Slump sinks Machining Specialists

Machining Specialists, which makes machined parts, sheet metal products and assemblies for the aviation industry, is closing.

The company is auctioning its equipment and selling its buildings at 2727 W. Pawnee and 2710 W. Pawnee.

"We couldn't survive the economic downturn," co-owner and president Stan Cox said Wednesday.

In 2007, the company won a big order from Cessna Aircraft. Taking on the work required Machining Specialists to build a new building and add additional equipment and material in a $2 million project.

It delivered parts for about 16 months before the recession hit and orders from Cessna dropped 80 percent, Cox said. Orders from Cessna were about half of the company's business.

"We couldn't survive the hit," he said. "I'm not pointing any fingers at Cessna. They didn't know the downturn was going to be so severe."

Machining Specialists also did work for Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing, Hawker Beechcraft and others.

During the recession, sales from all customers were down. They had stabilized with Spirit and Boeing.

"But unfortunately, Cessna just hasn't hit that rebound yet," he said.

"What was a really good thing by winning that contract ended up being kind of our ending," Cox said. "It was the result of our demise."

Machining Specialists worked with customers so they could place current work with other suppliers.

"We did not want to hurt them without being able to support deliveries," Cox said. "We contacted them last year and told them what our plan was."

An auction will be held on-site April 15 by Hilco Auction, a Farmington Hills, Mich., auction company. The buildings are listed with J.P. Weigand.

"We're going to have an auction; our buildings are listed for sale, and we're trying to do everything we can not to file bankruptcy," Cox said. "Our bank is working with us, not against us."

He's "cautiously optimistic" that won't happen.

Machining Specialists is co-owned by Cox and Dave Fish. Both have spent most of their lives in the business.

Cox's father, Ernest (Bud) Cox, started Cox Machine, owned by Stan's brother, Steve.

Fish's father, Frank Fish, was co-owner of Weaver Manufacturing.

After the auction, Cox said, he will explore other opportunities.

Machining Specialists started in 1976 as Sharpening Specialists. Its grinding assets were sold and the name changed in 1997 as its focus shifted from making cutters and tools to aerospace parts.

At one time, the company employed 100. Today, there's a skeleton crew.

It's sad, he said, because the economy is beginning to improve.

"We were just so close to being able to weather the storm."