On April 10, 2011, Northern Wire’s production facility in Merrill’s industrial park took a direct hit from an F3 tornado. On Saturday, the company celebrated the reconstruction of the heavily damaged facility.
“It was quite a mess,” said general manager Matt Beilke of the aftermath from the storm.
But, the management and employees of Northern Wire were quick to get the plant back in operation.
The tornado struck on a Sunday night.
“By Wednesday afternoon we had machines running and by Saturday we were back to full production,” Beilke said.
To commemorate that feat, employees received T-shirts that read “From Destruction to Production in less than a week.”
“Everybody pitched in and within two days we had it all cleaned up,” Beilke said. “I’m really proud of them. It was an amazing effort.”
The destruction caused by the twister was also nothing short of amazing. Of the 18 massive bar joists that formed the roof structure of the Northern Wire office, only two have been found. Some of the company’s paperwork was whisked off to land in Crandon and Rhinelander.
The roof over the factory had been peeled off, with $4 million in equipment left exposed to the elements. By the Thursday after the tornado, Urban Construction had patched the wounds in the roof.
Four employees were in the facility when the tornado struck. All sought shelter in a concrete portion of the building and weathered the storm unscathed. Beilke said he’s still amazed that the tornado did such great damage without any serious injuries.
“In terms of what did happen and what could have happened, I think we’re really blessed,” he said.
The tornado struck at Northern Wire’s busiest time of the year.
“April is the height of the season for us,” Beilke said. “This really brought out the character of our staff.”
John Deere, one of Northern Wire’s biggest customers, sent a crew up to Merrill to collect the truckloads of finished parts and paid for all the inventory on hand.
The office portion of the facility had to be completely rebuilt. Northern Wire rented the old Hurd building on Prospect Street while work commenced on the new office. The company was able to move back into the reconstructed office on Dec. 16, 2011. In addition to being more stormproof, the new office building has a more efficient layout and improved security.
Founded in 1973, Northern Wire is a manufacturer of wire forms. They cut, bend, weld and form tubular steel into parts for consumer products.
“If you have a lawnmower, it probably has one of our products on it,” Matt said.
The company produces over 25 million parts a year.