Jason Moore, owner of Pro West Mechanical, Inc., in Yakima, knew that the 15-year-old business was at a crossroads. After securing some key contracts and new clients they were well positioned for tremendous growth. The company was diversifying by adding new services while growing their industrial spray painting and finishing business—and this was in addition to expanding their original metal fabrication, manufacturing, and assembly services. But this growth would bring with it a new set of challenges.
Any business on the verge of expansion has experienced it at one time or another. That critical point where the company needs to expand in order to serve more clients, but the act of expansion itself is costly, rife with risk, and can lead to down time and lost contracts—all situations that run counter to production, customer satisfaction, and the original goal.
Brandon Bushbaum, head of Business Acquisitions with Pro West Mechanical, put it this way, “the only thing limiting our growth was our floor space. We couldn’t grow our client base because we just didn’t have the room to work on their projects.”
That’s when the team made a difficult, yet crucial decision: it was time to find a new location that could accommodate their future growth.
Pro West Mechanical fabricates and installs highly specialized agricultural machinery, metal fabrication and provides industrial spray painting services. From a custom made spiral production chiller at the Ivar’s Clam Chowder production facility in Mukilteo to an integrated catwalk system in a fruit packing warehouse installed in Wenatchee, any project with their name on it has become synonymous with capability and quality. And they’ve been doing all this out of a 15,000 square foot facility.
“When we first began thinking about moving to a new facility,” said Moore, “we knew we wanted to be near one of our largest clients, McClaren Plastics. It just made strategic and economic sense.”
But as the team began searching, they couldn’t locate an existing facility large enough to accommodate their projected operations, and there definitely wasn’t time to build.
“We were between a rock and a hard place,” explained Moore. “As much as we didn’t want to—Yakima is our home— we realized we may have to look at relocating to Idaho or eastern Oregon.”
That was until they spoke to their key contacts at McClaren Plastics who were familiar with their situation and knew the benefits of keeping them nearby. “They told us to talk to Yakima County Development Association.”
Yakima County Development Association (YCDA) is the economic development organization for Yakima County—and one of their primary objectives is to retain jobs and to assist local companies with expansion.
“McClaren Plastics referred us to YCDA, so we picked up the phone. And that phone call was a game changer” said Bushbaum.
Jonathan Smith, Executive Director for YCDA said “when we got the call we immediately knew how important it was to keep this company in our valley. They currently employ 30 people, and with their expansion they could easily surpass 90. And these are well paying, skilled jobs.”
After the call, Smith hopped in his car and drove down to McClaren Plastics and noticed there was a large, apparently vacant building right next door.
“It was a former can manufacturing facility, and at first blush appeared to be ideal. We reached out to the Yakama Land Enterprise who owns the building and scheduled a tour with the folks from Pro West.”
Not long after, in June of 2016, Pro West signed a lease for the 75,000 square foot warehouse located in the Yakama Nation Industrial Park in Wapato, WA.
“I don’t think we could have found a more fitting location,” said Bushbaum. “The size accommodates our growth, it opens all sorts of new possibilities for us, and our biggest client, McClaren Plastics, is literally our neighbor. It’s unbelievable how this fell into place”
The new building, although ideally located, required some updating. New lighting, heating and air conditioning upgrades, and installation of an exhaust system to support new industrial paint booths had to be completed.
“It presented a fiscal and planning challenge for us,” explained Bushbaum. “By this time we had already secured a new client and had begun moving some of our processes over to the new facility—but it was going to cost us over $500,000 out of pocket for all the needed improvements to get up and running and meet the needs of our new client and production lines. The situation was tense to say the least, and during an expansion effort like this cash flow gets tied up rather quickly.”
The team at YCDA were aware of economic development programs and incentives that could potentially help offset some of the burden and ease the expansion transition for Pro West. Smith began coordinating with the Washington State Department of Commerce, reaching out to Terry Lawhead, Community Outreach Program Facilitator, and Jaclyn Woodson, Program Manager, to evaluate Pro West’s options.
“Our objective when assisting a growing company is to do whatever we can to make certain they have a successful expansion,” said Smith.
Given the time sensitive nature of Pro West’s expansion, YCDA and the Department of Commerce felt strongly that Pro West would be a good candidate to apply for funding through the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund. With the assistance of the Department of Commerce and YCDA, an application was submitted to the Governor’s office and a $150,000 grant was awarded to help finance the public infrastructure needed to upgrade the building.
“We appreciate how the folks at YCDA, the Department of Commerce, and the Governor’s Office pulled all the stops to make this happen. This grant helped us bridge a critical financial gap and accelerate our expansion and the move to our new facility,” Bushbaum said. “Without it the move wouldn’t have been possible at this level.”
Moore expects to have the building improvements finished and the production paint line operational by the end of August, 2017. “This will enable us to service our new clients as well as increase our productivity. We will be painting 15-20 units per day and project upwards of 40 units per day once we are functioning at peak efficiency.”
With this growth comes new jobs, and Pro West anticipates hiring 60 additional employees bringing full time employment to a total 90 jobs. They’ve already hired a new engineer and estimator, and will add many more fabrication, painting, and installation positions as they grow into the new space.
An economic impact assessment of the project revealed that the 90 full time employees at Pro West will support an additional 46 jobs elsewhere in the economy. With an average annual wage of more than $56,000 those jobs will generate an additional $5 million in spending on things like groceries and eating out, home furnishings, clothing, and other household items.
“One of the recent hires at Pro West is an individual who grew up in the Yakima Valley but moved away because there were better job opportunities elsewhere,” said Smith. “Now there are better job opportunities here so he is back. This is a perfect example of why we do what we do.”