Metal Builder: Dad would be proud

Randy Wanta has had the same job his whole life.
His father, Joe, had an agricultural construction business in Hatley, Wis., Joe Wanta and Sons, beginning in the 1940s. Each of his four sons worked for their father at some point, but the older three sons eventually started their own construction companies. Randy, the youngest, was barely an adult when his father died and the family had to decide the company’s fate.
“I was 20 years old when my father passed away,” he says, “and that’s when I had to decide, ‘Am I in it or out of it?’ And I stayed in it. That’s 32 years ago.”
Since taking over the company, Wanta has made a few changes. One thing he did was change the name of the company to Wanta and Son. “I have only one son, Ryan” he says. Wanta also has a daughter, Becky. At this time, neither is involved with the company, but Wanta says they are always welcome to join the family business.
The other change he made was adding commercial metal buildings to his post-frame agricultural construction. For the past 20 years, Wanta and Son has been a dealer for Star Building Systems. Wanta made the switch to metal buildings at a time when the economy was weak. With metal buildings, he says, he saw a new opportunity, and “I thought we needed to try it.”
Wanta has built his company into a $5 million per year business, while also developing an excellent relationship with Star Buildings. He sits on Star’s president’s advisory council, heads a committee, and has been featured in advertising and training videos. Wanta believes his association with Star allowed his company to reach its present level of success.
“I like where our company is at right now,” Wanta says, meaning he feels his work level is ideal for him and his employees. “You need to have time for family. Sometimes you lose focus of that, especially in the beginning. You’ve got to set you priorities straight.”
Wanta and Son specializes in commercial-use buildings such as manufacturing plants, warehouses, and town halls and community buildings. A recent building project was a local Budweiser distribution center. Wanta estimates that 75-80 percent of his business is repeat customers or referrals. “That tells me I’m doing something right,” he says.
The bulk of his work is done within a 25-mile radius of his office, but he and his crews will travel throughout Wisconsin to construct buildings. Showing he is as loyal to his clients as they are to him, Wanta has traveled to North Carolina to erect a building for one his regular customers.
Wanta is currently working on a new building for this same client, a glass company. “It’s a 65,000-square foot building, a new plant with offices,” says Wanta. “And we’re putting a crane in that building.”
In fact, most of Wanta’s buildings in the past few years have included cranes. “We’re building a bit of a reputation for them,” he says with a laugh.
The first building Wanta put up with a built-in crane was for Central Fabrication. “It was a lot of engineering work,” he explains. “It’s a unique crane building, with hanging jibs from each column.”
The buildings are usually pre-engineered for the cranes. “Sometimes we install them, but we buy the cranes from another company,” he says. “They are sophisticated systems.” These types of buildings are also becoming more popular. “We are bidding on three projects right now, and all of them are with cranes,” says Wanta. “All the buildings we’re working on will have cranes.”
From post-frame agricultural buildings to large metal commercial buildings with built-in cranes, Wanta and Son has seen a lot of change over the past 32 years. A number of Wanta’s employees have been with the company for many of those years. “Dennis Turzinski has been with me for 31 years, and he runs the post-frame side of the business,” Wanta says. “Al Krueger is foreman of the steel crew and has been with the company for 30 years.” Rob Janikowski, “second in command” to Krueger, and Carol Topzewski, the company’s secretary, have been with Wanta for 20 years. Also, Wanta says his wife, Roxy, has been an integral part of the company’s growth since their marriage in 1978. That, Wanta believes, is the key to his company’s accomplishments. “A deep base of longevity contributes to your success.”
Overall, Wanta and Son employs about a dozen people, which usually drops a bit during the winter months. They work on three or four projects at a time. Wanta’s crews do almost all the work on the building construction, contracting out the HVAC and some masonry work.
With the mild start to winter, Wanta says 2007 has a lot of activity and it looks like he will have a busy 2007. He also credits the amount of work he’s seeing to an upward swing in the overall business. “Metal buildings are an economical way to build, and appealing,” he says. “The re-roofing business is really growing, too.”
Even after all these years, Wanta still enjoys his job. “There is a reward you get when you start a project and the satisfaction that’s involved when the buildings are up.” Being his own boss isn’t so bad, either. “There is some freedom involved. I’m not tied down to an everyday job.”
In his 32 years of ownership, Wanta has made his own mark on what was once his father’s business. “We started out with a pickup truck with ladders,” he says, “and now we have state-of-the-art equipment. I’m proud of the history of this company.”
And what would his father think of Wanta and Son today?
“My dad was a quiet character,” Wanta says, “but if he could see me, I think he would be damn proud.”

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