On three acres just off south Highway 59 sits a business that hires locally, competes globally and is all set to explode. Its giant machines are welded and molded by 55 workers any Japanese company would be proud to put on its own assembly line. Slabs and plates and bars of steel become dynamic engines in the ag food chain.
Laird Manufacturing has been around since 1937, founded as a welding and repair shop. In 1989, with new blood in its ranks, it began making, selling and distributing equipment for the cattle feeding industry -- beef and dairy.
Today, Laird has become one of the major players in its field -- not just in the United States, but worldwide. Aside from a hiccup in 2009, sales have grown 15 percent to 20 percent a year for the company now owned by Isaac Isakow and Lee Cansler.
Isakow, a transplanted South African who still looks like the rugby player he once was, handles marketing. Cansler, who with three others bought in 1989 what was called Laird Welding and Manufacturing Works, handles the production side.
The energy that courses through the sales and parts office and the factory behind it sparks like the ice-blue flame of the welding torches wielded by dozens of craftsmen at work. What they make has wound up in Mexico, Canada, Japan, Holland, South Africa and all across the American West.
With neighbor and rival Kirby Mfg. Inc., founded in 1946, also performing well, Merced benefits from two strong manufacturing firms within city limits.
And the best part? Laird is expanding.
Read the complete story at mercedsunstar.com