by Elizabeth Hans McCrone
When most people enthuse about a passion for wine, images of sparkling beverages in a glass or acres of vineyards covering a rolling hillside come to mind – not an industrial site filled with all shapes and sizes of polyethylene and steel core tanks.
And yet, when Nicole Oblad, the CEO of National Storage Tank (NST) talks about the plans and inventory at her company’s new location on Santa Rosa Avenue in Sonoma County, she could not be more excited, or more knowledgeable, than a connoisseur discussing the nuances of a fine cabernet.
“We’re the largest polyethylene tank supplier in northern California,” she exudes confidently during a recent interview and property visit. “And already we’re the largest supplier of corrugated steel tanks around the world … National Storage Tank is a vendor and manufacturer of Steel Core tanks, which can hold water, wastewater, irrigation waster and even temporary brine water, based on the liners, which are made for those different purposes.”
Oblad has reason to be optimistic about her growing enterprise. It sprung up from somewhat humble beginnings back in 2008 when she and her husband were trying to piece together a rain catchment system for their local residence.
“We had to go to several different tank suppliers. The price points were all over the map, depending on the manufacturer,” Oblad recalls. “We didn’t know the differences and no one could really tell us. It was like wanting a fruit basket, but each supplier carried only one fruit choice. The process helped me realize that there was really no one who had all the choices available (in one place).”
A year later National Storage Tank opened doors for business. Since then it has become an international company, offering tanks, supplies and installation consultation to all type of business and residential clients around the globe.
Wine industry patrons in particular, make up a significant portion of National Storage Tank’s customer base. Typically, wineries come to NST for fire suppression tanks, as well as wastewater and large irrigation tanks, pond liners, septic tanks, rainwater catchment systems and the repair or lining of existing tanks.
In addition, Oblad says her team counsels wineries in such areas as tank maintenance, regulation changes, the benefits of partial sales tax exemptions for farming and production, what to look for in a product line and how to maximize returns on investment.
“We offer an educated team of professionals to guide our wine industry clients through their options for tanks for any need,” Oblad declares. “We’re big on education and information.”
Oblad emphasizes that NST is actively recruiting wine-related businesses to rent space at its new location on Santa Rosa Avenue with Highway 101-frontage visibility.
“We have the ability to sell product immediately, here in Santa Rosa,” Oblad confirms. “Our plan is to become a poly-tank depot for California, specifically. We want others to join us … we’d love to become the wine-industry hub of suppliers.”
Such ambitions and Oblad’s ease in construction-related trades are an organic part of her upbringing. Her father was a general contractor, so framing walls and pouring concrete were everyday facts of life.
But Oblad says it’s actually her mother who provided her with the real seeds of success.
“I’m one of seven children; four girls and three boys,” Oblad reflects. “She did everything for us, including working on new construction with my father. She taught me to work hard, that I could do more than I ever thought possible and not to be afraid of doing things others may not think I should do as a female.”
It turned out to be excellent advice. NST’s status as a WBENC certified woman-owned and operated company qualifies it to bid on certain government projects, which accepts a portion of proposals from minority or women-owned businesses.
“It’s a lot of paperwork versus the private projects that we do,” Oblad reports ruefully. “But it’s good work and good exposure to have them.”
Oblad believes that giving back to the community is a critical part of running a successful business. To that end, NST has a formalized relationship with Native American Water Association (NAWA), whereby any water systems project NST does with NAWA can contain a cost reduction clause as a way to assist less-wealthy clients with project expenses.
“Not every sovereign tribal nation has a casino,” Oblad points out. “When we win a bid through NAWA, we can offer a percentage of materials cost back as a way to assist tribes who don’t have those casino assets at their disposal. It’s not hard to do and it’s been a good connection and relationship.”
Oblad and her team are also committed to assisting animal rescue operations, such as the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) by donating “seconds;” tanks with manufacturing imperfections, for elephants and other animals who need them for water sources. Last week NST donated two such tanks to statewide horse rescue groups and another to Glenn Ellen Horse Rescue in Sonoma Valley.
Through these and other philanthropic endeavors, Oblad hopes to continue to build on National Storage Tank’s reputation as a solid and ethical business, serving a regional, national and international clientele.
“We’ve come a long way in seven years,” she boasts proudly. “And we have big plans. This is just the beginning.”