By MARC LUTZ
Business Journal Editor
ESCALON — Many family businesses last only a couple generations. If operated with the principle of family in mind, businesses like Hogan Manufacturing, Inc., thrive for generations on end, bringing other families with them.
Founded in 1944, Hogan Manufacturing was originally known as California Blowpipe and Steel Company. The company was created by Walter F. Hogan Sr. with four partners to provide sheet metal fabrication.
Hogan Manufacturing is now solely owned by the Hogan family, with third- and fourth-generation family members actively running the company. They fabricate a variety of metal products from bus chassis to wheelchair accessibility products for public transit and architectural applications. It’s that diversification of offerings that has allowed Hogan to grow organically, becoming a bedrock in the Escalon community for 74 years.
“Our family has been here for so long … we’ve always integrated into the Escalon community,” said Tyler Lucas, IT manager and fourth-generation Hogan family member. “As things expanded, we acquired different buildings in this area. Until the ’70s when we acquired our larger manufacturing facility off of McHenry.”
The facility Lucas refers to sits on 45 acres.
“Total, we have 400,000 square feet of manufacturing space,” said Joe DeBiasio, chief financial officer for Hogan. “The interesting part is that’s all right here in a town of 7,200 people. The Hogan family has built quite the business.”
DeBiasio is one of the 160 workers Hogan Manufacturing employs, making it the second largest employer in Escalon, the first being Heinz.
Those employees are treated like family, and in some cases, as Lucas pointed out, children of employees will sometimes come to work for the company.
Hogan is dedicated to making its employees feel like family, making sure they are cared for. They offer full benefits packages and retirement pensions.
“It allows us to attract and retain the best talent. These benefits don’t exist anymore,” DeBiasio said. “And, for us, that’s a competitive advantage when hiring the best talent.”
Beyond that, the company invests in the careers of its employees. Someone can come aboard as a janitor, and, according to DeBiasio, they’ll help that employee become a certified welder within 18 months.
To keep the company thriving, Hogan Manufacturing continually looks for opportunities to expand and diversify.
“I believe we’re on the forefront of truly getting to conglomerate status,” DeBiasio said. “Yes, we work with metal, but we’re diversifying our revenue streams.”
The company is made up of three divisions: Products, contracts and orchards.
The products division focuses on accessibility products such as its Lift-U public transit accessibility ramps, currently the market leader in the U.S. DeBiasio said Hogan supplies almost every transit authority in the U.S. with approximately 62,000 ramps in service. It also manufactures architectural lifts for a variety of applications in courtrooms, schools, churches and others.
“If you can imagine it, we can build it,” DeBiasio said.
The contracts division is devoted to manufacturing services offered to other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). “The primary industry we work with is the public transit industry, building bus chassis,” DeBiasio said. It’s estimated they construct 1,300 chassis per year.
The orchards division is contracted out to various farming operations, with 2,000 acres of almonds and walnuts.
“We have a growth strategy, and we’re in the market looking to grow through acquisitions and then organic growth through our natural sales channels. It’s been pretty amazing so far,” DeBiasio said. “One of the philosophies of the Hogan family is … they will reinvest their profits into state-of-the-art equipment, state-of-the-art technology (always ahead of the pack in that regard).”
Hogan’s production facilities have been automated for somewhere between 30 and 35 years.
“So, our facilities are highly automated, and, really, that’s how we remain competitive is from those reinvested profits in technology and equipment for us to compete in a global market,” DeBiasio said.
But it all comes back to family — even the challenges that come with it.
“Any kind of close interaction with family and trying to do business at the same time, everyone has their different roles, and one of the most difficult things at times is remembering that we need to respect those roles,” Lucas said. “We’re here to run the business to the greater good of the family, and to stick to our family values, which have always been treating all of our employees at family members.”
Hogan Manufacturing is a member of the Sacramento-based Family Business Association. Being able to share their story and learn what other families have done to overcome similar issues has been a great benefit to the company.
“One of the things we are focusing on now is the succession of this company. We’re not wishing to do it or putting it on the backburner, we’re proactively making sure we’re getting ahead of the issues for the generations of Hogan family to come,” DeBiasio said. “Being a non-family executive, I can tell you I feel like a surrogate Hogan in the sense that they treat you like family.”