This is a story about metal and steel.
It’s also a story about family, about two brothers who inherited a business from their parents and steered it into the 21st century.
It starts in 1944, in the Charleston Naval Yard in Charleston, S.C. That’s where George Voigt found himself, aiding the war effort for World War II. After the United States entered the war, production at the Yard ramped up to meet demand, leading to an influx of metal workers. In the service, Voigt had worked on radiators and Jeeps, but at Charleston, Voigt worked with metal, building ships, repairing ships, welding, converting.
When the war ended, Voigt moved back to Valdosta where he had grown up, and where he decided to put his newly earned skills to use.
In 1946, Voigt’s Sheet Metal Works was started off of Hill Avenue with a $2,500 loan from First Federal Savings and Loan, something that Al Voigt, who runs the business today with his brother, Kenny, says kept his father up at nights.
“He grew up in the Depression,” said Al. “That 3 percent interest kept him up at night. He had to be scared of it, but he did take that leap.”
George started out with three employees, including his brother, Clarence, who went on to work for Metal Products. George’s wife, Faye, also worked as a combination bookkeeper, accountant and office manager for Voigt’s.
“She would come in and work during the day and leave at four to go home and cook supper.”
But even at home Faye was never far from work, going so far as to have a phone installed so that she could keep track of business when she wasn’t there.
George started out making tobacco flues for farmers and other general sheet metal work, making hoods for restaurants, putting gutters on homes. But as Valdosta grew, so did Voigt’s Sheet Metal. When the paper mill started going up in the early ‘50s, they turned to Voigt’s to do the pipe work for the building, and The Crackin’ Good Bakery also hired Voigt’s for their metal work.
“The paper mill really helped us out. At the time, it was the biggest company around and our biggest customer. That was also the time they started building Moody Air Force Base, which became another customer.”
When I-75 started going up in the late ‘50s, George decided to move the business to its current location, at 2011 Springhill Dr.
Voigt’s also diversified into other avenues. In the ‘50s, it got into the heating and air business, putting in duct work for churches, businesses and homes. It’s where David Waller learned the heating and air business before he left to open Waller Heating and Air which, like Voigt’s, is still doing business today.
While their father had worked to diversify Voigt’s, Al and Kenny took it even further, opening up a Steel Supply business in 1986, followed by a crane rental business in 1989.
“We were spending $50,000-$60,000 a year on crane rentals,” said Kenny. “We decided to purchase one just for personal use, but people started wanting to rent it from us.”
Not ones to ignore a need in the market, the Voigt brothers turned it into a full-fledged arm of their business, going from one crane to the 11 cranes they own and rent today.
“We think about our dad a lot, especially when we were getting into cranes.”
“He used to say ‘If you can’t pay for the gas for it, you don’t need it,’” laughed Al. “Sometimes we joke that he must be kicking his box at some of the decisions we make…They all stay out on jobs, but if they were all here…we’d have to park them in the street.”
This is a story about metal and steel.
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