Two Plants Expanding
Aberdeen's industrial base is growing with the expansions of Southeastern Tool and Dye and Thermal Metal Treating Inc.
The expansions could bring more than 50 new jobs to Aberdeen.
Southeastern Tool and Dye purchased the Intek building on Taylor Street and will relocate its headquarters and operations from Hoke County. The building will provide additional space for new equipment, as well as offices and warehousing to position the company for continued growth and new business.
"We've already shown our major customers the new building so they could see that we'll have more capacity to better serve them," said Jimmy Thompson, owner and president of the company. "This has resulted in about $2 million in new business."
The additional space in the building will also enable the company to establish about 10,000 square feet as a prototype shop for research and development (R&D).
"Going forward, I think one of the keys to growing our company will be R&D and contracting with the military," he said. "The ability to do prototype development in-house furthers our goal of being a one-stop shop for our customers."
The building has been empty since the Intek division of Interface Fabrics Group moved to Elkin four years ago.
Thermal Metal Treating Inc. is moving the operations of a recently acquired business to its location on N.C. 211 East. The acquired business, Architectural Ironworks, is a distributor of decorative door and bath hardware. It is being relocated from Santa Fe, N.M.
The company will operate under the name of Longleaf Bronze.
Originally located in the former Colonial Abrasives building on South Pine Street in Aberdeen, Thermal Metal moved to its current 76,000-square-foot facility in 1999 and continued to focus on metal heat treating, machining, coating and electroplating for industries such as automotive, construction and the military.
Aberdeen Town Manager Bill Zell said both industries feature highly technical jobs that will employ skilled workers.
"It/s going to be a good thing for Aberdeen and the whole economy around here."
Name Is 'Misnomer'
Thompson said that purchasing and moving into the 105,600-square-foot Intek building will enable his company to accommodate rapid growth, as well as serve its customers better.
"Customers will be able to bring us an idea or need for a product, and we will have the materials and capability to develop a prototype and do all of the laser-cutting, molding, machining, packaging, storing and shipping from start to finish, all in-house," he said.
Thompson, a graduate of Pinecrest High School, started his company in 1984 with two employees.
After a decade, he realized he needed to diversify and expand the customer base if his company was to grow and ultimately survive. Now steel fabrication accounts for 90 percent of the company's operations. The shift attracted new customers, including John Deere and the U.S. Army.
Today the company is a high-volume production facility serving customers throughout North Carolina, the United States and abroad.
"'Tool and Die' in the company's name is really a misnomer now," he said. "Our capabilities have expanded far beyond just tool and die."
This expansion is the company's second since 2005, when Thompson purchased a 60,000-square-foot warehouse at 225 Taylor St.in Aberdeen.
"Southeastern Tool & Die continues to grow because of Jimmy Thompson's entrepreneurial spirit and his willingness to take risks," said Ray Ogden, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress, the economic development organization serving the county. "He has adapted his company from a one-dimensional tool and die shop to a multi-faceted, proactive business. I think Jimmy's foresight will ensure that Southeastern Tool and Die is in Moore County for a long time to come."
Renovation costs -- which include replacing the roof and extensive electrical rewiring -- is estimated at almost $430,000. Repairs are expected to be complete in October.
In an effort to help Southeastern Tool and Die offset these costs, Aberdeen applied for a $200,000 grant through the North Carolina Rural Center's Building Reuse and Restoration Grants Program. It provides grants to local governments for renovating buildings that have been vacant for six months or longer.
State Rep. Joe Boylan, of Pinehurst, announced last week that the town received a $100,000 grant from the program for Southeastern Tool and Dye. As a requirement of the grant program, the town has already set aside an allocation as an investment in the project.
"I am sure that this will help spur economic activity and create new jobs for the town of Aberdeen," Boylan said in an e-mail.
"Expanding their business is the key thing," Ogden said. "It shows a good ability to see what is going on in the economy and adjust their business to meet it."
Ogden praised the vision of Thompson and said it should send a message to all small businesses.
"This should send a message to small businesses everywhere," he said. "You've got to take control of your business and not wait for things to happen."
Thermal Metal was established in Aberdeen 20 years ago by partners Jerry Ritter and Mark Scott.
In recent years, Ritter and Scott realized the national manufacturing environment was changing as more and more companies were sending jobs overseas, especially to China.
"We had to determine how to position the company to remain competitive, and we realized that expanding our customer base through diversification was critical," Scott said.
The opportunity to do so came in 2006 when Charlotte-based Global Door Controls Inc., a manufacturer of residential and commercial door hardware and owner of the AIW product line, approached Thermal Metal. AIW was undergoing some internal changes, and, at the same time, Global Door Controls wanted to move these manufacturing operations to a location in North Carolina.
"Global Door Controls had heard of us and came for a tour of our facility," Scott said. "They were impressed with our operations and our capacity for expansion, so they asked if we wanted to purchase the AIW manufacturing operation with a supply agreement to provide product to them for their distribution network."
Thermal Metal purchased the manufacturing operations and moved nine truckloads of equipment and inventory to Aberdeen.
The business began producing high-end custom hardware, distributed through "Decorative Door and Hardware Showrooms" throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Raw materials come from China at a low cost, and Thermal Metal does all of the designing, machining, heat treating and finishing in-house, to the customer's specifications.
"The new equipment we acquired from AIW helped vertically integrate us," Scott said. "The hardware manufacturing ties into our existing operations and has been profitable because it is low-volume, high-value and very customer-specific."
This year, Global Door Controls offered Thermal Metal the opportunity to take over the remainder of AIW, which included sales/customer service, distribution and supply chain management.
Although this meant venturing into completely new territory, Thermal Metal's owners didn't hesitate.
About 10 employees are currently associated with Longleaf Bronze, including new workers hired to handle areas such as inventory control and national sales. Scott estimates that Thermal Metal will have about $700,000 invested in the project.
In a three-year, noncompete agreement with Global Door Controls, Longleaf Bronze will focus on the decorative hardware market and use the licensed brand name Architectural Ironworks for its products, which are available only through showrooms.
Global Door Controls focuses on the non-decorative sector sold through Lowe's Home Improvement or The Home Depot, and Longleaf Bronze will manufacture product to support this business sector as well.
Aberdeen and Moore County have each approved financial assistance to help offset Thermal Metal's expenses for moving and setting up AIW's equipment at its plant here.
Scott said Thermal Metal will continue to look for ways to improve all aspects of the business, especially from an environmental perspective.
"We want to implement an ecological approach to our processes, such as using recycled packaging for our products," he said.
"Thermal Metal is a great local industry success story," Ogden said. "They have a long history in Aberdeen. Now they've expanded and adapted the company to survive in today's manufacturing environment, and to help accomplish this, they've taken advantage of readily available local resources to provide direction and assistance.
"We hope other of our existing businesses and industries will realize that many of the resources they need to grow or diversify are available right here in Moore County. And their growth is certainly vital to a prosperous local economy."
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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