Delaware Public Media

Big deal for small companies

Jun 29, 2010

The Markell administration’s aggressive use of the Strategic Fund over the last year and a half has given a number of small businesses a financial shot in the arm.

Newark-based SentryLight, Inc., received a $300,000 loan from the fund. The company, founded in 2007, manufactures a new emergency light system that’s lower to the ground than conventional systems, helping better light smoky hallways in fires. Middletown volunteer firefighter Brian Corbett is the company's president and a co-inventor of the new system. Corbett says that when the company partnered with Phillips Lighting in 2008, he knew it had to expand. But the company did not have the working capital for such an expansion. That’s when he looked to the Strategic Fund.

“It was a tipping point for us,” said Corbett. “We were at the point of moving forward with the largest lighting company in the world, and yet we were not a heavily funded company.”

With the Strategic Fund loan it received last September, SentryLight has grown from 5 people to 11 so far, adding jobs in administrative work, assembly, shipping/receiving, and quality control. It has also acquired necessary inventory.

Corbett says the loan supports research and development as well.

"This technology is an expanding technology," he explained. The company is developing way-finding capabilities for its products. "You have to have new products in the pipeline."

SentryLight sees the potential to add more jobs. “Of course, there’s a lot of unknown parameters with the economy,” said Corbett. “No one has a crystal ball to predict the future, but as far as SentryLight goes, and as far as where we’re going with this product and jobs, it’s looking up.“

Last fall, PTM Manufacturing received $645,000 from the Strategic Fund. The Newark-based company manufactures energy-efficient ducting and insulation products had hoped for more.

“But we understand this is a stepping stone,” said PTM president Pete Faverio. “We had said originally, if we were able to receive a million-dollar loan to grow the business, we would put 23 people to work the first year. We got $645,000 from the state, and we're looking at 15 to 16 jobs this year.”

[caption id="attachment_300" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="PTM continues hopes to create 60 more jobs over the next 3 years using Strategic Fund award"][/caption]

Since receiving the loan PTM has hired nine new employees, and it hopes to open sites around the country. But Faverio maintains that the corporate headquarters will remain in Delaware. Company officials estimate for every new site it builds, three to five jobs will be created in Delaware to support it. They hope to create more than 60 jobs over the next three years. That goal can be reached, they say, because the groundwork being laid in Delaware allows PTM’s name and product to gain a foothold in the HVAC market.

“We’re crossing that hurdle," said Faverio. The DuPont company and a few local engineering communities are beginning to specify PTM products. “I’m very optimistic. I don’t see any reason why our goals over the next three to five years aren’t going to be met.”

A $500,000 Strategic Fund loan last December helped Testing Machines, Inc., a supplier of laboratory testing instrumentation, move its headquarters and manufacturing operations from Long Island to New Castle. TMI has done business in Ohio and New York, but neither state "moves with the swiftness and decisiveness that Delaware has on all fronts,” said company president John Sullivan.

Sullivan says Delaware’s response was all the more impressive considering that the state was helping TMI at the same time it was working on the deal to get Fisker Automotive to locate here.

“A big huge monster transaction going on, and they were dealing with little old TMI, and they made us feel that we were just as important as the potential reopening of the old General Motors plant,” Sullivan said.

[caption id="attachment_303" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Strategic Fund money helped TMI transfer workers from Long Island to its new home in New Castle"][/caption]

TMI has already filled 30 of the 50 anticipated jobs it promised to create. Sixteen of 30 relocated from the Long Island office, while 10 have been hired from within Delaware, where Sullivan found ready-made candidates.

“We went to Del Tech and met with their electrical and mechanical assembly department and we said, ‘Look, we have 10 jobs that we’re looking to fill.’ And they not only had candidates, they had tremendously qualified candidates," said Sullivan. “When you can go out to your local technical school and they have a pool of qualified candidates ready to go and they come in and they’re proficient right from the beginning, that’s a great testament to Delaware.”