Special Focus

Like many manufacturers, Ram Jack saw its sales and growth affected by the global recession, but it didn’t let that stop it from making major in­vest­ments. Those investments, as well as concerted efforts to find new markets, are now placing the foundation repair system manufacturer and installer on firm footing as the national economy continues to improve.

There are countless tales of immigrants leaving behind their homeland for a chance to live the American dream with nothing more than a suitcase and unbridled ambition. In the case of Benjamin Platt, the man who founded Platt Luggage 90 years ago in Chicago, this leatherworker from Russia instead used his skills in making suitcases to create a new legacy for his family in the free world.

Dave Berry, chairman of the Magni Group Inc., started a metal finishing company, Depor Industries, in De­troit in 1974. In the beginning, Depor had modest monthly sales, but a license agreement with Diamond Shamrock, an automotive chemical coating supplier, resulted in significant sales growth. Unfortunately, in 1978, Diamond Shamrock licensed another local metal finisher, cutting Depor’s business in half.

Longstanding business relationships and the ability to manufacture many of the products it distributes have contributed to LaSalle Bristol’s position as an industry leader. “Our focus is on providing customers quality products on-time, every time,” says Rick Karcher, CEO of the Elk­hart-based company. Karcher joined the company in 2007 as its CFO, and was promoted to his current position in January 2009. Before arriving at LaSalle Bristol, he worked for several years at Owens Corning, he says.

When Bob Kierlin opened the first Fastenal retail location in Winona, Minn., in 1967, his goals were simple: keep customers coming back with unparalleled service. With more than 2,500 stores today in 13 countries and more than 3,000 onsite industrial vending machines in operation, Kier­lin’s vision of “growth through customer service” for his industrial supply store certainly has been met.

Connecticut Hypodermics Inc. is a leading producer of custom hypodermic needles, cannula, probes, cut tubes and other surgical tools and assemblies for the world’s largest medical device producers. It takes pride in its reputation for quality and reliability, President Steven Tutolo says. His father, Leonard Tutolo, founded the Wallingford, Conn.-based company in 1979 with partner Frank Janowitz. Janowitz provided the financial backing, while Tutolo brought industry knowledge and experience.

As a niche provider of porcelain-on-steel, hand-crafted wood, and specialty ethnic kitchen and cooking products, Columbian Home Products has distinguished itself as the big fish in a small pond. While aluminum and stainless steel have taken over the market for mainstream pots and pans, there is still a strong consumer base in need of items such as stir-fry pans, bamboo steamers, tamale and menudo pots, seafood steamers and turkey roasters – items that are Columbian’s niche.

In manufacturing, how the pieces fit together means as much as the strength of each individual piece. That principle also can be seen at work in how the various components of Cinetic Landis Corp. fit together to make the company one of the leaders in manufacturing grinding machinery and superabrasive tooling for the automotive industry. Mike Sweeney, director of operations for subsidiary CITCO, says the company has operated as a well-oiled machine for generations, and the acquisition of the company six years ago by French firm Fives Group has only bolstered its manufacturing capabilities.

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