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Manufacturing

Filling factory gaps

By Nick Wright

NYC-area nonprofit helps small manufacturers set up shop and thrive

October 2012 - When discussing manufacturing, we tend to visualize the classic image of an expansive factory as a hive of mass assembly and automation; a plant with hard hats punching in and out. But smaller shops, comprising niche-oriented manufacturers and fabricators with a handful of employees, dot the economic landscape. Even in a global marketplace where items can be sourced from just about anywhere, there are still smaller manufacturers that rely on being close to customers. To do so, they need space.

In Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough, a group of smaller manufacturers have benefited from the real estate services of the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. The non-profit group helps industrial businesses find space at 10 percent to 15 percent below market rates with minimum leases of five years, says Brian T. Coleman, CEO of GMDC. Often, it leases spaces that once were owned by large manufacturers. The unused space left by large companies allows smaller ones to thrive.

Results from GMDC surveys indicate a typical tenant, prior to moving into one of GMDC’s spaces, has moved twice in the last five years.

“It’s really not a way to have a sustainable business if you’re packing up your metal fitting shop every 18 months or so because you need to move on,” he says.

The group has developed more than 750,000 sq. ft. in New York among four locations, leased by about 100 tenants that employ around 500 people. Companies have built a close-knit camaraderie by sharing capabilities; the welder that occasionally needs a CNC lathe goes next door to the fabricator who has one, and vice versa. Irca Metals, a metal spinner, fabricates the bases for a lamp manufacturer in the same building.

“We have very few widget makers these days,” Coleman adds. “Most of our tenants create a custom product. Even the metal guys, they’ll make 30 of something, not 30,000.”

Penn State Fabricators, one of GMDC’s tenants, is a full-line machine shop that serves the construction industry. But it also fabricates gears and parts such as brass piston rings, aluminum hardware and machined valve components. The four-man company has been in business for 42 years, according to owner Herb Engler, doing short runs that bigger manufacturers wouldn’t necessarily do. While it serves customers in the immediate area, its scope also extends overseas.

“GMDC rescued us from possibly being forced out of business,” Engler says. Due to gentrification, Penn State was evicted from a building where it had been for 35 years. “Brian Coleman was kind enough to contact us and provide a workspace to go to when we couldn’t find one.”

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Local market
Most GMDC tenants serve a local market. Proximity to the marketplace is key for not only delivery but also for marketing. Another fabrication studio, Twoseven, operates in a GMDC-owned building that was once a rope factory. Twoseven specializes in high-end retail window displays for household names like Chanel and Tiffany & Co. Its 30 full-time employees work with multiple materials, including metal.

Earlier this year, Twoseven made a prototype table and valet stand for Saks Fifth Avenue out of antiqued bent tubular steel and lathed brass parts, says Ross Caudill, fabricator at Twoseven. The firm works out of a 25,000 sq. ft. space, about 2,000 of which is devoted to metalworking. It recently fabricated a 260-ft. long double-decker brass plated model railroad trellis for the Louis Vuitton flagship store in New York.

“Our metal fabrication workload ranges from projects that only require one or two employees welding, machining and finishing to a large project like the Louis Vuitton train trellis that had 12 people working on it full-time,” he says.

Twoseven’s proximity to Manhattan is a necessary advantage as most of its customers require quick turnaround. It has crucial access to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Williamsburg Bridge and Midtown Tunnel.

“There seems to be a shortage of industrial space in New York City,” says Franco Gotte, president of Twoseven. “As a business located in Brooklyn, we are close to the city and our clients.”

GMCD, which started aiding manufacturers in 1992, is confident with the economic viability of tenants in manufacturing because the average salary of someone who works for one of the businesses in its properties is $43,000—higher than local retail or service sector jobs, Coleman says.

“I have great appreciation for what people do here,” Coleman says. “Our tenants are the interesting story. We’re just a developer.” FFJ

Sources

Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SecturaSOFT

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

PRESS BRAKES

STEEL

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

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