by Julie Ann Madden
After 48 years in the Slipform Equipment Industry, Stefan Sandberg of Akron is hanging up his hard hat.
For nearly 23 years, he has been the operations manager at Scanada International Inc.’s office in Akron.
Sandberg was the first on-site operations manager at the Akron facility.
According to Sandberg, company officials had talked about having an operations manager at Akron for decades but it was the first time one was actually stationed here. Before this, the operations managers had worked out of their offices in Chicago, Ill., or on the East Coast.
“It’s a hands-on job,” said Sandberg. “I knew that — that’s why I applied for it.”
Sandberg brought his wife, Kay, for a visit before making the final decision to exchange their metropolitan life for Akron’s rural small town atmosphere.
“We came from the Midwest – Chicago so it was easier,” said Kay. “I was ready for a slower pace of life, and we knew our son would get a better education.”
On Jan. 1, 1990, Sandberg began working out of the Akron facility. Their son, John, was a fifth grader in Margaret Correia’s class at Akron-Westfield Community School.
“Scanada was a small struggling company,” said Sandberg, “and now Scanada has become a big successful company.”
“The markets have cooperated, the owner is very smart in business, and we have very good people working for the company,” he said.
In the past two decades, the Akron warehouse has been expanded, doubling its original size and two storage buildings, approximately 3,000 square feet and equal to the warehouse footage, have been added.
Currently, the Akron facility has supplied most of the equipment for building the Shard skyscaper in London, England.
“Right now, it’s our biggest overseas job,” said Sandberg, noting the Shard is the tallest building in Europe at this point in time.
One of the Akron facility’s main purposes at this time is shipping equipment for construction of large grain storage structures, and a good share of this business is to facilities created for exporting U.S. grains.
Although the Midwest is currently experiencing a drought, farmers have had several profitable years, and they and agricultural businesses are undertaking enormous facility expansions, especially along America’s Gulf coast and West coast lines.
“We are running out of our large pumps while small and medium pumps are just sitting in the warehouse,” said Sandberg, noting one grain facility they suppled construction equipment for included 48 storage tanks and a large head house in Longview, Wash.
Locally, Scanada has been kept busy, too. For instance, in Lyons, S.D., their equipment was used to build eight concrete storage tanks. In addition, the coop also built two steel tanks and a flat storage area to hold 1 million bushels of grain.
“Canadian grain businesses went through a similar grain storage explosion in 1999 and 2000,” said Sandberg. “That’s the only time Canadian equipment sales have been larger than the United States’ for Scanada.”
But it doesn’t matter what type of tall structure is needed, Scanada can supply the equipment. One of Stefan’s early projects was a 1,207 foot tall chimney for a for a copper smelter in Magna, Utah, and another was the Humber Bridge in England.
“Scanada has the largest equipment fleet in the world for this type of business,” said Sandberg, noting Scanada has several offices in addition to the Akron site, including Montreal, Canada, and Bow, New Hampshire.
On Aug. 24, Akron native Dana Meinen will step into Sandberg’s shoes, and Sandberg will remove his work boots, tie on his golfing shoes, grab his golf clubs and head for the Akron Golf Course greens.
Playing golf and reading top Sandberg’s list of retirement activities along with traveling and spending time with his wife, Kay; son John and his wife, Carrie of Kearney, Mo., and one-year-old grandson, Caleb.
The Sandbergs will be serving as District Governors for the Lions Club’s District No. 9NW of Northwest Iowa, which stretches south to Iowa Highway 30 and east to nearly Interstate 35, Fort Dodge and Boone. They are planning on attending the Lions USA-Canada Forum in Tampa, Fla., with, of course, a trip to Disney World in September.
The public is invited to a Retirement Reception honoring Sandberg from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Akron Golf Course Clubhouse.