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1997 FIN – Nucor History Book Gives Glimpse of Future

May 28
00:00 2009

1997 FIN – Nucor History Book Gives Glimpse of Future

August 27, 1997 FIN – Which of the following are not a part of Nucor history mentioned in The Legend of Nucor Corporation: A. R.E.O. Speedwagon
B. Geiger counters
C. President Jimmy Carter
D. New York Jets Owner Donald Lillis
C. Phoenix, Arizona

The Legend of Nucor Corporation is a book primarily about chairman Kenneth Iverson and steel. Indeed, though in less than 10 years Nucor became a key name in the fastener industry, fasteners fail to make the index of the 144-page reception table book. There is a color picture of the St. Joe, IN, fastener plant and one paragraph in chapter 11 subtitled, “Stealing Back the Steel Fastener Market.” What the book, an “authorized biography,” concentrates on is the history of the steel minimill concept that made the Charlotte, NC-based steelmaker, which posted $3.6 billion in revenues last year, what is today. Author Jeffery L. Rodengen traces the Nucor origins to Ransom Eli Olds’ first trip in a three-wheeled “land locomotive” in 1886. After tinkering in his father’s garage for five years, Olds was awarded a patent for a steam-powered engine. By 1897 he was manufacturing Oldsmobiles. In 1905 Olds’ frustration with stock holders led him to leave to form the Reo Motor Car Company. Among its products were commercial trucks known as the Reo Speedwagon – the vehicle which inspired the name of the 1970’s rock group R.E.O. Speedwagon. Rodengen’s chronology gives new companies, names and divisions which led to today’s Nucor Corporation (the official name adopted in 1972 to replace Nuclear Corporation of America). The book narrates the numerous products made over the decades, including such nuclear-related equipment as the mediscanner system, Geiger counters, particulate monitors and steel joists. Rodengen gingerly touches on such problems as a Department of Justice investigation of pricing, employee death rates and environmental sanctions. He also tells about the points Nucor wants highlighted, such as when the company’s successful methods were featured in a 1980 NBC broadcast, “If Japan Can Do It… Why Can’t We?”; the way Nucor survived the early 1980’s recession without laying off employees by reducing the workweek to four days and freezing wages; and developing a recycling program with the aid of tax incentives from the state of South Carolina. Iverson’s Legacy Iverson joined Nucor as a vice president in 1962 to manage the new Vulcraft Corporation, which he had advised directors to acquire. Vulcraft manufacturers steel joists and girders and pushed the corporation toward its steel emphasis. Rodengen says the turning point for Nuclear Corporation came in 1968 when then-president Iverson challenged both Big Steel and foreign steel by gambling no minimills. Nucor built the first three-high jumping mill in the Western Hemisphere, while foreign competition was putting U.S. Big Steel on the ropes. Iverson expanded steel operations, believing that Nucor could manufacture steel at a lower cost than it would pay on the open market. “Minimills were relatively inexpensive to construct and operate. They were energy-efficient and they produced a high-quality top product,” he says. Iverson competed by reducing management layers and staff people, pushing decision making to lower levels and instituting productivity incentives. Rodengen credited Iverson for setting a tone, which has kept unions out of Nucor. When Nucor drivers were being wooed by the Teamsters Union, he sent employees home with a coloring book including a caricature of Jimmy Hoffa with cash overflowing from his pockets. Employee relations weren’t perfect. When Iverson moved the corporate headquarters from Phoenix, AZ, in 1966, to Charlotte, all 12 corporate employees quit rather than move because they did not believe Nucor would survive. Though Iverson dominates Nucor history, the book brings out such historical highlights as Donald Lillis acquiring a 24% interest in the company and becoming chairman in 1965. Lillis, one of five partners who took over the bankrupt New York Jets in 1963, died in 1968 after propping up Nucor with a personal loan of $250,000 and installing Iverson as president. Rodengen, who has authored a series of “Legend” books on topics including Electric Boat, Honeywell, Dr. Pepper, Briggs & Stratton and Stanley, received access to company archives and personnel to write the book. DeMars on Nucor Nucor Fastener general manager Jerry DeMars is quoted in a description of management structure:
“In the traditional corporate culture, the general manager would be president,” DeMars told the author in an interview last fall. “We do everything at the divisional level other than federal and state income taxes and cash management, I’m responsible for the marketing, sales, production, engineering, accounting, credit, and collection. It’s like having your own business. You’ve got to meet certain corporate goals of return on assets and profitability, but you keep driving to do better because your money is invested heavily in the stock, not to mention the profit-sharing plan. Everyone has an incentive to make the division grow.” Nucor entered the steel fastener business in 1986 by building the $25 million St. Joe, IN, fastener plant with an annual capacity of 40,000 tons of hex-head cap screws, hex bolts and socket-head cap screws. It has since been expanded and another plant built in Conway, AR. Rodengen wrote that Iverson saw an opportunity in fasteners because imports supplied 90% of the U.S. demand. “It’s really an effort to bring that business back home,” Iverson said. The Nucor Future Nucor’s future is under the guidance of John Correnti, CEO since late 1995 when Iverson relinquished the day-today operations. Rodengen quoted a 1966 Business Week article to give a glimpse of his style: “Correnti is regarded as harder driving than the genial Iverson, and he preens a bit more in the limelight. He made friends with then-Governor Bill Clinton when the company was negotiating plant sites in Arkansas. And he continues to meet with Clinton, talking steel and politics at the White House. ‘I’m one of the Republican friends of Bill,’ Corrienti said.” Rodengen again turned to Business Week to tell how Correnti operates: “I walk through the plant and its office and shake everyone’s hand and shoot the breeze. I want them to know if they have a problem, they can pick up the phone or write a letter and communicate with someone who is not a nameless, faceless stranger who’s pulling the strings.” Corrienti finds employees are concerned about money, job security, being treated fairly and with dignity, and want a place to take complaints.
“Responding to these issues is how we remain non-union,” Correnti asserted. In an interview Correnti told Rodengen growth is the goal, but, “We’re not going to grow at 25% to 30% like we have the last three or four years, but we’re going to continue to grow at 15% to 20% and we’re going to do it the way we always have. Through green field sites, building our own, training our own, establishing our own culture in those plants.” And the answer to the opening question: C. President Jimmy Carter ©1997/2009 Fastener Industry News.
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