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Local company looks to the future without forgetting its past

In the early 1950s, Bill Byington read a newspaper article that would change the trajectory of his life, and the lives of his family members, forever. The article detailed the growing need for heat treating — a process that alters a metal’s physical or chemical properties — in the Santa Clara Valley. So, Bill decided to pull up his roots in rural Iowa and make the trek westward to California.

Nearly 65 years later, the company he started, Byington Steel Treating Inc., is still going strong — and even growing. Bill’s son Dean began working in the shop at 13, sweeping and counting parts. Dean too started his son Sean working at a young age, helping out at the family’s winery that closed last year, instilling in him the Midwestern work ethic that had helped the family succeed.

However, with the death of his father in 2006, Sean and his mother Kathryn had to figure out how to use those values to keep the business going.

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“Her goal was bringing the company into the 21st century,” Sean said of his mother. “My grandfather established the foundation for this company, my dad grew it, and my mom modernized it.”

At 23, Sean became the company’s chief operating officer. He said his goal is to continue his family’s legacy by growing the business in a more targeted manner.

Byington Steel Treating Inc. has long done metal treating for aerospace companies such as SpaceX and Lockheed Martin. For instance, Sean said his company might treat a crank shaft so that it can better withstand higher levels of concussive force and movement without cracking.

Mark Maes began working for the Byingtons in 1983. He remembers when hills surrounded the industrial park on Memorex Drive where the business sits. He has seen the business go through many changes, but stays for one reason.

“It is like family here. They treat you good,” he said.

When Sean took over as chief operating officer, he starting thinking about how the company could use its strengths to carve out a yet-to-be-filled niche for itself in the market. When he spoke to an old high school friend who sells knives, the friend told him people are always asking where he gets his knives treated. The friend told him there are only a few companies in the country that do that sort of heat treating, be it for hobbyists or chefs, and most of them are on the eastern seaboard.

Byington Blades was born.

Although the company has already had what Sean called a “soft launch,” for the knife-treating service, it will be fully available beginning March 4 — a date he said he chose because it coincides with a large trade show in New Jersey. Sean said he wants to bring “aerospace quality heat treating to the regular guy in his garage.

“Our reputation is incredibly important to us,” he said. “We want to be leading the bay area, California, even the country in quality.”

The company also opened a new storage and shipping hub in Sacramento in December. The hub allows better access to customers while cutting down on shipping costs, which the company offers for free. With all the growth, Sean said it is a “balancing act not to move too fast.”

Growth is something Dylan Porter, director of engineering, knows all about. He has been working for the company for two years. The Byingtons allowed him to use their furnaces for his Capstone Project — an independent study project required for graduation — when he was at Santa Clara University. That simple exchange opened doors for him, he said.

“It has given me so many opportunities to develop myself in different fields,” he said of coming to work for the the Byingtons. “Materials science was always one of my weakest areas in college. Now it is one of my strongest. I always like to learn and challenge myself.”

Sean said Byinton Steel is committed both to its 34 employees and the Santa Clara community because of how fruitful those relationships have been to his family ever since his grandfather arrived in 1952.

“We have been here for 63 years, and we are looking forward to another 63,” he said.

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