APRIL 2011

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Telstar Metals Co.

Rick Davis • 417-463-7088

Rick Davis and his wife, Linda, founded Telstar Metals in 1985 in a hay barn on their dairy farm. Shortly after, they bought a facility along with another local couple, and the business was incorporated six months later. Two years later, Davis sold the dairy business.

Davis said that the dairy business was getting tough as small dairies were being “squeezed out” by the large companies. To make ends meet, Davis went to work part time for a local recycler, but it wasn’t long before he realized he wanted to go out on his own and he took the knowledge he got from his part time job to found his own business.

“We take a lot of pride in our customers that we’ve had for more than 20 years,” Davis said. The first, Rockwell International, is still a customer. “We are a critical manufacturer for steel mills and foundries,” he explained. “I’ve made numerous midnight runs when customers’ projections were wrong.”

But Davis doesn’t mind those midnight runs. He said that when he’s making a special trip to make sure his customer’s plant can keep operating, “it makes it feel like you’ve accomplished something.” Of all the things he does, he enjoys his interactions with his customers the most. “I go to some pretty rough places to buy scrap, and some very nice ones.”

The critical product that Telstar manufactures and that Davis sometimes delivers on those emergency runs is aluminum deox. Davis explained that deox “is used to make steel stronger” and results in higher-grade steel. The deox is also used in making stainless steel, and in used for some very specific products, like the railroad wheels that one customer manufactures.

While he doesn’t know where all of his material winds up as an end-product, Davis said that he’s proud to have some of his material in the stainless steel benches that are part of the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon.

To make sure his material is the highest grade possible, each batch is analyzed, and that analysis is sent out with each shipment. “Our product is 93 percent minimum,” Davis said, “and up to 99 percent aluminum.” To get that sort of result “we have to know what we’re putting in our furnaces.”

He buys his material from several recyclers, as well as some fabricating plants in a four-state area near his Marionville, Missouri plant. He buys mostly extrusions, sheet, and car and truck wheels.

Sales travel a lot farther, including one customer in Winnipeg, Canada. However, freight costs have to be considered, so most of his material comes from the Midwest. Sales range from 500-10,000 lbs. per order, and the material he sells ranges from 1/4 and 5 lb. stars to 30 lb. ingots.

Davis said that the star shape has more surface area which allows the material to melt faster, but the smallest stars can be expensive since they’re more labor-intensive to make. He described the 5 lb. stars as looking like a bundt cake. He also makes 5 lb. notch bars. “We take a product that is virtually useless and change it to a product that is critical for a steel mill to operate,” Davis said.

After 26 years in business, Davis knows what he has to do, but that wasn’t always the case. “We learned a lot by making mistakes,” he said. “We tried to get larger in the mid-late 90’s,” but that turned out to be a bad business move. In 2004, he bought out his partners, downsized the operation, and moved the business closer to home.

Right now, his plant operates two 12-hour shifts, 4 days a week, but he wouldn’t mind seeing business increase so he could run a 24/7 operation. The good news is that “business has turned around since the first of the year. All of our customers are picking up.”

It hasn’t always been that good, and he has dealt with customers who have gone through bankruptcies “but now it’s paying off” with customer loyalty. He said that “starting your own business from scratch is difficult and challenging. Some of it you don’t know about until you get into it.”

He found out one very important thing when his son started working for him in 2004. “I didn’t realize that he’d been wanting to work with me for years,” Davis said. “And he’s really an asset. He’s going to take care of the company just like I did. He has a good relationship with all our customers.”