“We’ve been really pleased with the turnout,” said Ranch Hand owner David Kaspar. “I think we’ve gotten over 100.”
“Maybe 150,” said General Manager Greg Chumchal. Most of those who came in to fill out applications were there in the first half hour after Ranch Hand’s job fair opened at 3 p.m.
By 5 p.m. the flow of applicants had diminished considerably, but applicants still were trickling through the door and picking up forms.
“We’ve been impressed, not just with the quantity but with the quality,” Kaspar said of the applicants.
Ranch Hand, a Shiner-based truck accessory company with 27 employees working in its Beeville welding shop, has purchased land across the street from its 1600 S. Washington St. location for an expansion project.
The company needs to increase its production capabilities and hire another 67 employees in the near future. Although company officials are looking at expanding either here in Beeville or in San Antonio, Kaspar and Chumchal said they preferred to expand here. They like the Beeville location and the fact that two schools in this city are training welders.
Much of that decision was to be determined by how well Monday’s job fair went. With two more hours to go before the company shut down the fair, the results were promising.
Kaspar and Chumchal agreed that 85-90 percent of the applicants who had already stopped by to fill out applications were from Beeville. The remainder were from neighboring communities and cities.
Although increased oil field activity has attracted many of the areas welders, Kaspar and Chumchal said their company continues to bring in applicants. Many welders like the idea of being able to go home to their families at the end of a day’s work instead of being gone for a week or more at a time.
The company provides its employees with good wages and an incentive plan, overtime pay, medical, dental and vision insurance, a 401(k) plan and a family-oriented work environment.
The Bee Development Authority and the City of Beeville have been working with Ranch Hand to make the expansion easier.
During a BDA board meeting last Thursday night, Executive Director Joe B. Montez was given permission to assist the business in obtaining tax abatements from the city, county, Coastal Bend College and Beeville Water Supply District.
It was the BDA which helped the company locate a building and open the facilities here in 2007.
Montez said the board also authorized him to help the company obtain technical and economic assistance and to work with the city in arranging some traffic rerouting plans on South St. Mary’s Street for the company.
Chamchal told the BDA board that Ranch Hand will be investing $6 million on land acquisition, building construction and equipment installation.
He reported last week that $3 million of that investment will go toward the installation of new equipment alone.
Interim City Manager Deborah Ballí and Beeville Main Street Manager Michelle Wright started working with the company at the end of May after learning that the parent company, Kaspar Wire Works, was looking at Beeville for its expansion.
“We were excited to be selected,” Ballí said. “Our local leaders, Community Development Services director and Main Street manager are continually working to bring new and expanding business to Beeville.”
Ballí said Ranch Hand is exactly the kind of industry the city is hoping to attract. The company is well established, has a proven track record of success, and it is a fast-growing industry.
Already, Ranch Hand has more than 150 employees on its payroll, scattered out between locations in Beeville and Shiner.
Most of the welding and fabricating is done here, and then the products are sent to Shiner for sandblasting and powder coating.
Although robots do the initial welding and painting on the company’s heavy duty truck bumpers, headache racks and grille guards, it’s the human power that puts the finishing touches on the products.
Welders make sure the products are as strong as possible, and painters apply the protection to the welds and connections.
Although there is an existing building on the property across the street from Ranch Hand’s welding shop, that structure will be razed and a new, 82,000 square-foot building will be erected at that location.
Even without the expansion project, Ranch Hand uses 40,000 pounds of steel a day and 420 tons of raw materials each month. Much of the company’s equipment runs 24 hours a day.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.