The company known today as "IPSCO Inc.," one of the world's leading producers of steel plate and pipe, began its corporate life in Regina, Saskatchewan on July
13, 1956 as "Prairie Pipe Manufacturing Company Ltd." It was founded by a group of Western Canadian businessmen led by J. W. (Bill) Sharp, the Company's first President
(biography). The establishment and growth of IPSCO is one of Saskatchewan's-and indeed, one of Canada's--most interesting business stories.
The Company's history began with the somewhat accidental conjunction of two powerful forces. The first was the vision and business acumen of Bill Sharp (as demonstrated by his successful promotion of a cement plant near Regina) which also included access to certain expertise and resources such as Jack Turvey
(biography) as the new Company's first Secretary-Treasurer and a collection of private investors from Regina and the west coast. The second powerful force was the provincial government which had completed an extensive amount of economic development work in respect of a potential steel pipe plant they had been pitching to German and American businessmen who had since lost interest in the project. The government was anxiously trying to encourage industrial development in the Province without much success.
Bill Sharp was asked to take up the project in May 1956 and by mid-July his new Company had been incorporated with plans to build a small diameter pipe mill primarily to serve the Saskatchewan market for welded line pipe. The project received no government subsidies and no loan guarantees but to help it succeed the government owned Saskatchewan Power Corporation agreed to purchase all its tubular requirements
from Prairie Pipe between 1957 and 1960 and one-half of its needs for several years thereafter.
Prairie Pipe was successful right from the start and was initially traded on the Winnipeg stock exchange. Some of its backers believed, however, that it would need its own steel supply to be successful. As a consequence, in 1957, many of the original pipe company investors formed a new enterprise named "Interprovincial Steel Corporation" and proceeded to build a small steel mill on property adjacent to Prairie Pipe, supported in this case by provincial government backed loan guarantees.
While the pipe company continued its success, the steel company ran into financial difficulties and in 1959 Prairie Pipe purchased all the assets of Interprovincial Steel Corporation, which consisted of a partially built steel mill and significant liabilities. The merger of the two businesses resulted in the Government of Saskatchewan becoming a minor shareholder in the enlarged company although this interest was disposed of in the mid-eighties. Prairie Pipe
changed its name to "Interprovincial Steel and Pipe Corporation" a year later and began production of steel in 1960. The Company soon came to be known as "IPSCO" and in 1984 that became its formal name.
By the mid-sixties, Bill Sharp was no longer actively involved in the day-to-day business and Jack Turvey was made President in 1965. He and his successor Jim Maclennan, ran IPSCO from the early 1960's until 1982 during which time the Company became the major producer of pipe and steel in Western Canada through a combination of its own internal growth (4 new furnaces, a new rolling mill and major large diameter pipe capacity using a new and innovative "spiral pipe" technology from Germany) and the purchase of the pipe mills owned by Canadian Phoenix Steel and Pipe Ltd. In Edmonton, Alberta and Port Moody, B.C. as well as a number of other smaller manufacturing facilities in the three western provinces.
In 1982 Roger Phillips succeeded Jim Maclennan as President and Chief Executive Officer. In 1981, the Company had produced 389,000 ingot tons of steel. When Mr. Phillips retired almost 20 years later, the Company's steel making capacity had reached 3.5 million tons through a remarkable series of achievements.
The first was to build a continuous caster and reheat furnace at the Regina steel mill radically improving the quality and capacity of the Steelworks. Subsequent to that, the Company purchased a number of downstream facilities (primarily in the United States) which would consume steel from the expanded Regina facility.
In the early nineties, the company conceived a plan to build a revolutionary new plate mill in the United States incorporating much of the technology developed in Regina with some of the ideas for thinner slab casters and in-line production which had spawned the mini-mill sheet revolution in the U.S. The new plate mill would make an improved plate product at a significantly lower cost The first such mill was built between 1994 and 1997 in Iowa and a second virtual twin between 1999 and 2001 in Alabama.
When the Company began this expansion Stelco, US Steel and Bethlehem Steel were dominant forces in the North American steel industry and major suppliers of plate. By 2004, the first two had vacated the plate market and the third had gone bankrupt, although its facilities are still in production under a different owner. At the same time, IPSCO has become the premier supplier of plate in the North American steel industry, while building on its history as a major pipe supplier to the energy industry. To round out the Company's steel processing facilities, new cut-to-length and temper lines were installed in new manufacturing plants in Toronto and Houston and upgraded processing facilities were added in Regina and Surrey. During this growth phase, the Company also continued to expand its tubular facilities with a new plant in
Blytheville, Arkansas and upgraded facilities at several other locations in both Canada and the United States.
As the new century began, most of IPSCO's assets and customers were located in the U.S. resulting in the establishment of an operational headquarters in the suburbs of Chicago. However, IPSCO remains a Canadian company with its registered office and significant manufacturing facilities in Regina. In early 2002, a native of Moose Jaw, David Sutherland assumed the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. In January 2004, IPSCO's enhanced stature in the steel industry was recognized by the appointment of Sutherland as Chairman of the American Iron and Steel Institute, the largest steel industry organization in North America.
In December 2006, IPSCO acquired NS Group, further strengthening the Company's
position as a leader in the North American energy tubular sector and
significantly expanding its U.S. market presence by offering seamless and welded
oilfield tubular goods. Through the merger, the company expanded to 25
geographic locations and its employee base to 4,300 workers.
In July 2007, IPSCO became a wholly-owned subsidiary of SSAB, a leading Swedish steel company. For more information on
SSAB, visit their website.