High-flying, low-tech.

Author:Stevens, M. Eastlake
Position:Business - Brief Article
 
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STEELWORKS TURNING STEEL INTO PRODUCTS, PROFITS

LARRY BRODERICK UNABASHEDLY DEFINES HIS BUSINESS AS LOW-TECH.

It is, but Broderick has put a high-tech spin on serving his customers, and taken his company from a $400,000 startup to a projected $26 million in sales this year, since 1992. He is the epitome of the small businessman finding a niche.

And a good niche it is. Broderick now claims 75 percent of the U.S. and Canadian retail market for his shaped-steel products.

SteelWorks, Broderick's Denver company, turns steel wire, steel bar and steel rod into 1,750 different shaped products. They include weather stripping, angle and slotted steel (to build storage racks), coil steel (for gutters), sheet steel (for flashing, fireplace screens or radiator covers), bolts and smaller rods.

Not surprisingly, those products have made him a major supplier to the do-it-yourself-home-improvement market. His wares are sold in more than 10,000 stores in all 50 states and across Canada. He has inked a big deal with Lowe's home-improvement stores, and continues to seek one with The Home Depot. Forbes magazine featured his company in a November issue last year.

That's not quite the future Broderick foresaw when he was recovering from a business failure back in the early 1990s. After watching a $130 million lumber business die when glut crashed the home-building industry in the late 1980s, Broderick acquired for $400,000 two small companies that he combined to make SteelWorks. One was a distributor of product and the other a manufacturer. Both were struggling.

But the lumberyard was a good...

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