We asked experts and observers of the mid-valley’s business scene to suggest area businesses worth watching in 2014. Here are brief reports on four of those businesses – and one promising initiative.
Viper Northwest Inc.
Address: 1216 Jackson St. S.E., Albany
Phone number: 541-928-2529
Key leaders: Guy DeLude, president/CEO; Tim Bates, executive vice president; George Bradley, vice president of manufacturing; Donna DeMarco, vice president of customer services; Erik Smith, vice president of quality; Dave Hill, production manager; Angélé Vieane, human resources; Jesse Long, finance; Paul Buchheit, engineering manager
Number of employees: 84
What it does: Viper Northwest, Inc., is an engineering-driven, build-to-print organization with headquarters, offices and manufacturing facilities in Albany. The company makes products according to a customer’s technical and performance specifications. Viper Northwest offers engineering, computer numerical control machining and precision fabrication services, using some of the latest software, technology and equipment to build parts, assemblies and sub-systems for the semiconductor, aerospace, automation, medical and firearms industries and more. Viper Northwest works with composites, stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, specialty alloys and other materials. Viper Northwest employs machinists, toolmakers, machine operators, mechanical engineers, quality engineers, manufacturing engineers, designers, inspectors, fabricators, welders, assembly technicians, estimators and support personnel, and operates two shifts.
Why it’s worth watching: To keep up with demand from aerospace and semiconductor customers, Viper Northwest plans to expand its Albany facilities from 35,000 square feet to double that in the next year or two. That will create at least 20 more local manufacturing jobs, said company CEO and president Guy DeLude. With help from the city of Albany and Central Albany Revitalization Area (CARA), the company worked out a plan to stay local.
“I believe staying in Albany is our best option at this time,” DeLude said. “The local area holds a small, yet sophisticated, industrial and high tech community … and we’re removed from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan area’s hassle.”
Viper Northwest has grown at an annualized rate of about 15 percent, and expects both domestic and international sales to steadily increase. Implementation and certification of quality systems has proven critical to the company’s continued success, DeLude said.
“We expect Viper Northwest to continue to set the bar for our peer competition,” DeLude said.
— Rebecca Barrett
ZAPS Technologies Inc.
Address: 4314 Research Way, Corvallis
Phone number: 541-207-1236
Key leaders: Gary Klinkhammer, founder and chief science officer; Matthew Johnen, president, chief executive officer and chief operating officer; Don Jackson, engineering director and Nathan Klinkhammer, director, sales.
Number of employees: 25
What it does: ZAPS Technologies created high-precision optical instruments that monitor drinking and wastewater. Using technology that detects and measures variations in liquid, ZAPS put together the LiquID Station, a single unit which can improve the safety of drinking water, reduce the use of chemicals and electricity needed to treat water, and minimize pollutants from wastewater and industrial sites.
Why it’s worth watching: ZAPS has been in business for six years and began selling its product last year. “If all goes well, this will be a breakout year in sales,” said Matthew Johnen, president, CEO and COO.
Operating mostly in the Northwest, 2014 will be the year the business pushes to expand across the United States. With 50 systems in the field, the goal is to do dramatically more this year with a minimum goal of doubling sales.
Nathan Klinkhammer, director of sales, says it means much for the company to be a part of an industry that can make a big difference and safeguard a natural resource.
“If ZAPS’ product is doing what it’s supposed to do, the public won’t hear much about the company,” Klinkhammer said.
— Maria Kirkpatrick
Address: Business office: 421 Water Ave. N.E., Suite 3200
Manufacturing: 810 Water Ave. N.E., Albany.
Phone Number: 866-928-4445
Key leaders: Dr. Kim Kutsch, John Bowers and Bob Bowers.
Number of employees: 22
What it does: CariFree manufactures products that are used in preventive dental care and distributed through dental offices and facilities.
Why it’s worth watching: CariFree has been steadily growing since it opened its doors 10 years ago. Last year it experienced its best year to date with 20 percent growth. That success created a need for additional manufacturing space.
As a result, CariFree is nearing completion of the remodel of its original site on Water Avenue and has moved its business operations down the road and into the Wheelhouse, Albany’s new four-story office building.
The demand for its various dental products has increased. Sales also have increased and with the newly added manufacturing space CariFree is hoping to hire up to seven additional people between its manufacturing and office sites this year.
CariFree offers a preventive system working with dental professionals to diagnose and treat tooth decay through its products. The company has created a series of gels, gums and rinses available individually or in kits that fight the disease at various levels.
Many of the products are available at dentists’ offices.
— Steve Lathrop
Carts and Tools
Address: 280 N.W. First St., Corvallis
Phone number: 855-476-9834
Key leaders: Michael McGowen (CEO), Brad Attig (sales and marketing), Jorge Banuelos (engineering)
Number of employees: 5
What it does: Carts and Tools produces electric-powered rototillers and other agricultural appliances aimed toward the small-market farmer.
Why it’s worth watching: CEO Michael McGowen said the company’s “cutting-edge technology addresses a need that is going to become more important as it gets recognized that we have solutions in this unique area. We’ll grow and be able to develop even better products for that market.”
— James Day
Name of business initiative: South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network. People will just call it by the acronym RAIN.
Key leaders: Newly hired executive director, Jim Coonan; Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning; Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy
What it does: RAIN isn’t a business, but rather a cooperative effort between mid-valley communities, Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and private parties to help commercialize research performed at the universities – and to attempt to spin off private companies that presumably will hire locally. The initiative was approved by the 2013 Legislature, which also allocated
$3.75 million in startup money.
Why it’s worth watching: RAIN earlier this month brought on its executive director, Jim Coonan of Portland, who has wide experience in promoting entrepreneurial efforts and has been a key partner in the Bend Venture Conference. Coonan said the chance to lead the RAIN initiative offers a nice match to his other work to support innovators and entrepreneurs. “It’s a unique opportunity and challenge,” he said.
The next step will be meetings over the next few weeks to help shape initial goals for RAIN: “What do we want to get accomplished over the next year?” It’s not an idle question: For one thing, the 2015 Legislature will be expecting a progress report from the initiative.
But Coonan said he already senses that the various parties to the initiative – universities, community leaders and entrepreneurs – are eager to move ahead: “I think people are pretty aligned in their eagerness to get to work.”
— Mike McInally