Wabash City Council finds B Walter & Company in compliance with abatement terms
By Jospeh Slacian | The Paper of Wabash County
The Wabash City Council unanimously approved a statement of benefits update for B Walter & Company.
Owner Scott Buehrer and Keith Gillenwater, President and CEO of Grow Wabash County were on hand to discuss the matter with the Council.
Buehrer and B Walter received a 10-year tax abatement for both personal property and real property in 2016 for investments and improvements he planned to make at the facility. By statute, he is required to give the Council an update annually.
“I came here 17 months ago when I acquired B Walter,” Buehrer told Council. “I kept everybody. Our employment at the time was 25 employees and a couple of temps. We’re right around 35 employees and no temps. I prefer to have full-time employees in the business. I think we build a better company that way.”
He also discussed improvements made to the facility.
“We made some improvements to our building and grounds,” Buehrer continued. “We did stonework. We try to use local vendors for almost everything we do. We did siding on the front of the building, local vendor. We used a local vendor to put over 100 tons of rock around our drive path, widening the drive path for the truckers.
“We also moved our scrap steel supplier from Fort Wayne to here in Wabash with Metal Source.”
Buehrer also said new equipment has been purchased for the loading department, the stamping department and the tool room.
“My main focus has been on the manufacturing operations to make manufacturing very robust so that we can expand our business without any of our current customers being disrupted,” he continued.
But there has been one obstacle the company has had to contend with, Buehrer said.
“The largest (issue) to growing B Walter has been the steel tariffs,” he said. “Since I arrived here, the cost of hot rolled steel has gone up 80 percent coming out of the mill. That was in anticipation of the steel tariffs. I have no idea how high the price of steel is going to go.
“I’ve been around the steel market for 40 years. This cycle usually runs a couple years. … I’m scaling back my investments and my philanthropy in the community, because the business relies on the ‘Bank of Scott.’ You can’t expect customers to pay for the kind of price increases that are required when steel prices do something like this.
“But I’m in it for the long haul. In fact, I suspect that in three years it will collapse and set an all-time low. But that has disrupted some of our philanthropy and investments in the community this year, as well as buying equipment. But we’ll get through this. Business is strong.”