ENERGY-SAVING PRODUCTS IN DEMAND
FinTube Technologies Inc. is benefitting from high fuel costs like many other energy-related Tulsa companies, just in an upside-down kind of way.
Whereas many area companies are expanding because they are related to lucrative exploration and production services, FinTube's growth is inspired more by the desperate need for efficiency. It is adding space and jobs because its products save customers money.
The longtime Tulsa manufacturer of economizers, welded finned tubes and other products celebrated the opening of its new 84,000-square-foot fabrication plant Tuesday. The facility has allowed FinTube to move its fabricating from a site near downtown to a location next to its office and tube-milling operations on West 41st Street.
"Business is very good," said Al Schneider, vice president for operations. "Everybody is looking for ways to save on fuel; economizers certainly do that."
FinTube produces large and smaller cylindrical and rectangular economizers at its new plant. An economizer connects to boilers and uses waste heat to preheat water for more efficient steam production, sometimes saving 8 percent to 12 percent on those costs.
The company, which Ken Anderson founded in Tulsa in 1960, sells its products around the world, including Australia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and in the U.S. Customers include any large industries or facilities that use steam boilers, from manufacturing plants and utilities to petrochemical processors, hospitals and universities.
"It's amazing how much money these things can save you," said John Johnson, a company spokesman who has represented FinTube for about 10 years. "The economizers can pay for themselves in 12 to 18 months."
Construction began late last year. The new facility is segmented into three bays — long rows that make either smaller, cylinder-shaped units or rectangular economizers that can reach massive size. For overhead lifting, it has two 30-ton cranes, two 20-ton cranes, three 15-ton cranes and one 10-ton crane.
FinTube employs about 69 people in its new shop. The company, which employs 171 overall in Tulsa, joined Oklahoma's Quality Jobs program last year, meaning it could reap more than $5 million in payroll rebates if it hires up to 200 new people overall.
Schneider said the hiring pace will pick up over the next six months.
One of those current employees, fitter-welder Keith Hymer, is happy with the move, which was completed last month. Hymer, who has worked at FinTube for 20 years, believes the new floor and crane system will help move around the giant machines easier, and the plant also is more comfortable during those 10-hour shifts.
"I think it will really help in wintertime," he said. "It'll be warmer."
The economizer units vary in price from $50,000 for a smaller cylindrical unit to millions for rectangular giants.
And if fuel costs continue to rise, Schneider sees a nice path ahead for his employer.
"It's driving our business," he said.
FinTube and its parent company, Lone Star Steel, was bought by U.S. Steel Corp. last year. On Tuesday, Mayor Kathy Taylor expressed gratitude that the out-of-state owner was committed enough to invest in new jobs and facilities in Oklahoma.
Rod Walton 581-8457