In April, Fort Smith-based steel fabrication company American Precision Fabricators (APF) agreed to a purchase offer from Alpine 4 of Phoenix under the terms of a private transaction. As a result, Alpine 4 announced a $500,000 expansion on Tuesday (July 31).
A manufacturing plant in Fort Smith will use APF for box-build, cable, and harness categories. ABB also will work with the company, according to Alpine 4’s Terry Protto. Protto told Talk Business & Politics on Monday the company plans to expand operations by “15-50 employees” from its base of 45 at the existing facility on Savannah Street near the Fort Smith Regional Airport. APF was founded in 1996.
“We have a company in San Jose, California, that does the same thing, but with California being such a beast for labor, expenses, and taxes, we’re switching over to Arkansas,” Protto said.
He said the San Jose company, Quality Circuit Assembly (QCA, purchased by Alpine 4 in 2016), will not close but continue to operate at its location employing 120.
The Fort Smith expansion will bring at least one surface-mount technology (SMT) line to the area with the option for a second.
“We have a choice of putting in one or two, but we’re likely to put in one because of the cost. There can’t be more than two because there isn’t enough space for that, and it’s not in the plan right now.”
The APF facility is 80,000 square feet, 22,000 of which will be repurposed for a “cleanroom” manufacturing environment. Cleanroom manufacturing refers to manufacturing in a controlled environment with a low level of pollutants, such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors.
“This is an environment that will be 100% clean. Our people will wear bunny suits, masks. Air-detection systems will be in place,” Protto said.
The SMT line will use a highly-automated piece of equipment known as a “pick-and-place machine.” The machine can place electronic parts on a circuit board that runs an iPhone, for example.
In an April 9 press release, Alpine 4 said it expected the APF acquisition to build on similar strengths with subsidiary QCA, which sends all precision fabrication work for clientele to other vendors.
“With the addition of APF, these subsidiaries can cross-leverage complementary services between their customer base. Alpine 4 believes this will yield an additional $2.5 million in annual sales between the two companies over the next 18 months.” The company also sees the acquisition affecting shareholder value, resulting in “a positive adjustment to Alpine 4’s Shareholder Equity, and we anticipate it adding $5-6 (million) in annual sales to Alpine 4 over the next 12 months.”
The company has yet to conduct a market survey, so salary range information on the new jobs at APF is not yet available, but Protto said APF would hire a general manager, quality-assurance manager, logistics manager, and electronic production managers.
“The majority of the employee base is for the PCB (printed circuit board) assembly or the cables and harnesses assembly.”
Protto expects the “buildout” of the market survey to take about five months, “so around the first of the year” is when the hiring process is expected to begin.
In addition to APF and QCA, Alpine 4’s other product groups and subsidiaries include manufacturing, software, and energy-driven businesses. Through 6th Sense Auto, the company serves management, sales, finance, and service departments at automotive dealerships to increase productivity, profitability and customer retention. BrakeActive is a safety device that improves a vehicle’s third-brake light’s capability to reduce or prevent a rear-end collision by as much as 40%.
And Venture West Energy Services supports the oil-and-gas industry in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, providing complete flow-back, water transfer, and roustabout services to several of the largest oil producers in the U.S. It uses manifolds, sand separators, and testing units as well as a highly-experienced workforce to provide customers with timely and accurate measurements.