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New look at Hutz Welding

Joe Hatzenbuhler never dreamed of owning his own welding shop. "I wanted to get into farming, but couldn't afford it," he said with a laugh. But when one door closes, another seems to open, and now Hatzenbuhler has owned and operated his own busi...

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Joe Hatzenbuhler sits inside of his business, Hutz Welding in east Dickinson. Hatzenbuhler is in the midst of nearly doubling the size of his shop. (Andrew Haffner/The Dickinson Press)

Joe Hatzenbuhler never dreamed of owning his own welding shop.

“I wanted to get into farming, but couldn’t afford it,” he said with a laugh.

But when one door closes, another seems to open, and now Hatzenbuhler has owned and operated his own business, Hutz Welding, for the past 16 years - the first seven of which were spent working out of a quonset hut south of town.

Since outgrowing the hut, the business has been rooted in a big blue building on the east side of Dickinson and is now nearly doubling its space.

Hatzenbuhler said the construction began six months ago after about three years of planning.

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“We’re planning on moving all my equipment into there and all my steel will be stored in there,” he said. “All the processing would be done in that building and this one would be done strictly for our manufacturing.”

The building should be ready for cold-storage use in about a month, he said, and will be finished entirely on a more gradual pace over the next few years.

Along with the welding that gives the place its name, Hatzenbuhler said the shop does some hydraulic work and custom fabrication, the latter of which is assisted by a CNC pattern torch.

Hatzenbuhler is joined by six employees, all but one of whom has been with him for at least eight years.

Welder Denise Steen said she’d been at Hutz for eight years, and said she loves the work that comes before her. Before she started welding pipe for companies like Wyoming Casing,

Steen said she’d worked as a nail technician.

“I look like a totally different person now than when I came in,” she said with a laugh. “I was very hoity-toity. Not anymore!”

Steen said she preferred welding of the two slightly unrelated jobs, but added she still does nails on the side.

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The busyness of the oil boom years were “awesome,” she said, but even in the slowdown Steen said she was kept busy. She added that things seemed to have started to slow in the shop just within the last month, but said the crew had been fortunate with its business.

Fellow welder DJ Paulson, another employee of about eight years, said repair work comes in heavily in both fast and slow economic times.

“When they’re slowing down out there, they’re bringing in stuff to be fixed, and then when they’re hauling butt out there, they’re constantly trying to get their stuff fixed up,” Paulson said.

Paulson said the diversity of service and repair work performed by the Hutz staff was his favorite part of the job and that he “pretty much love[s] everything” about the day-to-day variation of life in the shop.

“About 90 percent of the time we don’t weld, but we’re welders,” he said with a laugh. “One day you’re wiring a cab, doing electrical work all day long, another day you’re tearing apart a set of tongs - that’s the tongs that go on the casing and tighten up all the pipe - and completely rebuilding those, and another you’re doing hydraulics. It’s kind of cool.”

Paulson said he’d learned much about the work from Hutz coworker Dwight Urban.

Urban said he’s known Hatzenbuhler for more than 20 years and began working for him off and on back in the days when the business was housed in the quonset.

With 40 years of welding experience and two oil boom cycles under his belt, Urban said he helps out when he can and if anyone in the shop needs a hand with a project.

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“That’s more or less the way I grew up learning welding,” he said. “If you have a lot of trades, you might as well pass them on to help others learn the same thing.”

Urban also spoke to the “anything and everything” workflow of Hutz and said the welders there handle repairs on everything from door handles for trucks to oilfield gear from producing states as far-flung as Ohio and Louisiana.

While Urban said he’s noted somewhat of a reduced pace in the shop, he said it was a relief after the “rush” of the boom time.

“It would be nice to see it kind of stay this way for awhile,” he said with a laugh.

Hatzenbuhler said the rapid-fire business of the boom had held his crew anywhere to six months and a year behind on repair orders.

Things have “mellowed out” since then and the welders have caught up with the backlog, he said.

While he hoped things would pick back up, Hatzenbuhler said it was nice to have weekends off, a luxury that working through the oil boom did not afford.

For now, he said, the construction and agriculture-related work that got Hutz started has become more prominent again in the business’s workflow.

“Before the oil boom, I was just getting started and the clients were slow coming in,” Hatzenbuhler said. “Now the customers that I’ve done in the past are all staying with me - that makes a big, big difference.”

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