Arlington businesses host Rep. Larsen

Feb 29, 2012

Arlington Times: Arlington businesses host Rep. Larsen

February 29, 2012

ARLINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Calvin Goings, assistant associate administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, toured through two Arlington manufacturing companies on Wednesday, Feb. 22, to check on the progress of those small businesses in the wake of their SBA loans.

Tony Cooper, owner of Mackenzie Castings, LLC, informed Larsen that the $1.1 million loan he received from the Small Business Administration in 2006 to acquire the company from its former owner was virtually seamless.

“Within three weeks of when I started the process, I had a check ready to hand to the bank,” Cooper said. “It was one of the fastest loans I ever got. It was an amazing process, handled by the nicest, most considerate people.”

Cooper expects that, at his current pace, he’ll own the foundry outright within five years. When Larsen asked Cooper whether he thought the economy had turned a corner, Cooper deemed the performance of foundries such as his to be a leading economic indicator.

“Our industry is at the bottom of the food chain,” Cooper said. “When people make investments, they invest in us first. Every time I’ve seen us as busy as we are now, the economy has been taking off.”

Cooper explained that his business employs about 30 people, six of whom were hired within the past year, working at least six days a week.

“We haven’t laid anybody off in about five or six years,” Cooper said. “Half the time, I’ve got to push my guys to go home, because they’re begging me to let them work on Saturdays.”

Mackenzie Castings’ diversity of patterns and materials has made their parts popular enough to receive orders not only from across America and Europe, but also to get shipped to China, Africa and even Iceland.

“There’s this myth that all of our manufacturing has gone overseas, and I always tell people that’s not the case,” Larsen said. “It’s good to hear it from you.”

“We’re seeing the first true growth in manufacturing since the 1990s,” Goings said.

Just a few blocks away, ABW Technologies’ staff greeted Larsen and Goings after their tour of Cooper’s foundry. Aimee Dura, ABW’s business development manager, explained that the company deals largely in nuclear and aerospace contracts, with roughly half of its work coming from the government.

According to Dura, ABW employs 150 people and also has sites in Sedro-Woolley and Richland, although she noted that 30 of those people were employed as a result of an $8 million contract that just recently ended. Mike Kingsley, vice president of ABW in Arlington, credited an $800,000 SBA loan with covering a third of the financing for the company to purchase its current Arlington property in 2002.

“Our revenue since 2002 has tripled,” Kingsley said. “We’ve doubled the number of employees we had back then.”

“So, you’ve taken that $800,000 SBA loan and turned it into millions of dollars,” Larsen said.

Although ABW does relatively little exporting, its steady stream of work from Boeing and its diversity of contracts, which range from $20,000 to $13 million, have kept the company financially healthy.

“There’s so much opportunity for us right here in the States that we have little need to go outside of them,” Dura said.