SHERBURNE – With an eye on opportunities to grow its line of commercial and agricultural wear parts, along with a stronger outside sales department that’s expanded over the last year, Steel Sales Inc. execs have ironclad hopes of drumming up even more business in the coming year.
Steel Sales, located along Route 12 just south of the Village of Sherburne, is coming off a good year that saw the addition of a third outside salesman to its team, as well as national recognition for reaching its five-year milestone as a Hardox Wearparts certified vendor.
The company also carried out efforts in the last year to start contracting with local agencies for crucial business services, such as IT, financial advising, and website design – all of which are services that had previously been outsourced to other regions. The move, the company says, is a solid investment in the local area which, in turn, is good for business.
Now the company aims to keep the momentum going into the new year, said Steel Sales owner Brenda Westcott.
Looking to expand
Westcott has been at the helm of Steel Sales since 1993. Roughly half of Steel Sales’ 30 employees have been with the company for a decade or longer, incentivized by a competitive salary and employee benefits. Company leaders continually work with other local agencies to attract new hires.
“We’re currently looking for a fourth person for outside sales,” said Westcott. “It’s going to help us cover the 22 counties around us that we service.”
For more than three decades, Steel Sales has been a premiere source for steel, aluminum, and stainless steel in sheets, shapes and structural sections. The company has invested heavily in its fabrication services over the years so that it could offer a wide range of products and services in steel supplies and custom fabrication for hobbyists, contractors, and large scale operations.
“Our business is extremely and equally diversified between hobbyists who will walk in the door and a lot of industries, big and small,” said Westcott. “We’re very diversified when it comes to the size of projects. It could be a $10 sale or a $100,000 sale.”
Westcott said the company is looking to expand in 2024, and is now entertaining the notion of investing millions into new fabrication equipment.
But in spite of its accomplishments, business isn’t easy, Westcott noted. Like countless small businesses across the state, she explained that many of Sherburne Steel’s tentative investments are contingent on the direction of the state and federal legislature which, in recent years, has inundated the company with red tape and regulations that have hampered growth.
“The regulations that they impose on companies really cripple free enterprise and it’s just gotten worse,” said Westcott, adding her reluctance to invest heavily in her business until after the elections. “I’m not interested in putting a lot of money into things. Even though we are very fortunate, our country is in a very sad state right now. We need to see if that turns around in 2024.”
Finding workers and
Attracting new blood has also been a challenge, more so now than ever before, she added. Last year, Steel Sales management conducted close to 100 interviews for full-time positions in the company; yet hiring and retention continues to be a strain on the company.
“For years and years, we didn’t experience much turnover. But in the last couple of years, that’s changed,” Westcott said. “Our lowest positions in entry level sales and entry level warehouse has seen more turnover. It’s difficult – like people aren’t interested in working.”
To right the ship, Steel Sales is collaborating with educational institutions, including the Sherburne-Earlville School District, SUNY Morrisville, and DCMO BOCES in Norwich to showcase prospective job opportunities. Hopes are that these collaborations ultimately lead to more local hires within the company.
“We’ve been working with BOCES for over 10 years with work experience internship programs for welding. Students spend time for two weeks here to get an understanding of the industry with some real life experience,” said Steel Sales General Manager Josh Newman.
Newman said that by simply exposing students to available opportunities, Steel Sales increases its chances of recruiting new graduates for entry level jobs that may lead to long lasting careers in the area.
“Alongside doing that shadowing program, we give tours of our facility for students. It’s a benefit to us to help them,” he said. “It’s a mutual relationship that we have that inspires and educates the local youth about the employment opportunities in our area after they’re done with school.”
For the time being, Westcott said Steel Sales is staying positive, with a focus primarily on diversification of services in order to suit customers’ needs.
“That’s a major thing we’re looking to continue in 2024,” she added. “We may not know if we want to invest in another million dollar piece of equipment until I know what’s going to happen with the elections, but being diversified as we are with the different types of customers we serve helps to keep some of our challenges to a minimum.”
More about Steel Sales Inc. can be found on the company’s website, steelsalesinc.com.