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Alan Van Ormer, Forum Communications Co., Published February 15 2011

Hebron Brick changes with times to stay profitable

Hebron Brick has overcome bankruptcy, fire, two world wars and the Great Depression.

Through it all, the company has flourished. Since 2000, Hebron has increased its original production capacity from 18 million bricks a year to more than 45 million.

Hebron Brick, with headquarters in Fargo, was also able to build a 100,000 square-foot plant in Hebron, N.D., to mine and process the clay deposits into bricks that are used across the country.

“It is kind of fun,” says Rodney Paseka, the company’s CEO.

The Hebron plant, in Morton County in south-central North Dakota, is the heart of the company and the base for brick sales distributed to 40 states and throughout western Canada, Paseka said. An estimated 80 percent of the brick Hebron manufactures is distributed outside of North Dakota.

The company, which relies on the housing industry for 70 percent of its business, got its start in 1904, said Paseka, who became CEO in 1986. Four years ago, Hebron Brick started emphasizing architectural products for commercial buildings. This included developing a new product line that has been used for a federal courthouse in New Jersey, the New York Yankees’ farm club stadium and restaurant stops around Chicago.

Paseka said becoming more of a job-oriented shop that specialized in dealing with different colors and sizes for commercial jobs was key to keeping the business going.

“Our industry is as bleak as any in this country,” he said. “We are normally used to 1.6 million housing starts. We are now at 300,000 housing starts. The consequence of that is when 70 percent of your product goes into housing – you can imagine what that does.”

Along with changing its business focus, Hebron aligned itself with a company in Canada that shut down its plant. That meant Hebron was able to take 30 percent of its production to Canada.

“If we were selling housing strictly, I believe we would not be in business,” Paseka said. “We are probably one of a handful of brick companies that are profitable.”

The company now has 11 locations throughout North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota and employs 225 people.

Alan Van Ormer is the editor of Prairie Business Magazine