LSB Industries isn't among the most high-profile companies in Oklahoma, and that's the way founder and Chairman Jack Golsen likes it.
“Spouting whales get harpooned,” Golsen said. “So we've kept a low profile.”
That's probably just fine with LSB's shareholders, who earned a 222 percent return on their investments in the one-year period covered by the Oklahoma Inc. figures. Among Oklahoma's publicly traded companies, LSB Industries topped that category, ranked No. 1 in per-share earnings growth and posted the fourth-highest growth rate for revenues in the period.
That's as close as a state company has come to sweeping the Oklahoma Inc. measures, and Golsen concedes the company had a good year.
“These are the best of times,” he said.
LSB Industries, which employs about 1,900 Oklahomans, is thriving today in part because of tough choices its leaders were forced to make in the worst of times, Golsen said.
The company has been public since 1969, and was profitable until the oil bust that laid low many Oklahoma businesses in the early 1980s. That regional recession nearly took down LSB Industries, which saw its revenue cut in half in 1982 as much of its oil-related manufacturing business dried up.
“There was a lot of determination involved,” said CEO Barry Golsen, son of Jack. “Companies and banks were going down all around us.”
The company survived by diversifying, drastically reducing its exposure to the energy business. LSB added a chemical business — “a complete departure” — that remains a major component of the firm, Barry Golsen said.
LSB initially produced chemicals strictly for farming, and later added industrial and mining chemicals while significantly expanding its production through the acquisitions of additional plants.
LSB's climate control operation, originally a small part of the business, has become the other major unit of the company.
“We reinvented ourselves,” Barry Golsen said. The remade business has been “stable and growing.”
The overhaul took determination, a strong and stable core of managers and patience. “It took a lot of time,” Jack Golsen said.
The company's geo
The system that controls the comfort of Oklahoma's Capitol was produced by LSB, and cut the state's energy costs there by about $250,000 a year. LSB's products heat and cool structures from single-family homes to major office buildings to the Statue of Liberty.
Over the past decade, the company's leaders have sharpened the firm's focus by growing its two main units and strengthened the balance sheet.
“We've positioned ourselves to be able to weather any storm in the economy and positioned ourselves also to make any kind of capital improvements that are necessary to grow the businesses, and we're in the position to do a strategic acquisition if the right kind of acquisition comes along,” Barry Golsen said.
The Oklahoma City company has succeeded by following a traditional model of making tangible things and selling them, but its leaders aren't hidebound.
“If you look at our plants, they are really state-of-the-art,” Barry Golsen said. “We're old-fashioned in the sense that we make stuff, but we're not old-fashioned in the way that we make it.”
At a glance
LSB's Oklahoma connections
• Founded in Oklahoma with corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City.
• Seven climate control manufacturing and distribution facilities. Covering more than 1 million square feet in Oklahoma City.
• Industrial Products Distribution facility in Oklahoma City.
• Pryor Chemical Co. in Pryor.
• About 1,900 of LSB's 2,200 total employees work in Oklahoma.
Where did the name LSB
One of Jack Golsen's earliest companies, L&S Bearing Manufacturing Co., made products for the Big Three automakers and the retail auto markets. Each box of the firm's bearings, many of which were displayed on the shelves of auto supply stores, bore the company's initials — LSB. Three-letter company names (such as ITT and LTV) were in vogue, and Golsen determined that company would be called “LSB.” The company no longer makes bearings, although LSB's headquarters remain in the same building alongside Interstate 40 west of downtown Oklahoma City.