Steelcon Expands Manufacturing Capabilities for Oil and Gas Industry

NEW WATERFORD, Ohio – Allen Hodge, the owner of four small businesses operating out of a 70,000-square-foot shop here, announced a 55,000-square-foot expansion Thursday.

Hodge says the majority of the expansion is for Steelcon, an industrial fabricator business, which creates heavy industrial steel items for several industries, primarily the oil and gas sector.

Additionally, Hodge is the owner of Hodge Construction, which is an industrial contractor business; HS Design, a small engineering firm; and Amron Testing, an inspection company of radiography and destructive testing.

Steelcon has been doing some work for an aerospace company in Canada, as well as for some German customers, but most are local customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Business has been good, prompting the family-owned business to spend just over $4 million on the expansion. Using the services of his other businesses to design and construct the new facility helps to keep costs fairly economical.

“We don’t have the room to service the contracts that we have and we’re having to turn down work,” said Hodge, adding he does not want to see his customers take their projects elsewhere.

There are 50 full-time employees working in the Steelcon plant on state Route 558. Hodge is trying to hire another 10 people and with the completion of the expansion slated for May, he will be looking for 20 to 30 more. Jobs for the business include engineers, processors, machinists, assemblers, welders and laborers.

A tight job market continues to hamper operations, but Hodge said it is not due to high turnover in the plant. He has a group of core employees, many who have worked there 10-plus years. He just needs more of them and calls it a constant challenge to find employees, especially in the trades. He also believes many of the supply chain issues the company continues to see are due to suppliers also facing labor shortages.

The plant addition will house more equipment, including 10 overhead heavy cranes, a robotic weld station, a CNC pipe profiler, another processing line and heavy sets of rollers to move the fabricated products through the process.

Hodge said his companies’ accreditation by the American Institute of Steel Construction led to U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, stopping by for the announcement and to take a tour of the operations. Hodge said his company is one of only a few certified by AISC in Columbiana County.

“This is great,” Johnson said, describing the company as a 20-year-old, first-generation, family-owned steel fabrication business, which is supporting one of the most important industries in America by manufacturing oil and gas components locally. “That’s what I love about our state and this region of our state, we’re problem solvers. We make things. We build things,” the congressman said.

As Hodge and Johnson walked through the plant, employees were busy working on orders for a company in Louisiana, as well as energy companies working in the Ohio basin – Hilcorp and Encino. Workers were fabricating and painting large steel industrial equipment, including slug catchers, pressure vessels and piping.

Hodge explained that about 80% of the raw materials for the products come from domestic manufacturers, but some things have to be sourced from South Korea or China.

Following the tour, Johnson said he sees companies like Steelcon as part of the solution for America to regain energy independence.

“As we see the oil and gas renaissance continue to grow, by 2050, experts tell us about 50% of our nation’s natural gas supply is going to come from this region. That means a lot of infrastructure has got to be put in place,” Johnson said.

Hodge has additional plans to expand his businesses, which would eventually quadruple the size of the current facility. He explained that he has been purchasing property over the past 15 years, accumulating more than 100 acres. He hopes this is only the first of many expansions to come.

“We have some proprietary equipment we have been developing over the past five years,” Hodge said, adding the equipment is related to construction, material handling and aerial platforms. “Once we get that over the finish line, we will be looking at additional expansion. Right now, we have a master plan for about 300,000 square feet here at this location, so this will be the first baby step to future expansion.”

Pictured at top from left: Allen Hodge and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson speak about the expansion of Hodge’s business, Steelcon, during a tour of the plant.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.