Behlen Prides Itself on Family Atmosphere While Growing
Behlen Manufacturing Company’s 870,000-square-foot-headquarters at 4025 23rd St. in east Columbus doesn’t necessarily look like a lot from the exterior, but that changes once you’re inside.
Past the numerous offices and desks, one will come across the company’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant that is constantly buzzing with hundreds of employees and machines hard at work creating all sorts of parts and products. For Behlen Vice President of Manufacturing Thomas Wrigley, the plant is like a home away from home.
“I got a lot of years back here,” said Wrigley, with a smile, during a recent tour of the facility. “I was about 30 when I started.”
Despite the facility’s size, Wrigley, a 30-plus-year-veteran of the company, still knows it like the back of his hand. On a January afternoon he maneuvered his way with ease to the southwest corner of the building, where a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Press continues to operate. This specific machine has 36 tools that rotate over a part to punch holes. It is particularly near and dear to Wrigley’s heart because he recommended the company acquire it back in 1986.
“I wanted to purchase this,” Wrigley said, glancing over the machine on a January afternoon. “We could see technology was coming. It has made a big difference.”
Now considered a global leader in steel fabrication with plants across the country, Behlen was first founded in 1936 in the Columbus garage of Walter D. Behlen, who first produced steel toe caps for work shoes and clamps for wooden egg crates.
Behlen was later under the direction of Wickes Corporation, and Tony Raimondo joined the company as its general manager. But following a major change in the grain industry in 1984, Raimondo, along with Dick Casey, Bob Theilen and Steve McGill, orchestrated a leveraged buyout to purchase the company.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Raimondo family leading Behlen, which means quite a bit to its leaders.
“The Raimondo family has owned Behlen longer than the Behlen family (1936–1969). We are proud to be leading Behlen today,” said Behlen Mfg. Co. President/CEO Phil Raimondo, also one of Tony’s sons. “Back in 1984, no one was thinking about 2019. In fact, the leadership team was in a day-to-day survival mode trying to save jobs during the ag recession of the 1980s.”
To mark the significant milestone, the company has planned a June 11 community celebration.
“We are excited to celebrate with Columbus and look forward to having a nice event that includes as many people as possible,” Raimondo said.
In the three-and-a-half decades the Raimondo family has owned the company, Behlen has grown leaps and bounds. It now has four plants with 925 employees in total across the country, in Columbus; Baker City, Oregon; Omaha; McGregor, Texas; and Sarasota, Florida.
In 2018, Behlen exported more than $10 million in products, with Canada, Mexico and Ukraine being the top three countries.
“Grain bins, livestock equipment, customer stitching presses and buildings are key products exported. All business units export to Canada,” said Raimondo, whose company makes hundreds of its own products and parts, as well as many for other businesses. “Behlen has grown by acquisitions since 1984. We started at $32 million in revenue and have plans to achieve $200 million this year. Focusing on customers and organizing by business units helped us grow to where we are today.”
Despite its growth, a key factor in the company’s success has been its ongoing commitment to its employees, who are referred to as “Partners in Progress.” There are 604 of them at the Columbus plant, which is open 24/7 every day of the year.
“I would say the thing that attracts people to Behlen and keeps them at Behlen is the family atmosphere and the flexible workforce that we have. We’re always willing to allow our people to grow internally and give them the opportunities to do so,” Behlen General Manager-Customer Fabrication Heather Macholan said.
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.
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