In 1988 businessman Eric Hoover founded Excalibur Machine Company of Conneaut Lake, Pa. A steel fabricating and OEM machining company, Excalibur provided heavy steel fabrication services to the locomotive, power generation, mining and construction industries. Customers were so satisfied with Excalibur’s products that the business grew exponentially.
Riding on the success of Excalibur, Hoover merged Sipco Molding Technologies, a precision machining and plastic injection molding company located in Meadville, Pa., into the fold in October 2006. By May 2007, Hoover had added Multi Tool and Multi Plastics, Inc. of Saegertown, Pa., and Multi-Plastics of New Mexico to the team. All companies have unique interrelated and complementary skill sets to Excalibur. All companies share costs, knowledge, and equipment and are dedicated to enhancing the performance of each other’s business.
Success seemed to be following Eric Hoover. In 2006 the Small Business Administration named him National Small Business Person of the Year for his business sense and particularly his dedication to the community. By August of 2007, Hoover’s company, Excalibur, was named the 20th fastest growing manufacturing company in the United States by INC Magazine. Because Hoover was “Combining Organizations to Reach Excellence,” the umbrella name “CORE Manufacturing” was chosen in 2007 to identify the group of companies as “a solid solutions provider.”
The result of Hoover’s business know-how is a dynamic group of companies that reach a diverse customer base. “We have built a company that is more resistant to downturns in the economy. We serve the medical, heavy construction, consumer products, automotive, mining, locomotive, trucking, and power generation industries and we are always surprised at the next customer that comes walking through the door,” says Larry Sippy, director of sales for CORE Manufacturing. “We provide a great engineering service to our customers and we have really been concentrating on diversification and letting as many people as possible know we are out there.”
The companies of CORE Manufacturing are experts at taking existing products and making them more efficient and competitive for their customers. They also love new challenges. “A lot of customers come to us with an idea. They want to create this particular thing and ask us if we can help them make it. So, we go to the drawing boards and we come up with the most efficient way possible to manufacture it. We are focused on the technology and productivity. It is really gratifying being able to bring those ideas to fruition and at the same time help a company or an individual inventor save money by reducing, say 17 parts, to five. It can sometimes save thousands, even millions of dollars in production.”
Attention to detail and a willingness to try anything is what sets Core Manufacturing apart from its competitors, says Sippy. “We are really good at what we do. We pay an enormous amount of attention to detail. We also are not afraid to take on anything, no matter how big or small. We have engineered and built items that are constructed to handle a million pounds of molten lead and we have tackled the smallest medical parts. No matter what the project, we will take it on. Manufacturing is alive and well in America and CORE Manufacturing is growing and determined to make a difference in Northwestern Pennsylvania, the United States and the world.”
Like many companies, CORE Manufacturing faces offshore competition and the frequent rumors that American manufacturing is dead. “We do not happen to believe that for one second. We are actually bringing work back from China. Many companies run into a number of problems when they go overseas,” says Sippy. “Additionally, a lot of the parts we are focusing on are heavy parts that are not conducive to transporting across the ocean – due to shipping costs and such – so we also make the smaller parts that hook onto those big parts.” Sippy says there is also a lot of concern among companies over the loss of intellectual property when dealing with foreign countries. “A lot of our more dynamic, high-level customers are trying to protect their intellectual know-how as best they can. They trust American manufacturing to do that. They do not want to lose their edge, so they decide it is best to stay here and incur a little extra cost rather than risk losing something much bigger.”
Sippy also shed some light on another trend – the vanishing manufacturing worker. “It is hard to get people into manufacturing these days. It is difficult for us to find employees and I think it is only going to get harder,” says Sippy. CORE Manufacturing works full time on retaining, training and recruiting new employees. The company also spends a great deal of time recruiting at high schools, colleges and job fairs. “The trades are not a common occupation today. It is just a fact of life,” says Sippy. “What might be surprising to many people, however, is that a toolmaker actually makes double what an English major earns upon graduating from college.”
Yet, if nothing else, CORE Manufacturing is built on a legacy and will for survival, stemming from the personal struggles of its founder. At 22 months old, Eric Hoover was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, which is usually crippling. Eric spent much of his childhood years in hospitals, and was predicted to spend much of his life in a wheelchair. He credits his family and friends for not letting him get down. Facing and overcoming the disease gave Eric the drive to be successful in business.
In 2005, Eric founded Excalibur Charitable Foundation, which became an official charity in 2006. Excalibur Charities hosts two events annually and donates 100 percent of all proceeds directly back to the community. “My goal is to grow these charitable events as I have grown my companies so that I can continue to give back to the community and those in need, focusing on health care and children. I hope to be donating several hundred thousand dollars back into the community on a yearly basis in the very near future via the Foundation and portions of CORE’s profits,” says Hoover.
To keep employees healthy and medical costs down, Hoover promotes health and wellness throughout CORE Manufacturing. He created a CORE Wellness team and even hired a full-time nurse to travel from shop to shop and conduct check-ups at no cost to workers. The company also holds weight loss competitions and health and wellness fairs.
With a healthy workforce in place, CORE Manufacturing expects to grow its healthy company. “We are continuously expanding. We are looking at a tremendous amount of growth and so far we are on trend,” says Sippy. We are taking on bigger and bigger projects and our goal is to double our sales in three years.”