Ask Jack Sturdivant why his metal building manufacturing company is named Whirlwind and he’ll respond with a grin saying, “Well, Whirlwind was so bad as a name, it was good.”
Jack’s father, C.O. Sturdivant started out making attic fans in 1949 under the name Seabreeze. Needing to reincorporate in 1955, C.O. decided to call the company Whirlwind Manufacturing Company, “You see, those old fans had blades that WHIRL to create a cooling WIND” Jack added. Then in the early 1960’s air-conditioning began to replace attic fans on buildings and homes. And while Whirlwind continued making attic fans into the 1970’s, it was clear that the company would need to adapt to the changing times to survive.
At the same time, a new type of industrial building began to grow rapidly in popularity, consisting of a steel frame covered with metal panels. Unsure of this new business venture Whirlwind began making parts for metal buildings using manufacturing expertise learned from making large, metal attic fans. Whirlwind Steel quickly became very good at making entire metal buildings instead of just the components. As Jack remarks, “You’ll never know which direction a company will go from where you start.”
Around this time Jack and his partner, Jack Murchison, took over operation of the company and both realized, “Whirlwind was not necessarily the name you would choose if you were starting a metal building company. You would pick something else.” Asking employees to help come up with a new name a contest was held. One notable name Jack remembers was “Tu Jax Steel Buildings” after both him and his partner’s first name. Unable to settle on any of the employee suggestions they decided to just keep the name the same. As Jack recalls, “Whirlwind was so bad it was good.”
One of the first Whirlwind metal buildings, built in 1969, is just a couple of blocks away from their Houston manufacturing plant and corporate offices. The building is still in use and the Whirlwind logo can still be seen on the roof endcaps. “It’s something to be happy and proud about knowing we provide good products that stand the test of time,” Jack says. Since those early days Whirlwind has completed over 50,000 steel buildings and shipped over a million components projects across the U.S. and overseas.
The decision to keep the Whirlwind name turned out to be a smart move. Not just because it is “so bad it’s good” but also as a reminder that the Whirlwind family knows a thing, or two, about how to adapt and thrive.
Stay tuned for Part Two – A Lifetime in The Company