If you live in Lilburn and take Arcado Rd to Hwy 29, you have passed Porter Steel many times. We were very fortunate to have the company VP, Cole Porter, as our guest at the February Zoom meeting. The company was started in 1983 by Cole's father Lowe who became interested in working with steel from his father.
The company employs 80-90 people and does about $12 million in projects in a year. About 90% of their orders are for light structural (not supportive) which is used in high end homes and apartments as gates, stairs, etc. They also do medium structural projects such as structural steel for school buildings. They also partner with companies that need a steel component like a support for their primary product such as a pump. Here the company can focus on their primary product and let Porter Steel hand the steel support structure. You can see Porter Steel at the JCB bridge and at the 17th Street bridge at Atlantic Station.
This company sources its steel from the US or from NATO countries. Most US mills tend to specialize in a particular product such as beams of certain size or parts. The price of steel on the world market can fluctuate with the impact of Tariffs. Covid also caused mills to shut down leading to reduced supplies and causing prices to increase by as much as 100%. That can make quotes for projects tricky.
The work force at the company is quite diverse with 23 countries represented and they even have women welders. The jobs at the company include fabricators, welders, logistics, estimators, project managers, machine operators, helpers, CDL drivers, crane operators, CAD, etc. They tap into school programs from Georgia Trade School, Gwinnett Tech and even the Architecture and Construction Academy at Berkmar HS. Much of the work is hard labor but the company provides 100% health benefits, 401K and paid time off.
Film location scouts from No Bull Productions approached the company to use their shop for a fight scene for a Netflix pilot for the show "Verified". While there, they noticed a large 54 ft boat. Construction of this boat had been a project started my owner Lowe Porter in 2003. They were getting ready to finally move the boat to a Knoxville Marina for finishing work. Documentaries are good work for production companies during a pandemic and No Bull saw an opportunity. Thus began "The Ark of Lilburn" documentary chronicling the delicate move of this huge object. There is even some possibility the film will include the boats final journey down rivers to the gulf.
For 38 years, the company obtained customers by word of mouth. In 2019, they hired a marketing firm that has been mostly tasked with telling their story. Thank you Porter for sharing the story of the company as well as your story as you have take on leadership within the company. Cole is also involved with the Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett.
Want to know more. Porter's interview is available to stream online:
LBA Virtual Lunch - Porter Steel
Feb 16, 2021
Access Passcode: MEE.RR?0