The owners of Canyon Electronics & Cables are committed to keeping their company in Grand Junction, Colo., and they’ve invested $800,000 in a building and equipment to prove it.
That commitment is one of the reasons Business Incubator Center Executive Director Thea Chase Gilman nominated the company for the award. "Their motivation to affect lives in a positive way is just astounding," Chase Gilman says.
Steve Kramer, James Prinster and Ernie Young created the company after Thermo Automation, the company the three worked for, announced it would close. Canyon Electronics — a contract electronics manufacturing services provider — was founded April 1, 2002, three days after Thermo Automation shut its doors. Canyon produces custom cables, wire harnesses, printed circuit boards and electromechanical assemblies for low- to moderate-volume manufacturers of electrical and electronic products, such as automotive parts manufacturers and makers of scientific instruments.
Prinster learned about the incubator from friends and colleagues — including his father, who is involved in local economic development projects — and talked with Chase Gilman about how to set up a company. The partners rented an office in the incubator while they created their business plan. "The incubator provided us with some space we could call our own," Kramer says. It also provided business plan formats, spreadsheet templates, and industry comparisons; reviewed the company’s research on competitors and prospective customers in the region; guided them in setting up payroll, cost allocation and pricing, and other business systems; and made interns available for a variety of tasks.
One major task was to seek certification from the International Organization for Standardization, which develops standards that help make products safe, reliable, efficient and interchangeable. Achieving ISO 9001:2000 certification required Canyon Electronics to develop an ISO Quality Management System for activities such as purchasing, customer satisfaction and continuous improvement of manufacturing processes.
Although it’s unusual for a company the size of Canyon to be ISO certified, it was worth the effort. "It’s actually a critical component of our marketing and is the backbone or our manufacturing processes," Prinster says. "It’s a sign of confidence for customers and highly recognized in this industry."
Once the business was ISO certified, the company nearly doubled its growth every six months. In less than two years, the company grew from two employees to 10 full-time and two part-time workers. By April 2005, it had more than 20 employees, some of whom had worked at Thermo Automation.
Initially Canyon Electronics sought customers within a 500-mile radius, but the partners soon realized they needed to identify customers who had an immediate need for the company’s services — which meant casting a wider net online.
"That started to attract business nationally, which really jump-started our company," Kramer says. Key to that success is Globalspec, a vertical search engine designed specifically for engineers and other purchasers looking for certain services or products. Kramer learned about Globalspec while looking for ways to increase Canyon’s Internet visibility. Canyon acquired about $300,000 in new contracts in its first year with Globalspec, helping the company’s total revenue skyrocket from $60,000 in 2002 to $845,000 in 2004.
Canyon’s rapid growth required some creative cooperation between the company and the incubator, where existing manufacturing space was already full when Canyon was ready to begin production. But the incubator was expanding, so it gave up its training room — a high-bay space with a concrete floor — to Canyon. The incubator’s mechanical expert decided where to install electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems for the company’s equipment, and Canyon hired contractors to adapt the space.
As Canyon grew, it took over former incubator staff offices as office and storage space. The company even moved Chase Gilman out of her office while she was on vacation, advancing her move into a new office. "You have to have flexible space for these companies," she says, laughing.
Canyon Electronics eventually took over the manufacturing building’s conference room. When another client graduated, Canyon expanded again, to occupy a total of 3,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space.
"The fact that we could have a place of our own immediately and transfer into a manufacturing facility would have been hard to duplicate anywhere else," Kramer says.
On Dec. 1, 2004, the company began manufacturing in a 6,000-square-foot building it purchased and retrofitted. With business tripling every six months, the company is already outgrowing its new space. "The growth is pretty stressful, but we have a lot of fun here," Prinster says.
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