VIRGINIA — Perhaps you've noticed the huge yellow production truck boxes lined up off the north side of Highway 53 near the new bridge between Eveleth and Virginia.
It's a visible sign that business is booming at RMS Tritec.
Almost a year to the day since Road Machinery & Supplies Co. (RMS) acquired local steel fabricator Tritec, the acquisition — coupled with a healthy Iron Range mining industry — is proving to be a production truck-size success.
“The acquisition was perfect timing,” said Jon Anderson, RMS vice president, northern operations. “It worked out well for the previous owners and it's certainly worked out well for us.”
RMS is a 92-year-old distributor of mining and construction equipment with sales and support operations throughout the Upper Midwest. Its northern operations are headquartered along Hoover Road in Virginia.
On Nov. 1, 2017, RMS closed a deal to acquire Tritec, a 21-year-old full-service steel facility.
It's been an acquisition that's married the widespread RMS sales and service network with Tritec's steel forming, fabrication, welding, and engineering expertise.
For more than two decades, Tritec was primarily a repair facility.
However, with the acquisition, employment and the ability to perform additional services, has grown.
Since the acquisition, employment at RMS Tritec has increased to 51 from 42.
RMS Tritec is so busy that it's running two shifts per day.
“With the mining boom, we're going around the clock,” said Anderson.
Under the acquisition, a number of new and improved services are available to the mining, construction, logging, and agriculture industries.
An exchange program is offered in which mining equipment such as production truck dump boxes, shovel, and loader buckets are owned by RMS Tritec. Worn out boxes and buckets are exchanged by the owner to RMS Tritec for rebuilt boxes and buckets.
Exchanged components are sold within Minnesota, Michigan, Canada, and as far west as Wyoming and Utah, said Anderson.
The acquisition has also allowed RMS Tritec to add service work for construction excavation buckets, bulldozer blades, and logging structures such as boom, sticks, masks and drills.
At its Virginia facilities, RMS Tritec engineers and workers also fabricate and build structures for taconite plant rebuilds and expansions.
Employees at RMS Tritec are steelworkers. Employees at its other northern operations are 49ers.
Its operations in Virginia includes facilities on Hoover Road, west Chestnut Street and at RMS Tritec.
In total, RMS facilities Virginia operations employ 111.
RMS Tritec is the only steel shop within 400 miles with the ability to bend and form heavy metal, said Anderson.
“You have to get to Milwaukee or Chicago to have the capability we have,” said Anderson. “We can do thick steel tanks, specialty type of wear bars, or anything to do with specialty wear steel.”
RMS is one of the top two Komatsu Mining dealers and one of the oldest in North America, said Anderson.
The acquisition, said Anderson, has translated into more business for RMS and RMS Tritec and provides customers with a wide range of new services.
“Some of they have said, 'Oh, you can do that?', said Anderson “And we say, 'Yes, we can do that'.”
Along with adding square footage and employees, the acquisition increased RMS' ability to take on more work.
“We needed fabricating and weld rebuild capacity,” said Anderson. “We were subcontracting some of that work out and not even bidding on repairs that were being done on some of our equipment. So we added the shop space to take care of everything we sell. The second part of it is we needed a fabrication facility to take care of the needs of contractors downstate and in Iowa. The acquisition was really about giving Road Machinery the ability to take care of the equipment it sells from bumper to bumper.”
Over the past year, RMS has completed a major rearrangement at the Tritec complex.
RMS Tritec moved a plasma and gas burning table into a dedicated shop, added an overhead crane to the shop, and upgraded the shop's electrical, heating and lighting.
“There was a lot of money spent with local contractors on that,” said Anderson. “And we've spent a lot of time and effort on material movement efficiency gains.”
Anderson credits the city of Virginia for helping the company move forward.
“If we've needed some infrastructure modifications, they've found a way to get it done,” said Anderson. “Virginia is a progressive place to do business. The city public works and the city council are very pro-business and they do what makes sense. If it makes sense, it gets done and we really appreciate that.”
Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe said the city transferred property and made utility improvements at the RMS Tritec site to help retain the company and the jobs it provides.
Currently, the city is seeking funding sources to widen the 100 block of 10th Street South and update utilities within the block to better accommodate the hauling of production truck boxes and shovel buckets to and from RMS Tritec, said Cuffe.
“They're a very professional company to work with and they're a really good community partner,” said Cuffe. “We've tried to help them the best way we can. They're thriving and hiring new people, so we are going to do the best we can to help them expand and meet the needs of their customers.”
Although mining and steel has been a cyclical industry, Anderson sees a solid future.
“From a forward looking view, we certainly don't want to see mining slow down, but it will,” said Anderson. “Our intention is to keep things moving forward by plugging in business from down south in other RMS territories. We know that is a solid business plan and we know it will work.”
A year into its acquisition, Anderson is confident about the coming year.
“It's been a good year,” said Anderson. “Next year is going to be a good year too. Our outlook for the local mining side of things is up. We're looking at increasing business next year and then after that increasing our business from the southern areas of RMS territory.”