ECMS - Josh Haun and Kyle Pipes, Haun Welding Supply

Posted on May 16, 2024

Economic Champions Mini Series - Josh Haun and Kyle Pipes, Haun Welding Supply and Haun Specialty Gases

This is the Talk CNY Economic Champions miniseries, presented by NBT Bank, a podcast by CenterState, CEO, Central New York's premier leadership and economic development organization. This series will shine a light on local businesses, making an impact in our community and driving our regional economy forward. Whether it's new jobs, company milestones, business expansions, investments in operations, or DEI initiatives. Join us as we celebrate CNY's economic champions.

So at Hahn, we're really about three things. We're about serving our customer, serving the community, and serving our employees because we believe that it'll make the world a better place.

Hi, and welcome to this Talk CNY Mini Series Economic Champions, and today we have two amazing guests. We have the co-president of Haun Welding Supply and Specialty Gases, as well as Kyle Pipes, the COO. Thank you for being here today.

Thanks for having us. Yeah, glad

to be here.

Alright, awesome. So today will be so much fun. We'll get a lot of great inspiration talking about where this economy is headed, the unprecedented growth that we've seen, and we'll continue to see and how that's impacted your businesses, what you're planning on doing with that, and also hearing about your story. So who is Haun and who is Josh in particular? Who is Kyle and how have you come into these roles and what do you do in them now? So Josh, let's start with you. Let's hear a little bit about who you

are. Yeah, so I grew up in the area, went to school here, went to CBA for high school, went to University of Rochester, and I graduated from there. I was telling this to Kyle earlier. A lot of my classmates left the area right? Central New York wasn't a place where people were looking to grow and stay and develop. So I moved down to Charlotte. I ended up teaching middle school for a while, and in 2010 I had opportunity to come back and get back in the business, and so moved my family back up to Syracuse and got back involved in the business and worked my way back up into the position that I'm in now. My brother Eric and I took over as co-presidents in 2021 as fourth generation for our company. And it's a story that I've seen a lot, honestly, with my peers. They left the area assuming there's not the opportunity that there is in other areas, and a lot of them have come back to raise their families, to get involved in the community and develop their careers. So it's been really cool to see.

Yeah, that's awesome. So you are a true representation of a boomerang where you're from Central New York. You went and spent some time elsewhere and then came back to put down roots to last the rest of your lifetime presumably, right? Yes. That's awesome. Love that story. And Kyle,

I love that you taught middle school because I feel like if you can teach middle school that prepares you for anything in life. I've learned.

Yes. Exactly.

Yeah, it's

true. So for me, I have jumped around a little bit in my career. I started with Siemens and sold energy projects to hospitals and universities, and then I went on a large career shift and became a pastor. I'm still a pastor today. I own my own business, KP Coaching and Consulting, and worked with organizations, and that's actually one of the ways I got connected with Haun. I helped them through their succession and transition and my pitch was, you would still like each other at Thanksgiving after we've gone through this, and then well.

Hold on there. That's right.


it work. So far? So

far, yeah. So far. Good job. And then towards the end of last year, we started having conversations about what it would look like for me to join as the COO, and I'm excited to be here. I've only been at Haun for full-time a month, but three years as a consultant.

Yeah. Well, what a testament to that time that they decided, wow, we really need this guy all of the time, not just part of the time.

That's right. Three years of interviewing each other I think is what took place. Yeah.

Yeah. Excellent. And there is something in particular that you helped develop with the company that I know you're all very excited about. Can you speak to that a

bit? Sure. So as I started with my business, one of my passions was to help organizations develop healthy culture. And in the succession process we wanted to figure out how do we for future growth, replicate the past success and identify the key values for Haun, which in this case was what we call the four H's, humble, honest, heart-driven and helpful. And so we have clarity around each of those, and I think that it's a differentiator for Haun, but also businesses in general, if you can be clear around who you want your people to be, and what it looks like for them to live those values. And so a lot of the work we did together was that, and now I get to do that kind of work all the time.

All the time.

All the time. Four H's all the time.

It was really interesting when we started the process because we hear from our employees that they enjoy working for us, that were different than other companies that they've worked for. And we've had quite a number of people that have left for other opportunities and have decided to come back and work with us or work for us. And we were trying to figure out why, what makes us who we are. And with Kyle's help, we were able to survey our staff and come up with these ways of who we are, these words to define us. It's really helped us to know who we are and who we want to be and what we're looking for in people.

Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk and share more about what Haun does. Who do you serve? What problem do you solve? You've got the welding. You've got the gases, fill us in.

We really have a diverse customer base now. We started off more focused on construction, manufacturing and selling welders themselves, and at this point we've got, especially with the gas side of our business, we have a number of different types of customers: healthcare, universities, labs, cannabis now, breweries, wineries. Those types of things that really help us navigate through the ups and downs of the economy to really stay healthy in our industries. We've got mentioned before, the weld training. That's something that we've had since about 2000 that we've got a weld school in Syracuse where we work with individuals, but we also work with companies and help them develop their employees to do the processes that they're working on. It's been really beneficial for us in the community and helping individuals and companies to be able to grow.

