In 1964, Jim Steffner joined the family business, Electric Motor Sales & Supply, Inc., and has worked for the last 50 years to form two other companies and grow EMS into a regional supplier for electrical, mechanical power transmission and automation equipment.
Electric Motor Sales & Supply got its start in Chattanooga in the 1890s as a bicycle shop. Steffner’s great grandfather began doing repair work for streetcar motors out of the shop and the business became Chattanooga Armature Works. Electric Motor Sales was formed in 1948.
After graduating from City High School and the University of Chattanooga with a degree in engineering, Steffner entered the Army as a 2nd Lt. After completing Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he served in Korea with the Army Combat Engineers. In 1964, he joined EMS working in sales. He took over the Dalton, Georgia, territory and in 1967 EMS opened a branch in Dalton. The timing was ideal as EMS began making motors for the fledgling carpet industry and expanded their business as the carpet industry grew.
In 1968, Steffner formed Electric Systems Inc., a company that designed and built electric drives and controls for the carpet, textile, paper, and non-woven industries. In 1972, he formed Metal Systems, Inc. MSI designed and built control panels and system centers with plants in Chattanooga and Houston, Texas. The company became the largest system center builder in the United States and a national and international supplier. Combined revenue for these companies is $136,000,000.
Electric Motor Sales continued to grow and in 2007 moved to a new location with 80,000 square feet of floor space. It continues operating today with six branches and 120 employees.
Steffner is also a partner in Perimeter Properties, formed in 2002, which owns the Wheland and U.S. Pipe property on South Broad Street in Chattanooga as well as other manufacturing sites.
In summing up his successful business career, Steffner is quick to share the credit, “It really has been an evolution and we’ve always been fortunate to have great people be a part of what we do.”
In addition to his passion for business, Steffner has a passion for flying and has logged more than 6,800 hours. He holds an ATP license and Lear Jet type rating. He is also involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors and has served on a variety of boards including the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bethel Bible Village, the Chattanooga Manufacturers Association, the Salvation Army, Changed Lives, and 1st Tennessee Bank. He also served as a Deacon at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga.