SpotSee, GEIC help create more jobs in Graham
In just over a year the local Graham manufacturing plant for SpotSee (ShockWatch) has moved from the possibility of losing 15 local jobs to the creation of over 20 new positions through a partnership with the city.
SpotSee develops devices which monitor shock, vibration, temperature and other environmental conditions on items being shipped.
“We have been a part of the Graham community since our inception as a company(…) dating back to 1976, and some inventive minds in Graham, TX, came up with the concept of our first Shock Indicator for application on, actually, some magnetic tape reels that they were shipping around,” SpotSee CEO Tony Fonk said. “That spawned into this business that became ShockWatch and ultimately became SpotSee.”
The Graham Economic Improvement Corporation board proposed a plan to keep 15 full-time jobs in Graham at ShockWatch, a move approved by the city council during two readings on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 and Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The plan was in response to decisions made by ShockWatch, Graham City Manager Brandon Anderson said during the Jan. 25, 2018 city council meeting.
In the plan, the GEIC would buy the building used by SpotSee who would finance 100% of the purchase price on a non-recourse note where if the borrower defaults, the issuer (SpotSee) can seize the building. The company would also enter into a five-year lease of the building from the GEIC which would be adjusted depending on the number of jobs retained monthly.
Fonk said the company had grown to be three businesses which included ShockWatch, DataSpan and a forklift monitoring company. He said in 2014 the company made the decision to divest in the DataSpan and forklift monitoring section of the company and focus on the ShockWatch side of the company.
“We had this 44,000 square foot building that we had procured and actually built in partnership with the city and ultimately the business took a different form,” he said. “We had space for three businesses and we were down to one business that we were going to focus on and double down on, that being the ShockWatch business.”
He said the company had also been building onto ShockWatch by performing acquisitions outside of the United States.
“We made a strategic decision as a business that we wanted to get better control of those manufacturing operations for a couple of different reasons,” he said. “Obviously, cost being an important driver, but even more importantly was our intellectual property that was tied up a couple of those different areas, China being the biggest concern there, but our product portfolio was really starting to evolve around the ShockLog product line and we wanted to have that closer to us as well.”
Fonk said they moved toward opening up a manufacturing facility in Mexico, which was started October 2017, and began the process of converting and moving the product lines from China and then from Graham to Mexico. He said a change came when local leadership spoke up against the move.
“What was exciting and motivating and just a great example of public, private partnership was when the Graham City Council, the Graham Economic Improvement Corporation and the Mayor at the time, Jack Graham, found out about this they sprung into action and reached out to us and said, ‘hey this is an important part of our community, what can we do,’” he said.
It was in November and December 2017 when the company engaged in discussions with the city of Graham leadership, Fonk said.
“Ultimately, after working a number of different scenarios, we ended up finalizing the scenario here in July of 2018, so we worked pretty hard on it,” he said. “What we came to (with), the incentive program that the Economic Improvement Corporation put in place, we were able not only to keep a good number of jobs in Graham, but now double them. (…) We were able to bring our line from the United Kingdom into the Graham manufacturing facility. That line was originally slated to go to Mexico. And we were able to bring our line from Minnesota into our Graham Manufacturing facility.”
Fonk said the company invested just under a million dollars of capital equipment, time and resources to bring the lines to the Graham facility, but the move was worth it based on the public and private partnership developed with the city.
“A portion of those sales taxes, those taxes go into what is called the Graham Economic Improvement Corporation, so there is a pool of money that’s there that Joe (Beruta) and team are working hard to put to work to one, keep jobs in Graham, but two, promote and recruit more jobs to Graham,” he said. “The purpose of this deal in particular that we did with the city of Graham has served that purpose in actually really creating the outcome of what we had expected. So theoretically what you have is what was supposed to be 15 people staying in Graham, and now you have 37, you know, we have added more by adding those lines.”
Graham Economic Improvement Corporation Director Joe Beruta said the plant currently has 39 full-time employees and has grown by two in the last quarter.
“We appreciate all of that job growth and I think it is just a real great success story that not only do we need to talk about in the community, but our community needs to know how their sales tax dollars get put to use, and this is one of the ways it has been done and originally for keeping jobs in Graham, but it has turned quite a corner, if you will, to create additionally FTE, Full Time Employees roles, in the community,” he said.
He said the job count could reach 50 at the location in Graham or beyond based on future acquisitions and scenarios. He said two people in the city of Graham were a major part of the decision ultimately made.
“Robbie Wardrup, who is our plant manager and longstanding member of the community, she has now been with our company now for 35 years,” he said. “(…)She was instrumental in pulling all the right people together to make this happen. In addition, Brandon Anderson, working in the background running a lot of the interference. As a city manager many times it is a thankless job and I think that in this situation for sure Brandon Anderson deserves a lot of thanks, so those two people they deserve to be a major part of this story.”
For the rest of the story, see the Wednesday, Oct. 9 edition of The Graham Leader.