Dignitaries Mayor Lynn Horner, City Manager Rick Klein, City Councilman Ed Vela and hundreds of others were on hand for the Lewis Bolt & Nut 25th anniversary celebration of the company's operation in La Junta.
Dignitaries Mayor Lynn Horner, City Manager Rick Klein, City Councilman Ed Vela and hundreds of others were on hand for the Lewis Bolt & Nut 25th anniversary celebration of the company's operation in La Junta. First came the celebration for the employees and their families at 11 a.m. Then the general public was invited for the 12 to 2 p.m. tours.
Each tour was accompanied by one or two veteran employees, who guided the tourists through the operation, from the cutting of the steel rods into bolt size to the final threading of the bolt and the tempering of the final product so that it will not crack under extreme pressure.
Tom Martinez, who guided the tour the reporter took, has been a Lewis employee for 25 years. He was accompanied by Robert Trujillo, also a veteran employee. When the company moved to La Junta, CEO/owner Mark Paper promised to add 30 new jobs to the area. The number has increased steadily over the years until they currently employ over 200 workers.
"The work is hard," said Paper; "I couldn't do it. But this is a good place to work. I have seen workers leave for a higher paid job in a bigger city, then come back to work here." Horner and Klein expressed their appreciation for what the industry has done for the work force here. This is heavy industry with handling of hot metal, so the work force has to be well trained and alert. Trujillo said the company is inspected for safety by independent contractors at regular intervals.
A new building to house the cutting operations has just been finished. Lining the back of the new buildings are air compressors ready to be added to this and the other buildings to improve the air quality. The warehouse system was improved a few years ago, sorting all the stock and employing scanning and an electronic ordering, shipping and billing system which is as error-proof as they come. Barcoding came in Jan. 2013. The warehouse was built the year before.
"I hope this company is here long after I am no longer working," said Trujillo as he answered questions in front of the main building after the tour. He and Martinez had just shown a rail frog to illustrate how bolts attach the rails to the ties. Continuous welded rails still need to be attached to ties in the operation of a railroad. As the rails are attached to the ties, La Junta is attached to railroading and Lewis Bolt & Nut.