LaX Fabricating manufactures metal products and likes its new home in Spring Grove

By Jan Lee Buxengard

"On Nov. 1 we signed the lease, and three months later are in full operation with 60 employees. My job is to keep it that way," stated John Mitchell, president of LaX Fabricating LTD about the metal product manufacturing company in the former All-Phase Arena building at 700 East Main St., Spring Grove.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the county approving us for JOBZ and Spring Grove wanting us to transfer here," he pointed out.

"The town has been very warm and receptive. All but a few employees came with the firm to the Spring Grove location and we have hired over a dozen local people from this area."

LaX Fabricating is a full service provider of fabricated metal products, constructed with steel, stainless and aluminum, and also does sub-contract work. The firm focuses on providing high quality products, delivered on time, and according to the customer's specifications.

How they got started

John and Jeffrey Mitchell both worked for their father's capital equipment design and manufacturing firm in Milwaukee. The equipment company was sold so John, who loves to fish, moved to the area.

He talked to his brother, Jeffrey, about starting a company together. In September 2005, they formed LaX Fabricating with three other investors - Jim Jumbeck, Aaron Buck and Mark Vinz. Combined the five owners have over 100 years experience.

Growing pains

They started out leasing leasing the former Bonanza Foods building on the pike between La Crescent and La Crosse from Allen McCormick.

"The first two months we sent Aaron and eight employees to Milwaukee and sub-contracted them out to build industrial washers. Since that time we have built washers that have been shipped to Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala and Mexico," Mitchell recalled.

That first year LaX averaged over 2,500 hours per month. It continued to grow and in its second year it averaged over 4,000 hours of work per month.

Knowing that they reached their capacity for their current location and the business continuing to grow they knew something had to be done.

They learned about the 120,000 square-foot facility McCormick owned in Spring Grove. Mitchell did some research on the area and compared the success other fabricators had relocating to smaller communities.

He realized the potential to expand the business at the Spring Grove site and he began working with Joyce Iverson, executive director of the Houston County EDA.

The wheels were put in motion to get JOBZ approval for the site, and with Iverson's help, LaX Fabricating signed a 99-year lease with McCormick and now is in full operation in Spring Grove.

The firm's manufacturing division is now located at Spring Grove, while the engineering and sales office, headed up by Jeffrey Mitchell, is in Mukwonago, Wis., near Milwaukee.

Settling in at new facility

Following the move to the larger facility, LaX Fabricating is now running over 6,000 hours per month. Workers have been dealing with snow and winter storms since moving to the site.

Much of the steel is stored outside the building. The firm is setting up the west side of the building to store the smaller higher valued raw materials. "It's a work in progress," Mitchell stated.

"Our engineers in Mukwonago designed our in-house material and handling equipment which includes the use of hydraulics, and laser guided measuring systems."

All of the building and installing of this equipment is done in house by LaX Fabricating employees, Mitchell pointed out.

Employees are certified in their expertise and work on a variety of equipment. They have the capability of supplying structural steel that has been rolled, punched, drilled, welded, blasted and painted. This includes angles, bars, beams, channels, tees, rail, pipe and tube.

"We bought a lot of equipment, including drill line, angle clipper, new welders, and a plasma table. These investments will allow us to become competitive in the market place. It's important to invest to keep a company of this size going," Mitchell said.

The firm ships both domestic and international. The shipping and receiving department handles about 20 loads per week.

What they do

LaX Fabricating does a variety of work for a variety of customers. For building contractors, the firm builds structural steel beams, columns, rails, stairs, bollards, lintels, joists, decking and other detailing.

Mitchell stated that they are currently providing all structural steel and miscellaneous for the new Tri-County Electric facility in Rushford.

"We do work for big box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc.," Mitchell explained. The firm also does a lot of smaller retail centers and specialty projects like stair towers, railings, mezzanines, ladders, tanks, fixtures, production pieces, foundry jackets, and field installations.

"We not only receive steel direct from the mill but we also buy from local service centers in Dodge Center, Minnesota, Wausau, Wisconsin, and Dubuque, Iowa," Mitchell reported. The scrap steel is placed into a container and gets sold.

"We have enough work to keep us busy. We're running two shifts Monday through Friday and are running most Saturdays. The shop is only shut down five hours per day."

Currently, LaX Fabricating has been sub-contracted to build another industrial washer that will go to Texas, John Mitchell reported.

The washer, which measures 20 feet wide by 160 feet long, and 14 feet tall, will have the capability to wash 3,000 aluminum cans per minute.

They are also working on a big stairs project for a large college in the Twin Cities.

Improvements made

With the type of work the firm does, electrical power had to be increased and gas was brought to the facility for day-to-day operation and testing equipment.

"Tri-County Electric was able to get us the biggest transformer they had for 480 volt electric power," John Mitchell noted.

Motorists and residents have likely noticed the additional exterior lighting that has changed the skyline, as well as the lighted business sign.

Community high priority

The firm also sponsors a modified racecar driven by company employee, Brian Albrecht of Nodine.

"He races at Fountain City for the fun of it," John Mitchell points out, adding that they plan to enter the race car in local parades.

"On Dec. 21, LaX Fabricating and its employees hosted tours of the facility," Mitchell stated. As part of the public open house, visitors brought in donations totaling 435 pounds of food and over $200 cash for the Houston County Food Shelf.

"A lot of people were interested in and excited about our operation when they came," Mitchell commented.

What is the JOBZ program?

County, city and school government officials approved the property for the state's tax-free Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ), which provides substantial tax relief to companies that start up or expand in targeted areas of Greater Minnesota.

With the JOBZ designation, the current value of the building is being taken off the tax roles and the county and city's current tax levy is spread over the remaining parcels.

The firm experiences a variety of tax incentives such as sales tax relief on items sold and purchased, income tax relief, and property tax relief through the lifetime of the JOBZ program, which is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2015.

How you can reach them

The phone number at LaX Fabricating in (507) 498-6000 or visit online at www.laxfabricatingllc.com.[[In-content Ad]]