<strong>Eli Long readies a load of metal pipe for fencing outside his 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Ozark.</strong><hr />
Eli Long readies a load of metal pipe for fencing outside his 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Ozark.
Eli Long’s new hires get him on the road by 6:30 a.m. each day.

The owner of Ozark-based Outlaw Manufacturing picks up a four-man Amish crew in Diggins by 7 a.m. and transports them to job sites.

“The Amish finish chores at 7,” Long says, then it’s off to build fences, corrals and farming trailers in Outlaw Manufacturing’s metal shop and on sites around the Ozarks.

Currently, crews are fabricating and constructing a New Zealand-style round corral for a customer in Rogersville.

“I’ve worked on and built several square corrals,” Long says.

A first for him, the corral is designed with rounded catch-pens and alleyways, and it stretches 140 feet across.

Long is no stranger to farms, though. A Fordland High School graduate, he learned the farming ropes on his family’s 40-acre cattle and horse farm and in work for Future Farmers of America and the 4-H club.

Long often found himself helping his dad weld on the farm. “I just kind of had a knack for it,” he says. “I was pretty big in all the shop classes.”

After high school, Long worked welding and construction side jobs, and quickly melded his metalworking and entrepreneurial interests. The springboard for Outlaw Manufacturing was building metal rollers to unravel barbed wire. Long began selling the WireHandler and small metal products to MFA and other feed stores from Jefferson City south.

Long broke out on his own at the age of 22 by renting a shop in Rogersville, and in the early months trailer fabrication and repair work carried the load.

“I started pretty small,” he says, noting there was no startup loan. “I had already bought a welder, (and) a lot of the hand tools I already had.”

Today, the seven-employee company handles custom welding of farm fencing, corrals, trailers, hay beds, cattle roping sleds and tornado shelters. On June 21, Long closed the books on Outlaw Manufacturing’s first year in business, and it posted $100,000 in revenues, he says.

Seven months ago, Long moved to a 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse near the U.S. Highway 65 and Route CC interchange, and last week he signed a lease for another 1,400-square-foot building on the property owned by Jim Wade and Jim Snowden.

Landlord Wade says Long, who turned 23 last month, is the youngest tenant he and Snowden have worked with in their nearly 10 years of managing commercial property. Through JJJM LLC, Wade and Snowden also currently own a strip center in Nixa and a rodeo arena in Billings.

“I haven’t seen anything immature out of him yet,” Wade says of Long. “He seems to have a good business head on his shoulders. He seems to be a hard worker, and he’s a pretty good negotiator – about $200 a month worth.”

Wade says Long talked him down by that amount and currently leases the two buildings for $1,550 a month. After his first six-month lease expired, Long negotiated a month-to-month extension as he scouts property to possibly build a new shop.

As a young business owner, Long has been cautious not to overextend his resources. “Build it and they will come? I’d like to know they’re coming before I build it,” he says. “Right now, with the economy the way it is, that’s probably the best way of doing business.”

Now, he’s eyeing in-demand products such as tornado shelters, pipe fencing and specialty cattle roping sleds.

“I’m working on the bigger things that will make a lot more money,” he says, noting the advantage is in minimal labor and higher profit margins. “Trailers have a ceiling. There’s only so much you’re going to do with a trailer.”

Outlaw Manufacturing produces 4-by-6 steel tornado shelters for $2,700 and a roping sled for $600. He’s developing a smaller cattle-roping dummy with rockers for kids to ride and a handle for carrying.

Fencing also is an emerging product. Long got his start in it three months ago, and crews are currently erecting a couple miles of metal fencing at the corral site in Rogersville.

Long says he runs and manages each project, which means juggling about six jobs per week, including a steady stream of repair work.

ProWash of Springfield Inc. owner Tom Skinner says Long advised him to convert the light-duty axels on his power-washing equipment trailer to 6,000-pound heavy duty axels without changing the trailer’s springs. “He explained that to me, and it all made sense. It was more affordable than I thought it would be,” Skinner says of the $1,000 job.

The trailer hauls a 500-gallon water tank, heated pressure washer, generator and a water tank and well pump that together can weigh up to 6,000 pounds. In 16 years, Skinner has changed seven axels and had multiple wheels fall off – repairs that have cost a couple hundred dollars a pop. “Through the years, it’s been thousands of dollars. I could have saved money had I gone to the heavy duty earlier,” he says.