Larry Hopper is hoping construction of a Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South industrial park will rev up his two businesses during the slow economic cycle.
“We are going through the steps to become a VW supplier,” he said. “We will bid to be a steel supplier.”
Mr. Hopper has launched an expansion project at his Soddy-Daisy engineering and drafting firm, Steel Dimensions, 12820 Dayton Pike.
If he gets the German automaker’s business, it should also boost business at Tower Steel, Mr. Hopper’s steel fabrication business at 1000 Sequoyah Access Road.
“We’re very excited about what Volkswagen may do for us,” Mr. Hopper said.
While Steel Dimensions drafts and designs many of the steel pieces used in commercial and industrial construction, Tower Steel fabricates structures, such as steel beams, ladders, catwalks, platforms and other types of structural steel that will be used in the $1 billion VW plant.
Mike Voccio, general manager of Tower Steel, said Volkswagen officials are talking to four different contractors, one of which has worked with Tower Steel and Steel Dimensions before. The prior relationship could mean more business for the Soddy-Daisy businesses.
“It would mean a lot for the business, especially now with the economic situation,” Mr. Voccio said.
Mr. Hopper said commercial construction has slowed dramatically over the last several months, and the rising cost of steel increased his costs about $500,000 this year.
Mr. Hopper spent several years in the U.S. Army before embarking on a 32-year career in the steel industry. He managed Standard Iron Inc. in the 1990s, but he left in 1997 and formed Steel Dimensions with 10 employees. In 2004, he launched Tower Steel and now has many of his former Standard Iron employees working for him.
Each of the businesses have about 20 employees, he said.
“We do about $5.5 million (in annual sales) at Tower and about $2 million at Steel Dimensions,” he said.
But Mr. Voccio said that isn’t enough.
“From talking to other fabricators, we are probably one of the busiest, but we are not as busy as we want to be,” Mr. Voccio said.