How an Idaho steel firm’s partnerships bring jobs to the state

Dan Menchaca welds a 36-inch stainless-steel cut that will become part of a frying-oil recovery system for potato processing products made by Idaho Steel.
Dan Menchaca welds a 36-inch stainless-steel cut that will become part of a frying-oil recovery system for potato processing products made by Idaho Steel.

Idaho Steel makes for a homegrown success story.

The Idaho Falls company makes and sells potato processing equipment to clean, skin, cut and cook potatoes into french fries, tater tots and other products. That’s about as Idaho-centric as a manufacturing company can get.

Idaho Steel has expanded to Caldwell, but the company’s story is global. Idaho Steel and its subsidiary, Reyco Systems, ship processing lines all over the world, thanks in part to partnerships with two companies in the Netherlands and another in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The newest of those partnerships has brought the Dutch company Tolsma-Grisnich to Boise. Tolsma, which designs energy-efficient storage systems for potatoes and onions, opened its U.S. headquarters at 875 W. McGregor Court in Boise to be near Idaho Steel and its affiliates.

Dim-Jan de Visser, Tolsma’s commercial director, who moved to Boise six months ago, said his company hopes to expand its Idaho payroll from a dozen to 100 employees as it expands in the North American market.

Tolsma already claims about 500 customers in Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, and it sees potential for 12,000 more in the western U.S.

“We spent a great deal of time looking for the right location in North America to expand our operation, and Boise is ideal,” said Pieter Wesseling, CEO of the Tolsma-Grisnich Group, on July 1.

That is good news for Idaho Steel, owned by Shelley brothers Delynn and Alan Bradshaw and brother-in-law Davis Christensen. The company employs 200 workers in Idaho Falls and 61 in Caldwell.

Nearly $100 million combined global sales of Idaho Steel, Reyco Systems and Kiremko in 2015.

$66 million Tolsma’s global sales in 2015

In Idaho Steel, Tolsma found a partner to make the conveyers, ducts and other computer-controlled systems it designs and maintains for customers.

The partnership does more than simplify logistics and lengthen customer lists. Tolsma promises to deliver 50 percent energy savings while reducing potato rot. With Tolsma’s storage specialty, and with GEA in Vancouver offering freezer expertise, Idaho Steel can deliver systems taking potatoes from the truck to the fryer.

The partnership also simplifies bidding for customers’ contracts.

“Being together is always better than working against each other,” de Visser said.

Idaho Steel already had a partnership with another Dutch company, Kiremko, which, like Idaho Steel, makes food-processing equipment. Though they’re competitors, Idaho Steel and Kiremko also cooperate, trading work depending on capacity and the ease of delivering bulky, heavy equipment to factories.

That saves money and it enables Idaho Steel to find clients worldwide, said Idaho Steel Account Manager Mike Miller, who works in Caldwell.

“They’ve got offices in China and England. They can cover the world for us,” Miller said. “They’ve had a hard time breaking into the North America market, so that’s what we do for them.”

All four companies — Idaho Steel, Tolsma, Kiremko and GEA — delivered pieces of the $500 million processing system at J.R. Simplot’s big Caldwell potato plant that opened in 2014, Miller said.