In early 2019, the oldest chain manufacturer in the United States found itself under new leadership. Jim Riley purchased Laclede Chain Manufacturing Company from his father, ready to lead the family business into a new decade of growth.

Laclede Chain started as a blacksmith shop in St Louis, Missouri in 1854. As technology advanced, so did the services and equipment the company offered. What started as an operation to sell wagon hardware to people traveling on the Oregon trail has evolved into a major manufacturing company with connections all around the country. After 165 years in business, they remain a small operation with three plants in Vancouver, WA, Pittsburg, MS, and headquarters in Fenton, MO. Being a long-time chain manufacturer also helps with their credibility and expertise. The culture of the business is thriving, and employees feel as if they are part of one big family.

“[Laclede Chain] pays attention to what you’re good at and help you work on those areas. As you continue to grow and get stronger, they can put you in positions that help you be successful. It’s small enough they can help you develop and grow, but it’s still a family,” Barb Putnam, Business Development Specialist, said.

Despite over one hundred successful years in business, Laclede Chain was not reaching its full potential. When one member of the team left, Putnam moved to business development. “It was a no brainer to me how important the government side of things was. I saw a lot of opportunities and we weren’t developing them enough,” she said. She struggled with understanding exactly what opportunities were available to her and the company. Acronyms and an overwhelming amount of new information left her with the need for help.

Through a lot of digging and research, Putnam discovered the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). A meeting with local PTAC specialist, Jamie Mitchell, showed Riley the potential for growth his company had, and from then on, Putnam has been working closely with the PTAC team.

Mitchell opened Putman’s eyes to see where Laclede Chain was at the time compared to where they could be in the future and has been working on showing her how to get to that point. Putnam has since learned how to partner and work with set-asides, request quotes on National Stock Numbers (NSN) the company is approved for, and go through pivot charts. Mitchell also gave Putnam information on training events and networking, which has helped grow the company even more.

“It was a combination of us shining the light on those areas we needed help with and her giving us the guidance that helped us,” Putnam said. “Just being able to understand the system enough to take benefit when we can has been a huge accomplishment.”

Now, Laclede Chain Manufacturing has increased their government sales and involvement. Putnam finds that she can understand the complicated layers of information, countless acronyms, and the constantly changing system and find success with it. The company is even about to partner with another company that will give them greater access to source approvals and other things they haven’t been able to work through yet. As they head into another hundred years of business, Putnam will continue to work with PTAC and Mitchell.

“Before, all the hoops seemed unreachable. We’re already more successful than we were before,” Putnam said.