The PDI Group: Strategic Growth Making Use of SBA Resources

From left: Irwin Haber, SBA Cleveland Director Gil Goldberg, and Ida Haber

“Without ground support, there is NO air support” is the motto of the PDI Group, a Solon, Ohio based company that supplies weapons support products to the United States Air Force (USAF) and Navy and allied air forces throughout the world.

PDI has evolved from primarily a manufacturer of munitions trailers and axle systems into a diversified international provider of ground support systems, weapons containers and counter-measure modules, electronics for smart weapons, munitions assembly conveyor systems, specialized tool kits and running gear.  The company has evolved from a firm that provided product to support the domestic needs of the U.S. military to one that now supports the international needs of both the U.S. and allied military forces.  The company continues to grow its financial resources, supply chain, and manufacturing and engineering know-how to produce on-time, high quality products to meet the stringent needs of its military customers across the globe.  Through the leadership of the company’s Chairman, Irwin Haber, and his team, PDI has evolved and grown, all with the vital support of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  The PDI Group has flexibly and successfully made use of various SBA guaranteed loan programs throughout its history.

Key to Irwin Haber’s success has been his ability to build a company that knows its customers.  “We help the customer understand what they should have, and what they need for the future,” said Mr. Haber.  “The entire PDI staff asks the question, ‘What else can we do for our customers to bring value?’ – that is, to ensure that marketing efforts are driven by the needs of the customer, and by helping them define their needs.”  PDI listens to its international clients, even though this involves constant travel around the globe to meet with officials of the U.S. and its allies.  Today, much of the Haber family is involved in the company in various roles, including sales, technology, administration, and the company board.

As PDI has developed relationships with clients around the globe, it has become extremely agile to meet the immediate needs of its customers.  For example, when premature failures of weapons chock pads that are used on munitions trailers occurred due to the excessive heat of the Middle East and excessive cold of Scandinavian countries, PDI tasked its engineering and operations team to develop a new universal munitions chock pad that could withstand all of the varying weather conditions throughout the world.  The original product was USAF designed and controlled, but PDI was able to receive USAF approval on the redesign. This action generated sales of almost $500,000 in 2016 to a Middle Eastern customer and the USAF.

PDI also redesigned the lighting configuration on Royal Norwegian Air Force’s MHU-110 and MHU-141 munitions trailers to comply with Norwegian transportation regulations, resulting in an order from the Royal Norwegian Air Force for the MHU-141 munitions trailers at a contract price of almost $2 million.  In yet another example of listening to the customer, PDI learned that one of its specialty military trailers being used in Southeast Asia was experiencing unusual corrosion.  Upon further research of the environment, it was learned that Southeast Asia was one of the most corrosive environments in the world for metals due to the continuous salt and fog in the air.  Irwin Haber’s technical team made changes to the coatings and materials used on this product, while preserving its strength characteristics, which resulted in a satisfied customer and increasing sales for this product.  The changes made are now incorporated permanently to this specialty military trailer. 

One last example of PDI’s capabilities addressed the at times unstable electrical power grid throughout the world, which increases the risk for damage to smart weapons during programming. PDI helped redevelop a mobile power condition unit that has resulted in robust sales to Chile, Israel, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

SBA’s loan programs have supported PDI through its history.  One area of financing that was extremely difficult was access to working capital to support the company’s foreign accounts receivables. International sales are critical for PDI’s long-term success – over 50% of the company’s sales are international - yet most banks will not lend against foreign receivables. The firm was able to meet this challenge through SBA’s Export Working Capital Program (EWCP).  The EWCP program provides participating lenders with a 90% guarantee on short-term revolving credits used for export purposes. The guarantee fee is ¼ of 1% and the maximum loan size is $5 million.

PDI also used SBA programs for its domestic revolving line of credit needs (through the CAPLines program), its long term plant and working capital needs (through multiple 7(a) terms loans), as well as an SBA direct disaster loan. More information about these financing programs can be found at www.sba.gov.

PDI continues to see healthy growth, projecting $15 million in revenues for 2017 – an increase of 5% over 2016.  “We are very proud of our business development efforts and are looking forward to increased growth in fiscal year 2017 and beyond with the addition of some new products,” stated Mr. Haber.

Just as he finds success by listening to his customers, Irwin Haber has found success by strategic use of SBA’s programs.  With the help of SBA, PDI is flourishing, and it continues to support the U.S. economy through the creation of good technical and manufacturing jobs.  PDI is well positioned to continue to do so for years to come.

In recognition of PDI’s outstanding achievements, creative overseas marketing strategies, effective solutions to export-related problems, demonstrated encouragement of other small businesses to export and its support to the community, Mr. Haber was named Exporter of the Year for SBA’s Region V in 2017.  (Pictured above are from left: Irwin Haber, Gil Goldberg, Cleveland District Director, and Ida Haber).