When Christine and Dick Burt were seeking a new business, they saw an opportunity to save jobs and grow a company in Racine. In 2010, they started a manufacturing company specializing in vinyl heat sealing and named their business Altus Vinyl. Altus is Latin for 'noble', which expressed their aspirations for the company. Altus received an SBA 7(a) loan and a microloan from SBA resource partner WWBIC to fund a business expansion. They also worked with the Racine County Economic Development Corporation.
Altus Vinyl LLC offers capabilities in heat sealing products and can provide added customized features such as foil stamping, debossing, screen printing, and magnetics. Customer service is a hallmark of their work.
By 2012, the business had grown from 5 to 12 employees, many of whom had previously worked in the industry and had been laid off prior to Altus opening its doors. Sales had grown by 62%. Thanks to its recent expansion, Altus is positioned for future growth. As Christine says, 'Having a business is a constant stream--it is ever-moving. Having a 'community team' which includes your family, your employees, your state, local and federal governments; your lending partners, your vendors, your customers, and your own faith--these are your rocks!
They contribute to the growth and expansion. Teamwork is helping to make each community member successful through providing more employment and nourishing the economy. The SBA website is a terrific resource.' Regional Administrator Marianne Markowitz recognized Christine Burt and her accomplishments as a woman business owner in the Racine Community in March 2013 in recognition of Women's History Month.
Photo caption: Christine Burt describes production at Altus Vinyl to SBA Regional Administrator Marianne Markowitz, Wisconsin District Director Eric Ness, Racine Mayor John Dickert, WWBIC’s Heather Lux, and other local economic development stakeholders
Electro-Connect Incorporated benefits from hard work, unique strategy and SBA counseling. When it comes to running her company, Debbie Hamedi is not afraid of a little competition.
“We shine best with projects others shy away from tackling,” Debbie said.
Debbie and her husband, Hassan, are the owners of Electro-Connect Inc., a contract manufacturing company that specializes in complex medical and industrial electronic assemblies. Electro-Connect began more than 25 years ago with a single order. Production took place in the basement of the Hamedi’s home.
That single order spawned an innovative company that has produced products for NASA’s space station and developed anesthetic gas monitors for use in operation rooms.
“In a nutshell, we’re reinventing the product development process,” Debbie said.
In order to better complement Electro-Connect, Debbie and her husband founded an engineering firm: D&H Global Enterprises. Through D&H, the couple developed the Rockhopper which is the “only completely open source Computer On module,” or in other words, a universal controller for electronic devices.
Debbie learned how to expand her business through the SBA’s E200 classes, a curriculum geared towards assisting women and minority entrepreneurs better manage and market their businesses.
The classes rely on the expertise of local business experts, who educate participants on topics such as government contracts, obtaining capital and strategic planning.
“As a direct result of the E200 classes—I am now focused on directing my companies rather than on the daily routine of running them,” she said.
Robert Giesfeldt, Lead Business Development Specialist at the SBA’s Wisconsin District Office, said "Debbie is able to effectively run her business because she knows it so well."
“She wears many hats in her business,” Giesfeldt said. “Debbie is always trying to improve her company.”
Debbie highlights this point when describing how she put what she learned at the E200 classes to use in her business. She now looks at financial records differently and makes a point to ask her accountant pointed questions about growing her business.
Debbie hopes to put this knowledge to good use in the near future
“I’m planning for a larger team of employees, a bigger facility, and I hope to see the numbers double financially over the next three to five years,” she said. “Some great technological work is being done here.” “It’s very exciting.”
Making it better in America
Family-owned business thrives due to fifty years of hard work and perseverance
It would be difficult to find a family that epitomizes the “American Dream” more than the Harringtons of National Technologies Inc.
From their company’s motto, “we make it better in America,” to NTI’s rise from humble beginnings, the Harrington’s represent everything great about American entrepreneurial spirit, so much so that National Technologies Inc., was named the 2012 Jeffrey Butland Wisconsin Family Owned Business of the Year by the Small Business Administration.
The story of how NTI reached this plateau is one of hard work and determination.
Starting from scratch in the back of an old garage more than 50 years ago, Robert Harrington and later his son and current president Thomas Harrington built up their Milwaukee-area company from a fledgling startup to a competitive, innovative company that had $20 million in sales in 2011.
“We started from nothing because that’s what we had,” owner Tom Harrington said with a laugh.
Harrington began working at his dad’s shop after school at the age of 12, back when the machines were still equipped with leather belts and broke down quite frequently. However, the company has come a long way since then.
Despite being in the economically combative machine parts manufacturing industry, National Technologies has consistently grown year-in and year-out since its founding in 1959. With the help of the Small Business Administration and its 504-loan program, NTI recently expanded and upgraded its manufacturing location.
“For us to be competitive we have to be very, very good at what we do,” he said.
National Technologies supplies equipment and components to a variety of businesses, including corporate powerhouses like Caterpillar, John Deere and Waukesha Engine. While NTI did not escape the confines of the global recession of 2008-2009, it has increased the number of its full-time employees from a low of 61 just a few years ago to about 160 today.
National Technologies has been family run since its inception in 1959. The company’s two lead engineers started as floor machinists decades ago, highlighting NTI’s commitment to its employees.
Currently, the third-generation of Harringtons' is incorporating an aggressive marketing strategy that has led to a doubling of sales over the past three years. The company continues to invest in itself, retraining its employees and spending roughly $500,000 each year on improvements to its manufacturing facility.
NTI has been recognized by the community for numerous awards, including being named a “Top Place to Work” in 2010 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and included in the “Future 50” list for fastest growing companies by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
The MMAC is probably spot on its analysis of National Technologies, as it has increased the size of its manufacturing facility 200% in the past couple years, from 40,000 sq. ft. to a 120,000 sq. ft. state-of-art factory, thanks in part to the SBA’s 504 program. This has led to dozens of new jobs being created in the Milwaukee area.
National Technologies continues to attract new business, improve its facilities and train its employees, something Tom is sure his father would have been happy to see.
“He’d be proud if he could see us today,” Tom said.