By Richard M. Brown / Reprinted from The Midlands Business Journal – Date: March 20, 2020
Behlen Mfg. Co., a Nebraska-headquartered global manufacturer with a diverse mix of agricultural and non-farm related products and annual sales of $198 million last year, is seeking to cement growth opportunities in the southeastern U.S. with its merger last month with Trident Building Systems of Sarasota, Florida.
“Being flexible continues to be an important part of our survival and success,” said chairman/CEO Phil Raimondo. Raimondo oversees the family-owned Behlen group of three business units that employ 1,180 people. Of that number, about 700 work in Nebraska – 590 of them at the firm’s corporate headquarters and sprawling production facility in Columbus. A southwest Omaha plant, Behlen Technology & Manufacturing at 3838 S. 108th St., employs 60.
Additional U.S. locations include Baker City, Oregon; McGregor, Texas; Sarasota, Florida; and Boise, Idaho.
“While we don’t have anything on the horizon at this point, we’re always going to be looking at people and companies doing similar things that are complementary with high quality manufacturing,” Raimondo said.
(Chairman and CEO Phil Raimondo with an Alltra CNC control plasma table that is used for cutting webs, plates and clips . . .Growth reflected through merger.)
As the 84-year-old Behlen Mfg. Co. seeks to become more competitive beyond its Nebraska roots, the plan is to seek acquisitions and other agreements in strategic locations throughout the country that enable it to build its products in closer proximity to its customers and end users.
Raimondo, who has an electrical engineering degree from Purdue University and an MBA, said the Trident merger positions Behlen to hit $220 million in annual shipments this year. Its previous record was $213 million in 2007.
With the Trident transaction Behlen assumes a 34-year-old family-owned firm that makes a full line of quality pre-engineered and structural steel buildings from a 115,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
Raimondo said that the Trident merger will enable Behlen Building Systems to significantly expand its business unit while opening up new regional markets and additional production capabilities.
He said Trident sales were in the $25 million range last year. “It’s important for us to expand the market in Florida and get the Behlen name out with our level of service to the area builders and general contractors down there,” he said.
Raimondo said Behlen’s Omaha plant, headed by general manager Mike Vaughn since 2019, has received significant technological upgrades. The 160,000-square-foot facility at 3838 S. 108th St. fabricates more than 1,000 different metal components for various industries including communications, turf care, agriculture, construction, transportation, telecommunications, among others.
“We’re experienced in creating designs for manufacturers with efficiencies built in,” he said. “This enables us to find solutions to even the most challenging production specifications.”
Processes include laser cutting, forming and stamping, welding, CNC machining, engineering/design/manufacturing, rotational molding, and kitting parts.
Raimondo said one of the largest investments involved the purchase of a $1.5 million fiber laser machine.
“It offers speed improvement on the put-through and reduces overall costs by 20%,” he said.
Employee training has been important in integrating a computer-controlled press to work in tandem with laser technology to achieve better flow-through. This is achieved by moving raw parts together through the press.
Tooling capabilities have been enhanced with the addition of a sharpening drill.
The plant, housed in the former Nashua Corp. building, was formerly known as Distefano Tool & Manufacturing – a then family-owned business located at 30th & Browne streets in north Omaha. Behlen acquired the firm in 2009 and moved it to its current location.
It was Behlen’s first major acquisition under the ownership of the Raimondo family.
The Omaha plant is operating near 70% capacity and Raimondo hopes within the next two years to add a second shift and increase staffing to 90.
Looking at the Behlen family of companies holistically, Raimondo said the company is positioned as a diversified venture that has had success in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. If one sector is lagging, the other holds the firm up.
There are three diverse business units. In addition to Behlen Building Systems, Behlen Country – with three production plants – is the nation’s leading manufacturer of livestock equipment. International and Diversified Products includes grain systems, strip joining presses and custom fabrication. Behlen also owns BMC Transportation, a specialized firm with 85 owner-operators that deliver products throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“We want to get our owner numbers up to 100 this year,” Raimondo said. “Of that number, about 50 live in Nebraska while the others live in places such as Oregon, Idaho and Tennessee.”
He also hopes more operators can be recruited near the newly-acquired Florida facility.
Variables closely watched by Behlen ownership and management include the value of the American dollar and raw material prices.
“Steel prices are getting back to a more reasonable level now,” Raimondo said.
“Teamwork and change,” Raimondo said have been important to Behlen’s growth since his father T.R. (Tony) Raimondo became majority owner of the company in 1984. The elder Raimondo, 79, is now chairman of the board emeritus.
Phil Raimondo is joined in the family business by his brother Tony Raimondo Jr., who operates Hilton Industries, an industrial production/fabrication group; son-in-law Brandon Hayes, who is a manufacturing manager for the buildings unit; nephew Cody Myers, engineering manager of the ag business unit; and Phil’s youngest son, Patrick Raimondo, manufacturing manager in Behlen Country.