A small tool and die company doing business in the aerospace wing of the manufacturing world in West Columbia plans to double its size this year as a result of business orders from Boeing.
Gov. Nikki Haley used that business, Columbia Tool and Die, as a backdrop Wednesday to announce a new online service that she and state economic development leaders say could help open the doors to small business growth throughout South Carolina.
The new service, South Carolina Business Network, is a web-based information and resource hub where business owners and entrepreneurs can tune into business activity across the state, and link with and learn about other businesses.
“We’ve seen a success story for Columbia Tool and Die, in the way that they were match-made with Boeing, in getting their certification,” Haley said. “That success story is about to go throughout the state.
“SCBizNetwork.com is now the newest employee of every small business in the state of South Carolina,” Haley said, where businesses can go to access information about lending, getting certifications, hiring and expanding – 24 hours a day.
The service, Commerce Department officials said, is in answer to inquiries from entrepreneurs across the state calling for resources to be available beyond the end of the regular business day.
State officials have long touted the projected spinoff effects that such super-sized companies as aeronautics giant Boeing – which recently opened a manufacturing plant in North Charleston – and European automobile maker BMW in the Upstate could have on smaller businesses in South Carolina.
Exports were up 21 percent last year in the state and small business was a huge part of it, Commerce officials said.
Columbia Tool and Die was previously hooked into the automotive industry, said general manager Jake Brackett, maintaining the dies that made brake calipers for General Motors and Chrysler.
During the financial crisis, which hit the automotive industry hard, Brackett said he had to lay off “quite a few people.” To advance his company, he decided to go into the aerospace industry.
Brackett said he got help from the State Manufacturers Extension Partnership. He got funding from the government and within six months became certified in the industry.
“At that time, we said, OK, who is the biggest aerospace manufacturer, and they were right in our backyard,” Brackett said. That was a year ago yesterday, he said.
Brackett said he spent $25,000 revamping the company’s website, and with the help of the Commerce Department and outreach from Boeing, got an audience with the company for a presentation.
In January, Columbia Tool and Die got its first order from Boeing to make the specialty tools Boeing workers use to build airplanes. The company now has 17 orders in-house for Boeing, he said.
The company, which employs 16 workers now and also does aeronautics work for other companies, plans to knock out a wall of the 9,000 square foot plant and add 8,000 square feet more of space, and hire additional workers.
Brackett said new online service should benefit other small businesses.
“They should be able to log on to there and network with someone like (Columbia Tool and Die), and I should be able to log on there – if I get overloaded I can see other machine shops (to subcontract with),” Brackett said.