Brand new colony: Hutterites build on soaring metal sales by planning new home
Metal forming business has been growing by over 10% yearly
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 06:00 am
The cold morning wind whips across this mostly bare 3,000-acre stretch of land about 12 miles east of Olds. Just a few buildings jut out from a landscape in the midst of recovering from winter’s deep freeze.
Soon all that will change, as a tight-knit Hutterite community builds a brand new colony from the ground up.
Valleyview Colony leaders envision the new settlement as a simple but productive place bustling with a variety of manufacturing and agricultural operations.
On April 3, 2013 Mountain View County’s Municipal Planning Commission received an application to establish a new Hutterite colony that would include the construction of a 328-foot by 76-foot chicken broiler barn, a 200-foot by 40-foot chicken layer barn, a 200-foot by 40-foot duck and geese barn and a 50-foot by 60- foot solid manure storage pad.
The plans for May City Colony would cover up to 750 ducks and 250 geese.
Already some colony members stay on the property to watch over the site of a growing metal manufacturing business, which started more than seven years ago.
Head inside the 120-foot by 160-foot building with a teal stripe that hosts roll forming activity and Lucy the cat slinks by seeking affection.
“She’s the foreman,” says James Stahl, 24, who helps run the plant with his dad Samuel.
The company has more than two dozen colours of metal in stock to choose from. The 10,000-pound metal cylinders leave Union Steel’s plant in Korea and arrive in Vancouver before they are transported to the May City Roll Forming operation, a division of VersaFrame Inc. managed by the Hutterian Brethren of Valleyview.
May City Roll Forming creates utilitarian products, perfect for sidewalls, roof cladding and oilfield structures. They also manufacture tarps for oilfield containment and agricultural dugouts.
“We’ve got the finished product coming out here,” says Samuel, as he walks along the shop floor, referring to the machine that bends flat continuous sheets of metal into ribbed design segments. “You have to line it up so everything goes in square.”
The business has set a strong foundation for the future Hutterite community. So far there are three colony members who work in the office and two who work on the floor, serving customers across Central Alberta, into the heart of oil country and even B.C. May City Roll Forming was recognized by VersaFrame for hitting the most aggressive first quarter sales achieved by a new roll forming plant in 2007.
Last year the company grew by 10 per cent and this year anticipates that could rise as high as 20 per cent.
“We had a pretty busy April,” James says. “Sales are always picking up. It’s just gonna increase.”
Profits from the operation are split amongst the community, providing for a range of needs from basic necessities to investing in business growth.
Though VersaFrame Inc. owns much of the machinery Valleyview constructed the building and owns the purlin production line.
Valleyview branched off of the Huxley Colony back in 1971. In 1979 Spring Water Colony in Saskatchewan was formed after splitting from Valleyview.
Recent births at Valleyview have pushed the population to about 120 residents, meaning they have outgrown the infrastructure of their current home.
Leonard Stahl, 26, who works on the shop floor, says there will be a lot of preparation before a new colony can sprout.
“Once this place is ready for people to move up here then we’re going to do it,” he said. “That’s a couple years down the road.”
His cousin Curtis Stahl, who also works in the plant, looks forward to the move.
“It’s a new experience,” the 19-year-old says. “I’m gonna learn a lot I guess.”
James says they will start by building a chicken barn this year. Valleyview Colony residents will have to elect a new spiritual leader, which will be done by a popular vote after the move.
“We have to build houses and some more barns so we have enough work for the guys that move up here,” he says.
The facilities that are planned will be top of the line. Though much is different now with the Hutterite community than it was years ago, their values have not faltered, James notes.
“It’s kinda changing with time but you’re really sticking to your principles,” he says, “your unchanging principles.”