Mike Emerson was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 1978. Emerson sold life insurance for Northwestern Mutual for two years before going to work for International Business Machines (IBM) in 1980. He was a Marketing Representative and Systems Engineer with IBM for seven years before moving back to Huntington in 1986 to learn his wife’s family business, Huntington Steel. He became the President in 1992 and eventually became the CEO. Emerson helped start and run new successful companies, and one spectacularly failed company. During this time, he also bought and sold a few businesses.
Emerson has been married to Christine for forty-one years and has four children who are all married and have children of their own. He has been involved with and chaired the Tri-State Community Foundation, the Mountwest Community and Technical College Foundation, Covenant School (a private Christian school in Huntington) and leadership in our local church.
Huntington Steel and Supply Co. started back in 1904 as a boiler repair and manufacturing shop by James A. Diddle and his brother. James A. Diddle passed the business down to his son Sterling Diddle who ran and grew the company. Mr. Diddle has three daughters, so he hired two of his sons-in-law to run the business. Eventually, it was passed to his grandson, R. Sterling Hall. After this, the company did its most significant growth by adding the Service Center distribution business and the Structural Fabrication business. Sterling Hall passed the business to Mike Emerson, his son-in-law, who is in the late stages of passing the business on to the new wave of family leadership – the sixth generation. Along the way, Emerson helped start a detailing company in Tennessee, a steel fabricator in Charleston, a galvanizing company in Virginia, a self-storage business in Huntington and a Tower Logistics company in Huntington. Tower Logistics sold windmill parts domestically and internationally, all while adding additional locations to the parent company.
Emerson talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about his business, his plans for the future and his advice to young entrepreneurs.
What is your 30-second pitch for Huntington Steel?
“We provide metal to customers in all kinds of industries that need it as a building product. This is a short commercial on steel; steel is the best building product on the planet. It is the most recyclable, cheap and strong product that has built this country. We supply to construction firms, manufacturing firms and we have products that we are making as part of our customer’s products that are going all over the world,” said Emerson.
What has been your best business moment so far?
“We have helped someone grow their business that ended up expanding to another location in Virginia and then ultimately sold it to a national firm which economically helped them. We grew this business from a few hundred thousand to a couple million in sales,” said Emerson.
How do you attract new customers?
“What you have to do is get out of your comfort zone. A while back, it was just print, radio and television media. Nowadays, you have to do all of the different levels of social media and things like this podcast, where you get your name out positively. You have to explore all of these options,” said Emerson.
Emerson was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS | HUNTINGTON STEEL
- RECOMMENDED BOOK: Good to Great by Jim Collins and Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.
- PIECE OF ADVICE: “You have to identify your expertise, and you have to do that while taking care of your customers very well,” advised Emerson.
This article was written by the InnerAction Media staff.