By Tim Heston
If you climb aboard a mining truck, the handrail that helps steady you likely came from Morton Industries in Morton, Ill., a top tube fabricator for
some well-known mining, construction, and o;-highway equipment brands—and not just handrails but also tubular structures and fluid conveyance systems outside and inside the equipment.
Considering how those markets have performed
in recent years, it’s no surprise that the people at
Morton have had to hold on tightly to those handrails, both literally and metaphorically. It’s been
quite a ride. The company was sold, entered bankruptcy, was sold again, endured a plant fire, and
then was sold yet again.
The decisions to sell the company made perfect
sense at the time, considering the market realities
the fabricator faced. Morton’s story shows just how
challenging this market is, and yet also how resilient a fabricator can be facing those challenges.
Today the company is back under local ownership.
It has steadied itself, upped its quality and delivery
game, and has prepared for a future of growth and
long-term ownership stability.
Finding Its Niche
In the early 2000s the company, then known as Morton Welding, had been family-owned since 1946. In
2004 the owners decided to sell the family business
to a private equity group. The organization eventually became a part of BHM Technologies, a group
that also included two automotive suppliers, Brown
Corp. and Heckethorn Manufacturing. It appeared
at the time that the merger of the three companies
would help all three better serve their customers—
but the automotive market, of course, soon presented challenges.
The automotive downturn forced BHM into bankruptcy, even though Morton itself, the smallest of
the three BHM subsidiaries, continued generating
profits. In 2009 a group of investors, including the
company’s original owners, local to Morton, Ill.,
bought the tube fabricator and renamed it Morton
“[BHM] spun us o; to generate more cash, and
we came out of it on our own pretty strong,” said
Kevin Baughman, Morton’s director of sales and
With construction, mining, and commodity-related markets looking up (in stark contrast to the automotive market), Morton seemed to be in a good
position. In 2010 it purchased Bradley Services Inc.
Morton personnel review a tube’s design before production.
An operator initiates the machine cycle at one of Morton’s laser tube cutting systems.
A new start at 70 years old
Illinois tube fabricator resets under local ownership