“Excellence through Experience”- Metco celebrates forty years in business
Continuing a legacy, Hillsboro resident Paul Knower’s company METCO celebrated forty years in business last week. METCO is a single-source petroleum contractor for the installation, service, and environmental consulting of all types of fuel system applications.
The company’s primary customers include retail gas stations, municipalities, government institutions that maintain vehicle fleets, and industrial facilities that use tank systems for backup generator and boiler systems. The company’s largest client to date is Kwik Trip, based out of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Currently METCO serves the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, and has technician dispatch centers located in LaCrosse, Adams, Hillsboro, Monroe, Viroqua, and Columbus.
The legacy started when Paul’s grandfather, Harold Knower, borrowed $100,000 and opened his first gas station. Eventually, Harold would build an additional six stations. Down the line, Paul’s uncle founded Kickapoo Oil Company that would see Paul’s father Ralph Knower working for Harold. Eventually, Ralph broke off from Raymond and founded METCO in 1979, working out of a small garage. His concentration was on servicing petroleum equipment and installing fueling systems.
Today, Ralph’s son Paul runs the company, and serves as the company’s CEO and President. METCO still maintains its headquarters in Hillsboro, Wisconsin in a 10,000 square foot facility that is considerably larger than the humble garage that his father started METCO in.
The company’s General Manager Brian Hora continues to be Paul’s right-hand man, but said it is all of the employees that make METCO what it has always been, a great company.
“When I started 25 years ago with METCO, there were maybe 20 employees, and now we have 63. We have had tremendous growth over the years.”
Hora acknowledged that the oil industry is very strong right now, and stressed that it is a heavily regulated industry. He said, “We work with the Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency rules, and also the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture that sees many different kinds of inspections.”
Hora stated that the construction team of the company “really drives the business”, but gave credence to the service repair and upgrade, testing and compliance, vehicle fueling installation, industrial and commercial installation, environmental consulting, tank removal, and parts and supplies teams that all play their vital role in making the company, as a whole, operate in a safe, efficient, and productive manner.
“We’ve built a new shed and have all these new trucks. Things are going pretty well. Paul didn’t do this himself; I haven’t done this myself; it comes down to really great employees,” Hora said.
He continued, “The success that we’ve had is really about the employees; they really bust their butts. Paul and I really need to be the leaders and make sure everybody’s going the same direction which we are. The culture (METCO has) is pretty special to us, and that is what makes us successful.” Knower and Hora believe that when you take care of the employees, the employees will take care of the business.
On the celebration, Hora had high expectations and expressed that they were exceeded. “All the food was gone, and people kept coming. I guess that around 250 people attended. We had a lot of customers, vendors, and suppliers show up, and it’s always nice to also see the local community show up and support us,” he said. Hora stated that METCO always tries to contribute to the community, and feel that they do that fairly well.
As far as the perfect summer day the celebration was held on, Hora had to say, “Paul said he was in charge of just one thing and that was the weather, and he held up his end of the deal,” he said with a chuckle.
Dan Kouba and the Journeymen, along with DJ Mr. G, were asked by Paul to provide entertainment holding the hometown mood for the celebration. “For an event like this, you have to have the right person(s) to help keep the crowd. Dan and Mr. G know everyone.
It should be noted that Mr. G is Paul’s ‘ride along guy’. When Paul visits customers or employees at job sites, Mr. G is always by his side showing support for the company.
Hora said that he and Paul would be looking forward to their continued success and looked forward to planning for a 50th anniversary celebration.
A timeline of METCO
1923 ‐ Opens his first Pure Oil gas station in LaCrosse.
1929 ‐ Borrows $100,000 during the Depression and builds stations in Mauston, Kendall, Wilton, Norwalk, Ontario and Cazenovia, Wisconsin.
1959 ‐ Forms Kickapoo Oil. One hundred thousand gallons of fuel sold the first year.
1965 ‐ Kickapoo Oil introduces the first self-serve station east of the Mississippi in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.
1965 ‐ Raymond’s brother, Ralph, joins Kickapoo Oil.
1979 ‐ Forms METCO. The firm rapidly expands to provide full fuel system sales, installation, and service. Ralph’s children would also join METCO…Paul (1980), Charlie (1987), and Beth (1990).
1990 ‐ Environmental planning and consulting services added.
1998 ‐ Industry regulated deadlines lead to record sales.
2006 ‐ METCO begins organizational re-structure and strategic planning to meet the visions of future growth and customer success.
2011 ‐ Commits to expanding customer service coverage in new areas of Minnesota, Iowa, and southern Wisconsin.
PRESENT ‐ METCO continues to be one of the industry leaders in the Midwest.