Steel is essential to the world economy, and working capital is critical to being successful in the industry. A few years ago, I felt our business opportunities were being limited by a bank that didn't understand us or our industry. That's when I reached out to Bill Robertson, a commercial banker at First Merchants, and it wasn't long before they saw the same opportunities I did.
We buy steel from all over the world and then process that steel to exact specifications for our customers. It might take 3 to 6 months from the time we purchase the steel to process it, get it in the hands of our customers and receive payment. That's a long time when we may be sitting on $3 million to $5 million of inventory. Our previous bank helped us keep product coming in the door, but did little else to help us take advantage of other opportunities.
Once I called Bill, one of the first things he and his team at First Merchants did was set me up with a more advantageous line of credit. Not only did it help cover our everyday working expenses, it provided room and flexibility for us to grow - and at just the right time.
Shortly after switching to First Merchants, I received a call from a company with a used Mattison grinder for sale. In our industry, new equipment like this can easily cost millions of dollars. Finding used equipment that's in good shape can be a real opportunity - if you can act quickly. I immediately flew to New Hampshire to check out the machine and found it to be exactly what I had hoped. Within 24-hours I had purchased the grinder - at roughly a tenth of the cost of a new one - and was on my way back home.
Without First Merchants taking the time to understand our business, I'm not sure this would have happened. That grinder has not only helped expand our business, but also provides a well-needed back-up to another grinder we own. Having a line of credit that allowed us to move quickly was critical to making the deal.
First Merchants has certainly become our bank of choice and we leverage a number of their products and services - not just here, but also at our locations in California, Arkansas and Connecticut. It’s reassuring to have a bank partner that sees the world the way I see it.
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