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‘Historic’ demand fuels Steel Dynamics’ growth

(photo courtesy of Steel Dynamics)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An executive with Fort Wayne-based Steel Dynamics Inc. (Nasdaq: STLD) says the company’s recent growth is due to both increased market demand and strategic investments. The steelmaker reported record profit in 2021 and last week announced plans to hire up to 200 employees in northeast Indiana. Senior Vice President Chris Graham says the company is confident it will find the workforce it needs because of its reputation as an employer.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Graham said non-residential construction is at “historic highs,” which has been a boon for SDI.

“In our fabrication leg, which focuses primarily on non-residential projects, they would normally have a three-to-four month backlog of work; that would be the normal cycle time for a project. The entire industry is out over a year,” said Graham. “So, we are quoting work for next summer, which is beyond anything any of us have seen in that space.”

Graham says the company is starting to see a recovery in the oil industry and the need for steel pipe, as well as the automotive industry. He says while some automakers are struggling with the microchip shortage, there are others that are still going strong.

“I could name certain automotive companies that haven’t missed a beat, so they’re still out there with certain demand. Now, we don’t make exposed automotive; we don’t make hoods and door panels, but we make a huge amount of the things you don’t see.”

He adds many of the larger steel companies have gone away from reopening, even for a short time, aging facilities, which has allowed newer technology companies such as SDI to fill the gap.

Last year, Steel Dynamics reported full-year net income of $3.2 billion, up from $551 million in 2021. The company is also in the midst of a $231 million expansion of its facility in Terre Haute, which is slated for completion this year.

Steel Dynamics also recently opened its nearly $2 billion Sinton Steel Mill near Corpus Christi, Texas. Graham says the facility is set in a strategic location.

“It’s going to be able to serve the southwest United States and Mexico with products that aren’t currently available to those folks,” Graham said. “That’s been a strategic growth; we didn’t just decide to spend that money because it’s hot at the moment and we know that these levels of demand aren’t going to maintain forever. They’re historically high and almost abnormal.”

Graham says the need to grow its workforce in northeast Indiana is due to a combination of company growth, some employees moving to the Texas location, and older employees nearing retirement.

“We have relatively low turnover. We don’t typically have problems hiring folks because of the way we structure our [company]. We don’t lay off typically as a normal course of action in seasons or when things slow down and we share in our successes in a big way.”

Steel Dynamics says it has openings at all of its local operations, including facilities in Butler, New Haven, Columbia City and other locations in northeast Indiana.