The Financial Times visits Zahner, a 115-year-old Kansas City metal working company that has thrived in the international economy by latching on to the growth in museum building:
“We were doing good metalwork when I joined, producing siding and decking for others and fixing it up. We had 15 people in the plant and 100 in the field. Now we have 120 in our two plants, here in Kansas City and in Texas and just 15 in the field.”
Zahner has gone from being a sales company peddling a commodity product to a high-end product company selling to a small base of clients.
The inspiration for changing focus came from two sources. The first was Mr Zahner’s visits to small German and Japanese metalworking companies that were doing exquisite metalwork unlike anything he had seen in the US. Then in 1988, Zahner was asked to collaborate with Mr Gehry on an installation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. The experience led to a long partnership on many more dramatic sheet metal exteriors and a turn in the company’s strategy. As many American metalworking companies struggled in the face of cheaper foreign competition, Zahner thrived by hitching its wagon to the rise of the international “Starchitects” and demand for ever more innovative buildings.
Midwest mettle for ‘starchitects’ (Financial Times)