Back in March, we covered specialty company Smeal Fire Apparatus Co., recently hired by the Lincoln Fire Department to manufacture a new truck for the city, which will be released this fall. We were (and very much still are) happy to see cities in Nebraska utilizing our own fantastic manufacturers to fill their needs.
And now it seems as if the rest of the country’s been let in on the secret as well! In the Omaha World-Herald this morning, Smeal was applauded for expanding their market share and exponential growth in other areas of the United States, such as the Northwest region.
Part of Smeal’s appeal is their identity as a small, family-owned business dedicated to hard work and impeccable products. For Chris Bump, battalion chief of the Fresno County Fire District in central California, this was a key factor in his decision to use their products in his department. “It’s awesome they’re from a small farm in the middle of nowhere and they can maintain that persona while being a really heavy hitter and emerging force in fire apparatus manufacturing,” Bump told the World-Herald.
As with most other industries, both municipal departments and fire apparatus manufacturers lost significant amounts of revenue during the recession—the fire apparatus manufacturing industry losing 30-35% of its profits from just 2008-2009. This resulted in smaller budgets, which the fire departments were able to stretch, using less equipment or older units that could be repaired instead of replaced. “As municipal budgets have fallen, people have been stretching their apparatus to last longer,” said Mark Huber, president at Smeal.
With new initiatives and processes under Huber’s leadership, Smeal hopes to double their production of trucks over the next year. Their 330,000 sq. foot Nebraska manufacturing facility currently employs about 230 people to craft the fire trucks, ladders, hoses, and other parts for departments across the country. With more demand and less companies that fought to last out the recession, Smeal envisions expanded growth and production moving forward.
As with many skilled trades, the company is in a continuous struggle to find workers that are able to fill needed jobs throughout the company. For those potentially interested in the industry, whether at Smeal or another fire apparatus company, Huber gave the World-Herald a little insight into the positions that have an optimistic future right now.
For Smeal, welders are in high demand. To learn this viable and potentially lucrative career, there are plenty of great in-state options. Make sure to check out the welding and machine shop technology program at Mid-Plains Community College, or welding at Southeast Community College. Another interesting note is that the company is always in need of really excellent painters to give their trucks that shiny, crisp red color. “We’re not just some auto repair shop,” Huber says. So if you want to work for a fire apparatus manufacturer in Nebraska, Smeal offers plenty of opportunities!
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