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Tooling company fights back

by Anderson Global.com on Mar 15, 2011

Media Mention: The following article was featured in MiBiz on January 24, 2011. Download Article (pdf)

Betsy and John McIntyre of Anderson Global in Muskegon Heights plan a $5.5 million expansion for a new sister company, Anderson Express, to seek new business in new markets for the company. PHOTO: JOE BOOMGAARD

Advanced manufacturer Anderson Global Inc. plans to charge out of the recession by pursuing customers in new markets while investing more than $5.5 million in custom tooling machinery and facility improvements.

In an exclusive interview with MiBiz, President John McIntyre said the turnaround started in 2008 when his wife, Betsy McIntyre, took over as sales and marketing director and installed aggressive strategies for reaching new markets. At that time, many of Anderson Global’s domestic and international competitors bowed to recessionary miseries that forced them out of business — a fate the McIntyres refused to accept.

Betsy McIntyre set travel schedules for the company’s sales staff to meet face-to-face with prospective and existing customers. She also studied emerging markets — including wind energy — but decided the best new market for Anderson Global would be military contracts.

The marketing “retooling” has paid off. Today, the tooling solutions company that serves the military, automotive, trucking, marine and other industries, is back to 100 employees — up from 50 two years ago — with more growth on the horizon.

In February, a startup sister company, Anderson Express, will share space with the parent corporation but operate separately from Anderson Global. Betsy McIntyre will be the majority owner for Anderson Express. Crews are installing heavy machinery to serve both Anderson Global and Anderson Express in the former All Phase building on West Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon Heights, adjacent to Anderson Global’s existing facility.

With financing through Fifth Third Bank, the expansion includes $1.2 million in improvements to the former All Phase building, $3.5 million for new machines for Anderson Global, and $800,000 for five new machines for Anderson Express.

Anderson Express will fill a longtime void for Anderson Global. The Anderson Global operation is set up to serve large corporate clients with complex needs, so the company has steered clear of doing business with smaller customers who require quick turnarounds for projects.

That’s where Anderson Express comes in. Betsy McIntyre will start with eight employees who will cater to smaller clients. The first-year goal for the new company is $3 million in sales. Anderson Express will have its own machines, separate payroll, and will operate separately from Anderson Global, despite the family ties and shared space.

However, as Anderson Express clients grow and become more sophisticated in their needs, such contracts likely will be turned over to Anderson Global.

“As those small businesses grow, the relationships we build will easily transfer to Anderson Global,” Betsy McIntyre told MiBiz.

Anderson Express has important relationships in place — including with Muskegon’s L-3 Communications, a major player in defense contracts — to successfully enter the military contract industry, company officials said.

And with the help of Muskegon Area First and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Anderson has secured a $150,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The grant gives the company consulting services with a Washington, D.C.-based firm with military contract experience, with the goal of helping the company diversify and gain traction in the military contract market.

But the hard knocks the recession has delivered are fresh in the McIntyres’ minds.

John McIntyre said 2007 was one of Anderson Global’s worst years ever. In 2008, Anderson Global pushed through the recession with roughly $12 million in sales; today, annual sales have more than doubled.

John McIntyre admits his company’s turnaround was due, in part, to the demise of domestic and global competitors. Having diverse offerings for clients helped Anderson Global not fall to the same gut-wrenching outcome, he said.

“Many of our competitors — and I’m talking about domestic and international companies in places like Italy, China and Mexico — went from 70 employees down to seven. They were butchered and just couldn’t survive,” he said.

It also helps, McIntyre said, that his company’s fiscal year ends in June. If there is a tough year like the company experienced in 2007, it doesn’t all show on the same ledger.

“We had one horrible year, but it was split into two fiscal years, so that, in a sense, saved us,” he said. “To be honest, some of the customers we thought were dead came back to life. It’s a miracle, really.”

Meanwhile, leaders of Anderson Global and Anderson Express believe part of their success is tied to investing in their employees. They offer incentives for employees to go back to school, regardless of the topic or major.

Company employees also are going through recruitment and retention training to ensure “we have the best workers in the world.”

So what does the future hold for Anderson Global? John McIntyre said he plans to “give it 10 years” before deciding whether he will retire or take on a new venture. But by that time, he hopes the company reaches the $100 million mark in sales.

McIntyre is confident in his team and in Muskegon. The company also has facilities in China.

“This plant is more efficient than any plant in the world,” he said. “We can get more done in a man-hour than anybody, right here in little old Muskegon.”

©2011 MiBiz