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Valmont Industries in Columbus hosted corporate employees and local business leaders for an open house Friday that showcased a brand-new production facility where utility poles are constructed.

The new building, dubbed “Building 5,” had been in the works since January and opened earlier this month following five months of construction. The building had been on the Valmont lot even before the company acquired the land from Katana Summit several years ago.

At the outset of the year, the building had just been used as a storage facility. Now, it’s a state-of-the-art building perfect for working with small- to medium-sized poles for the utility and transportation markets.

“The way that we’re doing the crane system in there actually allows for a lot more flexibility,” said Steve Kaniewski, president and CEO of Valmont Industries, who came to Columbus from company headquarters in Omaha. “The people working on the product can move their product without having to wait for the main craneway to come in. That’s not something that we have in all of our facilities. That’s an improvement.”

The expansion was deemed necessary due to an expanding marketplace for utility poles, road signs and traffic lights. After four months of study and preparation, Valmont gave the Columbus facility the go-ahead to begin construction and refurbishment of the building in April.

“We started to see our markets turn (and) they were growing,” Kaniewski said. “We knew that we needed additional traffic and lighting capacity. A team approached us (and) we sent them back (to) do a little homework. In April, we said, ‘Go ahead.’”

Kaniewski was part of a contingent of Valmont employees who came from corporate headquarters in Omaha and Valmont’s facility in Valley. They were joined by local figures and business leaders, including Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley, who spoke to the employees present at the open house. He talked about the efficiency of the facility in both the older buildings and in the site’s newest attraction.

“It’s an awesome facility,” Bulkley said. “It’s well run, you can see that, and just to be able to think that Valmont would be able to pick Columbus to expand and put the money and the effort into what you did out there in Building 5 just speaks highly of our community for what we try to offer you as employers.”

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Bulkley also talked up efforts by the city to help train the next generation of welders, engineers and manufacturers, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs in Columbus Public Schools and at Scotus Central Catholic.

“We have to train, we have to put efforts together to train and to develop our young people to where they want to do this,” Bulkley said. “I think we’re really making an impact on that. Some of you who are from Omaha or Valley may not realize the STEM program we have here in Columbus (and) the effort that’s being put into developing the technology for running this type of equipment and doing what you all do. We’re really making an effort to say, ‘This can be a career, should be a career, please get involved.’”

Also present at the open house was Jeanne Schieffer, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. Schieffer noted the importance of this day in showing off the expansion of Valmont’s property and the potential of Columbus-area businesses.

“It’s an example of what’s happening (and) not only for Valmont as a big employer here,” Schieffer said. “They’re expanding their facilities, adding $3 million to the work that they do (and) they are a great employer. They are showing the strength of this community through this investment as well as adding a new product line. We’re hearing that from several of our businesses and Valmont is just a great example of that.”

Like everyone who attended the open house, Schieffer was impressed with the new facility and the work ethic of those who help build the things that keep people safe and brighten their day.

“It’s a nice, clean facility,” Schieffer said. “They’re dedicated workers, just dedicated to their job, very proud of their jobs, proud of who they are and who they work for. It’s just a great employer here in the community, maybe underestimated. It’s a wealth of opportunity for the community, the state, the nation and the world.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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