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York's MKT Metal Manufacturing finds opportunity in N.C.

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The leadership team of MKT Metal Manufacturing Inc. is, from left: Troy Rentzel, vice president of building and safety; Ken Brown, president and CEO; Tabitha Musso, secretary and treasurer; and Mike Sunday, COO and vice president of operations.  Rentzel, Brown and Sunday founded the York County fabricator of sheet metal ductwork and HVAC accessories in 2004.
The leadership team of MKT Metal Manufacturing Inc. is, from left: Troy Rentzel, vice president of building and safety; Ken Brown, president and CEO; Tabitha Musso, secretary and treasurer; and Mike Sunday, COO and vice president of operations.  Rentzel, Brown and Sunday founded the York County fabricator of sheet metal ductwork and HVAC accessories in 2004. - (Photo / )

MKT Metal Manufacturing Inc. was looking for a way to expand, and its officers had an eye on the southern U.S., an area that has long drawn manufacturers from other countries.

CEO and Partner Ken Brown found opportunity there when he wasn’t really looking.

Brown was in Wilson, N.C., on business when someone he had met approached him in a parking lot after a meeting and the conversation started. Within a few months, MKT had purchased the fabrication division of a Wilson-based contractor and employed a workforce of 12 people in the Tar Heel state.

“I would like to say it was Divine Intervention,” Brown said. “And I say that with a lot of conviction.”

The deal officially closed on Jan. 1. MKT based in Manchester Township, York County, specializes in fabricating sheet-metal duct work and HVAC accessories. It also provides other services, such as design and pre-assembly of ductwork.

Brown declined to discuss terms of the deal but said MKT bought the fabrication division of an existing contractor, which will continue to operate as a contractor. MKT’s York location will handle finance, sales and estimating functions for the newly acquired division.

A lot of the equipment at the Wilson facility needed some TLC, Brown said. But given the difficulties many companies face in finding skilled workers, the most important asset was the employee base.

“The manpower was important,” Brown said. “Having a good, qualified workforce was critical.”

The deal allowed the workers in Wilson to keep getting paychecks, he added. “They were at a crossroads, so they might have been displaced.”

MKT does business throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Brown said he and his three partners see growth potential in the South, generally, but especially after the federal tax reform enacted late last year.

MKT was founded in 2004 and did less than $1 million in sales its first year. Last year the company ended with more than $17 million in sales. Its goal is to have about $20 million in sales this year, Brown said.

While the tax package at the end of 2017 didn’t directly affect the decision to buy a business in North Carolina, he added, the boost should help with expansion efforts. The Northeast has high taxes and high wages compared to the South, Brown explained.

As U.S. companies bring money back from overseas, he thinks many of them will look at the South. Foreign automakers have been building in states such as Alabama for years, he added, and he thinks the tax breaks will continue to lure foreign investment. The opportunities for other companies to tap some of that growth will be vast, he said.

Kevin Eisenhart, a partner with the professional services firm RKL LLP in Lancaster County, said businesses are just getting a handle on how the tax law will benefit them.

He agreed, though, that the changes will encourage growth because of the lower tax rates — 21 percent for many corporations now — and that will lure investment back from overseas, as well as encourage other companies to invest.

One investment that MKT will continue to make is in its workers, Brown said. The company always has valued training but intends to ramp that up a notch by bringing its apprenticeship program in-house.

The company usually has thick files of applicants who want to work for MKT, Brown said, so managers are not worried that a low unemployment rate will hinder expansion. Even with the downturn during the Great Recession, the company continued to prosper, he said.

“MKT likes to build the human equation,” Brown said. “Our success over the past 14 years is based on the people.”

He said the company pays well, but also offers opportunities for advancement and training.

As an original equipment manufacturer, MKT also focuses on high quality that its workforce believes in and that customers appreciate. That focus will affect how the company grows in the future.

“It is not a matter of just being bigger, but being the best,” Brown said.

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