Agriculture and aviation are the leading contributors to R&M Steel Co. revenues 50 years after Rob Roberts started the business in a greater Boise area that would economically diversify as it grew.
Although R&M’s pre-engineered metal buildings can be found in commercial complexes, school and church sites around growing southwest Idaho, agriculture still drives major demand.
“Ag is a highly important aspect of what we manufacture now,” Roberts said May 31. Hay barns, farm shops, equipment storage and animal enclosures, and buildings for hop and onion industries are among examples.
He and his wife and business partner, Nancy Roberts, said producers’ desire to maintain quality regardless of fluctuations in commodity prices is among reasons demand has stayed strong. Depending on a customer’s situation and need, the metal building systems also may offer cost-of-ownership and functional advantages.
“We just sent seven hay barns to western Oregon and three to eastern Idaho,” Rob said.
Over the years, the buildings have appealed to many hay growers as a way to reduce spoilage when prices are high, and to maintain quality and the best possible return when prices are low, Nancy said.
Rob said animal feed remains a big industry, and recently some hay growers are participating in export and organic markets that demand the highest quality.
R&M recently has delivered various special-purpose buildings for the expanding hop industry, Nancy said. “Hops have exploded in this valley.”
“Hops production is expanding all over this area,” Rob said. “It is an ideal climate for hops production.”
The company about two years ago saw high demand from the onion industry, he said, as participants built next-generation packing and shipping buildings or replaced older wood-framed storage structures that took heavy damage from snow.
Horse barns and arenas, and ag buildings at schools, have been keeping R&M Steel busy in recent years. The company has donated buildings to schools.
Rob started in the industry by field-welding structural steel. He worked on several buildings at Boise State University and on the tunnel that connects the state Capitol to a major office building.
“I started thinking about something else I could be doing all the time, and that was pre-engineered metal building systems,” he said. Buildings were the full-time focus by the mid-1970s.
R&M employs about 72 in a building of 96,000 square feet at Idaho 19 and Farmway Road, Caldwell. A 50th-anniversary luncheon is planned there at noon Aug. 8, Nancy said.
The business is on 10 acres. Rob and Nancy grow hay on a contiguous 70 acres, and own a nearby 13-acre rail yard that now receives steel and cattle feed.
This year at the rail yard, they plan to add building and track infrastructure to handle additional agricultural products. Rob said Union Pacific approved the original concept plan and a revision that would streamline Boise Valley Railroad car switching operations.