SEWNews January 2016

SEWN Receives Additional Layoff Aversion Certification

SVA Deputy Director Bob Value joins our Northcentral SEWN Consultant Donita Rudy as a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP). This designation is held by a very small number of professionals worldwide, and is subject to rigorous standards and continuing education requirements. SEWN and its staff remain committed to being the national gold standard in layoff aversion services.


Successful Succession in Central PA

Williams Metal Finishing is a second-generation business in Berks County. The founder had been forced back into running the business to protect his business interests. His two sons were serving in the company's management - one as the Sales Manager and one as the Operations Manager - under their father's leadership in his role as CEO. The founder's wife was facing serious medical issues, forcing a crisis succession for his improperly prepared sons. In addition, the loss of a major customer and various cost issues had placed the company in a negative cash flow situation.

When Williams Metal Finishing contacted SEWN's layoff aversion program, the company was in workout with its bank, which was prepared to call the company's loans and close the business. SEWN secured a forbearance agreement, providing space to work through the financial and operational issues required to strengthen the company.

Over the next several months, SEWN successfully implemented financial controls, a sales plan to increase the company's top line, new marketing initiatives and an outside advisory board. SEWN located an interim CEO while the founder attended to his medical crisis. The interim CEO provided strategic direction to the sons during the founder's absence. SEWN also provided executive coaching to the sons in their roles and strengthened their capabilities to lead the business.

Williams Metal Finishing is now healthy and prospering, and continues to improve its operational efficiencies under its current leadership structure. Two Pennsylvania Senators recently joined forces to create a video of this success story as a model of a successful turnaround experience.


Analysis + Action = Achievement in Northwestern PA

A Northwestern Pennsylvania manufacturer and distributor of educational supplies had been forced into a foxhole as the consolidation of large, traditional competitors and competition from new, big-box entrants dramatically changed the company's landscape over a five-year period. The 120-person company had responded by cutting costs to the bone. It had reached the point where this strategy was no longer a viable option.

SEWN's layoff aversion program worked with the company to develop a new marketing plan that provided analysis not only of the competitive environment, but also the market realities of budget cuts and new purchasing habits.

SEWN encouraged the company to develop a new, easily-navigated and targeted e-commerce site. SEWN also created internal strategies for the sales force and assisted the company with the purchase of a defunct competitor's customer data.

The company now continues to hold its own in the dynamic educational marketplace.


Attacking Expenses with Laser Precision in Northeastern PA

A Northeastern Pennsylvania developer and manufacturer of miniature solid-state lasers, OEM modules, laser flashlights and high-power, room-temperature and cryogenic solid-state lasers experienced severe cash flow issues while waiting for government contracts to materialize. The company contacted SEWN to assist with several other related issues as well.

SEWN's layoff aversion program helped the company to locate a new investor. A complete operational review revealed several areas in which the company could greatly reduce its overhead expenses. SEWN also assisted the company in securing bridge financing to keep its operations viable until the government contracts were finalized.

All of these actions restored the company's health, enabling it to continue operations with its other clients while the government contracts are in process.


Rebuilding a Housing Manufacturer in Southeastern PA

At its peak in 2007, Blox Building Systems employed over 50 people and enjoyed a solid reputation as a major player in the regional modular housing market. In order to handle the new projects being presented by its Philadelphia partner, Blox made significant upfront capital investments, leveraged its assets and significantly invested in training programs for the skilled workforce required for the proposed projects.

However, as with many companies involved in the building trade, business suffered and debt accumulated during the Great Recession. By 2012, Blox retained only 10 of its original employees.

Undaunted, and with SEWN's help, Ken George and his son, Ken George, Jr., began the process of reinventing the business. First, SEWN assisted the owners in rebuilding the business' financial structure. Thanks to the assistance of the World Trade Center (a SEWN partner on Team Montco), a Canadian investor appeared and negotiations began anew with the major debt holder.

