Terry and Mary Shawhan sat down more than five years ago and took an inventory of their options. Terry had worked as the operations manager at an architectural sheet metal business that folded.

Terry and Mary Shawhan sat down more than five years ago and took an inventory of their options. Terry had worked as the operations manager at an architectural sheet metal business that folded.

With Terry’s vast knowledge of sheet metal and Mary’s 20 years of experience in management positions, the couple started Shawhan Sheet Metal. The company will celebrate its fifth anniversary on Feb. 18.

“It was a fortunate time in our lives because we already had some assets that we could covert into cash to start a business,” Mary Shawhan said. “We talked about several business plans over a couple of months. I actually kind of fought it because we had been in a business before that didn’t work. Everything was right for us to do it. We had good people that we knew we could bring into the company.”

While Shawhan Sheet Metal and several other Independence manufacturers are praising successes, reports released earlier this month indicated that manufacturing as a whole is declining nationwide.

 According to the December 2008 Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management Report On Business, economic activity in the manufacturing sector failed to grow in December for the fifth consecutive month. In December, none of the manufacturing industries reported growth.

The monthly report is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide. The Institute for Supply Management has issued the report since 1931, except for a four-year interruption during World War II. The Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management Report On Business for January 2009 will be released Monday morning.

“Knock on wood, we really haven’t been affected by the recession,” Shawhan said. “Part of that is because we have two of the best estimators that work in sheet metal.”

Estimators, Shawhan said, are the equivalent of salespeople. They sell the jobs by using project blueprints to estimate how much money it will require to complete a project and retain some profit. Shawhan Sheet Metal provides custom sheet metal for building exteriors, including standing seam metal roofs and metal wall panels.


Shawhan Sheet Metal also was fortunate in the jobs that it was able to obtain in 2008. The company is now starting work on several jobs that it signed a contract for a year ago, Shawhan said.

“The type of jobs that we were able to acquire were publicly funded instead of privately funded,” she said. “We’ve heard stories of other contractors that have a bit of a backlog, but then it comes time to do the work and the funding is not there anymore.

“In a lot of these privately funded projects that are funded through banks, the owner is terminating for convenience because funding hasn’t come through. That hasn’t happened to us yet, but we don’t have a lot of privately funded contracts. The margins aren’t so great on those (the publicly funded projects), but we’re working, so we’re grateful for that. I’m feeling pretty good about keeping our workforce active in 2009.”

In September 2008, the Independence Council for Economic Development staff members and business retention committee volunteers performed survey interviews for ICED’s manufacturing and industrial sector business retention survey. Thirty companies out of about 90 manufacturers in Independence participated in the survey, said Tom Lesnak, ICED president.

Lesnak said the survey’s most surprising result was its manufacturing and industry sector evaluation. Based on the questions of the Synchronist survey, the companies’ growth potential and value to the community were plotted on a graph in four sections – high growth/low value, high value/high growth, low value/low growth and high value/low growth.

Only three Independence companies fell in the lower left-hand corner of low value/low growth.

“As a community, you want all of your companies in the upper right hand corner,” Lesnak said. “It really gave us an overall picture of the companies that we surveyed. We’ve got a few that are red-flagged companies, but we continue to work with them because there’s opportunity to move them up the scale.”

A-Z Manufacturing is an additional Independence company that continues to thrive. Sue Barclay, president and owner of A-Z Manufacturing, said the company is a “job shop that makes everything to print for its customers” with lasers, punch presses, press brakes and welding.

Barclay’s father, Donald Edward DeTray, started the company in 1941. A-Z is working to enter new markets and purchase new equipment to expand its capabilities, Barclay said. Several weeks ago, the company upgraded its software and purchased new modules to track its metrics and key data more efficiently.

Manufacturing plays an important role in the U.S. economy, Barclay said. She emphasized the need for manufacturing industries to expand and compete in a global economy. 

“We have to compete with the global market, and so that requires that we look at more efficient ways of doing things and new technology,” she said. “I think it’s important that we keep manufacturing on a local basis within the country. We need the jobs that manufacturing creates. I think we need to be proud of the fact that things are American-made.”

 

 

Manufacturing: On the rise or decline?
 

According to the 2009 Missouri Manufacturers Register, a compilation of state industry published annually by Manufacturers’ News Inc., industrial employment in Missouri dropped 3 percent from July 2007 to July 2008.

 

Manufacturers’ News, which has published manufacturers’ directories since 1912, reported that Missouri is home to more than 9,000 manufacturers that employ more than 400,000 workers.

 

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector failed to grow in December 2008 for the fifth consecutive month, according to the Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management Report On Business.

 

In December, none of the manufacturing industries reported growth. New orders have contracted for 13 consecutive months and are on the lowest level of record going back to January 1948, according to the December ISM report. The Manufacturing ISM Reporter On Business is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide.