South Dakota steel factory owner celebrated in D.C.

Derek DeGeest, President of DeGeest Steelworks, accepts a Small Business Person of the Year...
Derek DeGeest, President of DeGeest Steelworks, accepts a Small Business Person of the Year award in Washington, D.C. on Monday. (Source: Gray DC)(GRAYDC)
Published: May. 6, 2019 at 5:37 PM MDT
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Small business owners from across the country are honored for the work they do growing their business and helping their communities. It’s part of National Small Business Week in the nation’s capital.

“It is a huge honor,” said Derek DeGeest, President of DeGeest Steelworks.

DeGeest is South Dakota’s Small Business Person of the Year. DeGeest Steelworks is a third generation family business. The company makes large steel parts used in everything from road construction to mining, electrical grids and buildings.

“The change of our company over the last 42 years has been amazing. The advancements in technology, and the changes in processes are very exciting. We love manufacturing,” the steel factory owner said.

DeGeest’s factory team is on the cutting edge—with employees that include 13 robots. The community helped to name each of the factory robots with references to pop culture, like Optimus Prime and Wall-E. DeGeest says the robots help reduce worker injuries and even create more jobs.

“It has allowed us to take some of our repetitive work and move it into automated and allow our employees to do higher complex thinking,” said DeGeest.

Acting SBA Administrator Chris Pilkerton says small business owners like DeGeest are perfect examples of what it means to be an entrepreneur—to invest in their communities and dream big.

“Small businesses, you hear the term, are the backbone of the country, they really are the engine that drives the economy,” said Pilkerton.

The Small Business Administration assisted DeGeest in financing a bigger space for his business and helped bring robotic painting technology to the U-S.

“SBA has been a huge part of our growth,” he said.

DeGeest heads back to his dedicated employees in South Dakota on Tuesday.

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