This article appeared in the August 2010 issue of Texoma Living!.
by Chelsea Sedlacek
(Editor’s Note (Chelsea Sedlacek, the author of this piece is a journalism student at Baylor University and the daughter of the subject. She is a summer intern at Texoma Living!.)
What began as a simple website is arguably the most important job market in the steel industry.
Steel holds the world together, and around the world, steel detailers—the designers who develop the drawings for most things constructed of steel—are held together by a website created, developed, and maintained in a suburban neighborhood in Denison. Randy Sedlacek began the precursor of Steel-Link.com in 1995. It now averages two thousand visits a day from individuals and companies in the fabricated steel industry who network with one another, post and find employment opportunities, share technical advice in the field, and find answers to questions and solutions to problems in their specialized area of work.
Sedlacek is a steel detailer specializing in steel stairs and handrails in high-rise buildings. He started in the industry when he was in high school, working as a blueprint boy for a company in Garland, where his father was the Chief Engineer.
He opened his own detailing business in 1988. The family business, Closets & Garages Self Storage in Denison had extra space in the building. So Sedlacek worked out of his father’s office and had a couple of employees. When his father sold the storage business, Sedlacek moved his company to downtown Denison. Now he works entirely from his home.
Before Steel-Link.com came about, Sedlacek had started an email discussion list for steel detailers after he learned of “listservs,” email-based discussions where subscribers can post questions and ask for advice and other subscribers can respond with answers. “I thought it would be kind of useful to begin one for steel detailers, because, at that time, I knew of only a handful of detailers in Texas-Oklahoma.”
Sedlacek’s steel detail email discussion list grew to over a hundred subscribers in the first month. People began using the list to learn about new software, get advice on how to do their jobs better and faster, and importantly, to find jobs.
“I quickly found it was a useful tool for myself and other people in the industry,” Sedlacek said. “It made us feel that we were a part of something bigger and that we were not alone in having these issues.” The list quickly grew to 2,700 subscribers not only in the U.S., but also in Europe, the United Kingdom, Thailand, the Philippines, India, and Australia.
As his subscriber list expanded, so did Sedlacek’s ideas of what it could be. He started an online directory including contact information and descriptions of detailers, fabricators, trade associations, structural engineers, steel erectors, and secondary trade schools, and set up Steel-Link. com to host the directory. The directory now has more than thirteen thousand entries. Along with the online directory, the email discussion list became a part of the website.
The site just keeps growing as Sedlacek adds new features, including job postings, software downloads, forms and fonts downloads—even a bookstore. The website now also includes Steel-Wiki, an online encyclopedia for the fabricated steel industry. The encyclopedia is a collaborative effort by the universe of users.
Sedlacek alone designed the whole website, did the programming, and compiled the information. He also moderates the email discussion list along with one other moderator in Missouri, whom Sedlacek cannot recall ever meeting face-to-face. Sedlacek’s home-based business is known around the world solely through word of mouth and online search engines.
Sedlacek and his Website have become a big part of the steel world, and many people have recognized that. He was nominated for the American Institute of Steel Construction Committee on Steel Detailing: a group of twenty people in North America that meets once a year to identify issues, solutions, and practices in steel detailing.
Along with running the website, Sedlacek is still working as a steel detailer through RLS Graphics. Steel-Link.com is a constantly evolving website with new features added often. With a business that could never have been possible a few years ago, Steel-Link.com is a critical link in the steel industry.