Saturday, September 20, 2008

Simpson Steel Fabricators and Erectors, Inc.

On a recent auto trip I was explaining how Newt began his own business and I was asked to write it down. Here are the results as I remember them.
Newt became a skilled welder through his experience in the Navy during WWII. After the war he worked for several companies but felt frustrated that his ideas weren't implemented as fast as he thought they should be and he harbored the desire to become his own boss. He built several boat trailers using axles salvaged from old cars. This he did in the yard or driveway of his home on West Temple. Besides the salvaged parts, he used steel pipe for the trailer's superstructure. In the 50's he began fabricating pipe handrail and for a time worked out of a quanset hut at about 100 West and 4400 South. He asked friends from work to help in their free time and that way developed business associations with men who would later become key to the business growth. A few that I recall are Jerry Clegg, Paul Palur, Heber Bishop, Bob Burr and later as the company took shape, John Ballou, Bjorn Saetrum, Roen Hale and Fred Richeda. Growth wasn't smooth and when the steelworkers went on strike around 1960 the company disbanded and the equipment moved into Newt's garage. For a time, Newt rented the portable welders he purchased from construction companies who prefered to sell their assets when the project was complete rather than move it to the next job or put it in storage. These welding machines became the equipment basis for his company as work expanded. He rented space on Mrs. Green's property behind the home on West Temple. That was about 1962 or 63. As the company grew, he moved operations to a rented building in North Salt Lake. It resided there for a year or two then proved too small and operations moved to the old Lang Company's truck shop along the Jordan River. Newt had worked for the Lang Company early in his career as did most of the others who became the basis for Simpson Steel. The new shop was spacious and clients like the oil companies, Kennecott, Utah Power and Hercules provided the work. Simpson Steel as it was known then and from that time forward also thrived on work subcontracted from other steel fabrication companies, primarily Titan Steel. Even the space in Salt Lake became too restricted and Newt found some property in Murray where an old brick-making company had abandoned operations leaving bins and hoppers and brick firing tunnels in disrepair. Newt's vision was to gut the processing building and convert it into his steel fabrication shop. The office/laboratory became the company office and it all grew from there. Utah Power was building coal fired power plants, the mining industry was growing in Utah and Nevada and three trona mining/processing plants were growing rapidly in Wyoming. The shop was directly across the railroad tracks from its competitor Titan Steel and workers from both companies could monitor the activities of the other by just gazing across the tracks. The other chief competitors were Mark Steel founded by Mark Markosian and Alpine Metals by Red Mays.

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