Lubrication Technologies Inc.

Lubrication Technologies Inc.

Lube-Tech at a glance

Revenue: About $250 million

Employees: Roughly 450

Growth fact: When Chris and Marna Bame bought Lube-Tech in 1993, the company had just 17 employees and $10 million in annual revenue.

Market: In addition to its Golden Valley headquarters, Lube-Tech has facilities in St. Paul, Roseville, Albertville, Alexandria and St. Cloud; it’s looking to expand in Iowa, Wisconsin and Louisiana, among other states. Most of its business is in the Upper Midwest, but it also ships lubricants to roughly 65 countries.

How Lube-Tech Grew

1925 Rollins Oil founded in Minneapolis.

1946 Agri-Tec Lubricants opens to serve the Midwest agricultural market.

1973 Fred Bame purchases Gopher State Oil Co. of Minneapolis, renaming it Gopher Oil.

1993 Chris and Marna Bame purchase Gopher Oil from Fred Bame and rename it Lubrication Technologies Inc. (Lube-Tech).

1997 Lube-Tech merges with Rollins Oil, at the time one of the two largest private oil distributors in the Twin Cities.

2007 Lube-Tech buys St. Paul-based Hallman Oil Co.

2014 The company purchases a 226,000-square-foot oil-blending plant in Shreveport, La.

Lubrication Technologies Inc., a Golden Valley-based maker of lubricants for automotive, fleet and industrial markets, has grown into a rather big company. Its revenue has increased from $10 million to $250 million in the past 20 years. And during the past decade, Lube-Tech has closed on a merger or acquisition every other year. That’s been due partly to opportunity, partly to foresight.

“The industry is consolidating, and we are seeing an uptick in venture capital firms coming into our market and packaging up companies,” says Luke Bame, the son of CEO Chris Bame and the company’s industrial sales manager. Lube-Tech made one of its biggest moves last February, when it paid $16 million for a 226,000-square-foot oil-blending facility in Shreveport, La. “In doing that, we wanted to push our boundaries and get out of Minnesota and into other areas,” Luke Bame says. “All of our oil has been blended in Golden Valley. If that goes up in flames, what’s our contingency plan?”

Lube-Tech, after all, has some big customers, including Arctic Cat, Polaris and Toro. It blends petroleum-based lubricants for these customers as well as for auto dealers, on/off-road fleets and construction companies. In addition, Lube-Tech has a water-based chemical division that makes cleaners, washer fluid, metalworking coolants and other products. The company’s line of recycling products includes used-oil and oily-water absorbents and absorbent pads.

But despite its expansion, the Bame family, which owns Lube-Tech, strives to maintain a family business vibe. That means being easy to work with and maintaining an esprit de corps among employees. This can be a challenge with an extended “family” of 450, some of whom work outside Minnesota. To meet that challenge, Lube-Tech packs its calendar with annual initiatives like the “360 Live It” program, a 12-week series of cooking classes. It also provides on-site fitness courses where employees work out by flipping tires or carrying kettle bells in the parking lot. “We employ 400 families [in Minnesota],” Bame says. “We do [these initiatives] to tell our story to ourselves.”

Lube-Tech also has told some positive stories to the community. It has donated to cancer research, autism awareness and entrepreneurship programs, among other philanthropic endeavors. In 2009, the company earned a Governor’s Award for excellence in waste and pollution prevention for a water-based cleaning solution it developed that helped Ford Motor Company reduce emissions by 96 percent and save $195,000 annually.

Randy Theisfeld, service director at Polar Chevrolet in White Bear Lake, says Lube-Tech has helped save him time and money with its electronic monitoring system, which lets the dealer remotely track oil levels on its vast number of unsold vehicles. (Lube-Tech also has sold the system to other dealers.) In addition, Theisfeld points out that by offering other products such as cleaning chemicals and absorbent pads, Lube-Tech has become his dealer’s largest provider of service supplies.

Despite its growth, Theisfeld says that Lube-Tech hasn’t outgrown the personal touch. “I could pick up the phone now and call Chris [Bame],” he says. “Lube-Tech’s big, but it’s still family.”