By DAVID GREEN
The owners of Morenci’s Roth Fabricating Inc. are delighted with their involvement in the supply stream for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s their chance to “support the troops” and develop their business at the same time.
It’s not just Roth that’s happy with its military contracts. Just ask Pennie Southwell, executive director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) based in Jackson. She was in Morenci Friday to present Roth co-owners Shane Sarnac and Simone Haas with an award naming the company the Government Contractor of the Year for Lenawee County.
Southwell hopes the honor doesn’t end there. Of all the businesses in the running for the statewide honor, the list has shrunk to three and Roth is among them.
Southwell doesn’t hand out awards automatically. Some years pass without the county honor, she said.
“You have to be exceptional to get this award,” she said.
The 13 PTAC offices in Michigan follow a common mission: enhancing national defense while building business for state companies. By building a broad base of suppliers, PTAC aims for better products and services at lower costs through increased competition.
Roth Fabricating fits right in with that goal. Take the M-16 rifle racks, for example. It’s a favorite of Sarnac’s because it was the first military contract the company was awarded. It’s also a favorite of his for illustrating how his firm is saving money for the Department of Defense.
When he bid on the job, the Department of Defense was paying $320 for each rack.
“We’ve been able to bring it down to $220 and still make a profit,” he said.
Sarnac said it’s tough finding out everything that’s available for military needs, and that’s where PTAC comes into play. The agency first helps companies obtain the information needed to submit a contract, and then follows up by helping companies get their specifications in order before submitting.
Roth no longer has trouble learning about contracts, Southwell said.
“They’ve been doing this long enough that the feds are coming to them now.”
The company’s defense contracts continue to grow.
“We probably do 200 different items for the military,” Sarnac said.
New jobs coming up in the spring include engine stands used for overhauling Humvee engines, along with a sling to lift the engines. Work will also get underway on a frame that will allow missiles to be transported on vehicles.
Sarnac attributes a large part of the company’s success to a laser cutting system capable of producing steel parts up to an inch thick. The company can produce small quantities of parts without the expensive die press process—what was once the only way to get the job done.
At one time Sarnac and Haas were planning to expand their building this year—the structure is engineered to double in size by adding a twin to the existing building—but instead they invested in a new laser cutter six months ago. Eventually, profits from that machine will pay for the expansion.
Sarnac is careful not to place too many eggs in the military basket.
“We really want to build up our non-military contracts, too,” he said.
Roth recently landed a big project for Hydro Aluminum in Adrian to build equipment for a new line. Roth also does work with local companies including Cargotainer, Adrian Rack, Sauder Woodworking, Aero Corp., Applied Molded Products and Wauseon Manufacturing.
In many cases, it’s a reciprocal relationship, such as the plastic coating done on rifle racks by Adrian Rack. In other cases, it’s a simple matter of practicality. Sauder is great with wood, Sarnac says, but Roth can produce the metal carts Sauder uses much more efficiently.
Sarnac credits Roth’s success to an attitude of adaptability, going back to the company’s founding in 1980 by Jim and Rita Roth.
“That’s how we built this business from day one,” he said. “We’ve done everything under the sun. Whatever you need, we’ll find a way to do it at a good price.”
Not only that, Roth will get it done on time.
“We were late on only one contract last year,” Sarnac said. “We have a very high rating for a fabricator.”
With the new laser in operation—working unattended all through the night—Roth depends less on others to help get the job accomplished.
Roth Fabricating might be needing the other half of their building now that Historically Underutilized Business Zone status (HUBZone) was achieved through the Small Business Administration. Actually, all of Lenawee County is now certified due to the effort of Rep. Tim Walberg.
The HUBZone Empowerment Contracting program became law in 1997 with the goal of encouraging economic development in underutilized small businesses in distressed areas.
In the past, Roth bids had been passed over because the company wasn’t part a HUBZone—even though its prices were cheaper. That shouldn’t happen in the future.
“I can burn and cut with anyone and probably do it cheaper,” Sarnac said. “This puts you in the ball game.”