Metal industry shakeup

Garry Stein has spent nearly 50 years in the metals business — the last 34 as an owner of Red Deer’s Alberta Industrial Metals Ltd.

Garry Stein has spent nearly 50 years in the metals business — the last 34 as an owner of Red Deer’s Alberta Industrial Metals Ltd.

That career will come to an end on Monday, when Stein and his Edmonton partner Maurice Shugarman relinquish ownership of their 4821 78th St. metal distribution and processing business to Russel Metals Inc.

Russel, which is one of the largest metal products suppliers in North America, announced on Thursday that it has struck a deal to acquire Alberta Industrial. The agreement, valued at $30 million, includes the Red Deer company’s 5.5-acre premises, 60,000 square feet of shop and storage space, and operating assets.

“Alberta Industrial Metals is a market leader in their region and their cut-to-length processing capabilities complement our Alberta operations,” said Brian Hedges, president and CEO of Russel Metals, in a news release.

Stein said other companies expressed an interest in buying Alberta Industrial, but he felt Russel was the best fit for his approximately 40 employees.

“As far as I’m concerned, in the steel industry they’re one of the leaders.”

Stein worked for Russel from 1964 to 1976, when it was called Russel Steel. In 1978 he became a partner in Alberta Industrial, buying out Ed Murphy, who had founded the downtown Red Deer business with Shugarman nine years earlier.

Originally called Red Deer Industrial Metals, it sold steel to local welding shops and dealt in recycled metals.

“When I got here in ‘78 we had two people — both related to the Murphys — in the office, and five people in the warehouse,” said Stein.

Soon after, the business moved from its location at the current site of the new RCMP detachment building to North Red Deer.

The company enjoyed steady growth and its market expanded. Some buyers, however, balked when asked to deal with a business from little Red Deer, recalled Stein.

“When we would go in and tell them we had more equipment in Red Deer than they had in some of the service centres in Edmonton and Calgary, they would say, ‘Are you crazy?’

“Some of them wouldn’t talk to us.”

The name change to Alberta Industrial Metals about a decade ago helped address this problem.

Today, the company has annual revenues of about $30 million. More than half of its sales are in the energy sector, with other customers in the construction, ag-manufacturing and other fabrication industries, said Stein.

Growth in Alberta’s resource-based economy contributed to Alberta Industrial’s success, he said. But the company’s human resources were also important.

“Our oldest employee has been here for 37 years,” said Stein, adding that another has 36 years of seniority, and others have been there 20-plus years.

Marion Britton, a vice-president and chief financial officer with Russel Metals, said Friday that her company’s existing Red Deer operations at 6724 Golden West Ave. will merge into Alberta Industrial.

“We assume that most of the employees will be required, but there will be some changes necessary.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to keep the employees.”

Russel has confirmed that Alberta Industrial’s management team will remain, and that it will continue to operate under that name.

Britton said Russel’s size and resources, including shops in Edmonton and Calgary, should strengthen the Red Deer operation. Russel should also benefit, she added.

“We felt that growing our Red Deer operations would be a good thing long term because we see Red Deer — as well as Edmonton and Calgary — being a growing area. Making the acquisition was easier than trying to build our own building bigger.”

Stein said he now plans to spend more time with family and travel. Red Deer will remain his home, but his days in the metals industry are probably over.

“Let’s put it this way, I’ve been working for a living since 1958 — don’t you think I should quit pretty soon?”

Headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., Russel operates in three metals distribution segments: metals service centres, energy tubular products and steel distributors. With locations across North America, it carries on business under more than two dozen different names.

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