Mohawk Metal expands with new Vancouver shop

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Mohawk Metal, a fast-growing Eugene, Ore., metal fabricator, has expanded into Vancouver.

After establishing a base of customers in the Portland-Vancouver area in the past few years, the custom metal fabrication company opened a 20,000-square-foot shop last month at 3825 N.E. 68th St. in Vancouver.

The new facility has five employees and will grow to 12 or 15 by the end of the year, co-owner Tony Bloom said.

Mohawk has 70 employees at its 35,000-square-foot shop off Prairie Road in northwest Eugene. The company's employment is up 10-fold from five years ago. The expansion to the Portland market will position the company to respond quickly when the economic recovery takes hold, Bloom said.

"We wanted to have a boost in sales right now and help balance things out, but the main reason for opening that plant was looking ahead when the economy comes back," he said. "It almost doubles our available capacity to the market," he said.

Despite the recession, the company has managed to grow in recent years by broadening its customer base and buying new equipment.

Today, the company offers an array of services, making parts for recycling equipment — Bulk Handling Systems in Eugene is a customer — and pellet and natural gas stoves, and backing up smaller fabrication shops that lack Mohawk's equipment, Bloom said.

Mohawk sought new customers because "we've kind of peaked in the market here (in Eugene)," Bloom said.

Mohawk gained a foothold in the Portland-Vancouver area by hiring a full-time sales person who lived there and a part-time manufacturer's representative, he said.

When potential customers said they liked Mohawk's service and quality and they would book more orders if the company had a shop there, Mohawk's owners, Bloom and David Sheflin, listened.

Mohawk has spent $1.5 million to equip the 20,000-square-foot Vancouver shop, including installing a robotic welder and a large laser-cutting machine, which workers use to cut flat metal parts that are then welded into products.

Since opening the Vancouver shop, the amount of work from that area has grown from about 5 percent of Mohawk's total work to about 40 percent.