NILES - Economic warning alarm bells were going crazy in late summer 2008.
Giant financial service Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15, becoming the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1,874 points, a whopping 18 percent, the first week of October.
Pouring molten metal at Trumbull Metal Specialties
Sounds like a perfect time to risk your family's house, savings and all other assets to open a metal casting plant, right?
For Corey Jarvis and his wife, Joyce, it turned out the worst economic recession in 70 years was the right time to do exactly that. His Trumbull Metal Specialities has done nothing but grow since he bought the closed Indalex plant on Henry Street on Niles' south side on Oct. 15, 2008 - and the growth shows no signs of slowing.
"We finished 2008 with 12 people, including myself and my wife. In 2009, we finished with 18 people. My expectation is at the end of 2010 we'll be in excess of 30 people," he said.
Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
Workers at Trumbull Metal Specialties in Niles pour molten metal heated to 2,800 degrees into a sand mold to make a cast part.
The order book is full three months out, setting a pace to double sales to $3 million this from last. He's adding a second shift to handle demand.
It didn't always look so rosy. Jarvis, 41, said he had trouble sleeping some nights as he launched the business, but he felt he was starting from a solid base. He had 11 years of experience running a casting shop in Wellsville, plus prior years working with the U.S. Department of Defense while at Penn State University. He had customers and a core of loyal workers. He had a good business plan.
Even so, things looked iffy, especially as the economy worsened in September 2008.
"I still had to go bank to bank, and kept getting turned down," he recalled.
Jarvis said his breakthrough came when he found Warren attorney Tom Nader and accountant Pat O'Connor, who guided him through government loan programs.
Backing from Trumbull County through the Reinvestment Partnership Corp. - along with pledging every asset he had - paved the way to working with Key Bank and the Small Business Administration to fund the business.
"The SBA called it the 'all-in game.' You liquidate everything - your 401(k) retirement, house, savings. They leave you with maybe two months worth of your money," Jarvis said.
Without a job, and with his Canfield home, plus savings, on the line, he was in debt by more than $1.5 million, with six to eight weeks to start generating income.
"I was completely out of money, personally and business-wise," he said.
But he had a lifelong mechanical background from his family's Jarvis Auto Repair shop on the old state Route 82 hill in Howland, plus a background in industrial engineering from Kent State University.
He also was determined to do what it took succeed.
''We're a job shop. We'll make about anything for anyone. Most foundries do five or 10 combinations of metal; we do thousands in all sizes of orders,'' he said. "My philosophy is the only way I can survive is to be willing to try about anything."
Using electric induction furnaces from Ajax Magnethermic in nearby Howland, workers heat scrap metal to between 2,400 degrees and 3,100 degrees, depending on the alloy mixture.
Workers then pour the molten metal into sand molds containing the pattern for the customer's part. The company casts hitches for the the military in Afghanistan, peep hole covers for coke plants, engine heads for vintage Ford Model T cars, cast iron wrenches and a wide variety of other parts.
Customers range from as far away as Australia and The Phillipines to as close as steel tubemakers Wheatland Tube in Howland and V&M Star in Youngstown, along with Glunt Industries in Warren.
Jarvis credits many people for helping him survive and thrive the past two years. His wife, Joyce, staffs the office when she's not taking care of their two daughters, ages 11 and 8. His brother-in-law, Angelo Fakkas, and Steve Rea, both quit their jobs to join his venture, plus support from his father, Don, retired longtime business manager for Howland Schools.
Most of all, Jarvis said he loves metal casting.
"Ninety-seven percent of all durable goods have a metal casting in them. The metal zipper on a pair of pants is a metal casting. It's base manufacturing," he said. "I'm passionate about what I do."