Archive for Thursday, January 17, 2002

Etching company ready to leave mark on economy

January 17, 2002

In a building that housed a collision repair shop and a discount store, StencilCo leaders are preparing to open a business that will initially offer between 12 and 14 jobs to the community, adding more as the business expands.

Commercial account executive Bill McGregor and partner and manager Kelly Morris first looked at property in the Kansas City area, but high rents and a sluggish business environment after Sept. 11 made that difficult.

"We kind of wanted the exposure and notoriety of being in Kansas City, but with this type of business, it could have been anywhere," McGregor said. "We kind of ended up liking the idea of being in a small town."

Moreover, Morris said the company can benefit the people who live here.

"Coming here was a good draw for the town because we know not everyone is able to drive 30 or 40 miles to work," he said.

Although StencilCo will provide sandblasting and engraving service to other businesses, the company initially offered patented stenciling materials and equipment to businesses, like a trophy shop. However, McGregor and Morris saw a need for businesses to contract out large orders, like a sports store that might want several thousand Kansas University logo mugs.

"We're going to be mainly a commercial service," Morris said.

Even though the company won't offer retail items, Morris and McGregor are working on turning part of the front office space into a showroom of everything the company is capable of producing. A marble tile with a frosty-looking image of an ornate dragon Morris and McGregor keep on hand demonstrates the type of work StencilCo can produce.

"You can sort of imagine a tile manufacturer producing a border around an entire patio," Morris said.

McGregor also has a sports logo drinking glass on hand to demonstrate another medium with which the company can work. The small dots of etching can easily be filled in with pigment if the customer wanted it colored, he said.

In the manufacturing area of the building sit a few of the etching machines the company will use. The box-like apparatuses have gloves built into them that reach inside an enclosed area. Workers will use a gun to shoot corrosive material over the stencil, revealing an image in a few seconds.

The workroom will eventually include smaller, table-top units and perhaps an enclosed room for larger projects where workers will have to wear a protective suit.

"The skill level is where you could learn and in a week or two become an expert," McGregor said.

The business will also employ artists, sales people, receptionists, and shift managers.

"With the production-type jobs, there may be a lot of them eventually," McGregor said.

Creating a good work environment for the town will be a priority for Morris. He said table-top etching equipment could accommodate some people disabilities, and he's interested in promoting from within the company.

"That's one thing that I am really, really serious about," Morris said. "We hope the town allows us to help them make this a successful venture."

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