Until last year, Matt Blazer had no idea where Price, Utah was.
Now, he is gambling that the workforce and a treasure trove of equipment and facilities located here will make his dream of creating a large steel fabrication business a reality.
“It’s my dream to build a business like this,” he told the Business Expansion and Retention general membership meeting last Thursday morning. “But, I also have to say that the way one makes money is more important than how much money one makes.”
Blazer is no stranger to running a business; it is in his blood line. In Boise, Idaho, the Blazer name is well known. Blazer’s grandpa built a construction business that developed over 2,500 homes and many commercial businesses. His father and two of his uncles grew the business over seven times beyond his grandfathers forte. It appeared that the young Blazer had his life cut out for him. Then, came 2007.
“When I returned from my LDS church mission, the money was gone because of the real estate collapse,” he said. “That got the wheels turning for me and I realized I would have to find and make my own path. I had watched how the family had built the business and how to run it. But, I knew I would need to do something on my own.”
He loaded up his car and left for Utah. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but he knew he had to do something. He ended up going to business school at BYU and said that he learned a lot in the program. But he said the mentors in the program are what really got him going; mentors like Mitt Romney, who met with students and gave them advice.
“Romney said you can’t build a large company all at once, but you must find a niche and build from there,” said Blazer. “I have now found one and I know it is right.”
This realization came after he finished school and went to work at Oakland Construction as an estimator on construction projects, which he had a lot of experience in based on his business background. He said he worked on some very large and complex projects such as a new high rise office building in Salt Lake ($180 million project), the Overstock.com headquarters, Micron construction and the new Missionary Training Center that is being built in Provo. He found himself meeting with people and not only estimating but selling them on ideas and concepts as well.
In the course of things, he ended up selling projects for Oakland instead of estimating. But, that work in the estimation field brought about a realization that there was some things lacking in the construction industry, especially when it came to pieces of specialty steel that are installed in buildings.
“There was a real lack of fabrication types of steel suppliers for buildings.” he stated. “The big steel in buildings is all done like an assembly line and the costs are even and competitive. But those same people have to supply the speciality steel (such as hand rails, bathroom rails, sills, counters, panels, etc.). This breaks down a manufacturers system and the cost for a customer is astronomical. I had seen the construction industry from all angles and realized that there is a niche there to be filled and no one was doing it. And that kind of work, when it is done, is not being done very well either.”
He began looking for equipment and happened upon the Pacific Central Steel shop in south Price. It had been closed down for some time, but he realized there was more than equipment there, but a facility that could be used and more importantly a work force that was already trained to do a lot of what he needed done.
“I had a conversation with Joe Piccolo, the owner, and realized that it was a diamond in the rough,” he said. “More importantly, people really wanted the business here. There is a big disconnect between Salt Lake and Price when it comes to opening a business. This area is business friendly and there is a workforce that is prepared to do the work at a reasonable price.”
He said that he met Richard Tatton and found out about Pro-Carbon. After hearing his proposal, they helped him financially.
“Without Pro-Carbon, this business would be located in Salt Lake,” he said.
He said he began to get business by going to a big contractor and telling them he understands their needs. He did that in March of this year and they were so impressed that they gave him a contract two weeks later. He continues to sell contracts but the stream has not been as steady as he likes so the work force has gone up and down at the shop, not something he has been happy with.
“My employees at the shop deserve a lot of credit,” he said about the new Intermark Steel, LLC. shop. “Without guys like Terry Wilson, our shop manager, I could not do it. I am lucky to have the management team from Pacific still here.”
Even with all that, there are still a lot of challenges. One is his age. At 29 he must “sell his guts out” to prove to financial people that “I know what I am doing and that I can do it.” He said even when he sells them on the idea, many institutions want so much interest for operating capital that it wipes out any profit that can be made.
He said he must be selling ahead of the curve all the time to make things go. This has to be done to keep people working.
“I feel a great responsibility to the employees that have been working and some of the hard decisions we have had to make have been difficult because of the slowdown,” he said. “But right now it appears that in August we will be getting some new work.”
He figures by the end of the year, he will have 20-25 regular employees and in two years, 50 employees.
While he lives in Heber, he now says he has great ties to Carbon County through the work that is being done here. For him, it doesn’t matter where he lives because he sells all over the place.
When he decided to start doing the work in Price, some questioned him about the idea of setting up a business so far from where it seems all the activity in the state is, but he said it never would have happened without this area.
“If I had told people what I wanted to do and would have wanted to do it in Salt Lake, they would have laughed at me,” he said. He stated that there is so much business there and more moving in that small businesses like his have a hard time getting any help from anyone. And some he knew questioned the distance things must be shipped once they are manufactured.
“I looked at it and once you load the truck in Salt Lake and have to haul and deliver things anywhere. What is the difference from that in loading the truck here and shipping it?” he asked. “There really is none. The labor resource is here, and the business connections in the area are great.”