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Northwest Technologies grows by focusing on solutions

by: Gus Jarvis Northwest Technologies CEO Eric Sale discusses an apparatus designed in-house to streamline the manufacturing of a certain part.

In the 11 years of its existence in Estacada, to call Northwest Technologies a success story would be an understatement. What started out as a small laser-cutting business has turned into massive metal manufacturing facility where no matter how big or small, if it's made of metal, Northwest Technologies can handle it.

When the company was in its infancy in 2000, founders Eric and Doreen Sale opened the doors with one customer, one employee and one laser-cutting machine. It occupied half of an empty building, using 7,000 square feet of space.

Today, the business has grown by leaps and bounds. It's housed in roughly 110,000 square feet of space in four buildings at 1150 Northwest Park Ave. in the Estacada Industrial Park, and employs 72 workers. CEO Eric Sale says most are from the Estacada and Sandy area. Now with three laser cutters, five press brakes, five machining centers, a sandblaster and over 15 welding cells, the booming company can manufacture and build just about anything.

'We really started off selling a service to cut metal parts,' Sale said. 'We did work with a company that made car carriers and made a lot of parts for those. Then they needed some of the parts bent, so we bought a press brake. After that, they needed parts to be welded, so we got into welding. Then they needed parts to be machined, then sandblasted, then painted…now, we have an assembly line division here.'

With its services expanding, it was in the company's fourth year that Sale was able to get an affordable loan to kick-off construction for new space in the Industrial Park as well as attract some of the industry's best employees, which, he said, helped the company move up to the next level of service.

'That catapulted us into a whole other place in the market,' he said. 'We went from providing an average service to being a company that excels in providing solutions. Anybody can buy a machine and anybody can make a part, but it's the employees and their abilities that provide a service.'

It's Sale's mission at Northwest Technologies to be a leader in the metal manufacturing industry that partners with its customers for excellence and growth as well as satisfying the specific needs in a way that creates a positive workplace and opportunities for its employees. And the list of the business values of family happiness, excellence, respect, integrity and stewardship work toward facilitating the unique partnership the company has with its clients.

'We are always looking forward,' Sale said. 'My motto is, 'If we are always running as fast as we can forward, we don't have to look back to see who our competition is.' We do the best job we can do and provide the best service for our customers. We are always looking for ways to provide opportunities for our employees to excel. We feel we have to expand to provide our current employees future options.'

Running and expanding a business doesn't go without bumps in the road, though. As for many businesses, 2009 was a 'really tough year' for Northwest Technologies. Sale said the company, in a way, had to reinvent itself during the recession to focus even more on providing a service.

'It was a learning experience. We decided to remake the business with a different focus,' he said. That focus was on not only fabricating a part but being able to build the machine the part is for. 'We will take a part through the full process. If you have a product and it has some technical parts to it, we have people on our staff to address those parts. What is unique about us is we can be a filter and marry the two together to make it a perfect fit.'

With that new focus in place, business is once again booming.

'2011 is probably going to be our biggest year ever,' Sale said. 'We are doing very well this year. We have changed our business model to be a support to our customers and they have responded to that.'

Its clients haven't been the only ones to notice. In 2007, Northwest Technologies was included in Portland Business Journal's 'Fastest-Growing Company Round-Up.'

'In an industry such as fabrication, you can find a lot of different facilities and a lot of different people to do the work, but here we are family and we care about the work we do,' Sale said. 'It is not a rough and tumble world here. Our employees are professionals and they are great at what they do. They do above average work and our customers can see that.'