Spokane Journal of Business

True Seals grows in Nott-Atwater's absence

Manufacturer hopes to more than double sales this year

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Spokane Valley-based manufacturer True Seals LLC, operating under the tutelage of former Nott-Atwater Co. President Jim Hemingway, is looking to fill a void created when that company's longtime manufacturing facility here shut down more than a year ago.

Craig Dolsby and Hemingway are co-owners of True Seals LLC, a gasket maker that started in early 2012, and Dolsby says it has seen continual growth since opening. The company posted a 53 percent increase in revenue last month compared with its best month in 2012, he says.

True Seals had $480,000 in sales last year, Dolsby says. He projects True Seals will more than double in size this year, with the company hoping to see sales climb to $1.2 million.

Nott-Atwater, a rubber- and foam-product manufacturer, was sold to LTI Boyd, of Modesto, Calif. about six years ago, Dolsby says. LTI Boyd closed that company's plant here, located at 1309 N. Bradley, in late 2011, he says.

"What got this going was Jim's desire to bring it back," says Dolsby, who also is executive vice president and an owner of Spokane Valley-based Berg Manufacturing Inc.

Dolsby says the company began operating last January in a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, starting with three employees. Situated just off Euclid on north Eden Road, across from the Spokane Shock practice facility, True Seals now has seven employees including the owners. He says four of its employees formerly worked for Nott-Atwater. Dolsby says True Seals hopes to hire three or four more employees this year.

"There's a trained workforce in the greater Spokane area, and as we grow, we can take advantage of that," Hemingway says.

The company mostly provides products for other Spokane-area manufacturers, he says, such as Liberty Lake-based Premier Manufacturing Co. and Spokane-based Haskins Co. and ReliOn Inc., among other Inland Northwest businesses.

"The focus and growth strategy is on the Spokane market," Dolsby says.

He attributes the projected increase in revenue to more former Nott-Atwater customers seeking out the company, and the addition of new equipment on the manufacturing floor.

True Seals currently has six machines that perform various cutting and molding capabilities for foam, rubber, cork, and other substrates, as well as having laminating capabilities, Dolsby says. He says the company expects to add at least two more machines this year, a roll splitter and pure water jet cutting table, totaling about $370,000 in new equipment.

The pure water jet cutting table would enable the company to cut material such as neoprene and rubber more efficiently than the cutting table it currently is using for that purpose, without using an abrasive such as sand in the water stream, he says.

The roll splitter will cut material into strips for uses such as weather stripping.

Dolsby says both additions stem from current customers asking for those additions.

"We can react very quickly to changes in customers' demands," largely because of the company's size, Dolsby says.

If the company continues to grow at its current rate, he says, it likely will need to look for a larger facility by the end of the year to handle more machinery and inventory.

Dolsby says the company's main competitor is LTI Boyd, based in Modesto, Calif., with its nearest office to Spokane located in Portland.

"We're doing what Nott-Atwater was doing," Dolsby says. "There's a lot of industry experience that isn't lost in Spokane."

During the first few months of operation, the company chose to not market itself, relying on word of mouth to bring in customers, Dolsby says. The owners made that decision to give it time to set up a working system, both on the manufacturing floor, where it employs lean manufacturing tech-niques, and for services such as accounting.

Lean manufacturing looks at ways to minimize time and resource waste while maintaining or increasing quality and production efficiency.

Dolsby says the company didn't want to land more work than it was capable of handling, and it began ramping up production within the last three months.

"We have the processes in place and we're ready for growth," he says.

True Seals is what's called a 3M preferred converter, meaning the company can buy directly from the industrial adhesive and tape maker and work on special projects. One such project picked up by the company involves manufacturing the court tape for Spokane Hoopfest, the popular three-on-three basketball tournament held in downtown Spokane annually.

"Nott-Atwater did Hoopfest tape for years," Dolsby says.

The company estimates it will produce about 20,000 linear feet of court tape for the event this year, which is planned for the last weekend in June.

Nott-Atwater had approximately 50 employees at its peak, and served customers on a national level.

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