Super Steel LLC’s recent designation as the fastest-growing company in the Future 50 for 2013 reflects one of the most remarkable corporate turnarounds in Milwaukee history.
As the Great Recession hit in 2008, the company on Tower Avenue on Milwaukee’s North Side saw its annual sales plummet from about $100 million to $25 million.
In 2010, Paul and Fred Luber purchased the company out of receivership and set about to rebuild the firm, which was founded in 1923.
The first thing Paul Luber did to put the turnaround into motion was to try to convince Dirk Smith to take over the day-to-day operations of the firm.
"I had known Paul for years. He called me and said, ‘We have this opportunity.’
So I came down and looked around. The opportunity for a turnaround was appealing to me," Smith recalled. "We hit the lowest of the low and have been climbing out of the ditch ever since."
Smith previously had owned a company that he sold to Mayville Engineering.
At its darkest point in receivership, Super Steel was down to 170 employees. Today, the company employs 400.
"We’re always hiring. It’s the skills gap thing. We’re always looking to employ the best of the best. People who want to part of a culture of winners," Smith said.
Super Steel’s projected 2013 sales are more than $60 million.
When asked what has fueled Super Steel’s growth, Smith replied, "Our commitment to our customers, employees and supply base. We truly want to be the best solution at all levels."
The Future 50 winners were recently saluted by the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and BizTimes Media.
In addition to Super Steel, the four other companies in the "Fastest Five" of the Future 50 were:
- EmbedTek LLC, a Hartland-based producer of embedded computer and integrated display solutions with projected 2013 revenues of $15 million. The company is led by CEO Dan Aicher.
- Patina Solutions, a Milwaukee-based provider of seasoned executives with projected 2013 revenues of $14.5 million. The company is led by Mike Harris, Debbie Seeger and Patrick O’Brien.
- Weldall Manufacturing Inc., a Waukesha-based metal fabrication and processing manufacturer. The company, which did not publicly disclose its revenues, is led by David Bahl Jr. and Dan Bahl.
- 7Summits, a Milwaukee-based social marketing agency with $12.1 million in 2013 projected revenues. The company is led by CEO Paul Stillmank.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.