Colorado Springs

Owners: Gary Gaulke, P.E and Katherine Gaulke, P.E, Ph.D

Employees: 29

Vanguards of a new manufacturing economy, Gary and Katherine Gaulke traded Air Force blues and graduate degrees for steel-toes and iron fabrication

Sigma Metals’ new owners Gary and Katherine Gaulke represent the Gen-X face of manufacturing. The two thirty-something PEs, both Air Force veterans, purchased the 31-year old Southern Colorado ironworking and steel fabrication company last year.

Gary, a mechanical engineer (USAFA graduate) and Katherine, a structural engineering Ph.D taught at the United States Air Force Academy. They closed on their purchase just five days prior to the government’s 16-day shutdown last fall.

“Since then we’ve seen construction activity steadily pick up. We’re now in a growth mode,” Gary says.

The firm’s product line includes ornamental railings gates, fences, signs and artwork as well as structural steel beams, columns, stairs, canopies and mezzanines. Custom jobs – those requiring true iron- or metal-working craftsmanship – are the company’s specialty.

Gaulke points to a nearly finished curved structural steel box and steel fasteners awaiting a downtown “Art On the Streets” installation. “We do a lot of work with sculptors and artists,” he adds.

Sigma’s one- and- a half-acre yard and two process shops all include key components: a CNC metal burn table powered by plasma/oxy fuel as well as shear, brake, pipe and tube bending or rolling. CAD files from architects and engineers are easily translated into finished products on site. And there’s plenty of room for storage.

The facility’s infrastructure is well equipped to deal with the occasional trailer and dump truck, loader, and backhoe ripper teeth repair or mobile welding client. Its metal fabrication plant is well-located in the midst of a symbiotic neighborhood cluster of diesel mechanics, fuel and heavy equipment operators.

“We’re lucky to have them close by,” Gary says.

Most of the company’s structural steel suppliers come from Denver, but welding supplies are handled locally. Electricity and payroll — are major overhead contributors.

The owners credit much of Sigma’s success to the company’s experienced team of iron workers and fabricators – all of whom have strong math skills.

“Clients will give us the floor to floor dimension on a stairwell, and our fabricators are immediately able to tell you the rise and run, length, number of steps needed, etc.,” Gary says.

Clients include commercial and industrial facility owners as well as architects and engineers who depend on the owners’ creativity as builders and attention to quality outputs. The company has also worked with general contractors on the community’s military installations. Some of Sigma’s projects are highly visible landmark facilities. Hospitals, colleges, churches, office or retail buildings and attractions like the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo incorporate much of its work.

On any given day, the company’s South shop churns with jobs, ranging from structural steel cambering to beams hoisted and moved for cutting and storing. All work area floors and walls have been steel-reinforced to handle the tremendous loads and cambering pressure.

The company’s North ornamental iron process shop produces more custom fencing, handrails and signage. Notably, Sigma’s teams will not only fabricate an order, but can erect finished work on site – a strong selling point.

“Our clients – especially our general contractors – appreciate it because they avoid triad battles between GC, fabricator and erector,” he says.

Challenges: Finding workers with the math ability and attention to quality that we need. If a fabricator or iron worker has the right work ethic, we can train them in specific skills.

Opportunities: Southern Colorado is home to unique assets such as the Olympic Training Center, The Broadmoor, the Air Force Academy and other military installations. Many of them are already our clients, and we look to them to build relationships for the future. We’re also working on projects in Castle Rock and Woodland Park. Fortunately we have mobile capabilities and can send our experts to the job.

Needs: To stay focused on what we do best: turn raw steel and iron into high quality products.