And now more than ever, it's so important to have those resources in our community readily available. So it started almost three or decades ago or two and a half decades ago. I imagine you're thinking we'll grow, can continue on. Does that sound right?

Yeah. Right now we're looking at space. We're trying to figure out, we're outgrowing the space that we're in and we want to be able to continue to meet the demands of the community. So we're actively investigating how we can do that.

Now, I don't think the average person necessarily understands what uses there are for gas, so can we hear some examples and get some familiarity.

That'd be a good one for Kyle to answer because until you're really in it, you don't understand that it really serves every industry. It's really a backbone of a lot of what we do in this country. Well across the world.

Yeah. I think for me, I was amazed at how many different applications from not thinking about, oh, the gases go in windows and there's the oxygen that you need at the hospital to specialty gases that can go in food manufacturing to keep them and preserve them. One of the programs I would like to initiate is really some sort of quality control to make sure the breweries and the wineries, I'm going to consume that and make sure that that's going to be one of my big plans for my future.

So you'll be able to verify with...

Yep. If the gas was high quality. That's right.

You have this great

product. That's exactly right.

Doing a lot of testing.

A lot of testing. A lot of testing. You know what I think we need another round?

Yeah. Need to be

sure. That's right. Exactly.

Absolutely. Oh, I love that. That's so fun. Well, yeah, I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the offices and the storefront and some of your inventory, and that was really interesting to me to learn some of these things because I did not realize this. I thought, well, if I am not a welder, then maybe this does not apply to me, but it's certainly not the case. It applies, as you said, across so many different industries, and as we go throughout a typical day, we're probably interacting with many things, a great many things that require what you offer.

And one of the things that's going to happen for you and everyone listening is you're going to start to see Haun Welding trucks where you before didn't notice them. Now you're going to see them, you're going to be sitting at a stop and you're like, oh, there's Haun Welding and Specialty Gases.

In fact, this has already happened. You have white vans.

Yep, white vans. Yep.

Yes. And the lovely star in the logo, or maybe you don't refer to it as a star, a burst. It is delightful. Whatever you want to call it. But yes, that literally happened. Yes, that's right. As soon as I left the tour, I started to notice the vans about, so there you have it. Yes. If you notice that too as a listener, let us know.



We want to know about your...

Driving home today they're going to be like, Hey, that's right. I see the Haun trucks.

Yes, yes. Okay. So Josh, if you could just jump back a little bit into the history. We have Haun Welding Supply and Haun Specialty gases. These items are sort of developing up together.

The company was started by my great grandfather, along with my grandfather. The short story is basically my grandfather, sorry, my great grandfather. He was building welders in Niagara Falls for a company and he ended up getting transferred to Syracuse and he came up with a


...A new design for welders that would make them more efficient, easier to build, and which is amazing. He had an eighth grade education to be able to come up with this new design. So he tried selling it to the company that he was working for or pitching it to them rather, and they weren't really interested. So he decided to go off on his own and start building them. So the company basically started in their garage, building welders and selling them on the weekends, and eventually he was able to leave his other job and do this on his own. He brought my grandfather along with him to help build the business. Then that transitioned in the late fifties to distribution of welding supplies. The story that I've been told is that insurance requirements for manufacturers became too burdensome for them to be able to make any money.

So they transitioned into distribution, so they would buy and sell different welding products. A lot of that went into construction and then the gases came slowly along with that. So that came through the sixties and seventies and then early eighties, we started to be able to expand and started stores outside of Syracuse, which is around the time where my father Mark came in and started working for the company as well. Mark had been president since the early nineties up until a couple of years ago, and really has grown the business into what it is today. The specialty gas side of it came in the early two thousands as a different side of the company to serve non-welding applications. So help us get into the hospitals and the nursing homes and other areas where gases are used outside of the welding industry.

Yeah, it's very interesting. I love the story that you shared. Now, did you say it was your great grandfather who attempted to sell his innovation to the company he was working with and he got a "no." Right, and it was that no, that set in stone what would then

Set us on this path? Yeah, it's crazy to think about.

It's crazy to think about and also an important story to hold close and to remember that it is in those moments when we have this great anticipation and we think we know what the best path forward is, and it turns out that we have something better in store.

And it's such a leap of faith to be able to do something like that, that it's really, really grateful for his ability to do that.

And along those same lines, in terms of what we expected, if we think back to, because we're all three of us here are from Central New York, when we think back to what it was like living here as a kid or even as a teenager, what we thought about Syracuse, how we felt about it. Josh, you were talking earlier about people's tendency to leave or elsewhere to go to other cities or to go south, not really feeling a lot of excitement about what's possible in Central New York. And now we're finally seeing a huge shift in that, right? So we're seeing unprecedented growth. We know it's going to carry forward, and that was really marked as a new era when Micron made its announcement in fall of 2022. What are your thoughts? How are you feeling right now and how have you been feeling for that last year and a half?

