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Columbia County manufacturer gets precise

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When it comes to manufacturing, Sven Christofferson, president and owner of Scappoose’s Metalcraft Machine Inc., is all about precision.

In business since 1994, he has purposefully grown Metalcraft Machine from what he modestly refers to as a “mom and pop shop” to a sophisticated machine parts manufacturing company. In the last five years, Christofferson has added six employees and now runs two shifts. He plans to add two additional full-time personnel by the end of the year. His company custom manufactures small, intricate parts for the aviation, trucking, off-road vehicle and forest products industry. Clients include Boeing, Freightliner, SportCopter International and others.

Christofferson turned to Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center several years ago, enrolling in several one-day workshops to learn more running a business. Tom Lowles, director of the SBDC, steered him to the more in-depth Small Business Management Program, which he joined last fall.

He had nurtured a dream of owning his own business since high school and, after graduating, joined the Air Force to become an aircraft mechanic. Along the way, he added computer numerical control machine fabrication to his skill set. As a result, he has worked for Boeing and sawmill manufacturer CMSI until the company went out of business. Chistofferson got laid off, but several years earlier he bought a manual mill and was fabricating parts out of his garage. He called himself a, “hot-rodder; I was nurturing my little hot rod dream.”

Starting out, Chistofferson was eligible for retraining as a displaced timber worker. He also earned a small economic development grant from the state to wire and bring power into the garage-turned-shop space on his rural Scappoose property.

“I got the shove in the right direction,” said Christofferson. “I wanted to see if I could grow. I said, ‘You are creating a job for yourself.’ Ultimately, though, the goal is to create a business that suits your life and also creates jobs for others.”

He’s doing just that. The machinists he now employs are earning a decent wage – $15 to $20 per hour. His relationship with SBDC business coach Robert Sherk, who is also the instructor of his Small Business Management program, has greatly aided his business growth and development, Christofferson said. Sherk teaches at both the SBDCs at Portland and Mt. Hood community colleges, and is a former small business owner himself.

“Sven is determined to take his company to the next level,” Sherk said. “And he is willing to do the work and be open to change. For Metalcraft, 2008 is proving to be a breakout year, and the best is yet to come.”

Sherk has helped Metalcraft analyze the pros and cons of purchasing or leasing its next manufacturing facility. The company will move from its current 1,200-square-foot space to a 3,000-square-foot former hangar at the Scappoose Airport. The strategic move also will enhance business relationships. Metalcraft is a member of the Scappoose Airport Business Cluster, which comprises manufacturing, flight training, and aircraft service and maintenance companies, along with public-sector economic development representatives. The next step for the company, likely four years away, is to purchase property and build a manufacturing plant.

“Bob has helped me identify what is really important to be tracking – for example the cost of goods sold as a percentage of overall sales to verify we are headed in the right direction,” Christofferson said.

The outlook couldn’t be brighter. Gross revenues have increased from $485,000 in 2006 to a projected $800,000 in total revenues for 2008. He has also acquired several small matching grants from the Office of Community College and Workforce Development to bring ISO 9000-quality management training and certification to his company and employees. ISO stands for International Standards of Operation.

“I want to get fresh ideas,” Chistofferson said. “You can set yourself out on an island, not seeking out advice, but then you become stagnant pretty quickly.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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