BLAEDC Special Report
Cross-Tech doubles its facility with new expansion project
CROSSLAKE — Roger Roy hopes to never have a five-year stretch again like he did from 2007 to 2011.
Roy’s company, Cross-Tech Manufacturing, Inc., was enjoying steady growth for several years and outgrowing its facility just south of Crosslake. By 2007, he was set to expand on a five-acre parcel about three miles from its current site. He borrowed money, drew up a design for the new building, generated a list of new products to design and develop and had a strategy in place for growing his workforce.
And then the bottom fell out of the economy.
Two years later, he had laid off 20 of his 24 employees and worried less about expanding and more about surviving. But like thousands of other small businesses across the country, Cross-Tech cut costs wherever possible and squeezed every penny out of its revenue streams, all while keeping an eye open for any signs that the economy would turn around.
It finally did in 2010 and now Roy and Cross-Tech are back in high-growth mode. In fact, Cross-Tech broke ground Sept. 11 for a new facility that will more than double the manufacturing plant and open the door for the expansion of new products and, more importantly, new jobs.
Cross-Tech is the world’s largest manufacturer of rotary cutters, which are attached to skid loaders and other equipment and used to clear brush, including small- to medium-sized trees. The Brush Wolf rotary cutters can clear a swath from 42 inches to 12 feet wide. His customers are worldwide, including Africa, Europe and Australia. Most are in the light forestry, landscaping and excavating industries and include government agencies and municipalities.
As a contractor in the Twin Cities, Roy had wanted to move to the Crosslake area in the 1990s and was looking for a business opportunity when he ran across Cross-Tech, which he purchased in 1999. Within six years, sales took off and the company’s service department expanded dramatically. Orders were coming from all over the country and Roy had his crews working feverishly to keep up. Cross-Tech even caught the attention of Entrepreneur Magazine, which included the rising company in its Hot 500 list of the fastest growing businesses in the country.
Cross-Tech and the entire manufacturing industry hit a brick wall in 2008. Sales plummeted, the phone quit ringing and Roy was required to make some really tough choices. But as fast as business tanked for Cross-Tech, it came roaring back in 2010. A year later, the manufacturing sector as a whole was hitting on all cylinders again. Roy was able to get back up to 24 employees again, helping the company grow 20 percent in those two years. A major part of that growth came from contracts with Caterpillar and a global company in Mississippi that makes skid loaders and excavators.
For Cross-Tech, the expansion opens the door for an exciting future, Roy said. The new 15,000-square-foot addition will more than double the plant to 27,000 square feet, which will house welders, fabricators, the assembly crew, and shipping and receiving.
The expansion also means that Roy will hire a purchasing agent, several more welders and fabricators, and design engineers to develop four new products a year until the company has about 64 additional attachments.
Roy said he’s got a pipeline to Central Lakes College (CLC) in Staples for welders and fabricators. He can’t speak highly enough about CLC’s nationally accredited welding program and its other trade programs. In fact, a third of his welders are CLC graduates.
“The talent pool is here, we just have to develop it,” Roy said. “CLC has an excellent welding program that has produced some excellent workers here. We want to keep it local and it’s easy to do that with the talent that CLC provides us.”
Roy also speaks highly of the assistance he has received from the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC).
“Every time we’ve expanded, we’ve worked with (BLAEDC),” Roy said. “For anyone who is going to expand or is starting a business, BLAEDC will help work out a business plan and work with you for financing.”
Crosslake is home for Cross-Tech and always will be, Roy said. “Other markets wanted us but we’re committed to Crosslake. We want to see this area grow and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
From the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development.