Spokane Journal of Business

MacKay Manufacturing buys structure in Spokane Valley

Company to expand into Ecolite facility next month

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-—Virginia Thomas
MacKay Manufacturing owner Katie MacKay, pictured with her dog Cooper, says the company will move into part of the newly acquired building to start.

Spokane Valley-based MacKay Manufacturing Inc. is expanding its space and is hoping to grow its staff and increase production capacity.

Katie MacKay, vice president and second-generation MacKay Manufacturing owner, says the computer numerical control precision machining company bought a 33,000-square-foot building at 9919 E. Montgomery Drive from high-efficiency optical components manufacturer Ecolite Manufacturing Co. for $1.8 million early last month. MacKay Manufacturing plans to begin moving into part of the recently acquired space in mid-January.

MacKay Manufacturing has occupied a nearby, 50,000-square-foot building at 10011 E. Montgomery Drive in Spokane Valley since 1988, MacKay says. The Ecolite building is located west of the MacKay facility. The Ecolite lot and MacKay Manufacturing lots are located diagonally from one another; the property lines of the two manufacturing facilities connect toward the rear of the buildings.

While MacKay Manufacturing hadn’t been planning on expanding, MacKay says she decided to invest in the building for the company’s future growth after visiting the space with Ecolite CEO Ed Caferro.

She says the manufacturing company initially will occupy 8,000 square feet of the new building, and plans to lease the rest of the space; she says MacKay Manufacturing hasn’t yet identified tenants for the remaining 25,000 square feet.

“As we need it in the future, we can expand into it,” MacKay says. “It gives us probably 10 years’ worth of growth.” 

A representative of Ecolite couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. MacKay says, however, Ecolite will consolidate operations into a building it already owns. County records show that Ecolite Investments LLC owns a 54,080-square-foot building at 2622 N. Woodruff. 

Ecolite, which was founded in 1970, has been owned and operated by three generations of the Caferro family, according to the company’s website.

MacKay says MacKay Manufacturing is waiting on some quality management systems certifications before they can begin moving in on Jan. 15.

In the interim, she says the 39-year-old building is receiving $150,000 in renovations, including installing an epoxy floor and building a wall to separate the smaller, 8,000-square-foot space from the rest of the building.

MacKay says MacKay Manufacturing also is building a small, roughly $10,000 road between the two buildings so that equipment and parts can be easily transported from one to the other.

The company, which primarily manufactures medical tools and aerospace components, will install a small quality assurance lab in the new space, along with about 10 of the machines that MacKay Manufacturing acquired when it bought Wilson Tool & Manufacturing Inc. in 2017.

The last time MacKay Manufacturing expanded was in early 2012, when it bought property from Wilson Tool and constructed a 22,000-square-foot addition to its original building.

MacKay says the company would like to hire more employees to work in the new space—if they could find such employees. Like many others in the manufacturing industry, MacKay Manufacturing has struggled to increase its workforce due to a shortage of qualified employees. MacKay says if they could find people with the right skill sets, the company would hire an additional 10 to 15 employees. 

“We’re constantly looking for people to hire,” MacKay says. “I haven’t hired a machinist in probably two months, and that’s only because I can’t find them.”

MacKay estimates the manufacturing company, which currently has 155 employees, loses out on about $1 million in sales contracts a year because MacKay Manufacturing doesn’t have enough employees to complete additional work.

“The company could grow faster,” she says.

Despite the workforce shortage, MacKay Manufacturing’s sales are increasing. MacKay expects the company will end 2018 with $26 million in sales, about $1 million more than last year.

MacKay Manufacturing is also beginning to make forays into the nuclear manufacturing industry, MacKay says.

While she declines to disclose details, she says the company is working toward gaining certifications for nuclear parts manufacturing, and has begun making prototype parts for an Inland Northwest nuclear company.

“The advantage that I like is that nuclear moves very slowly, but it’s stable,” MacKay says. “They know for the next 10 years what their plan is going to be.”

MacKay says the company struggles to find employees to fill swing shifts and overnight shifts, but 2018 tax reforms allowed MacKay Manufacturing to buy $2 million in new equipment and add about five more positions.

“Buying more equipment has allowed me to hire more people who are willing to work day shift, but I had to buy more equipment to do that. Coming into next year, we’ll probably spend $1.3 million (on new equipment).”

Katie MacKay’s parents, Mike and Debra, bought the E.A. Sprow Inc. machine shop in 1986 and renamed it MacKay Manufacturing; Mike MacKay has been president of the company since then.

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the banking and finance industries. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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