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Past Winners


Modern Technologies and Machinery Inc.

Modern Technologies and Machinery Inc. manufactures trim presses used to finish castings in the foundry industry. The design of these trim presses, which cut excess metal from castings, uses integrated systems that increase productivity, accuracy and safety in foundry cleaning rooms.

Pat Thomas started the business in his home, contracting with engineers, software developers and machinists to create the prototype. He sold the first system in November 1996 and incorporated the business in January 1997. He then moved into the Northeast Alabama Entrepreneurial System (NEAES) in 1998, the year the mixed-use incubator opened.

Thomas’ family had operated a foundry that he owned for six years with his brother. "I didn’t intend to get involved in the equipment side of the industry," he says. Ultimately, he did, because of the lack of control that resulted from outsourcing.

"This machine is totally automated," says Giles McDaniel, incubator executive director. "It takes a process that was back in the 19th century ... into the 21st century."

An exclusive clamp design, called POSI-CLAMP™, holds the casting rigid while passing through the trim die. Company engineers also have developed the INTELLI-DIE™ a flexible die that compensates for swelling and shrinkage, ensuring an accurate trim. The company holds patents on the clamp and die.

Other components are integrated into the system to make it more automated, faster and easier to maintain, says Greg Rice, media/marketing director. Modern Technologies customers are primarily automotive parts manufacturers. Trim presses are designed to meet each customer’s needs.

"We’re very, very proud and very excited" about the award, Rice says. "It’s quite an honor."

The most valuable contribution the incubator offered, Rice says, is the contacts made through McDaniel, who introduced Thomas to people in such fields as banking, law and accounting. Thomas also says that the professional appearance the incubator provides is important, as are the services he purchases from other clients in the center.

As a result of flexible space within the incubator, Modern Technologies has been able to expand three times. The company moved into 600 square feet of office space in the incubator in 1998 and contracted out the manufacturing. It now occupies 8,000 square feet of the incubator’s 40,000 square feet of space and employs more than 30 people, working on eight to 10 different projects at one time. In the company’s machine shop, automated equipment allows for as many as 15 different jobs for customers.

In less than three years after Thomas founded the company, revenue tripled — without outside investors or financial assistance. The company, which had total 1998 revenues of $1.4 million, expected to reach $12 million in revenues for fiscal year 2000 and to increase personnel by at least 35 percent, Rice says.

"It’s been a real asset to the other tenants to see his growth," McDaniel says. "It serves as an inspiration to them. The community is aware of his company. The quality of his company helps us build a total image for our service base here."

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