With an established working capital line, the debt burden rebalanced and vendor agreements restored, Ken recreated his organization's infrastructure. SEWN helped Ken to negotiate the severance of the former partnership and the creation of a new partnership connected to a very successful organization in a very viable marketplace. The new business is called Steel River Building Systems, and is already a big hit in its new market segment.

The high quality modular units produced at the Pottstown manufacturing site have performed very well in the rugged conditions of the Canadian oil fields. With a strong service reputation, Steel River, Inc. is on track for rapid growth.

Additionally, SEWN's layoff aversion program is assisting Ken with the creation of a comprehensive business plan, a revised marketing strategy and several new financing options to better manage market fluctuations.


Meet SEWN's Staff - Carrie Mihalko

Carrie Mihalko joined Steel Valley Authority in August 2015 as the Executive Assistant. With over 20 years in higher education, Carrie brings experience in event planning, marketing, website design, social media, professional development programming, board management and budget analysis. She holds a B.A. from Duquesne University in Leadership Communications and an M.A. in Public Relations from Full Sail University.

As part of the SVA team, she will be working on streamlined communications, community outreach, an elevated social media presence, website redesigns and general office management. Carrie is excited to use her background and skills to elevate the Steel Valley Authority as the leader in layoff aversion, responsible investing and creating sustainable communities.

SEWNews December 2015

Bollman Hat Reshores to Pennsylvania

Please re-post and share! "Let's do this, motherfunders!"

Samuel Jackson supports bringing Kangol hat jobs to U.S.

Bollman Hat Company's quest to bring jobs to America

Heesun Wee, CNBC | @heesunwee Tuesday, December 1, 2015

ADAMSTOWN, Pa - As labor costs rise in places like China and U.S. energy prices drop, many manufacturers have been rethinking where to expand production, and in some cases returning factory work to the U.S. But even if "Made in USA" is a priority, creating domestic manufacturing jobs is far from easy.

This is especially true for textile manufacturers who have a tough time locating highly specialized machinery. So if you want to pursue American-made clothing and accessories - and can't find the equipment in the U.S. - then what?

For America's oldest hat maker, the Bollman Hat Company, a commitment to U.S. manufacturing has meant tracking down one-of-a-kind equipment in China and trying to buy and transport roughly 150 machines - including 60 knitting machines - on shipping containers from Asia to Adamstown.

Moving the machinery to the U.S. will initially create about 40 jobs. Bollman has been operating in Adamstown for nearly 150 years - its first hats were transported on horse and buggy to the train station.

Bollman President and CEO Don Rongione is working to secure and transport the special knitting machinery that makes Kangol hats - including the cool golf caps worn by actor Samuel L. Jackson. The special machines were custom made in England in the 1930s and 1940s but are no longer produced. (In 2001, Bollman acquired the rights to make and distribute Kangol headwear that has been embraced by celebrities.)

Getty Images, Samuel L. Jackson

Can you imagine getting a phone call from a guy who says he wants to transport massive knitting machinery to the U.S. on shipping containers, and can you help? "People are a bit surprised and confused," Rongione said. "They're trying to understand why this makes sense."


Since its inception in 1993, The Strategic Early Warning Network has contributed to the retention and revival of more than 900 industrial enterprises within Pennsylvania, impacting more than 20,000 jobs. SEWN assists manufacturers throughout the state who are struggling to grow or improve the competitiveness of their business. SEWN provides professional and confidential turnaround, financial, and investment services to small- and middle-market firms employing 25-500 workers through the following core services: Financial Restructuring, Operational Restructuring and Cost Management, Ownership Transition and Buyouts, High Performance Workplaces, and New Market Opportunities. All of SEWN’s services are provided free of charge, and all information provided is handled in strict confidence. For additional information, please contact your local SEWN office.

The Strategic Early Warning Network is a program of the Steel Valley Authority in partnership with the PA Department of Labor and Industry.