Sparks fly out of a custom-designed welding machine that automatically fastens a stem to a recently punched out metal top used for a hole cover on an electrical power or control box.
It’s just one of the many elements of the thousands of pieces of metal fastenings, hinges and levers produced by Fabtech Supply on Jacksonville’s Southside off of Philips Highway. Fabtech is the key manufacturer of those hinges and similar pieces stamped from sheet metal that keep electrical enclosure power boxes together and is one of the few in the United States that offers the products for industries that have metal enclosures for electrical circuitry or for control command buttons on thousands of different devices.
“Fabtech Supply is one of the largest electrical enclosure hardware manufacturers in the country,” said Alan Ennis, owner of Fabtech.
Ennis is relatively new to the electrical enclosure business. Barely two years ago, he retired from the banking industry in which he worked for 29 years. He retired from TD Bank.
Meanwhile, Chuck Hullunder, the previous Fabtech owner, had passed away in 2014.
Ennis said even though he retired, he was still interested in other opportunities for work post-banking. He got a lead that Fabtech was up for sale and got investment advice to consider purchasing the company. Ennis said he used some of his own capital along with his partner Mike Diaz and a business loan to purchase Fabtch which operated under previous ownership since 1992.
Now Ennis is running the show at Fabtech, which employs 12 people at the factory that has 11,000 square feet of space. While Ennis assumed the helm at Fabtech, he kept the general manager, Gary Gill, and the production manager, Tommy Carter.
Fabtech has hinges, handles, hole covers for electrical wiring and other parts for electrical boxes in every state and there’s no shortage of orders, Ennis said. The company pulled in $2.5 million in annual revenue in 2016.
“Anything that finishes that [electrical] box up and makes it a complete box, we make all the parts for,” Gill said.
“With such a niche, there’s no one else in the country doing it outside of our two main competitors who import from China,” Ennis said. “Having been in the industry for 25 years, we’ve garnered a large segment of the market in respects to this hardware.”
There’s expansion in the future of Fabtech and Carter said that wouldn’t be a surprise because the services at the factory are not slowing down.
“During the last several months, we were highly in demand,” Carter said. “We’ve added on some new people and we’re talking about adding more people. …”
Ennis said the company has expanded into metal fabrication beyond just hinges and handles and similar devices. There’s likely additional work coming for developing pieces for automotive trailers and similar products and the openings for increased manufacturing are currently being considered.
“As manufacturing grows, we will grow,” Ennis said. “But our real growth is going to come from taking the concepts and the ideas of stamping hardware and using that in different industries.”
Most of the business for Fabtech is in geographic areas far removed from Jacksonville, and there probably are few in the local business community who know what the company produces. But Ennis is also hoping that changes soon.
“There are a lot of companies in Jacksonville that need parts stamped. They could have those stamped right here… . We want to expand for sure,” Ennis said.
Ennis acknowledged that he had little background in manufacturing, but it’s turned out to be one of the most thrilling career developments in his life.
“Money is money,” Ennis said. “In banking, it’s hard to differentiate yourself. With a tangible product like this, we’re able to differentiate ourselves a little bit mor e… .”
Drew Dixon: (904-359-4098.