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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Aerospace Boost
(2007-11-07)
(wgvu) - New trade group pitches aerospace


Nov. 8, 2007

By B. Candace Beeke
candaceb@mbusinessreview.com

Struggling manufacturers may find their wings with a new group aiming
to grow aerospace suppliers in Michigan.

Gavin Brown and Craig Wolff formed the Michigan Aero space
Manufacturers Associ ation, based in Ada, in the spring and have spent
months visiting manufacturers all over the state, interviewing and
recruiting potential members.

We've visited 75 or 80 firms to come up with the 18 firms we
currently have, said Wolff, a CPA and longtime friend of Brown, who
was a manufacturer's representative, based in Traverse City, for many
aerospace component manufacturers in Indiana. This is not the type of
association you write a check and just join.

MAMA is selective because it intends to form a consortium that
collectively can become a large supplier of aerospace components a
growing and vastly underserved market, Wolff says.

The aerospace-manufacturing industry can't keep up with where it
was a couple years ago, let alone where it is now, he said, pointing
to Boeing Co.'s delay of its long-awaited Dreamliner launch. They
don't have the parts to build the plane.

Aerospace's backlog built up following a drastic pitch after Sept.
11, 2001. With the radical drop in demand, many older suppliers closed
shop.

A significant amount of capacity simply left the area after Sept.
11, Wolff said. In 2004, this industry just took off no pun
intended.

About half of MAMA's members are in western Michigan, including
Wolverine Tool and Engineering in Belmont, which signed on in June.
Despite significant investment needed to gain certifications necessary
to supply aerospace, which mandates more than TS or ISO, Wolverine
didn't hesitate to jump on board, reasurer Mike Fish said.

With 99 percent of its customers in auto, Wolverine had long coveted a
spot in the aerospace supply chain.

It's really hard to break into unless you know someone, Fish
said.

Wolverine already has gained business from the alliance, simply by
connecting with another member that had tool-and-die needs
HydroDynamics in Pontiac. Work directly from MAMA has yet to filter down
to Wolverine, however.

It's taken them awhile to develop relationships just to get a
quote, Fish said.

But now requests for quotes are coming in, Wolff said, and MAMA already
has won a job, though he couldn't discuss the details. The association
handles all RFQs centrally, eliminating multiple vendor hassles for
clients.

Membership could grow to about 50, though orders will decide the size
of the group, Wolff said.

Ideally we're looking for local ownership. The people we're
looking for are aggressive, creative, nimble, smart . They have the
facilities and expertise to back it up, he said.

They also have to attain AS certification, required for the aerospace
industry.

AS certification for an average-sized company 50 employees or so
will cost $12,000 to $15,000, Wolff said, and six to nine months
to attain.

MAMA received some assistance from a state budget allocation of
$500,000, some of which will go toward that certification cost.

MAMA hopes it can bring auto-focused suppliers into a more rewarding
industry. But not everyone has been receptive to that, Wolff said.

I've had three companies tell me right to my face, I think
auto's coming back from China.' God bless them, I hope they're
right.

On the Web at michman.org.
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