Spokane Journal of Business

Accra-Fab to build big plant

Building likely would cost $6 million, have 150,000 square feet of floor space

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The owners of Liberty Lake-based Accra-Fab Inc. plan to build a $6 million, 150,000-square-foot plant at Liberty Lake Center for the company, and have set aside enough land there to build a second building of similar size to accommodate the precision fabricators fast growth.

Accra-Fabs owners, Don Hemmer and Greg Konkol, have signed a purchase agreement to buy the nearly 23.5 acres of land at the 99-acre Liberty Lake business park, which is being developed by Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co., of Spokane.

Hemmer, the companys president, and Konkol, the companys vice president of finance, currently are in the process of forming a corporation to be called Elk Creek Investments LLC, through which they plan to buy the land and build the new facility for Accra-Fab. Work on the building should get under way this summer and should be completed by the spring of 2001, Hemmer says.

The new plant is needed because Accra-Fab has outgrown the 80,000-square-foot production facility it currently is leasing nearby at 1611 N. Molter in Liberty Lake. To ease overcrowding, the company has leased an additional 14,000 square feet of space in a nearby building at 22808 E. Appleway. It plans to relinquish both spaces once its new facility in Liberty Lake Center is completed, Hemmer says.

Accra-Fab, a 20-year-old precision sheet metal fabricator, has seen a 25 percent jump in its employment here during the last 13 months. The company currently employs 325 people in Spokane, up from 260 in February 1999, 240 in February 1998, and 145 at the end of 1996. Additionally, Accra-Fab operates a 16-year-old plant in Vancouver, Wash., which employs another 70 people, giving the company a total of 395 workers, Hemmer says. Accra-Fab had operated a plant in Everett, Wash., for about three years, but closed that facility in 1998, after having difficulty finding workers there.

Accra-Fab now is seeking to hire an additional 15 people to fill entry-level production positions, Hemmer says.

Lately, he says, the company has been looking to hire at least 10 people at any given time, due both to increased need and replacements to make up for normal attrition.

Hemmer attributes the companys growth mainly to the strong growth of its high-tech customers in the Liberty Lake area. Accra-Fab makes specialty metal parts out of sheet metal for electronic, telecommunications, and biomedical companies located worldwide. Often those companies will design a new product or metal part, such as an enclosure or a bracket, and bring that design to Accra-Fab, which then will produce it. Hemmer says Accra-Fab has its own design staff that works with customers to find more cost-effective ways to make a part or product. Accra-Fab also is able to powder coat and paint the pieces it works on, and silk screen a customers logo or product information on the items.

If growth at Accra-Fab continues at its rapid pace and the company outgrows its planned new facility, Hemmer says a second, at least 150,000-square-foot building could be constructed on the remaining portion of the 23.5 acres he and Konkol are buying at Liberty Lake Center.

Accra-Fab outgrew its present facility, which was supposed to last the company at least five years, in less than three years. The fabricator moved into the facility on Molter in 1997 from a 40,000-square-foot building it had occupied at 2121 N. Waterworks, Hemmer says.

Last fall, Hemmer had said that Accra-Fab was planning to nearly double the size of the plant it was occupying on Molter, which would have given the company a total of 150,000 square feet of space. It decided to switch gears, however, because 150,000 square feet of space was as much space as the property there could accommodate.

There would have been no more room for any future expansion, Hemmer says. This way, we have a lot more capabilities. He expects the planned 150,000-square-foot facility at Liberty Lake Center to meet the companys needs for at least the next three years and possibly up to the next 10 years.

Hemmer and Konkol become sole owners of Accra-Fab last September, after buying out an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that had owned most of the company for the previous eight years. The two businessmen bought the 78 percent share that had been owned by the ESOP and most of the remaining shares still owned at that time by Accra-Fab founder Bob Griffith and the companys vice president for manufacturing, Chuck Cates. Hemmer already had owned a minority share in the company.

Wolfe-Ballantyne Studio Architects, of Spokane, is designing Accra-Fabs new facility. The company hopes to select a general contractor to build it early next month.

  • Lisa Harrell

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