Central States Manufacturing Inc.

Central States Manufacturing Inc. of Lowell is a metal building components producer that was founded in 1988. As of 2010, it had five plants, including one in Mount Airy, N.C., and was looking to the upper Midwest as its next area of expansion.

Current operations employ about more than 360 at facilities that include Lowell; Michigan City, Ind.; Cedar Hill, Texas; and Jasper, Ala.

The company's core manufacturing business fared well even in the face of a national economic downturn. Material sales improved annually during the past 21 years with one exception: a 2.6 percent decline in 2007. That year, revenue dropped nearly 7.7 percent. But by 2010, sales topped $194 million.

In 1995, the company started Metal Central, retail outlets that sell metal buildings and metal roofing to contractors and homeowners for commercial and residential projects. CSM has Metal Central operations at its Lowell and Jasper, Ala., locations and one stand-alone facility in Little Rock.

In 2003, it launched its Central Storage Works division, which engineers and sells complete building systems for mini-storage projects as well as boat and recreational vehicle storage.

In 2006, the company opened its Steel Source division to take advantage of its volume-buying power and resell steel coils to smaller roll-forming ventures.

CSM is a faith-based company that operates much like a public company. In the case of CSM, employees account for about 40 percent of its shareholders courtesy of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan started in 1992.

In 2009, the company started a giving-back program that donates eight hours of paid time off annually for staffers to schedule volunteer work during business hours.