STEUBENVILLE - Opportunity knocked and clearly, Voto Manufacturers Sales Co. has answered.
The employee-owned and operated Voto, headquartered in Steubenville, is fine-tuning its brand message in hopes of piquing the interest of the oil and gas industry.
"We've been in business for 74 years, and we've sold the same products for many of those years," Voto President Janie Mayle said. "When we heard the oil and gas industry was coming to our area and would need the products we've been selling for many years, we just wanted to get our name out and capitalize on having the products these new businesses (will need)."
REBRANDING ITS MESSAGE — Voto Manufacturers Sales Co. employees Dave Beagle, left, and Bruce Snyder swag an eye in a wire rope sling. The employee-owned and operated company is rebranding its marketing message to reflect their expertise in “rigging, digging and hose products,” a skillset of special interest to oil and gas industry companies as well as their traditional customer base. -- Linda Harris
And so the company's new tagline "Digging, Rigging, Hose Products & More" was born, succinctly summarizing Voto's area of expertise for the benefit of shale-related companies in need of a reliable supply of the products and brand names they stock.
"It pretty much says what we do," Mayle said. "It doesn't say we fabricate, but we're trying to get that across in our ads."
Nor does it say they're available around the clock, but they are. Mayle said they've always had 24-hour service for customers in a bind.
"We've had really good (feedback) from various customers and we're also hearing from new customers," she said. "We have people telling us they saw our ads and hadn't realized until now all the things we do."
"Consultants have said that kind of re-branding is key to establishing a good working relationship with the oil and gas industry, letting the powers-that-be know exactly what it is that you do - and that you'll do whatever it takes, even after hours, on weekends or holidays, to make sure they have what they need," she said.
"Obviously, Voto heeded the advice of some of the folks we brought in to talk to local businesses about what it takes to get active in the shale industry," Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman said. "I believe they've seen some success already; hopefully, that will continue to grow for them as our shale play continues to unfold. I think they're one of many local businesses that has done that kind of thing in an attempt to re-enter that market, and as we go forward, I think more and more local businesses will get opportunities."
Looman said there's been a recurring theme in his organization's discussions with shale companies - "they want to use local businesses and they want to hire local workers."
"As we continue to meet with these companies, major drillers as well as the service companies working for drillers, they're all asking for information on local vendors," he said. "It represents a huge opportunity for local businesses, a challenge and an opportunity, but as it plays out we should see local businesses really benefit if they supply what these companies need. Voto's certainly an example of a local business that has what they need."
Mayle said Voto carries the same products and brands it always has, but they're trying to keep more of them in stock. In some cases that's easier said than done.
"It's difficult finding what we need," she said. "We're finding our vendors don't have the inventory available because industry overall, including nationally, has picked up. One of the things we've noticed is these companies are very brand specific, but, fortunately, we are a distributor for a couple of the brands the oil and gas companies specifically ask for. The brands they want are made domestically they're a little gun shy about imports."
Mayle said they're already seeing gains in their business, though it's not all because of the growth of the local drilling industry. The mining industry also is picking up, she said.
"(And) we've been doing an awful lot of business with pipeline companies down in West Virginia, the Marshall County area," she said. "We've done some very nice business with them. Some of it is word of mouth, and some is our sales team going out and making sales calls."
Voto was founded in 1938 by Harry H. Vogelsong and his wife, Dorothy. Now operating out of a warehouse on North Third Street, the company was organized under an employee stock option plan in 1981.
"Our stock is valued based on how successful the company is," she said. "It's valued annually by an outsider. Last year our stock value went up double digits, and we anticipate it will go up again this year. Business is up, gross profit is up. There are a lot of good factors at work."
Mayle said she thinks the company's size is manageable: Voto currently has 47 employees, most of them at its Steubenville location. The company's Clarion, Pa., plant employs 10.
"Maybe it's because we're small," she said. "But we're all working toward the same goal. The better the company does, the better, ultimately, it will be for them in retirement. We're all working toward the same goal, that's what makes this company successful."
Mayle said they're going to be adding another sales representative to the team. She's also planning to add additional personnel in the fabrication/assembling area as well as the warehouse.