American manufacturing was hard-hit during the economic downturn, with outfits big and small slashing jobs to stay afloat. But C&A Tool in Northeast Indiana managed to not only keep its doors open, but also grow during a time of true struggle for so many businesses.
The company has humble roots, starting out more than 40 years ago in a garage with 10 employees as a tool & die shop. Today, it has 530 employees, 750,000 square feet of space and is averaging year-over-year growth of nearly 10%, creating American manufacturing jobs in the face of economic turmoil.
Vice President Rob Marr says the business has been able to continue its growth streak by being receptive to changes in the economy, and adapting. According to Marr,
C&A saw $63 million in annual revenues in 2012.
“Manufacturing is not an easy business—you have to go through an evolution,” he says. “It is very dynamic. We started out in a garage, and continued to grow and develop, and got involved in contract manufacturing. We evolved into engineered products, into higher-volume manufacturing, and it has really worked for us.”
C&A is a privately-held company, currently contracting work in jet engine production, power generation and industrial markets. The company is also working in additive manufacturing, producing metal prototypes and production parts in just hours.
According to Boston Consulting Group, the U.S. is on the verge of a “manufacturing renaissance.” Marr agrees, and says C&A Tool is on its toes.
“People had a premature thought that manufacturing was on the decline,” he says. “But technology is very rapid, and you have to evolve. It’s very easy to get leap-frogged. You have to maintain your competitive advantage.”
The company is also paying it forward and training the next generation of manufacturing workers. For the past 36 years, C&A has partnered with local high schools to offer part-time jobs to more than 60 students during the school day. C&A also offers continuing education to its own workers, so they too can advance themselves within their career.
“It depends on your work ethic and what is involved,” Marr says. “In so many businesses, you are only as good as your last job. We have a great group of people to work with, and a great base.”