Yeah, this is something Kyle and I were just speaking about earlier as well. It's taking it back 25 years to when Carrier left. Carrier was a huge customer of ours, and it was kind of devastating for us to lose that kind of business, which to your other point, that also opened up opportunities for us to diversify what we're doing and take a look at that. The point though is that for my adult lifetime, it's been a constant. We've been going in the wrong direction. We've had a lot of industry leave going down south or to Mexico or wherever with less expensive labor. And it's really, there hasn't been a lot of hope. It's been challenging to why are we staying here? What's going on here industry wise? And with the Micron announcement and some of the other projects that are going on, it's been a huge injection of hope and promise and excitement about what's going on in the area. It's obviously unprecedented. The numbers that they're talking about is, I don't even know how to comprehend a hundred billion dollars or the amount of people and resources that are going to need to support that. So it's very exciting for us. Yeah.

Yes, absolutely. Kyle, thoughts?

Yeah, I mean, I was just thinking about, so my daughter graduates from Binghamton here in the spring, and she's looking at jobs up here, whether that's at Upstate or Lotte. And I think that the area as a whole to be a place that young people are attracted to was not the case when many of us sort of graduated. And I think that the community as a whole sort of needs this sense of hope, as Josh said. And I think that there is this real opportunity as the increase of resources for everyone to have a chance to grow and really thrive, obviously, if we take advantage of the moment that we have in front of us.

Yeah. Yes, we do have a big opportunity. And so have you made some moves so far in order to set yourself up for this new era?

Yeah, so part of our transition, we did some restructuring of our management team. So we put some sales and district managers in places to help support growth. We also put some specialists in, so we've got some specialists that are specific to welding processes, some that are specific to business development, some that are specific to our specialty gas customers. And it's challenging because we do sell so many different products. So for a salesperson to be an expert in all is not really possible. So structuring the way we have, we really feel like we have the resources both internal and external to be able to support this next level of customer and just the volume that we're hoping and expecting to see with this growth.

And that sort of answers the part too, in a way as well about what are you planning to do moving forward. Is there anything else though, that you would want to expand upon about where you see yourself moving over the next decade?

We're just trying to solidify what we're doing now, I think more than anything, and make sure that we have enough resources to be able to support that.

I think there's another element in which as we get back to the basics of how do we take care of customers, how do we take care of our employees and how do we take care of the community that if we're thinking about those three buckets, that will position us to be a good community member because I think that all of us are going to have to pull together to figure out how we deal with this growth. Oh,


I think as we think about it, we believe our differentiator at Haun is the culture that we are created and that people will want to work at Haun in their future. And what our people tell us is that they feel like a human, not a number. And that's a big deal. And I think that ultimately that goes out to our customers. And so with all the new opportunities, I think that the best chance for us to succeed is really remembering that we exist to serve. And so I think whether it's the restructure values and then investment in new technology, those are all focused on how do we get better at the basics right now in order to invest in the future.

Hearing your commitment to community and having that awareness is so important. So relieving honestly. Right. And so tell us more about that. Do you have relationships with local nonprofits? How are you investing?

Yeah, there's a number of nonprofits that we partner with, which can change every year, but we really want to support the communities where we operate in. So that's across our region, not just here in Syracuse, but it's something that we emphasize. We get our employees involved in who we're going to support, and how we're going to support them. Not just giving money, but doing other activities on the weekends that are helping to generate monetary support along with awareness for the charities that we're involved in. And that's one thing I've seen from Micron already is that they're investing in our community, which is super encouraging to see that before they've already even have a building up. They're seeing how they can support Central New York, which is very encouraging for me.

It is. Absolutely. Would you mind sharing with us some of those organizations that you partner

with? Yeah. Some of the ones that we're bigger partners with David's Refuge is one, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is another.

When we think about it, we also think about the business community, so CenterState CEOand MACNY, our other organizations that we are connected to. And then because a lot of it's employee-driven, there's a variety of each year, it's probably a little different because of the local organizations that they

are connected to.

That's really cool to hear. So you are considering their interests and attachments. It's not just a... this is what we do.

Right? That's right. Yeah.

Yeah. That's really cool.

Yeah. Young Life is another organization that we support in, are involved in. They do a great job in our community as well. Yeah.

So many good things that you've shared today. Very inspirational, very exciting. Thank you so much for coming in and spending time talking about your story.

Thank you, Kate. We appreciate having the opportunity. Yeah, great to be here.

Thank you for tuning in to the Talk CNY Economic Champions miniseries presented by NBT Bank. Episodes of this CenterState CEO podcast are available on and all major podcast platforms. After each episode, you can join us on Click, where we'll continue to talk about this topic and provide additional resources and links. In Click, you can listen to or watch every episode of Talk CNY. Click is CenterState CEO's digital chamber platform where our members connect, learn, and receive support from our staff. For new episode reminders, be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app. If you're enjoying our series, consider leaving a quick review or a five-star rating.

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