SAND SPRINGS — A conversationalist, wine connoisseur and longtime Boy Scouts of America advocate, Jeffrey Watt Williams was many things to many people.
To Webco Industries, he was an innovator.
“Nobody in the metal tubing industry was better at automotive sales and service than Jeff Williams,” said Mike Howard, chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance and administration for Sand Springs-based Webco.
About four months after being paralyzed in a Michigan vehicle crash, Williams died in November. He was 59.
Webco last week paid homage to the veteran employee by naming the new 110,000-square-foot expansion to the Star Center Complex the “Jeffrey Watt Williams Center for Manufacturing Excellence.”
“It was a tough time for our entire organization,” Howard said of the death of Williams, who was vice president of original equipment manufacturer sales for Webco. “This is huge family.
“It is a 1,200-person family. Jeff was very much a patriarch in our organization. He lived the principles that we find dear.”
The $15 million expansion brings to $70 million the investment in the 325,000-square-foot Star Center Complex at 13701 W. Oklahoma 51.
Founded in 1969, Webco makes carbon and stainless steel, copper, nickel and titanium alloy tubular products designed for long-term performance in applications from corrosive chemical processing to upstream oil, gas and geothermal wells.
“Jeff Williams was instrumental in establishing Webco as a significant supplier of tubular components for the automotive industry,” Dana Weber, president and CEO of Webco, said in a statement. “His hard work, dedication and steadfast determination to transform Webco into a supplier of choice provided a catalyst for the success that we are experiencing today.
“Jeff was always one to ‘do things right,’ and he epitomized the principles that drive Webco’s efforts, so naming this facility in honor of him was an obvious choice.”
Webco, which generated more than $500 million in sales in 2012, has about 425 employees at two plants in Sand Springs, a jump from 340 a year ago, Howard said. Besides venues in Oklahoma — Tulsa, Kellyville and Mannford are the others — Webco has manufacturing sites in Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois and Michigan.
“We believe we were given this opportunity because of our financial strength,” Howard said. “We have a very strong balance sheet.
“Our employees figured out how to do things that gave us these opportunities, between our sales organization, our engineering organization. It really was a lot of teamwork.”
The Star Center Complex, which opened in 2012, stands at the former site of the Hissom Memorial Center, which housed people with developmental disabilities until a federal judge shut it down in 1987 after complaints about its filthy and inhumane conditions.
The city of Sand Springs helped pay for the land acquisition with an $8 million tax increment financing deal, and Webco spent at least another $8 million clearing the land for occupation, Howard said. As he pointed to property outside the newly named William Center on Friday, Howard said the company isn’t through growing.
“We have long-term plans for this (land),” he said. “We’re a forever company. We’re creating this expansion with the long term in mind.”