Local Firm Launches Building Products Line
Fourteen years after Steel Outdoors started its custom metal fabricating business in a Hazlehurst backyard with a deer feeder as its lone product, the now Wesson-based manufacturer is expanding into residential and industrial building products.
As its sales grow with the expansion, Steel Outdoors expects its workforce to grow from 20 employees currently to 30 to 35 over the short term and to as many 50 over the long term, reports Pam McLemore, who started Steel Outdoors with her husband Dwayne in their Hazlehurst backyard in 2007.
The latest step in the metal fabricator's continuing slow, steady expansion started quietly last year with an investment of several hundred thousand dollars in equipment to produce rigid frame and cold form building systems, metal roofing and trusses, including 26 and 29 gauge metal panels, cee, zee and receiver channel steel purlins; siding, trim, doors and other building components which meet the most stringent snow and wind load codes.
Joe Lea from Monticello has come on board in sales for the new building products line and Carlos Garcia of Wesson is managing the new operations.
"We can now customize pole barns, storage and factory facilities and open floor barndominium homes as our customers specify," says McLemore. Steel Outdoors' welding and sheet metal assembly operation -- its initial business -- can also create interior and exterior staircases, indoor partitions and decor and outdoor gates and fencing, among other building components, she adds. In addition, the company is also selling pine and cedar wooden beams, insulation and other building products it does not manufacture. The company recommends contractors to help customers build.
While Steel Outdoors will maintain its special niche in the metal fabricating industry in customizing and modifying it buildings to meet customer needs, it plans for the future call for making its varied building available in kit form, McLemore says.
After API Technologies left its 55,000 square foot building on Highway 51 in Wesson, the McLemores moved Steel Outdoors there in 2019 from a 10,000 square foot facility they grew from a two- person operation started in a truck body in their backyard where they manufactured metal deer feeders.
Working together part-time, the McLemores initially shared metal-cutting, welding and painting tasks, expanded their production with addition of new workers to include some 30 types of deer feeders, deer blinds, fire pits and cookers and metal art sold throughout the United States; and launched a companion company -- Alpha Machine & Welding -- that engineers, builds and installs custom metal products for saw mills, food plants and other industrial customers located predominantly in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
At its new Wesson location, Steel Outdoors utilized the expanded space to start a retail business oriented to hunters and outdoors enthusiasts. It is using the 15 acres that surround the building outside for special commercial and community events -- product exhibits, a wildlife extravaganza, cookouts for Wesson's first responders and other leaders and citizens. And now it is beginning a new phase in its growth.
The Highway 51 facility started as a garment factory and later housed Potter Production Corporation after Spectrum Control acquired the company in 1998. API Technologies, based in San Jose, California, acquired the Spectrum plant and consolidated the operation with its facilities in Pennsylvania in 2017.
"We're in a highly visible location as you come into Wesson from the north on Highway 51," notes McLemore. "We want to reflect the growth and ongoing development of a small town."