Two key facts to know about J.R. Custom Metal Products:
It's a machine shop seeing strong growth at a time when most Wichita machine shops are still languishing.
It was founded by an immigrant from Mexico nearly four decades ago and is now run by his family — four grown children and a few grandchildren.
The two facts are connected, said company president Patty Koehler.
The company has made diversity its ally, Koehler said. That means diversity in its workforce — several languages are native to the employees — and diversity in production.
The company is a custom shop, cutting and forming metal components to order and assembling them into parts. Products range from intricate decorative items to large-scale steel platforms for factories.
It supplies the agricultural machinery, bus and renewable energy industries, among others. It is one of the few local contractors, so far, to get business from the Siemens wind turbine plant in Hutchinson.
"We don't have our own product," Koehler said. "What we have is capability."
It saw 15 percent growth in 2010 and expects another 15 percent this year.
The company has 97 workers in three shifts and has twice added space since opening an 80,000-square-foot plant in 1998. It is considering a major plant expansion next door.
The company is a reflection of its founder, Jesus Raul Martinez, the J.R. of J.R. Custom Metal Products.
Martinez arrived from San Luis Potosi in 1956 and worked for nearly two decades before deciding to go out on his own in 1974. He got plenty of discouragement, Koehler said.
"And my dad would say — and he was always a humble man — he'd say 'You know, I have faith in God, I have my family, and I have my two hands," she said. "I've got to go out and try.' "
He started in his garage with a single welder. The family still owns it, and Jorge Martinez, Koehler's brother and the head of sales, is restoring it for display at the company headquarters.
Growing up, the children were expected to help out.
"We would wait until after the news was over to start welding because we would scramble all the neighborhood TV's," Jorge Martinez said. "They'd say 'Oh, Raul's working.' We'd work until 11 or 12 at night.
"Any my mother would get so mad," Koehler said. "'Raul, those boys need to go to school tomorrow.' "
Their father died in 2008.
Today, an even larger contingent of third-generation family members has joined or is interested in joining the business, Koehler said. For them, the future looks remarkably promising.
"As you know we can never run out of words to say about J.R.," Koehler said, with a laugh.