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In the business downturn after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism, Robert Weaver lost his job as a sales engineer for a Toledo mold and die shop.
He didn t look for another job. He created one and eventually seven by starting his own company. He recruited three workers from the same firm he once worked for, and by early 2002, Weaver Tool LLC was up and running.
Starting my own shop was something I always wanted to do, said Mr. Weaver.
Mr. Weaver said he and his partners Ed Albright, Tom Stadler, and Phil Lenke got a $300,000 bank loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration to buy equipment such as computer-controlled milling machines, a lathe, and a radial-arm drill. And the fledgling company rented 6,000 square feet of space in a larger building on Sulier Drive in Temperance.
The startup firm was aided by his father, William Weaver, who is a silent partner in the venture.
The elder Mr. Weaver ran Modern Pattern & Plastics, the Toledo firm that made the tooling for Chevrolet s first fiberglass-bodied Corvette models more than half a century ago. He later sold the business to the old Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., where he retired as a senior vice president.
I have confidence in the [Weaver Tool] business, said the elder Mr. Weaver. It was a difficult decision, but he decided he could make a go of it. It s still a startup, but I m very proud of his work. It has always been a dream of his, and it came to pass.
The younger Mr. Weaver, who goes by Rob, said Weaver Tool had revenue of about $900,000 last year mostly from building prototype molds for injection-molded plastic auto parts made by such suppliers as Visteon Corp., plants in southeastern Michigan, and Bosch Group s operations in South Bend and Albion, Ind.
Business is good enough, he said, for the firm to have $1.2 million in sales in 2005.
Typically, Weaver Tool starts with computerized designs and specifications for such parts as fan blades, shrouds, and heating and air-conditioning parts, and then builds aluminum molds that produce the prototype parts. From start to finish, the prototype process usually takes four to six weeks.
Timing is very critical for prototypes, Mr. Weaver pointed out. Typically, the customer is behind the 8 ball and already in the panic stage. It s important to deliver on time A lot of business is pretty much cost-driven, but you have to do a good job to compete with bigger shops.
He has been competitive in his pricing and quick in turnaround, Mark Bunge, a product engineer at Visteon s Van Buren Township, Mich., headquarters, said of Mr. Weaver. The customer support is outstanding.
Mr. Weaver said his firm is expanding its customer base, and demand is growing. The tooling business is doing better, and that s a good sign the economy will do better, he said.
Contact Homer Brickey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.
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