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Published February 07, 2011, 08:24 PM

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT - Hebron Brick Company

Hebron Brick Company has made huge strides in the past 10 years.

By: Alan Van Ormer, Prairie Business Magazine

Since 2000, the company has increased its original capacity from 18 million bricks a year to more than 45 million bricks per year. In addition, Hebron Brick Company, headquartered in Fargo, ND, was able to build a 100,000 square-foot plant in Hebron, ND, to mine and process the clay deposits into bricks that are being used all over the country.

“It is kind of fun,” says Rodney Paseka, CEO, Hebron Brick Company.

In 1986, Paseka became CEO of a company that was started in 1904. The focus for selling bricks was 70 percent in the housing industry. That changed four years ago when the company re-oriented its business toward architectural products for commercial buildings. This included developing a new product line that has been used for a federal court house in New Jersey, the New York Yankees’ farm club stadium, and restaurant stops around Chicago.

Today, the company has 11 locations throughout North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota and depends on 225 employees to do the job.

Paseka will tell you that the plant in Hebron is the heart of the company and is the base for all the brick sales distributed to 40 states and throughout western Canada. An estimated 80 percent of the brick Hebron manufactures is distributed outside of North Dakota.

Over the more than 100 years of operation, Hebron Brick has overcome bankruptcy, fire that destroyed the business, two World Wars, and the Great Depression.

Now as the fourth owner of the company, Paseka had to make a strategic move or face closing and releasing employees. That was the need for a new plant in 1999. “It gave us the ability to make product,” he explains. ‘If we did not have that today, we would not be in the market.”

Then there was a refocus of the business four years ago when the company looked at the industry and market, realizing that the housing industry was becoming commoditized. Hebron Brick refocused by becoming more of a job-oriented shop that became more specialized in dealing with different colors and sizes for commercial jobs.

Paseka said those two things were keys to keeping the business going because the brick industry is driven by the housing market. Nationally, 70 percent of the product goes into the housing market,” he explains. “Right now there is 50 percent unemployment rate in our manufacturing side of the business.”

“Our industry is as bleak as any in this country,” he states. “We are normally used to 1.6 million housing starts. We are now at 300,000 housing starts. The consequence of that is when 70 percent of your product goes into housing, you can imagine what that does.”

Along with changing its business focus, Hebron aligned itself with a company in Canada that had shut its plant down; a move that Paseka feels is a silver lining for the company. Now that Hebron lined itself with the Canadian company, they were able to take 30 percent of the production to Canada.

“If we were selling housing strictly I believe we would not be in business,” Paseka states. “We are probably one of a handful of brick companies that are profitable.”

One consequence of the economy the last couple of years has been that companies like Hebron have had to tighten the belt. “I’m an optimist,” Paseka states. “We are someday going to get back to some normalcy. We are going to work our way through these times. When we do, this belt tightening will pay great benefits. We had to reduce costs. We have less people to do more things. Everyone understands that there is difficulty out there in the market.”

Alan Van Ormer -