Tex Visions set up shop in 2004 with two employees inside the former Murata Business Center in Carlisle.
By the time the business departed the incubator nine years later, it had pretty much taken over Murata because of multiple expansions.
Founder Marcel Ruhland had “no expectations” for Tex Visions when it began, said Nicki Wilson, general manager. The supportive atmosphere provided by Murata, now known as Ben Franklin TechCelerator @ Carlisle, made a major difference, she said.
“Just having the incubator to support them and to have a place to start the business, it probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise, just financially speaking,” she added.
Ruhland, Tex Visions owner and president, left his native Germany for the United States at age 24 with a dream of starting his own business. He began his company the same year. Murata offered discounted utilities and provided an advisory board to help with business development and education.
In the beginning, Tex Visions had close ties to similar German companies that print large-scale marketing flags. The company printed in Germany until it bought its own printers. Within a few years, Tex Visions became one of the leading manufacturers of custom-printed products and display hardware.
The company initially focused on custom flags, with Ruhland analyzing the market, location and competition before making a move, Wilson said.
“When Marcel came here, he had done his research and found Central Pennsylvania to be a great place to start his business,” she said. “That was partly because there was no competition.”
Competition eventually emerged, Wilson said, but those companies are still too far away to threaten Tex Visions’ continued growth.
In addition to custom flags, Tex Visions added banners, umbrellas, flagpoles, hardware, accessories and displays to its portfolio. Its products are shipped all over the United States, Canada, Latin America, and beyond.
The company employs about 55 people, Wilson said, up from about 30 when she joined Tex Visions in 2008.
Keeping current on technology is a major key to Tex Visions remaining a strong player in its field, Wilson said. The company added three new printers in the past year alone, she said.
“Things change, such as print speed and resolution ... so we always have to make sure we’re on top of that,” Wilson explained, “as well as research on competitor pricing so we’re competitive in the market.”
Otherwise, successful small businesses pay attention to the little things, she said. Like customer service, for example. Startup companies with no reputation to lean on cannot afford to be bad at customer relations.
“People want to deal with somebody who is helpful and willing to get back to them,” Wilson said. “If you’re new and you don’t have good customer service, you’re really going to struggle.”
Tex Visions finally left the business incubator last summer, moving into a new facility on
13 acres on Pine Hill Drive, Middlesex Township. The company recently closed on the $2 million Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loan and $3.59 million in additional investment that paid for the 57,600-square-foot manufacturing facility.
David Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp., said Tex Visions is one of Murata’s biggest success stories. The chamber oversees the business incubator.
“That’s every incubator’s dream, to have (a tenant) go out and build a 60,000-square-foot building,” he said.
Tex Visions received a $2 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority to construct its building. The company never had any plans to leave Central Pennsylvania, Wilson said.
“It’s right outside the state capital and it’s really close to (Interstate) 81, which is a huge traffic network,” she said. “So that makes our shipping very streamlined up and down the East Coast.”
As for the future, continued growth is the plan, Wilson said. Tex Visions’ new home has enough space for the company to expand up to 200,000 square feet, Ruhland has said.
“We’re constantly adding new product lines,” she said. “When we started, we were only doing flags, but now we’re doing indoor displays and outdoor displays. We’re really kind of merging into the actual signage market, which we weren’t really in. ... As we go forward, we’ll continue to entertain new industries or products.”
Tex Visions followed the most important key steps for a small business to achieve success, Black said.
“You need capital and you need to manage your money well,” he said. “Marcel set out his goals, he hired good people and he knew what he wanted people to achieve. He knew what his benchmarks were over time, and it all came together for him.”