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Growing pains are a good thing – especially when it comes to an expanding business. Sandy Tilzey, president of Empire Lath & Plaster Inc., should know. For more than 30 years, she has been involved with the business her father started in 1960. Over those three-plus decades, she has watched the Billings economy wax and wane. Yet, as she learned from her father’s logic: careful diversification reaps growth.

In a move that emulates that philosophy, Empire Lath & Plaster purchased the assets of Rudy’s Insulation in 2010, after the passing of the namesake’s owner. Prior to that, Empire Lath & Plaster would handle the steel framing and drywall portion of many projects and then subcontract the insulation work to another contractor.

“The purchase of Rudy’s Insulation, now Empire Insulation, fits extremely well into our existing company, Empire Lath and Plaster,” Tilzey said. “Since the acquisition of Rudy’s, we are now able to offer a complete wall assembly — from the steel stud framing to the insulation and finishing with the drywall. This is appealing to many contractors because it allows them to coordinate with one subcontractor, instead of multiple subcontractors.”

Empire Insulation supplies and installs fiberglass, mineral wool, fireproofing, foam and Styrofoam insulation for new and existing buildings throughout the region. Along with Empire Lath & Plaster, Empire has a well-established presence throughout the four-state area of North and South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Mike McKeever, estimator, noted that there have been several instances where Empire Lath has been awarded a project because they are able to offer a complete package. “One contractor can do all the work from insulation to paint, instead of just one ingredient,” he said.

Locally, Empire Lath & Plaster contributed to the Faith Chapel addition. More recently, both Empire Lath and Empire Insulation worked together on the addition to West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyo. Thus, being in close vicinity is crucial for smooth collaboration between the two businesses. In addition, Empire Insulation needed warehouse space for their products.

Location, location, location

“The site for Empire Insulation’s new building, 508 Bernard St., is something we sort of stumbled across,” said Administrator Jeff Guttierez. He pointed to the metal facility across the railroad tracks from Empire Lath as an ideal location for the expansion in the industrial park off of Monad Avenue.

The new Empire Insulation building, which is 10,000 square feet total, includes 8,000 square feet of warehouse space for insulation products and 2,000 square feet for office and management space. An area approximately 10 feet by 20 feet and 20 feet high was left open to show the Empire-installed, white-faced batt insulation.

“We don’t have a showroom per say, but we created a demonstration area to show how a metal building can be finished on the interior and still have eye-appeal,” Guttierez said. “It also shows how an acoustical ceiling system works, which is something that Empire Lath installs.”

Expanded services

In the same vein of diversification, Empire used the additional land space to expand into yet another business venture, Charles Street Storage, which includes 44 storage units. Eight of the units are 10 feet by 25 feet and the remaining 36 units are 10 feet by 15 feet. All units are enclosed in a fenced area with keypad access that customers can access their storage unit from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition to Empire Lath & Plaster Inc., Empire Insulation, LLC, and Charles Street Storage, Tilzey and her close-knit team also operate Empire Landscape Solutions, which specializes in hydro-seeding and hydro-mulching in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana and Empire Builders, LLC, which operates in New Mexico.

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