and spans for both the agricultural and commercial markets, making a significant impact on the metal building industry. One of his early popular designs, the “Curvet,” replicated the Quonset huts used by the military. “Walt’s metal buildings proved early on that metal buildings could replace the typical structural steel and concrete buildings being used for gymnasiums, auto dealerships, ice and riding arenas, fruit and vegetable storage and a host of other commercial applications,” says Tony Bouquot, general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA).

There was some initial resistance to the Behlen self-framing sheet metal buildings. so to prove their worth, he constructed a 50-foot-wide, clear-span gable building prototype behind his factory and hung 16 tractors weighing 64.000 pounds from its midspan. He also built a 200-foot-wide, clear-span, flat truss system and had 289 Behlen employees stand on the truss system to provide actual “live loading.”

“(Walter) was an inventor, an out-of­the-box thinker. He saw a need and figured out how to fill 1t with whatever materials and equipment he had at hand or could make.” – Mary Ann Hruska

Behlen had innovative ideas for the promotion of his company and its products, which provided widespread recognition and acceptance around the world. “Many have said that IWalter’sl marketing skills were as inventive as his metal building breakthroughs. Starting with hanging 16 tractors from the ridgepole of the first ‘Behlen building’ to prove its strength. From there the buildings were tested against the power of the atom bomb. A million silver dollars at the Seattle World’s Fair highlighted a simple corn crib holding everyone’s dream of a small fortune sitting inside a handsome Behlen building,” shares Mary Ann Hruska, Behlen’s daughter.

According to Rod Goering, former corporate technical director at Behlen Manufacturing, and current owner, Goering Consulting, Wichita, Kan., Behlen never saw himself as a boss. “He worked right beside his engineers, drafters, toolmakers and manufacturing personnel to create a wide variety of products. His people appreciated Walter and saw him as a friend and fellow worker. If you wanted to find Walter, he was not likely to be in his office, but rather out on the plant floor getting his hands dirty along with his fellow workers.”

CONTINUED INNOVATION
An avid reader. Behlen studied continuously throughout his lifetime. A self-educated genius, he created many products for the agricultural industry including egg crate clamps, husking hooks. steel toe protection for wooden shoes, corn picker rolls. crop dryers, grain wagons, frameless farm gates. corn cribs, gearboxes, power steering units for tractors, beef factories, car wash shelters and disc cultivators. He also developed high ­capacity presses that are still used today for stitching metal coils together by manufacturers around the world. In retirement, Behlen used a high-pressure hydraulic press in an allempt to produce commercial diamonds.

MBMA FOUNDING FATHER
Behlen was one of the founding fathers of the MBMA. In September 1956, Behlen and 12 other leaders from metal building system manufacturing companies created and became the inaugural members of MBMA. Behlen served on MBMA’s executive committee throughout its early formative years. Now, 65 years later, MBMA has evolved into the preeminent voice of the metal building industry, and Behlen Manufacturing is one of the only companies that has been a member the entire time.

“Walter was a trailblazer in the metal building industry,” notes Bouquot. “He not only had the unique capability and genius to create products needed by consumers but also had the ability to convince them the products were effective and reliable. If someone had a product that didn’t perform as expected, it was replaced for free with no questions asked. His whole M.O. was to provide products customers needed and then to keep them happy and returning for more:

A LASTING LEGACY
Behlen passed away on July 26, 1994, and the company continues to honor his legacy. “As a company, we share our history often through social media posts to history books to celebrations,” shares Theresa Grape, marketing coordinator at Behlen Manufacturing. “We have memorabilia we showcase when there are opportunities and make sure to share the historical legacy still today. The ingenuity and creativeness that started this company is something we all appreciate and make a priority to keep up us growing and prospering locally as well as a global competitor.”

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