Lakeshore Firm gets SBA honor

May 15, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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GRAND HAVEN — Harbor Industries Inc. has been named the Jeffrey Butland Family Owned Business of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration, the culmination of a series of honors received this spring by the third-generation family-owned manufacturing company.

There is only one national winner of the Butland award each year, according to Annette Hall of U.S. SBA Michigan District Office. Companies compete for the award on a state basis, and the state winners then compete on a regional basis. The winners in each region of the U.S. then compete for the top award.

This year, Harbor Industries won at the state and regional levels and then "beat out the competition and won national," said Hall.

According to the SBA, the Butland award goes to a family-owned business that has been successfully passed on from one generation to another. The business must also have demonstrated success as measured by sales and profits, and increased employment opportunities for family members and non-family members alike. It also must have demonstrated potential for long-term business success and economic growth, and have made contributions to community-oriented projects.

"We're very proud of our company and our people. To win national recognition really is an honor for us," said Tim Parker, president of Harbor Industries.

The company enjoys sales of about $70 million a year in the design and manufacturing of point-of-purchase displays and store fixtures in use throughout the United States. Its corporate headquarters are in Grand Haven, where about 70 are employed, and it has a manufacturing plant in Charlevoix with just over 200 employees.

Parker said he believes one reason Harbor was named this year's Butland winner is due to its extensive community involvement in both Grand Haven and Charlevoix.

"I think our community involvement is something that really differentiates us. We do quarterly community involvement projects where we send our employees on company time to do different activities with nonprofits."

The company donates to and works with numerous charities, including the Tri-Cities Area United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics Michigan, Hospice of North Ottawa, American Red Cross and West Michigan Environmental Action Council. The company is also a member of several trade associations, including POPAI, ARE, GIC, In-Store Marketing Institute and Women in POP organizations

Parker noted that another factor that helped Harbor earn the Butland award is its successful transition to the third generation of family management.

Harbor Industries was founded in Grand Haven in 1946 by Henry T. Parker Sr. in a building on the Grand Haven waterfront — hence the name. The company later grew under the leadership of Ted Parker, Henry’s son. In early 2008, the company completed a successful management transition to the third generation, with Ted's son, Tim, being named president and his daughter, Cindy Parker Euscher, named executive vice president. Ted Parker continues to serve as the company’s chairman.

“Few family-owned businesses are able to transition from one generation to the next. Even less are able to successfully pass the torch to a third generation. I am proud of the longevity that we have been able to achieve at Harbor and appreciate the Small Business Administration honoring our accomplishments,” said Ted Parker.

According to statistics provided by the Family Owned Business Institute at GVSU, about a third of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, but only about 12 percent make it to the third generation. About 3 percent will still be operating at the fourth-generation level.

Another honor received by Harbor Industries was being named in early May as one of West Michigan's 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For. The award was presented by the Michigan Business and Professional Association, which is based in Warren.

Harbor was one of the first companies in the point-of-purchase displays industry to design and develop interactive digital displays. Tim Parker said a good example of that is the interactive video game demonstration displays in Target stores, which are made by Harbor Industries. Another major retailer that has been a long-time customer of Harbor Industries is Sears.

Some clients are companies that manufacture consumer products. General Electric has been a client for almost 40 years. Others include Philip Morris tobacco and Shaw carpets. Harbor also has made displays for some Universal Forest Products consumer lines.

The company's specialty is its ability to make so many different types of displays from a wide variety of materials that range from injection-molded, thermo-formed and extruded plastics, to metal fabrications from wire and aluminum, and some wood.

"Our products end up in all 50 states, and get exported, as well," said Parker.

Harbor purchased a competing company in Charlevoix in 1981. In 2000 and 2001, it built new production facilities there, which are ISO 9001-2000 compliant.

After several years of vigorous growth starting in the late 1990s, Harbor's business has been relatively flat over the last five years — but it has been "fairly consistent," said Parker, "which in light of what's been going on, we're pretty happy about."

"Like everyone else, the fourth quarter (of 2008) and the first quarter were lighter than we would have liked," he said, adding that the second quarter was shaping up to be "very good."

"We've got a good order backlog for the coming quarter right now, and we have a lot of projects in development right now," he said.

At Harbor Industries, added Parker, the feeling about the economy is that "hopefully, it's the start of the turnaround."

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