Originally published in the Big Sky Business Journal on March 15, 2016.
Like Billings, it’s a good thing that Global Bolting Technologies, Inc., is diversified.
With clients coming from a wide range of industries in the region, the Billings-based business continues to grow and improve upon sales, year over year, even though one of their strongest markets – the oil and gas industry – has suffered declines over the past two or three years. “We still get a lot of business from clients in the Bakken,” says owner Tim Hert, “but we have definitely seen the impact.”
Total sales haven’t declined because Global Bolting stepped up their marketing in other areas.
Global Bolting Technologies sells, rents and maintains torque tools and equipment, and provides support, training and solutions for their clients. They serve businesses throughout the region and much of western United States, in every business sector from construction to heavy industrial, mining to power plants and wind farms, refineries to railroads.
Being diversified has been the key to success during his 30 years in the business, explained Hert, a native of Billings. Early on, he worked for a national company, and incorporated his own business in 2000. They are located at 2033 Main Street in the Heights.
Hert has been through “a couple of downturns,” but nothing as “scary” as what he sees coming. Hert is very concerned about what the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will do to his business.
Global Bolting is one of the hundreds of businesses in Montana that rely on the vitality of basic industries. His business does well only when his clients’ businesses do well. To make sure his clients are doing well is part of his business’ mission, said Hert, but he is worried because he believes the CPP will impact several basic industries. “Usually there are not so many industries being affected all at once. Always before, when one business segment was down, we could pick up the business somewhere else,” he said.
The CPP is a federal regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency that restricts the amount of carbon emissions allowed, with Montana having the highest cap in the nation. The most likely means of complying with the regulations will necessitate the closing of some of the state’s coal-fired electrical plants which will impact coal mining, which is already in decline due to a number of economic factors. While ostensibly meant to reduce global temperatures, a best case scenario about the effectiveness of the CPP regulations projects a reduction in temperatures of only 0.018 percent by 2100.
The CPP is projected to close power plants and coal mines, but also impacted, points out Hert, will be the construction industry that won’t be building, railroads that won’t be delivering, and manufacturing that won’t be able to produce because of increased energy costs. Such are the ripple effects of the CPP throughout the business world, of which Global Bolting is but a small part. And, even though it is not being implemented yet, just the prospect of the CPP is enough to already influence what is happening in businesses throughout the state.
“We want to hire but we are afraid to do so,” said Hert. He knows he is not alone in his uncertainty. His clients express the same concerns, especially those located in Colstrip – a whole town that will probably face demise with the possible closing of the power plants.
Such caution by businesses has to be a drag on the entire economy of the state.
One of Hert’s strategies, to stay ahead of the curve, is to keep on the leading edge of technology. It not only keeps him ahead of the competition but he can provide better benefits and service to his clients.
They have also become cautious about ordering stock. Hert said he already had the experience of being caught with lots of expensive inventory during a downturn. “I was eventually able to sell it,” he said, but it’s a precarious position for a business, and when one torque tool can cost as much as $30,000, it can become very serious very quickly.
Global Bolting Technologies is a distributor for many product lines.
Torque tools initiate the force required to rotate an object around the axis of another – a wrench twisting a nut onto a bolt creates torque. There are all kinds of torque tools required by industry. Some are manual, others are hydraulic, pneumatic, electric or battery-powered. Sometimes a business needs a tool customized for a specific need, which is one of the services that Global Bolting provides. In many applications the amount of torque (or force) must be very precise, which requires frequent calibration of the tools to meet regulated standards. Global Bolting calibrates tools as well.
Part of developing and sustaining the loyalty of his clients is anticipating the needs of their businesses. That may involve introducing them to the new technologies, and providing necessary training, but it also involves making sure their tools are in useable condition when they are needed.
In order to keep abreast of what his clients are doing means that Tim and Cynthia pay frequent visits to their clients’ businesses, touring them and learning about their newest technologies and challenges.
It’s a challenging and rewarding business, one that has unlimited potential for growth and expansion – or at least that’s what Hert hopes will remain the prospects for his business as well as the rest of business in the state. But, right now, prospects hinge upon what happens with the Clean Power Plan, which is currently being challenged in the courts.