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Construction boom: Sapulpa steel firm at forefront of Oklahoma projects

SAPULPA – Bennett Steel’s handiwork is all over the projects springing up in downtown Tulsa, such as Brady Park and the Mathews Warehouse building.

The Sapulpa-based steel processing, construction and equipment rental firm has been more than busy in recent months, benefitting from a commercial construction boom in Oklahoma and the spillover into nearby states.

Projects include the new indoor athletic practice field at the Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, the Downstream Casino outside of Joplin, Mo., and a handful of other projects that use the steel beams and girders produced at the Sapulpa fabrication shop.

The upshoot in local business, led by the energy industry, has helped the 32-year-old company rebound from the recession with gusto, nearly doubling its workforce from the downturn’s lows and looking desperately for skilled workers to help fill orders.

“It all starts with the energy sector,” said David Bennett, founder and president of the company. “That seems to drive everything. You’ve gotta love $3 a gallon gasoline.”

Bennett Steel Inc., which helped build ONEOK Field a few years ago, now employs nearly 190 people.

Downtown Tulsa is being transformed by a flood of construction. Projects worth nearly $386 million are under way or have been completed recently, according to estimates by the Tulsa Metro Chamber.

Those projects, such as the new $12.5 Griffin Communications building in the Brady District, will increase the downtown workforce and boost businesses there. But right now, the work is providing hundreds of jobs to local construction firms and contractors, as well as much-needed orders to local suppliers.

Bennett Steel has been at the epicenter of the work as a contractor for major construction outfits such as Manhattan Construction and Flintco. Its work has ranged from structural beams to staircases inside the Mathews Warehouse arts center building.

The extra work hasn’t exactly returned the industry to its pre-recession days. Bennett said work is more competitive and prices for jobs are lower, despite increases in material costs.

Extra workers have flooded the commercial construction field from other sectors, particularly residential construction, which has yet to see significant gains.

“There are more companies out there that want work, and it’s going for much cheaper than it did a few years ago,” Bennett said.

Bennett started his company in 1980 as a steel erection company, working on area projects during another upturn in the oil and gas sector. But Bennett Steel found its mark when it moved to its current location in Sapulpa and built a steel fabrication facility where it could manufacture the beams and girders it uses on construction projects.

“You can move a lot faster when you are only depending on yourself for supplies,” Bennett said. “And it’s really helped us compete on price and time.”

Bennett Steel’s 50,000-square-foot metal processing shop employs 43 people – mostly fitters, welders and ironworkers, said production manager Delbert Brown. It’s there that the company ships in raw steel beams and customizes the metal fit for specific projects.

Adding crane rental and operations has helped Bennett Steel capitalize on more energy projects, such as work at refineries.

Even the company’s crane rental business at locations in Sapulpa, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and Pryor has increased in recent months as commercial construction starts rise in number, said Pat Morgan, who works in outside sales for Bennett Steel’s crane business.

Equipment rentals, such as cranes and tractors, are often leading indicators for growth in the construction sector.

“Things have been really turning around lately,” Bennett said. “We’re just trying to keep up.”

Bennett Steel Inc.

Steel processing and construction

2210 Industrial Road, Sapulpa

Founded: 1980

Founder: David Bennett

Original Print Headline: Steel is good deal

Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380

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