BUSINESS BEAT: Manufacturing anything but a ‘dying industry’ at Aquest

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 9:20 pm on Friday, November 15, 2013

Aquest general manager Ben Wood says the recession has done little to slow business at the company’s new facility.


GREENVILLE — Despite the difficult economy of the past decade, business has remained steady at Aquest Machining, 715 Callaghan St. That location is new to Aquest, which moved to the greatly expanded facility this past summer.

Press operator Leah Morris punches holes in a section of extruded aluminum.

The new facility boasts 30,000 square feet, up from the 13,000 square feet of the business’ previous location. According to Aquest general manager Ben Wood, the move opens up many options for future expansion, as well as more efficient day to day operations.

“This was an existing structure,” Wood said. “It was built around 10 years ago, I believe, but it was sitting empty for five or six years. We’ve more than doubled our size. We think this is a beautiful place.”

Wood explained that Aquest deals mostly with the process of machining extruded metals, generally aluminum. The company manufactures parts for things like supermarket entryways and “bubble light” frames for police and emergency vehicles.

Currently, all the company’s clients are local.

“It’s been like that since 1996,” Wood said. “We’re all local; we don’t really handle much farther away than Grand Rapids.”

The recent expansion into larger quarters is mirrored in Aquest’s personnel growth. The company has added four new positions in the past six months. And these are not temporary or part-time positions, Wood said. All the company’s current staff — about 15 employees, total — work 40 hour-plus weeks.

Finding qualified metal workers to provide for future growth is something the company takes seriously. Currently, Aquest partners locally with Montcalm Community College and the Stanley & Blanche Ash Technology and Learning Center to train students in CAD (computer aided design) software.

“We’re building a curriculum for apprentices to go through,” Wood said. “We’re using local resources to get people the education they need to become machinists. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re in the process.”

Saw department manager Jed Morris cuts parts for a police vehicle bubble light unit.

Aquest owner Bob Playford said the business has not been adversely impacted by the recession and that the recent relocation allows for future expansion, should it be needed.

“We’ve done well,” Playford said. “We’ll be taking steps to make sure we continue to do well into the future. We have room to grow.”

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