HUMBOLDT — B&W Trailer Hitches has added more than 220 jobs in the past year.
That brings the total number of employees to 667, as of Wednesday; a number that’s reflective of the company’s stratospheric growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where COVID hit a lot of companies in a negative way, it really blossomed our company because you had more people going and doing things with families,” explained Juliana Stevenson, B&W’s human resource manager.
“They were hiking and fishing and RV-ing and boating,” doing activities that tap into B&W’s line of products.
“We were shut down for a six-week window,” Stevenson explained, “but gradually, we started seeing the sales numbers go up and up.”
“It was a surge, but it kept continuing,” added Dan Willis, B&W’s building projects manager. “It still continues. Competitors are having the same thing, too. Everybody’s business is up.”
SO WHAT are all the folks doing who’ve joined the B&W team over the past year?
According to Stevenson, “everything in production, from the start of the process with our press brakes and lasers cutting the steel, all the way through the process.”
“Coating it, forming it, welding it, painting it,” Willis added.
“I think we brought in probably 35 new machines that are usually staffed day and night,” in order to meet demand, he said.
However, “no new products are in that mix. … The same products keep getting better and more favorable to customers.”
“Our community’s probably familiar with our ‘tow and stow,’ two- and three-ball hitch that goes in the back of a truck,” Willis said. “We can make 7,000 a week of those right now.”
“We were at 2,000 three years ago.”
Willis likewise agreed with Stevenson’s assessment of where the enormous surge in demand was coming from, i.e., outdoor activities that heightened during COVID-19.
“Our marketing team has found ways to market to that lifestyle of hunting and fishing, etc.,” he said.
“Man, have they responded.”
“The marketers found the right niche and then our reputation carried us from there,” Stevenson added.
“It’s exciting to see all the new faces and all the new growth here.”
“We have had some [employees] relocate,” Stevenson also noted. “We’ve been really fortunate to get some retired military that have decided to land back here.”
“But for the majority, it’s people that are already within 10-25 miles,” she said.
“It just keeps growing,” said Willis in reference to the company as a whole.
“We’ve added 114,000 square feet this year,” he said. “We added on that same amount in 2017 and it got full. We added on that same square feet in 2014 and it got full.”
B&W’s newest addition will include a revamped employee clinic, storm shelter and large meeting hall on the south side of the main building.
It’s all part of taking care of employees, Willis noted, since “we’re not going to make a penny more by all this.”
“The storm shelter is going to hold almost 700 people,” he said. “And it doubles our training room space to help teach all these new employees.”
B&W’s health clinic has existed since 2009, housed in a trailer on the west side of the main building in order to provide more confidential care.
It’s likewise getting a makeover as part of the expansion.
“Our population has outgrown that clinic,” Stevenson explained. “And so by putting it [in the new building], it’s better access and we can actually have more room.”
It will also be a highly ADA-compliant space, so that folks with disabilities can more easily get around.
Regarding the area currently referred to as “The Great Hall,” Willis explained that “it’ll be a dining hall/kitchen set-up where we can fit all 667 employees.”
“Joe had a desire to see all of his people at one time, and to be able to address them at one time, like when we have our company dinners,” Willis said of CEO Joe Works.
“It’s exciting to be a part of all of it,” Willis and Stevenson said in unison.