July 18, 2024

Retired steel manufacturer builds new factory in Arispe

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ARISPE — You could say retirement didn’t last long for Bob Martin.

Two and a half years ago, Martin was making plans to sell his 30-year-old steel company, LeMar Industries, settle down at Sun Valley Lake and farm some land he owns in Ringgold and Union counties.

But today, the 69-year-old steel industry veteran is nearing the end of his second year as founder of a new steel company, BSM Enterprises, and in the middle of constructing a factory in Arispe that could provide up to 40 local jobs.

Martin decided to start the new business in mid-2013 after a call from one of his former employees, Larry Waltersdorf, who wanted to sell his business, W&W Welding and Fabrication.

“I had just bought a farm with more tillable acres to it — that’s what I was going to do,” Martin said. “Then Larry called me on this, and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got time.’ So here I am today.”

Martin purchased the factory and renamed it BSM Enterprises, using his and his wife Sharon’s initials. In the months since, he has been enlarging the facilities and working on steel projects with his staff of nine employees.

“I don’t have a product line on my own at this point,” he said, “so we do job shop work. They’ll bring drawings in and we quote it, and we’ll build what’s within our capabilities.”

Martin said he hopes the new factory building will be fully functional in the next 60 days.

Martin’s desire to return was a combination of his love of steel work, which dates back to his first foray into the industry in 1964, and his love for the Arispe area, where he’s owned farmland since 1993.

“I’ve gotten to meet people, and it’s very friendly,” he said. “And it’s fun to give back to the area.”

Cody Keller, who first met Martin while working at W&W Welding and Fabrication, now works with BSM. He said Martin’s new factory brings a significant presence to the town of Arispe, as the new factory building is much larger than the previous one.

A former Arispe resident himself, Keller said the factory could be a boost for the town of around 100.

“It’s kind of brought new life to the town,” he said. “Potentially it could really do something with the housing market.”

He also said Martin’s experience brings a lot to this company.

“He knows what to expect from the customers in the world and the markets,” Keller said. “He’s seen the ups and the downs and knows what to expect and knows to prep for it. He knows when a good time to buy is and when a good time not to buy is.”

Of the nine who work for Martin now, all of them were hired locally. He said his factory has the capacity to hire 40 people.

“It’s going take a couple years to get to that,” he said. “But 25 to 30, I’d like to have within 12 months.”

Martin now lives at Sun Valley with his wife. Between the two of them, they have four grown children. Martin’s son Scott still works with LeMar Industries, which is now a subsidiary of the manufacturing company CTB Inc.