Metal fabricator gets new name, new location

Kenneth Rawson recently moved his Milwaukee-based metal fabrication company from 5150 N. 32nd St. two miles southeast to 4200 W. Douglas Ave., and changed the company’s name from Fastech Fabrication to Rawson Metal Fabrication.

Rawson purchased the 28,000-square-foot Douglas Avenue building for about $550,000. His company is occupying 15,000 square feet of space in the building. The remaining 13,000 square feet is occupied by Unimex LLC, another metal fabrictor.

“Having a tenant helps pay the mortgage,” Rawson said.

Rawson’s company had been a tenant, occupying about 12,000 square feet of space, in a multi-tenant building on 32nd Street.

“We’ve been looking at property for quite some time,” Rawson said. “I looked at buying (the 32nd Street) building, but it wasn’t a good investment. Then this one became available, and it’s just perfect for what we want to do.”

The Douglas Avenue building provides a large contiguous space, plus an overhead crane. The space in the 32nd Street building was split up into several compartments, and it did not have an overhead crane.

Rawson, who received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, started his company in 1999 after working for SuperSteel Inc., Tower Automotive, Wire & Metal Specialties, A.O. Smith and Inryco. His company was originally located in a small space in Brown Deer.

In its early years, Rawson’s company grew on the back of the boom, making sheet metal parts for electric cabinets for servers and other high tech applications.

“We were working two 10-hour shifts to keep up with that,” he said. “That went away over night.”

Since the bubble burst, Rawson’s firm has slowly built a

more diverse customer base. Today, the company has six employees and between $500,000 and $1 million in annual revenues.

“Now I try to do more work for OEMs directly,” he said.

The latest move was the fourth relocation for the 8-year-old company. Rawson said the City of Milwaukee location does have some advantages.

“It’s affordable,” he said. “Three-fourths of my employees live within two miles of the place. One of my customers is just down the road. All of my customers are pretty much local, most are in the city. It’s convenient. If there’s an issue I can run over there or have them run over here.”

Rawson said he may consider adding more divisions to Rawson Metal Fabrication by acquiring other manufacturing companies.

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