On Tuesday, Winona-based Fastenal Co. was one of nine Minnesota firms recognized by Governor Mark Dayton as a recipient of the 2013 Governor’s International Trade Award. Founded in 1967 by Cotter High School graduate Bob Kierlin, Fastenal is an industrial and construction supplier that is also currently the largest fastener distributer in North America.
A press release from the Governor’s office stated that each company was “selected for developing and continuing to grow a significant part of their business in foreign markets, for increasing or maintaining jobs in Minnesota to support international sales, and for developing novel approaches for competing globally.”
“It’s a confirmation that we are doing the right things,” Fastenal’s executive vice president of international sales Steve Rucinski said of the honor. “This award is a reaffirmation that we’re taking the best of Minnesota and exporting it to the world.”
According to Rucinski, Fastenal has a presence in 25 different countries, covering a global territory that includes stores in every U.S. state, and sites in areas overseas such as Hungary, China, and the United Kingdom. It was fitting, then, that a member of Fastenal’s international team was not able to attend the awards ceremony at the State Capitol in St. Paul on Tuesday because he was at the company’s newest opening in South Africa.
“We continue to assess new countries and draw new opportunities every year,” Rucinski said of Fastenal’s growing international existence. “So while we are certainly not done [expanding], neither would I say that we have an ‘x’ number of [definitive] countries — it’s a dynamic list.”
While Fastenal continues to plan expansion to additional countries, it has no intentions of cutting its strong ties with Winona, to which Rucinski attributes the company’s success and culture.
“The company and the people that make the company belong here,” he said. “Winona in the state of Minnesota is a good place to do business because of the people. People in Winona and Southeast Minnesota really exemplify what we want to be — hardworking, ethical problem-solvers. We have never considered [being headquartered] anywhere else.”
Fastenal’s motto, “Growth Through Customer Service,” is the foundation to which Rucinski and his colleagues attribute the company’s international success. It is that original small-town philosophy of customer appreciation and compassion that now drives Fastenal on a global scale.
“It is not so much about the product, but about the culture and the people,” Rucinski explained. “We [at Fastenal] all share the same belief in people and that started with the original founding by Bob here in Winona.”