Wired for growth

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The Waukesha County Economic Development Corp. (WCEDC) recently finalized a $100,000 loan to Wisconsin Wire Works to help pay for the company’s $1.1 million expansion and relocation.
Wisconsin Wire Works, which makes custom copper and copper alloy for welding, moved in February from a 7,500-square-foot building in Muskego to a 33,000-square-foot building in Wales.
The loan given to Wisconsin Wire Works was part of WCEDC’s Revolving Loan Fund, which is capitalized through the Urban Counties Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Wisconsin Wire Works also received loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration and Park Bank for the remaining $1 million in financing for the project. The money will help pay for the new building and machinery.
The company has purchased several pieces of new equipment in the months just before and after the move. Some of the new equipment has arrived in the last month.
In addition, the firm has hired two additional employees this year and may add one more by the end of the year.
Wisconsin Wire Works was founded 10 years ago. Back then, the company had no employees, other than the five partners who started the business. And one of them was a silent partner, leaving four men to work inside their newly leased commercial building in Muskego’s industrial park.
The company was not ready to send its first shipment of wire until nine months after it was founded, making for some quiet times in the shop.
"We washed our cars a lot," recalled John Turriff, one of the three partners who are still active in the business. "And we washed our spouses’ cars a lot."
The partners had decades of wire manufacturing business experience behind them, and each specializes in different areas.
"We put all of our resources and knowledge together," he said. "We had a good combo to cover all the bases, and penetrate the market."
Turriff, Tony Olveda and Rob Pearson still show up for work at 7 a.m. each day, but they’re not the only ones working in at Wisconsin Wire Works anymore. The firm now has six other full-time employees helping to run the company’s fleet of machines.
The company’s new Wales building, a former tool and die shop, is more than four times the size of its former location in Muskego.
Turriff said space constraints in Muskego were one of the things that limited the amount of orders the company could handle. Because of the lack of storage areas, Turriff said, he and his workers regularly stored materials outside while they were working, only to have to bring them back inside at the end of the day.
"It could be pretty rough," he said. "We had to be cognizant of our ordering so it didn’t get in the way of operating (the machines)."
Wisconsin Wire Works’ products are used for making welds in the automotive parts and supplies, mining, ship-building and defense markets.
Sitting near the company’s loading docks are large spools of wire, which are stretched, heated and coiled to customer specifications.
The company also does some fabrication for customers that need welding done but lack space or qualified welders.
Moving to the larger space has provided room for the company to add the new machines. Those, in turn, will enable it to produce more wire, which has Turriff thinking the company will grow its net income in 2004.
"This year, I think we’ll do about 50 percent better in sales," he said. "The potential is there if we can get the material out fast enough."
Last year, the company shipped about 500,000 pounds of finished product. Turriff is predicting it will ship at least 650,000 pounds in 2004.
"This is going to be a good year for us," he said. "And that’s with the move in there."
All of the company’s machines that were housed in the old location had to be taken apart before they could be moved, adding more time to the process, Turriff said.
Turriff said the company had been looking to move for several years before it found its new location in Wales. The firm had even considered constructing its own building in Washington County.
"We sort of jumped on it – it was the right fit," Turriff said. "It’s hard to find a long building. And this one was 240 feet in length. It was one of the longest we could find."
The company needed a long building because some of its machines require a significant amount of length, some with wire stretched in the air more than more than 30 feet.
Turriff said the company’s expansion over the past year will satisfy its needs for now and into the near future, but he is not ruling out additional growth.
"And our cars are a lot dirtier now," Turriff said.
The WCEDC focuses on helping existing business in Waukesha County grow, rather than trying to attract businesses from around the nation to move to the county, said Bill Mitchell, president of the organization.
"Helping them expand is a heck of a better investment," Mitchell said.
Since its inception, the WCEDC’s Revolving Loan Fund has created or retained more than 90 jobs through loans to 41 businesses, totaling $4.1 million.
"We’re in business to help Waukesha County, and this is one way that happens," Mitchell said.
Info box:
Wisconsin Wire Works
Owners: Tony Olveda, Rob Pearson and John Turriff
Location: 319 Universal St., Wales
Product: Copper and copper alloy wire for welding
Founded: 1994
Web site: www.wisconsinwireworks.com
October 1, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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