Region Welding builds barbecues, trailers and more
The history of Region Welding of Missouri, Union, Mo., in several ways, parallels the development of many independent family-owned rental stores.
After a successful career as a superintendent on the assembly line for Chrysler, Jim Donner and his wife, Gerry, decided to start a small business with their son, Daniel, who had shown a passion for welding.
They started making and selling engine hoists and towable barbecue grills in 1982. “One rental store in St. Louis told my husband we ought to start making a towable barbecue grill, so my husband designed that shape. We’ve made bigger and smaller ones, but the design has not changed. At first, we only did charcoal, but now we do propane grills, too,” says Gerry, who is the company’s sales and marketing manager.
Since then, the company has added a variety of products, including custom-built trailers, propane cages and components for traveling shows and concerts. In addition, Region Welding installs trailer hitches for customers and offers welding services either at the factory or on a job site.
When the business initially started to grow in the 1980s, the company hired its first employee and eventually moved to a larger location, then another and another.
Today, Region Welding has 23 employees and is considering further expansion at its fourth location in Union. Daniel and his wife, Anna, also now own the company.
“It’s kind of neat to see how hard you worked to get it and how hard they work to keep it going,” Gerry says. “In rental, we’ve also seen some turnover to the younger generation, but we’ve kept a lot of them as customers. They are like friends. The rental people are hard-working, just like we are as manufacturers and they have been good to us,” she says.
“For the rental industry, we mostly make trailers and grills. I don’t want to brag, but we don’t make junk. People say what we do is overkill, but when something is for rental, you need to make sure there are no weak points. It’s the quality and the thickness of the steel, so that they don’t break down. We’ve repaired other people’s trailers because they skimped on it,” Gerry says.
In addition to the equipment rental industry, Region Welding of Missouri will sell its products to “anybody that walks in,” Gerry says.
“Individuals will buy trailers. We carry parts for trailers, plus items for trucks, like tool boxes and more. We’ve also done structural steel for high schools, Busch Stadium in St. Louis and more. We have a man that does on-site welding with a big truck rig. There are beams and everything on a job site that have to be set and welded. We do that,” she says.
During the recession, Gerry says the economy slowed business down, but they had enough work to keep everyone employed. “Now, we’re getting overwhelmed again,” she says.
Region Welding doesn’t offer a set trailer design, but makes trailers as customers want them, for example, with different axles to handle delivery of certain kinds of equipment.
The facility includes a warehouse with storage for raw metal, machines to bend the metal as needed as well as a paint booth. They’ve also installed solar panels on the roof.
From raw steel, it takes about three days to complete a finished trailer, Gerry says, including wiring, painting and everything needed before delivery.
“People come to us with gigantic tractor trailers to something that’s just itty bitty. No job is too big or too small for us,” she says. “We do anything in metal. We buy all bare metal. Steel trucks come in every day of the week and here in the factory, they bend it, cut it, drill it and do everything needed from the bottom on up. It’s all made right here.”
They do buy some things from vendors, such as motors for grill rotisseries. Gerry says at one time, the motor manufacturer moved its factory and started making the motor with plastic gears instead of metal. As a result, the gears would melt from the heat generated by the grills and stop working.
“We had to call the distributor and now they personally make that motor for us,” she says. “As my son says, ‘We build quality.’ All of our products are quality. We’ve had rental stores watch us at The Rental Show for two, three or four years in a row before they bought from us to make sure we were coming back. Then they get one of our products, brag on it and they tell others. It makes you feel very good.”