Walter Behlen Added to Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Date:June 15, 2021
Contact:Tony Bouquot, General Manager

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) is pleased to announce that industry trailblazer Walter “Walt” Behlen has been inducted into the 2021 Metal Construction Hall of Fame. Behlen created the world’s first stressed-skin metal building, established Behlen Manufacturing Co. in Columbus, Nebraska, and his company was a founding member of MBMA.

“As we celebrate MBMA’s 65th anniversary throughout 2021,” says Tony Bouquot, MBMA general manager, “it’s an ideal time to honor one of our founders and his many contributions to the industry. From the inaugural MBMA meeting in September 1956, to his years serving on the executive committee, Walt Behlen was integral to getting the association off the ground and helping it to become the leader in the metal building industry.”

Behlen was one of 13 attendees at the inaugural MBMA meeting and his firm, Behlen Manufacturing Co., is one of the few companies that has been a member throughout MBMA’s entire existence.

Behlen founded his namesake company in his hometown of Columbus in 1936 as a one-man operation. Over the years he invented many products, which at first were designed and put together in his garage workshop. He eventually hired on family members as the business grew. In 1949, he created the world’s first stressed-skin metal building using corrugated sheet metal as structural panels. He later introduced metal buildings for commercial applications such as grain and vegetable storage facilities, gymnasiums and dealerships. He used unique marketing promotions, such as dangling 16 tractors from the midspan of a clear-span building prototype, to get people to buy his buildings.

“Walt’s metal buildings helped to show that these structures could replace traditional concrete and structural-steel buildings for all kinds of uses,” Bouquot says. “He was truly a pioneer, not just for his buildings but for the way he marketed them as well. And, just as importantly, he never stopped innovating.” Over the past 85 years, Behlen Manufacturing Co. has evolved to become a global leader in steel fabrication.

First introduced in 2012, the Metal Construction Hall of Fame honors individuals who have had a significant impact on the metal construction industry through innovation, leadership and unique contributions. Award judges represent the major metal construction industry associations and assess nominees based on five criteria: longevity in the industry; unique contributions to the industry; body of work throughout a career; legacy; and integrity. Hall of Fame nominees must have been actively involved in the industry for at least 15 years.