Now entering its 45th year in business, Haala Industries has reported continuous growth throughout its existence, transforming itself from a modest blacksmith shop into a regional manufacturing leader. Established in 1974, the company’s story begins with its founder David Haala in New Ulm. David’s repair and metal working skills quickly established him as an asset to this farming community. He turned these skills into a full-fledged business, purchasing a blacksmith shop in Sleepy Eye, where Haala Industries still resides.
While David Haala could count on steady work from local farmers, it was his relationship with his landlord that set his fledgling enterprise on its current course. After moving to Sleepy Eye, David began renting a house from the owner of a local brickyard, and one day, his new landlord brought him some steel tie rods and asked if he could produce more. Mr. Haala could, and he turned this relationship into a brisk business. He expanded his customer base and continued producing and selling steel rebar constructs for the infrastructure industry, forming the core of the company’s current business.
With David at the helm, his son Scott serves as the general manager alongside a strong core of longtime employees. Together they have fostered a company culture that values hard work, prioritizes deadlines, and produces quality products for its customers.
The company’s success largely hinges on its flexibility to meet customer needs. From a large inventory of prefabricated rebar mats, wire cone cages and pipe ties, to other construction-related products, Haala Industries can ship throughout the upper Midwest on demand. Its innovative solutions to new problems and custom projects have also been crucial to the company’s success. Thanks to its core group of skilled employees and new technology and software, Haala Industries adapts to the changing needs of its customer base. One notable example of this is the work the company did with Ducks Unlimited. Haala’s improvement of the “fish fingers” technology—used under bridges to allow only water and aquatic vegetation into wetlands—helped further Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes program, which protects the shallow waters of Minnesota and Iowa.
Now an outside force far beyond its roots, Haala Industries operates throughout the Upper Midwest, including the Dakotas and Wisconsin. But its expansion hasn’t kept the company immune from challenges facing other manufacturers in the region, such as recruiting a trained and skilled workforce. In fact, its desire to expand further west has highlighted Haala’s manpower issue.
According to the State of Manufacturing® conducted by Enterprise Minnesota, workforce retention is an overwhelming concern for manufacturers around the state. The drop in vocational skills training in secondary schools statewide hasn’t helped, either.
But Haala Industries is not alone, and son Scott Haala has taken steps to alleviate the problem, including ongoing participation in a Mankato-based manager peer group facilitated by Enterprise Minnesota. Here, a group of 12 manufacturing company managers meet and discuss different strategies they have employed to overcome impediments and warn about those that do not work.
Despite these challenges, Haala Industries has a bright future. The company is currently looking to add on to its buildings and upgrade its equipment while also continuing to secure new contracts and new customers. According to Scott, they are “always looking forward.”
Featured in the Fall 2019 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.