Morton Buildings is making its way out west and established a location in Sidney as of January. With a salesman on the ground and several buildings up, Morton knows one thing for sure — it’s economic boom in the area is just beginning.
“If you’re only looking at the oil activity, sure you could say we’re a little late,” said Tom Janke, area manager for the Northern Plains North region of Morton. “But farming is still farming. If the oil wasn’t there we would still be really attracted to the area.”
That philosophy has served Morton Buildings well since it began in 1903 in Morton, Illinois. Instead of crews traveling long distances to build, Morton began establishing offices in other states. Essentially, they followed the farming.
“Let’s say Morton does 3,000 buildings this year,” Janke said. “Two-thousand of them would be farm buildings.”
The employee-owned company sells a variety of buildings, from suburban garages to large shops, warehouses, dealerships and even homes. The buildings are categorized as residential, agricultural, equestrian, commercial or community. As more buildings began to sell in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, Sidney because the next logical location.
Establishing a presence in Sidney will not only help take care of current customers, but raise awareness of the product across the region. Sure, Janke said, they could have come in nine years ago and sold buildings for triple what they’re worth, but that’s just not how Morton does business.
“We don’t change pricing because of demand,” he said. “Buildings are the same price in New York as they are in Minot. The labor rate may differ, but the buildings sell for the same rate.”
The first step of establishing the office in Sidney was hiring a salesman, which is where Austin Martin comes in. He and his wife moved to the area in January with a pocket full of leads and a strong belief in the product.
“I believe very strongly the business is here,” Martin said. “It exists. Right now it’s just a matter of letting everybody know that Morton is in eastern Montana.”
Martin said the whole process starts with knocking on doors, shaking hands, getting out into the territory and making connections with subcontractors in the area. If he gets a bite on the product, he schedules a face-to-face meeting with the customer right away to discuss the two most important factors in a Morton Buildings sale – time frame and budget.
“We can build anything they want within the parameters of time frame and budget,” Martin said. “In the construction world everything takes a couple months to get lined up. Especially around eastern Montana, everyone is so busy. Concrete, site-work, electricians, plumbers; it’s a busy area. That’s kind of a challenge in this area, the limited availability of sub-contractors.”
Martin has found success as a new salesman, with two recent buildings being sold in Poplar and Nashua. His territory stretches as far west as Lewistown, north to Canada and south to Glendive. Right now, jobs are bid to crews out of surrounding locations, like Minot or Bismarck.
Morton is looking to provide five jobs in Sidney, one salesman and four crew members to start. They will begin hiring a local crew when the salesman achieves approximately $1.5 million in sales. As of August, Morton is about one-third of the way to that goal.
“It’s been hard to sound the horn that Morton is in Montana now,” Martin said. “The county fair was a huge boost in exposure. I was able to educate a lot of people.”