Grand Junction, Colorado
Industry: Contract Manufacturing.
Products: Custom parts, particularly for the oil and gas industry
Owner Keith Allen is guiding his namesake business to cross-country growth with a focus on the energy sector.
Allen and his partners have taken Bulldog Machine out of its tiny shop in Clifton, Colorado, to become one of the fastest-growing companies in the Grand Valley with operations as far away as North Dakota and Texas.
Before the company's start in 2008, Allen owned and operated a garage door business. One of his customers was an energy company whose owner mentioned some equipment he had to send to Rock Springs, Wyoming, to get serviced and that it cost him about $2,500 every two weeks. Allen told the customer about his brother Tim's machine shop and that Tim might be able to help him. The customer called the next day and Bulldog Machine was born. (Bulldog Machine & Production Services, the original and legal name of the company, rebranded as Allen Industries Manufacturing in 2019.)
"In 2008, we had two guys in the shop," Allen says. What a difference a decade makes: Now there are 27 employees in the Grand Junction shop as the company has expanded to the Dakotas as a part owner of Dakota Energy Technologies, a machine shop serving the Bakken area from Killdeer, North Dakota. Soon it will have a third operation in West Texas.
Allen recently acquired a 4,000-square-foot shop in the Midland-Odessa area, the heart of the oil-rich Permian Basin. The shop will service the oil and gas industry with quick turnarounds on parts used in drilling. Where oil exploration companies might have had to wait weeks or months for a new part, Allen says, the new shop can supply it quickly, sometimes overnight.
Allen says the company's revenue hit $3.7 million in 2018 and he expects a similar result in 2019. It now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot facility in Grand Junction that includes CNC mills and lathes, a pressure-testing facility, and a fabrication shop. It received the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expansion Award in 2012 and 2013.
Allen has been traveling to West Texas frequently in recent months and closed on the new shop in June 2019. The shop also has a house on the property where employees can live. He expects the shop will gain traction in the Permian Basin with quick repairs on machinery like drill stems that need new threads.
"We can turn it and get it back the next day," he says. "There's a lot of stuff like that that doesn't sit on a shelf. They don't want to wait two months to get it repaired. We think we can fill that niche immediately and that will lead us to more manufacturing in Grand Junction. The pins wear out on a pump jack all the time. We can turn that and deliver them in a month. That's how we grew Bulldog Machine."
Although the company's main focus has been oil and gas, it does work for many other industries, including wind generation, mining, and ski lifts. An early customer was ski-lift manufacturer Leitner-Poma. "We make big, heavy things," Allen says. "When the energy side goes well, we do well."
It's because of the financial fortunes of the energy industry that Allen closely follows political events in that area. He hasn't been a fan of restrictions placed on drilling in Colorado. He says he was happy when Proposition 112 was rejected by the state's voters in November 2018, but dismayed when government efforts were taken to increase the setback for oil and gas drilling.
Challenges: "In Colorado, it's the politicians," says Allen. "Honestly that's one of our biggest challenges because of the regulations and things they put on energy. In Grand Junction that's a big deal to us. There isn't a lot of manufacturing in the valley. We do work for most of the big manufacturers there."
Opportunities: Allen says the company's biggest opportunity now is opening a facility in the Odessa-Midland, Texas, area of the oil-rich Permian Basin. "They welcome this type of industry," he says.
Needs: Allen says he needs sales. "Our biggest needs right now are trying to pull more work into the shop. That's the biggest deal right there. There are some equipment needs, some machinery needs we need to address in the next year. That's always kind of a need."