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Harbor Pipe & Steel’s move to Riverside delivered them 400,000 square feet under roof, an important move in the company’s growth story.

Three Companies in One

Harbor Pipe & Steel flourishes with three distinct entities under one very large roof

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Harbor Pipe & Steel beat the rush out to Riverside, and that’s made quite a difference.

The umbrella company that houses three separate entities under one roof was born James Metals in 1963. Founded by James Beattie in Los Angeles, the company was launched as a shearing house and supplier of secondary metal to the Southern California market. 

By 2000, the business was outgrowing its roots in Los Angeles, where real estate was always at a premium. So Harbor took a flier on Riverside County, at the time a bit of an afterthought in the crowded Southern California market. 

Harbor landed on an existing 24-acre industrial plot not far from several highways. Mostly undeveloped then from a commercial perspective, business activity has followed Harbor Pipe & Steel to the community over the past two decades. 

Current owner Joe Beattie, the founder’s son, says the move inland was more out of necessity than brilliant foresight, but’s it’s “proven to be fantastic. There are very few facilities in this area that have the crane structure and the heavy concrete we do. 400,000 square feet under roof in one area may be nothing in Chicago, but it’s a big deal out here.”

When it opened, the company had a little difficulty enticing trucks out that way, given the underdeveloped nature of the region. That’s all changed. 

“We were the first out this far. There wasn’t a lot between here and L.A.,” Beattie explains. “Now others are moving out this direction, and it’s very convenient to get from here to Las Vegas or Phoenix or San Diego or Mexico, because we’re out of that L.A. traffic. We’re 40 miles from downtown, so we’re out of the worst of it.”

Since relocating, Harbor Pipe & Steel has also reinvented itself. In 2002, the company began selling prime steel in addition to its inventory of secondary product. Rather than simply bringing all of that in under the James Metal banner, the company created Genesis Metals as a way of keeping the identities separate. 

Likewise, later in the decade, the long-time shearing house began delving into processing, first with leveling done under the name Riverside Leveling. That ultimately gave way to Riverside Processing, a 100 percent toll processor handling leveling and slitting. 

Beattie says his experience as a customer of processing services from others was a valuable lesson. “I was a customer at a leveling house for many years. I knew what customer service was and what it was not.”

He’s made sure to apply that knowledge to the operations at Riverside Processing, where the company now processes as many tons as it sells on a monthly basis. 

“We treat our processing customers well. They trust us to make sure we don’t follow their trucks,” Beattie says. 

Though the companies take advantage of existing in the same commercial footprint and the synergies that offers, the businesses do run as separate entities. “We have tons of customers that all they do is process, with some buyouts from the steel side only if they need to. We’ve kept the two sides of the company very separate. Without that, we wouldn’t have had the success we’ve had. People trust us,” says Andrew Peterson, operations manager. 

Riverside began with 66-inch and 72-inch Braner lines, which remain in operation. Today, the company has four leveling lines, ranging from a 30ga 60-inch wide to a ½-inch, 96-wide and two 60-inch slitting lines that can process from 30ga to ¼ inches. It also operates multiple shears and burning equipment, among other types of equipment. It’s also in the process of adding a cassette leveler from Machine Concepts and an additional light gauge leveler from Herr-Voss. 

The expansion of its lines will allow the company to grow its customer base. “With the two new lines, it will enable us to sell to most everybody. Being able to offer the vast majority of our customers next-day service, we’ll see a great deal of sales increase on that alone. There’s no way of measuring how many orders you lose when you tell somebody it’s going to be two or three days,” Peterson says. 

Genesis Metals and Riverside Processing will both have access to the lines, though Peterson says the company’s processing customers are never given short shrift. “On the operational side, the machines are split between processing and sales. But there’s no, ‘We have a hot order, so we can kick down our processing customers.’ We split the machine time, and it’s enabled us to not worry about filling one shift and not another.”

The company has also added a few other wrinkles to keep growing. Harbor Pipe & Steel acquired a studding company, Frametek, out of bankruptcy several years back, a move that’s now beginning to pay dividends as the market has changed. Similarly, the company recently entered into the corrugated business as another differentiator. 

What you won’t find, interestingly enough, is pipe. The parent company name is the last remnants of an early partnership with a now-defunct pipe and steel company. 

The company’s distribution footprint extends from Southern California to Washington and inland to the Rocky Mountains. The company sells fairly extensively into Arizona. It sells into a variety of end markets, with fellow service centers making up a large percentage of its client base. 

Harbor Pipe & Steel maintains a fleet of 11 trucks, four of which have sleeper cabs. But its fleet is limited to in-state travel, whether local runs or ones up to the Bay Area. It relies on common carriers for its shipments outside the Golden State. “Luckily we have a great relationship with a couple of asset-based trucking companies. If we need it, they can pretty much get a truck for us,” Peterson says. 

About the only downside to its current location is its distance from the Port of Los Angeles, where much of its material comes in. Like many West Coast distributors, the company relies heavily on imported material. Peterson says the ongoing Section 232 tariff implementation has not been a burden thus far. “It hasn’t been bad because we have good relationships with our vendors. Korea worked out the agreement pretty quick. We haven’t had issues getting steel at all, luckily.”

Today, Harbor Pipe & Steel’s three entities combine to form one of the largest service center operations on the West Coast. The company still has some room to grow, given the size of the property. There’s another 60,000 square feet remaining at the site to be used for future investments, though Beattie believes that expansion will mark the end of the line. He doesn’t envision opening additional locations. “Once I fill up the acreage, that’s probably it.”

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