Berg Steel Picks Up Two More Contracts
February 10, 2016
Berg Steel Pipe Corp. started its year with a shipment of 39,318 tons of steel plate from Germany, a record haul for Port Panama City and a good indicator for the type of business the company hopes to do this year.
“We’ve just booked two more contracts,” Andy Hicks, the company’s vice president of operations, reported at the Bay Economic Development Alliance meeting Wednesday morning.
Berg is one of the main tenants at the Panama City Port and has an additional, slightly smaller manufacturing plant in Mobile, Ala. The European-owned company builds two different types of natural gas pipelines — a spiral pipe and a straight seam pipe — to be used domestically.
Within its niche, the company has captured between 40 and 50 percent of the domestic market, according to Hicks. He added there are six other companies in the United States manufacturing the spiral pipes and two others producing the straight seam.
In 2014, Berg landed its largest order in company history, calling for 600 miles of pipe to build the ET Rover Pipeline project, which will deliver natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale areas in the Northeast to markets in the central Unites States and Canada. That was followed up with a deal to supply for the proposed Sabal Trail Transmission, a 515-mile natural gas pipeline spanning portions of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
“We have a great reputation, and part of that is the people who work for us,” Hicks said.
However, he repeatedly said in his presentation that steel can be a fickle a business with up and downs. The newer contracts, he said, include fewer work week hours than the previous ones.
Even so, the company, which employees 405 people in Panama City and 283 in Mobile, is in a strong position moving forward, Hicks said. As such, they are looking at the future, including maintaining a steady supply of steel and qualified workers.
While most of the company’s steel comes from Germany, Hicks said the company also shops around to make sure a supply is still available in the event of natural, disasters, sanctions and other events that can interrupt trade.
“People think steel is steel, and it’s not,” Hicks said. “This is high-grade, high-quality. We buy all over the globe ... so we know we still have some place to buy.”
The other company priority is a supply of quality labor, especially as some of their key maintenance men are poised to retire within the next five years. The Panama City market, Hicks said, is less competitive than Mobile, and while it is easy to hire for some positions, such as fabricators, others, like trade electricians, can be harder to find.
Hiring trade electricians, he said, will be a “challenge for industry in Bay County over the next five years.”
In other news Wednesday, the EDA reported it has 16 active projects, including major gains in two projects in the aviation sector and one in the life sciences/information technology. The three projects together — nicknamed Pompano (aviation), Snapper (life sciences/IT) and Gondola (aviation) — would bring nearly 500 jobs to Bay County.
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