SOUTH DAKOTA SMALL BUSINESS PERSONS OF THE YEAR
Kevin & Emily Berg, Owners
First Manufacturing LLC
Humboldt, South Dakota
What do two mechanical engineering students at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology do after writing a business plan together for a class? They graduate, get married and start the business of course. Kevin and Emily Berg, owners of First Manufacturing LLC, did just that. Starting as a small home-based machine shop with only a manual mill and a manual lathe, First Manufacturing originally opened in Rocklin, California, in January 2003, but relocated to South Dakota later that year. As small business owners, they had questions about hiring employees, marketing and growing their sales, and contacted the Sioux Falls Small Business Development Center in Sioux Falls. The SBDC assisted the Bergs in leveraging their own investment dollars to obtain financing through a local lender and the APEX loan program of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. With these monies, the Bergs were able to purchase additional equipment and the former grocery store building in Humboldt to further grow and have room to manage the contracts they were landing.
Taking advantage of historically low interest rates, First Manufacturing again contacted the SBDC to assist in putting together a plan to refinance as well as obtain some additional working capital to support ongoing expansion. This was done through a Small Business Administration loan with great loan terms allowing the Bergs to obtain the working capital necessary for the business while minimizing the impact of the monthly cash flow.
First Manufacturing became a full-time venture in 2006 and has tripled in size, providing CNC milling, CAD/CAM work, turning, inspection and assembly. The company is experienced in a wide variety of materials including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, plastics and composite materials. In addition to being a component manufacturer providing materials for companies such as Daktronics, First Manufacturing also produces their own product lines, including the Copperhead Ag Furrow Cruiser, which received an award in the 2010 Governor’s Giant Vision competition.
Even in the midst of a recession, First Manufacturing has demonstrated outstanding growth. From 2009 to 2010, the Bergs increased revenues 134% which was followed by another 109% growth in sales in 2011. Consecutive years of doubling sales have also led to substantial increases in payroll, up 190% in 2010 and 161% in 2011 to keep up with demand.