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Rainier's Rightline finds success in global marketplace

Rainier-based forklift manufacturer adds space, jobs as demand grows


Jeff Hamlik and his family recognize the fine line between success and failure in business, but so far, they’ve been on the right side.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - An employee at the Rightline Equipment manufacturing site in Rainier operate machining equipment to produce customized truck lift materials. The company recently expanded its building and is poised to add more employees.Rightline Equipment, a Rainier-based manufacturing company that creates specialized forklift components, celebrated a facility expansion Friday, March 11, at its manufacturing site. The company is now the largest manufacturing employer in Columbia County, according to a press release from Business Oregon.

Flanked by Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, Columbia County Board of Commissioners President Tony Hyde, as well as representatives from the Columbia County Economic Team, Business Oregon and Gov. Kate Brown’s office, the Hamlik family talked of humble beginnings and a steady rise in profitability.

The company is exactly what county officials have been touting as a needed addition to Columbia County’s employment landscape.

“It just continues a trend of utilizing the talent, the skill that we have here,” Johnson said.

Rightline isn’t new to the county. The company was founded in 1971 by Jerry Hamlik. It has since evolved into the second largest attachment supplier in the United States and the largest privately owned attachment manufacturer in the country, but it’s still family-owned and run.

Rightline now competes in the global marketplace.

In a warehouse lined with large bricks of steel waiting to become lift components, Jeff Hamlik, vice president of marketing for Rightline, walked the premises, pointing to shipments bound for Mexico and China.

“We have to be efficient enough to make a product in the U.S. to sell to Mexico,” he said, highlighting the challenge of paying employees in Oregon, which will soon boast the highest state minimum wage in the country, to make products that are sold in countries with far lower costs.

He said the impetus to have regional lawmakers visit the business site was twofold: Rightline wanted to offer a glimpse at how it’s managed to maintain a successful manufacturing business in a small city in Oregon, but company representatives also wanted to send a message to lawmakers.

“When you tax everybody that’s trying to pay those wages, it doesn’t work,” Hamlik said. “It’s a competitive industry ... Most of our major industry competitors are big name companies. We hope that those people in government remember those things when they’re gonna raise your labor costs or taxes.”

The company expanded its work site as demand increased, with the help of Business Oregon and a $400,000 forgivable loan that will help offset the $2.5 million expansion cost.

Rightline is eligible to have the loan forgiven if it meets job creation parameters.

The manufacturing business now employs more than 140 and is expected to add another 40 jobs once the expansion is complete.