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Hy-Tek reaches 50-year milestone

At the Hy-Tek Material Handling headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, long-time employees who left a mark on the company have their names engraved on a wall. Twenty-seven names are engraved on the William K. Slife Foundation Wall, which recognizes employees who have served 20 years or more with Hy-Tek.  Eight of those have more than 30 years with the company, and five of those - Dave Tumbas, Dan McDonald, Norm Horsley, Richard Cornette and Sam Grooms – still work at Hy-Tek. Sam Grooms graduated from college on a Saturday, and went to work for Slife Material Handling (now Hy-Tek) on a Monday. That was 32 years ago. Grooms started as an aftermarket sales representative, moved up to capital sales representative, then vice president of integrated systems. He was named chief executive officer in 1997. “This company has been just amazing, very good to me. I have never been outside this company.”  When he started in 1981, he was one of 35 employees and company sales were $3.5 million.  Now there are more than 100 employees with sales of $55 million, and a promise of more. In the last decade, Hy-Tek’s revenues have grown nearly seven-fold. In March, Hy-Tek opened its newest integrated systems division in Morganville, New Jersey. It is expected to employ up to 10 people and generate additional sales of $15 million. The most recent addition to its offerings is JCB line of heavy equipment. Hy-Tek’s primary product categories are lift trucks, conveyors, industrial racking and shelving, a 50,000 item catalog, systems integration and lighting solutions. It serves customers in the United States, Canada and Mexico and prides itself on being a one-stop shop.

Bill Slife founded the company as Slife Material Handling in 1963. The company grew in sales and staff. In 1989, his estate sold the company to five key employees. Grooms credits Slife’s vision, the commitment and work of employees and lasting relationships with partners, customers, suppliers, associates and the community for what has made the company survive and thrive for five decades. Hy-Tek has been nimble, and has to be, Grooms said. Customers’ expectations are high, as are Hy-Tek’s expectations of its vendors. “The speed at which everything happens” is one of the biggest changes, Grooms said. “Everybody wants everything yesterday.  We’re going to have to get better and more efficient, even though we think we do well now. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, we do the things we do extremely well. We have to be better and a step ahead of everyone else.” Infrastructure makes communication faster both internally and externally. Teleconferencing saves travel time but accomplishes the task. Hy-Tek provides customers with turnkey solutions, from one-of-a-kind handling and storage systems to pre-assembled buildings. It works with manufacturers of material handling equipment and systems.

Hy-Tek’s headquarters is in Columbus, Ohio. It has offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Its four divisions are integrated systems, mobile equipment, lighting solutions and storage and handling.

Hy-Tek is celebrating its 50th year in business with events for those who helped them make the milestone: a party for vendors, bankers, insurers and manufacturers; a golf outing for clients; and a family day for employees. Hy-Tek has been an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company since 2007. A strong commitment for fiscal responsibility drove Hy-Tek to pay off the original $5.65M ESOP loan two years ahead of the due date, the company said.  Additionally, strong financial performances from 2010 through 2012 have enabled the company to frequently fund operations without drawing on its seven figure credit working capital lines.

“Everyone looks at themselves as owners and accepts responsibility to grow the value of our stock for our employees,” Grooms said. “People are getting the opportunity to step up. Even though we’re 50, it feels like we’re a bunch of kids.”
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