When longtime Shelley resident Lynn Bradshaw was notified that he’d been selected by the Shelley Kiwanis Club to be grand marshal of this year’s Spud Day Parade, he said, “I was quite surprised because there is nothing grand about me.”
Those who know him and those who don’t may have no idea from his demeanor that he developed a successful manufacturing company into a super-successful one that now does business internationally.
Bradshaw was born in Murray, Utah. After his parents divorced when he was less than a year old, he grew up in both Idaho and Utah, graduating from Shelley High School in 1960.
He met his future wife in high school, but went straight into missionary service in Northern California after graduation.
When he returned, he enrolled at the University of Utah, and he and Linda Olsen of Shelley were married in August 1963. His plan was to become an electrical engineer, but the plan was derailed as they started having a family and he eventually dropped out of college and moved back to Shelley.
“I went to work at Idaho Supreme Potatoes in Firth where I worked for 25 years in the potato processing industry,” Bradshaw said.
That changed in 1991 when Don Lortz approached him about interest in buying Idaho Steel, an Idaho Falls company the Lortz family founded in 1918. Bradshaw said it was an established business with a good reputation that employed 55.
“If his family didn’t want it, I did,” Bradshaw said. He was able to borrow the money from the Bank of Commerce. “We mortgaged everything. They’d have taken the kids if they’d had any market value!”
Since then Idaho Steel has added two more fabrication shops in Idaho Falls. Six years ago the company bought a similar business in Caldwell, REYCO Systems, Inc., where just a few weeks ago they dedicated a new building. Idaho Steel now has four fabrications shops and 160 employees. Business has increased ten-fold since Bradshaw bought the company. In 1996 Idaho Steel partnered with a Dutch food processing company, Kiremko.
“The move was helpful to us to get into international markets with products that always had done well in the United States,” Bradshaw said. “Now we have a world-wide network doing business in China, Japan, Europe, Australia and Canada. It was helpful to Kiremko as well by getting their products into North America.”
Idaho Steel fabricates all kinds of equipment that deal with potato processing.
“We build the machines that make Pringles potato chips,” Bradshaw said. “And those hash brown patties at McDonald’s are also made with our equipment. Our real claim to fame is the drum dryers that are used to make potato flakes for mashed potatoes. We make the largest ones in the world. We just installed six of them in a plant in Heyburn.”
The company also makes a blancher for use in French fry plants that can handle up to 100.000 pounds of potatoes an hour. Bradshaw said three or four of them would be used in a typical plant.
Last year Idaho Steel was named one of the best employers in Idaho by a survey conducted by Idaho Business Review. Many of its employees have been there for decades and some had parents who also worked for the company.
Idaho Steel has sponsored a scholarship at Eastern Idaho Technical College for more than 30 years. Company officials are always looking for good employees and have found many smart, hardworking ones right here at home.
The Bradshaws raised a family of eight children and now have 30 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They have consistently kept a low profile.
Asked why the Kiwanis Club chose Bradshaw as grand marshal, Spud Day Chairman Gerald Searle said, “I think he’s just been a great citizen of our community. He has provided employment to a lot of people and has been supportive of education programs and been very generous. He’s just an all-around good guy.”
Three years ago, Bradshaw sold the business to his sons, but still has a place on the board of directors. Now Delynn Bradshaw is the general manager, Alan Bradshaw is the engineering manager and son-in-law Davis Christensen is the marketing manager.
Bradshaw said he made a decision early on to service the private sector rather than rely on government contracts.
“We really focused on the potato industry and got customers that are huge producers of food products (Simplot, Basic American Foods, Lamb-Weston, Idahoan, Nonpareil, Idaho Pacific, etc),” he said. “It’s been a good business for all of us. Wherever I go, I promote Shelley as the potato capital of the world.”
By: Shirley Thompson