LOS ANGELES The first significant expansion in years by a West Coast steel tubing producer will take place not on the West Coast but 1,000 miles to the east in the Great Plains.
Searing Industries Inc., a family owned producer in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., said it will begin producing structural, mechanical and ornamental tubing in a new facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., in the first quarter of 2014.
The 200,000-square-foot facility, which will include a new mill, slitter and cutting equipment, will produce tubing up to 10 inches square and ½-inch wall thickness and "all corresponding rectangles and pipe products," according to Searing, which now produces tubing up to 6 inches square and ½-inch wall thickness at its Rancho Cucamonga plant.
No further details on the new operation were available. Still, the expansion by Searing, which was started in 1985 but whose family history in the tubing business dates back to 1948, is considered by observers as notable on a number of counts, not the least of which is that the expansion is taking place outside the West Coast.
By most measures, the West Coast is pretty well saturated with tubing capacity, with at least a half-dozen major mills in the Los Angeles area alone, not to mention incremental smaller, local operations and additional production in Oregon and Utah. Moreover, the construction-related consumption that accounts for the bulk of tubing demand in California is only now showing the first, tentative stirrings of a recovery since its 2008 collapse.
However, the Great Plains and Intermountain West, whose economy is much smaller than the West Coast, has nevertheless been expanding at a faster pace due in part to energy-related growth, according to market observers. While it is not known if Searing would consider producing energy tubulars in Cheyenne, observers noted that the regions overall economic growth has boosted its construction and infrastructure sectors that consume structural tubing.
The closest major producers to Searings planned new operation are believed to be the American Tubular Products division of Schaeffer Industries in Lindon, Utah and ExlTube Co. in North Kansas City, Mo.