Spokane Journal of Business

Garco Building Systems booms

Metal-buildings maker set to post record sales, now employs 167 workers

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As Garco Building Systems prepared earlier this year to expand its manufacturing facility in Airway Heights, company President Bill Savitz recalled an old story about a shoeless cobbler who was too busy making shoes for others to craft a pair of his own.

In a conundrum similar to that of the barefoot shoemaker, the metal-buildings designer and manufacturer was working at full capacity and had a backlog of millions of dollars in work, but for a while didnt have time to make materials for its own expansion project.

The company ultimately reworked its schedule and fabricated the materials for its $1.4 million expansion, but Savitz says, I almost went with somebody elses work. I didnt think we could fit it in.

Thats because 42-year-old Garco Building Systems is experiencing unprecedented growth. Its on pace to post $26 million in sales by year-end, which would be a 55 percent increase over last years revenues and would eclipse its previous sales record of $19.8 million set in 1996, Savitz says.

The company foresees another record year in 2001, he says. Its projecting $30 million in sales next year, which would be a 15 percent increase over its expected sales volume this year.

It currently has $13 million in backlogged work, but thats less than earlier this year when it had $20 million in jobs backed up.

The surge in sales follows three consecutive years of record job orders, but many of those orders were slow in making it to productionand to be converted into salesbecause of permitting delays and other holdups that were out of Garcos control, Savitz says.

Since June 1999, Garco Building Systems, which is the sole operating entity of Midco Manufacturing Inc., of Spokane, has doubled its work force, growing to 167 employees from about 80, Savitz says. Of those, more than 40 employeesmostly skilled laborershave been hired since the beginning of this year. Garco Building Systems plans to add four more employees this year, but has no immediate plans for additional hires.

The earlier announced expansion of the companys plant at 2714 S. Garfield Road includes adding 23,000 square feet of manufacturing space, which will give it a total of about 140,000 square feet of floor space. A second production line, which accounts for the bulk of the expansion, is scheduled to be completed and to begin operating in November. The rest of the project, which includes adding a maintenance shop and storage space, is expected to be completed by January 2001.

Savitz says the company has enough employees to staff both the current production line and the new one. It currently has employees working various shifts on the single line and will be able to use those workers more efficiently once a second line is up and running, he says.

Garco Construction Inc., of Spokane, which was a division of Midco that spun off several years ago, is the general contractor on the plant expansion.

Industrial reputation

The biggest factor in Garco Building Systems recent growth, Savitz says, is its work in the heavy-industrial construction market, designing and manufacturing metal-building shells and support structures for mining operations and aluminum plants, among others. He asserts that the company has emerged as one of a handful of metal-building manufacturers worldwide that focuses on the heavy-industrial construction market.

Michael Berry, Garco Building Systems heavy-industrial business development manager, says the company has bid on a number of jobs this year in which it was one of only three or four manufacturers invited to bid.

Current or recent heavy-industrial jobs include a carbon-brake facility expansion at the BFGoodrich Co. plant on the West Plains, a Phelps Dodge Corp. copper-processing plant in Morenci, Ariz., and a turbine generator building in Hawesville, Ky., for Willamette Industries Inc., Berry says.

Garco Building Systems also is manufacturing a spacecraft operations center in McMurdo, Antarctica, where the U.S. Antarctic Program tracks satellites, Berry says.

Heavy-industrial buildings in the Spokane area that the company has manufactured include Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp.s Mead carbon-baking plant and other Kaiser projects.

In the heavy-industrial market, Garco Building Systems typically is working with construction companies that are highly specialized in industrial facilities and take on such jobs worldwide.

Savitz says the companys reputation in that arena has helped it expand sales to general contractors outside of that market. People see (the heavy-industrial work) and say, If you can do that, youre probably good enough to do this car dealership, or other such projects.

The company makes structures for general contractors based throughout the Western U.S. and Western Canada. In recent years, it has made deeper inroads into the California market, and new relationships with builders there have accounted for some of the growth the company has experienced.

Outside of the heavy-industrial market, Garco Building Systems typically makes buildings exclusively for one contractor in a specific area. The contractors it supplies typically bring in annual contract revenue of $10 million to $15 million, including jobs that dont involve Garco products.

In Spokane, of course, it works with Garco Construction, which reported $62.7 million in revenues last year. It consistently is one of Garco Building Systems largest customers and takes on heavy-industrial work.

Their growth over the years has really helped our growth a lot, Savitz says.

He and Garcos four senior managers have owned Midco Manufacturing since 1996. The other owners include Paul Millar, vice president of administration; John Pargman, vice president of manufacturing; Mark Radmaker, vice president of engineering; and Joe Loomis, vice president of sales and marketing.

Linn  Parish
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Editor Linn Parish has worked for newspapers and magazines since 1996, with the bulk of that time being at the Journal. A Montana boy who has called Spokane home for some time now, Linn likes Northwest trails, Deep South foods, and lead changes in the ninth inning.

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