CORRECTION: This story has been changed to correct the name of the business owned by Armando Martinez.
The many pea-sized holes in Bryant Stump's T-shirt are a testament to his dedication to his craft.
He won't stop welding even if his shirt's on fire.
Stump is the co-owner of Bare Metal Welding LLC, a new venture of his and Armando Martinez's at 400 N. Monroe Ave, Suite B, the former home of Glory Welding.
Stump's route to a career in welding was circuitous. The 24-year-old began exploring his craft at J & J Machining, Welding & Fabrication while in high school work study at West Fork.
"I started by sweeping floors, and watching and learning," Stump said. "Then, they hired me on through the summer. Then, they hired me right out of high school.
"I always tell people I got paid to learn."
In the last eight years, Stump has also learned about repairing and building cars from the ground up, as well as how to build, maintain and repair metal fencing, which is how he met Martinez, owner of Martinez Custom Fence.
But while all of that experience means in Stump's own words, he has his "foot in everything, once I walked in and smelled it [welding], I knew it's what I wanted to do."
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Stump has chosen wisely. Middle skill jobs like his make up more than half of Iowa's economy, according to the state Department of Workforce Development's Labor Market Information Division. In the post-recession era (since 2010), Iowa has ranked second in the country in the number of middle-skilled jobs it has added, behind Wyoming.
His shop on Monroe Avenue, filled with various-sized scraps of metal and smelling vaguely of burning chemicals, is Stump's second home, he says. Right now, Bare Metal, which took over for Glory in March, has enough business -- mostly repair work on fences -- to keep Stump busy about 15-20 hours a week.
He's working on growing that by cold calls to potential customers, word of mouth and sticking his business card up wherever he goes.
And he can do anything with his MIG welding equipment. He repaired an elderly man's beloved recliner. He created a fireplace, which he then donated to North Iowa Area Community College for a fundraiser. Sitting in his shop on this day is a small table with a stained cedar top, rebar edging and wrought iron fence legs.
He threw that one together just because.
Soon, Bare Metal will have a mobile welder that will allow Stump to take his sparks-filled show on the road. That means the possibilities for work are just about endless, in his mind.
"I like to get dirty and do the things nobody else wants to do," he grinned.
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