By Eric Peterson | Aug 18, 2016
(Publisher's note: Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for vice president, visited Lakewood, Colorado manufacturer Primus Aerospace this week. We're pleased to highlight the following profile that originally appeared in August 2015 and provide additional context for Kaine's campaign stop in Colorado.)
Brodsky bought the company in 1998 when Primus had six employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue.
In 2007, revenue hit $5 million and he sold 30 percent of the company. Revenues have since exceeded $20 million -- and Brodsky bought that 30 percent back.
"We started out in 3,500 square feet and now we're in 43,000 square feet," says Brodsky, noting that growth has typically topped 20 percent but exceeded 60 percent in 2014.
Aside from a sliver of sales in medical, the business is split evenly between commercial aerospace and defense.
In commercial aerospace, Primus is a Tier 1 and Tier 2 subcontractor for a who's who of aerospace, including Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, and NASA "We're a full-service supplier," says Brodsky. "We will work on prototyping and development and we will supply their long-term production programs as well."
The company specializes in the complicated project that "doesn't get outsourced to low-cost countries," he adds. "We can almost do anything in our niche. . . . A lot of our competitors are local machine shops that just machine components. We're just a much broader base of services."
Primus only entered the latter market five years ago. "We started dabbling in defense and the defense work proliferated," says Brodsky. The company is "primarily Tier 2" for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Kaman, Brodsky says, with work on projects like the Joint Strike Fighter and CH-53 helicopters as well as weapons systems.
In 2013, Primus acquired Southwest Wind Power and renamed it Primus Wind Power. The 10-employee company has 150,000 windmills in service worldwide. "There are a lot of synergies in the manufacturing process between wind turbines and the aerospace systems we build," says Brodsky.
Expect further diversification, he adds. "We're looking at acquisitions as part of our growth strategy."
Staying on the front end of innovation has been a key for growth. "One of the secrets in our sauce is we do take advantage of the latest and greatest automation in our industry," Brodsky explains. "We are reducing our labor requirements every year."
Case in point: Primus invested $2 million in automation and other high-tech equipment in 2014 alone. The company bought several seven- and nine-axis machines that likewise boosted productivity. For one component, "It was a four-operation product on three different machines, and now it's one machine and one-third the time," touts Brodsky.
Challenges: Landing bigger contracts. "The larger we become, the larger the program we need to find for maintaining future growth," Brodsky says. "A, we've got to find them, and B, the sales cycles are longer."
The constant restructuring that comes with growth is another challenge. "It's constant and continuous improvement," he explains. "We actually have a director of continuous improvement."
One more: "Skilled labor's tough with any industry," says Brodsky. "As we become larger, we can recruit higher-skilled employees. We can offer a better career path. With that talent comes a lot of opportunities. Success kind of breeds itself."
Opportunities: Weapons and defense, and commercial aerospace is poised for growth, thanks to an exclusive contract to make a new airline seat that will reduce turnaround times for the flight crews. "It could go on every single airline that exists," says Brodsky. "It provides an economic advantage."
Needs: Capital. "We've always used traditional financing," he says. "We will probably consider outside investment although we will hold off as long as possible. I don't want to give up equity -- too many chefs in the stew."
A remodel and update on the company's facility to increase efficiencies and allow for additional automation is due in the next year or two, potentially followed by another building. "I think we'll outgrow this facility in two years and we'll look for a second manufacturing facility," says Brodsky.