Last fall, Harvey Vogel Manufacturing Co. threw itself a big birthday party at its Woodbury plant, with food, drinks, a presentation by the mayor and plenty of prize drawings for its employees. The custom metal stamping and fabrication applications company celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding in St. Paul.
The Vogel company has enjoyed rare longevity as a family-owned business in a highly competitive, constantly changing industry. It started in 1942 in a 7,000 square foot manufacturing plant on Raymond Ave. in St. Paul and then moved to Northeast Minneapolis in 1977. After five decades of growth in Minneapolis, in 1992, the firm moved into a new 120,000 square foot building on Weir Drive in Woodbury. Subsequent expansions in 2009 to 2011 brought the plant to its current size of 132,000 square feet.
Harvey Vogel Manufacturing came to Woodbury in 1992, lured by “a very good tax incentive package, and the land itself,” says Bob Verhey, who has been president of the firm since 1996. (Verhey’s father-in-law, Harvey Vogel, Jr., the son of the founder and owner since 1980, died in October.) “Being in Woodbury has been great,” Verhey says. “It’s a nice, woodsy location, with good access to the freeway. There’s a ton of shopping, restaurants and other amenities. And we have a new Costco next door.” In 2012, the company opened a second plant in Eagan.
In Woodbury, the company manufacturers thousands of types of parts for a wide variety of industries: aerospace, medical, the military, banking and recreational vehicle manufacturers. It makes heavy-duty computer chassis for military tanks, the gear shifters that go into military Hummers, components for hospital carts, and brackets and other precision parts for ATM and cash-counting machines, Polaris snowmobiles and Kawasaki ATVs, among many other things.
Harvey Vogel Manufacturing has more than 100 punch presses ranging from 10 to 400 tons in force, to produce stampings ranging in size from 1 millimeter to 6 feet by 3 feet. It also does fabrication, laser cutting, machining and waterjet cutting, shaping a wide range of materials including steel, stainless steel, aluminum and yellow metals.
Since 2000, the company has enjoyed strong growth, with its workforce growing from 100 employees to more than 220, meeting the demands of an expanding customer base. Verhey says that the company has kept pace with an evolving manufacturing world in which everything happens at a much faster space, thanks to the internet and other digital technology. “The product lifespan is much quicker than it used to be,” he says. “If we make certain parts for Polaris or IBM, they might use those types of parts for only three years, and then start over” due to products being redesigned and new products being introduced. "It’s more challenging than if we just ran the same parts for 10 years.”
Harvey Vogel Manufacturing is also involved in a number of community activities, like Habitat for Humanity and the U.S. Marines’ annual Toys for Tots drive. For the past three years, the company has provided parts to the Woodbury High School robotics team for the annual National Robot Challenge. “After the students design [the robot], they give us a CAD (computer-aided design) rendering of the metal parts they need, in different types of materials,” says manufacturing engineer Jade Knowles. It’s a great way to introduce a future generation to the world of Harvey Vogel Manufacturing.