that hard work does pay dividends
company was a finalist for
2008 Indiana Chamber Small Business Award
(February 2008) In 1993, Madison businessman Rick
Russell took a huge chance and started a small business with just four
employees. Through strategic planning and aggressive thinking, that
business has now expanded to dozens of employees, a sister company and
more acquisitions in progress.
by Konnie McCollum
Russell, head of Midwest Tube
Mills Inc., and sister company R&T Steel
& Wire, is always looking for the
next business opportunity.
On Jan. 22, Russells Midwest Tube Mills Inc., 2971,
Michigan Rd., was one of the finalists in the prestigious Indi-ana Chamber
of Commerces 2008 Small Business of the Year. More than 50 companies
throughout the state were selected to be nominees for the award, and
only six reached the finalist stage.
The award is just one of many Russell, 44, has won since starting his
steel tubing company. Russells innovative approach to business
and his forward thinking are two reasons he has become so successful
in such a short time. I try to think outside the box, he
said. I simply understand how business works and how to capitalize
Russell is a self-made businessman. He began his career in tool and
die, a trade he learned from his father. He worked in the trade for
years before deciding to branch out and start his own company, Midwest
Tube Mills Inc., which was originally located in Edinburgh, Ind.
After six years, he moved the company to Madison. Currently, he has
more than 80 employees at the company. In 2006, Russell formed a sister
company R&T Steel and Wire, which employees about 70. R&T is
a kennel fabricating business.
Russell explained how the two companies are inter-related. Midwest Tube
Mills makes steel tubing, while R&T uses the steel tubing to create
cutting edge dog kennels, he said.
The pet products industry is the fastest growing industry in the
world because all the baby boomers have pets, he said.
Recently, Russell bought the former Reliance Electric and US Filter/Envirex
factories that had closed in Madison and left nearly 300 people jobless.
He plans to create or acquire other businesses that will work in sync
with his existing companies. Many of the parts that are needed to produce
his products are made in China or Indonesia.
What I would like to do is create businesses that produce those
parts here in Madison, he said. Production and shipping
costs would be lower, assembly time faster, and more people in Madison
would have jobs.
Jefferson County Commissioner Julie Berry took a vacation day to go
to the Indiana Chamber dinner to support Russell. Rick is moving
and shaking our economy by creating jobs, she said. We really
need to show support for our community members that are working hard
for all of us.
Russell acquired another industry-related company in Franklin, Ind.,
in mid-January and is looking to relocate it to either one of the existing
factories he owns or to build a new facility on his 100-acre industrial
He is also looking to expand his business into the automotive industry,
possibly through their powder coating or e-coat line of products. The
new Honda plant in Greensburg will afford Madison businesses the opportunity
to be suppliers or even suppliers to the suppliers, he said. We
plan to be involved in bringing those types of businesses to our community.
Russell has a five-year plan that includes acquiring or starting two
businesses a year in some industry-related field. I am always
looking for inter-related business opportunities that will help the
entire industry achieve a better margin.
Mary Beth Boone, marketing director at Midwest Tube, said Russell doesnt
limit his marketing to his own property. We let people know about
Madisons Shovel-Ready Industrial Park because any
new business that comes here helps all of us.
Russell said business has changed in recent years, so communities have
to be more aggressive in attracting industry to their area. You
cant sit by the phone and wait for it to ring. You have to be
on it. That idea is what propels his work forward.
He also believes that hard work gets you everywhere. He
said he loves to work and spends most of his time working because Its
what I am good at.
But working isnt all that Russell does. He is also involved in
a variety of community interests as well. His company has been involved
in philanthropic work since it began. I believe in corporate responsibility
and giving back.
Mike Armstrong, human resource and information services director at
Midwest Tube Mills, is also in charge of the charitable arm of the company.
He left the Kings Daughters Hospital and Health Services
after 22 years to work for Russell. If you cant get excited
about coming to work here, you have a problem, he said. There
are new challenges and opportunities every day.
Armstrong said the companys charitable part has filed the necessary
paperwork with the IRS to be a charitable organization. It will be called
the Russell Family Foundation. In the meantime, the company is already
participating in community giving. The Lide White Boys and Girls Club,
youth basketball leagues, the athletic programs at the three area high
schools and the Warren R. Rucker Sports Complex are some of the beneficiaries
of the Midwest Tube Mill-Russell Family Foundation.
Berry said Russell stepped in and essentially saved the animal shelter
when management issues threatened to shut it down. He not only
gave us money, but he also donated his time to help, she said.
I dont know what we would have done without him.
Boone said the Russell family actually bought an RV and drove local
youth basketball players to games around the region.
Armstrong said the company also sponsors the music at the Madison Chautauqua
Festival of Art each year, and last year was a sponsor at the Madison
This year, the company plans to donate the security fencing needed to
upgrade the sports complex. It will also continue to support the other
programs it always has and look for more opportunities for community
involvement, he said.
Back to February 2008