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Published: Monday, 12/4/2006

Projects Designed and Built Inc. embraces technology

Machinist Mark Bice, right, makes a part in the machine shop of Projects Designed & Built Inc. in North Toledo. Machinist Mark Bice, right, makes a part in the machine shop of Projects Designed & Built Inc. in North Toledo.

The name is straightforward Projects Designed & Built Inc. but there s nothing simple about the eight-year-old Toledo company.

The firm specializes in custom automation, designing machines for manufacturers in a variety of industries, and the only limitations on its 17 employees is their imagination.

We embrace technology here, said owner Ken Martin.

That includes the cutting-edge computer-design programs his engineers use to create machines, as well as the finished products that make the jobs of customers easier, quicker, and more efficient.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a degree in marketing, Mr. Martin spent 15 years successfully selling self-powering transmission equipment for Reliable Belting & Transmission in Toledo.

He was intrigued enough by the equipment he sold that he bought himself a computer design program, taught himself how to design commercial components, made sure they were manufactured, and then delivered them to customers of Reliable Belting.

After two or three years of selling the equipment during the day and designing it at night, Mr. Martin took the advice of his business-owner father and founded Projects Designed in the front room of his home.

He started with just one employee, but Mr. Martin said he thinks the key to the rapid growth of his company was the ability to design machines and then know how to sell the company to potential customers.

Jason Baugher welds steel in the assembly room. Owner
Kenneth Martin started Projects Designed in his home. Jason Baugher welds steel in the assembly room. Owner Kenneth Martin started Projects Designed in his home.

I was making five to 12 cold calls a day. Sitting around is just not how I m made up, Mr. Martin said.

He was planning on buying a building in Metamora when he was directed to an existing company on American Road East in North Toledo that was going out of business.

It was half the cost and came with all of the tools. I just had to turn on the lights and start hiring people, Mr. Martin said.

The key difference between his firm and the company that went out of business, Mr. Martin said, is his willingness to hustle for new clients.

It s the ability to keep those customers happy that keeps Adrian Tool Corp. s Steve Pickle coming back.

They re one of the most honest companies and forthwith of anybody we ve ever done business with, Mr. Pickle said. When he says it s going to be black, it comes through black.

And delivery-wise, he s been fabulous. We ve had no problems.

Chad Dicke, a manufacturing engineer with Teleflex Automotive Inc., in Van Wert, Ohio, said he has bought four machines from the Toledo business and their performance has been stellar.

The machines are very low maintenance and the engineers there worked with the program and the wiring that I wanted to do, he said.

Martin Martin

Projects Designed recently completed an expansion that doubled the size of the factory. It includes 28-foot high ceilings, eight-inch-thick concrete floors, and a 10-ton crane bought at auction for $9,500.

Now, Mr. Martin has to determine how big he wants the firm to grow. It sometimes contracts out parts of jobs now.

A business consultant analyzed the business and told the owner he could double or triple sales if it added salespeople and a general manager.

He said I could hit $10 million quite easily ... but I don t know, said Mr. Martin.

There s part of me that wants to look for a manufacturing facility to buy and then automate it and then I d have a part of it.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at: mmclaughlin@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.

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