In the early 1960’s, Art Helm founded a small welding, repair, and machine shop known as Helm Welding. Based in the small community of Lucknow in Huron County and serving the surrounding Southwestern Ontario market, Helm Welding began as a manufacturer of snowblowers, wagons, bale stokers, and gravity boxes, in addition to providing repair services for farm industrial equipment. The products were sold under the Lucknow brand name.
After more than 30 years in the business, Art Helm retired and sold the business to five existing employees of the company in 1998. What started with a small team of only a couple employees working in a small 1,600 foot building has grown over the years to an expansive 34,000 square foot operation. Three of the five owners, Kevin Clark, Grant Helm and Jeff Gammie, spoke with The Canadian Business Journal this month about the company’s growth, the markets it serves, and its organizational plans for the future.
As part of its growth over the years, Helm Welding has also expanded its product offering and product knowledge, and today offers leading edge manufacturing capabilities with their full line of four auger and vertical TMR mixer feeders, snowblowers, grain buggies, rotary tillers rotary mowers, material handlers as well as multi-purpose push blades. Each of these products are available in a wide range of model sizes to choose from, each with their own different purpose for the end user. Helm Welding continues to provide high quality, dependable, and affordable equipment to the marketplace.
“We are also improving a lot of our proven product lines,” Helm beamed. “With our grain buggies, we are doing a lot of redesigning to align with newer improved manufacturing practices and new technology. We are also looking at reintroducing an old product we used to manufacture years ago, a bale chopper/processor. As well as new lines of mixers and revitalizing some of our current mixers.”
Helm Welding has established itself in the marketplace as a leading manufacturer of high quality and durable agricultural equipment. In such a competitive marketplace, the Lucknow Products brand is recognized and trusted by clients, across its entire product lineup.
Given its location in Huron County, Helm Welding has also established major market segments in the United States, given its close proximity to the bordering American market.
“About 75 per cent of our business in North America is in the United States,” Gammie explained. “The recession had impacted us somewhat, but the U.S. market supports us quite well. Over the years, we have seen the company continue moving forward despite economic and agricultural market fluctuations.”
Helm Welding’s extensive global network includes not only the United States and Canada, but also product distribution to Mexico, South America, Europe, Iceland, Australia, Japan, and China.
The agricultural industry has been fairly steady in recent years, though Gammie also discussed some of the challenges that Helm Welding has faced in the industry.
“The weather and the markets definitely have a play on our product line, obviously the snow blower sales have been affected by the last few winters without a great amount of snow. I can’t blame Mother Nature, but the weather makes it really difficult to estimate sales projections for the upcoming year with some of our products. With mixer wagons and grain buggies in particular, the agricultural market has an effect. Last year, areas of the United States were hit with very severe drought. People had to buy commodities to make up for what was lost in the drought and then they didn’t have the extra money for buying new equipment, which also hurts our sales with the product that we make.”
Moving forward, Helm Welding hopes to continue its growth, and sees possible expansion in its commercial products lineup, particularly increased promotion of its heavy duty snowblowers and compost mixers, both of which can be used in non-agricultural applications. All of the company’s products are specially designed for low maintenance, simple operation, and long-lasting durability and quality.
The business with many seasonally based products has presented an opportunity for the company to continue manufacturing products that can be offered to clients through all months of the year. More specifically, Helm Welding sees room for growth in summer and fall equipment and plans to further expand its agricultural equipment product lineup accordingly. As Gammie commented, “We are looking at different ideas that can work within the same agricultural market that we provide to currently, with the hopes of producing a more year round balanced product line.”
Through its history, Helm Welding has built its reputation on building products that are above the rest. Now in its 45th year in business, the company continues to prosper and remains committed to offering the best selection of agricultural equipment to its returning client base.