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Nucor manager says teamwork key to success;
Q1 earnings up

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com 340-2435

A day after winning a statewide Manufacturer of the Year Award, Nucor Steel Decatur General Manager Rex Query told a group of Kiwanians that he prefers work boots and a hard hat to a tie and a speech.

Query spoke at Kiwanis Club of Decatur on Thursday. His speech overlapped with Nucor Corp.'s first-quarter earnings conference, reporting increased earnings compared to year-ago results, despite a decrease in steel prices.

Query said Nucor — a corporate descendant of Oldsmobile & Reo Motor Co. Nucor, formed in 1904 — has not had a money-losing quarter since 1966.

The first quarter of 2007 was no exception. While steel prices fell 4 percent from the first quarter of 2006, the company increased its average price by 6 percent. It earned $381 million, or $1.26 per share, compared with $380 million, or $1.21 per share, during the year-ago quarter.

Query said the steel market was soft enough that Nucor pulled 200,000 tons of steel off the market.

At the earnings conference, Nucor officials said its customers' inventories were down, so it expects a resumption of normal buying patterns in the second quarter.

On Wednesday, the Business Council of Alabama and The Alabama Technology Network awarded Nucor's Decatur plant with the statewide Manufacturer of the Year Award for Alabama companies with 400 or more employees.

At $75,000, Query said, Nucor has the highest average annual wages in the industry. The average employee works 45 hours a week, so little of that comes in overtime. The Decatur plant employs 639.

Query stressed the teamwork involved in Nucor's success.

"No one is above anyone else. There are no company cars, no special parking places," he said.

That teamwork mentality, he said, has helped production and also increased safety. The Decatur plant has not had a lost-time accident in more than 1,600 days.

Query said the sheet-metal galvanizing plant under construction in Decatur is located perfectly to supply the Southeast's burgeoning automotive industry.

"Automotive is a great opportunity for us," he said, "but we don't want to be exclusively an auto supplier."

He said Nucor prides itself on its decentralization. The Decatur plant, for example, has its own marketing and human resources departments.

A technical glitch in his PowerPoint presentation displayed his laptop's wallpaper, a picture of his four children.

"That's why we work hard and work safe," Query said. "We've got family members at home."

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