Small Business Spotlight : Ashland Technologies
Ashland Technologies, Inc. (Ash-Tec) is a leading contract manufacturer of machined and fabricated parts with a mission to become the first national chain of machine shops in locations throughout the United States. The company, headquartered in Schuylkill County, is known for manufacturing roller coaster cars and other items for amusement parks and arcades. Most recently, the company embarked on a major project in its new plant in Delano Township, to create a Jurassic World VR Expedition, which is now featured in more than 100 Dave & Buster’s locations around the country. We caught up with Ash-Tec’s CEO John Powers to learn more about the growth of the company and what it means to them to work smart and live happy in Pennsylvania.
How has Ash-Tec grown over the years?
The company was founded in 1996 by William “Bill” Wydra Jr. in Ashland. Due to the growth of the business, we expanded to a former fishing reel manufacturing building located in Hegins in 2007. In total, we now have four plants — Hegins is our flagship, Delano Township plant is our second, and the Orlando plant is our third, with the fourth plant in Ashland. The Dave & Buster’s project began in the former Sony plant in MAJIC Industrial Park in Delano where we hired 20 full-time employees. Our plant in Ashland is used primarily as a warehouse/special projects type of building, and we have employees come in as needed, depending on the project. We also have a plant in Orlando, Florida, which is open primarily to assist our amusement park projects.
We were able to expand thanks to the continued assistance from the Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO). This organization has always been a reliable resource for us, as they can speak to a variety of programs, services, and funding available in Pennsylvania. Our first interaction with SEDCO was through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program with the Ashland plant. They also applied for a Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) loan through DCED, and received $274,800 with a 4.75 percent interest rate, on behalf of our company for the acquisition of the Hegins plant.
How did the Jurassic World VR Expedition project come about?
We have a very close-knit relationship with the amusement park industry here, with at least 15 years of manufacturing rides under our belt. We have helped with carnival-type rides as well as local amusement parks, like Hersheypark, Busch Gardens, and Knoebels. Through these relationships, we were able to assist with the Jurassic World VR Expedition project for Dave & Buster’s. We also were able to make the whole virtual reality package with our partner companies instead of the client having to contact multiple companies. We ended up shipping 130 units all within a one-month period. We can be considered a one-stop shop facility, which is helpful for these types of projects.
What benefits do you see of working in Pennsylvania?
We’re all PA natives who run the management of the company, and we know how this particular state consists of employees with outstanding work ethics. Pennsylvania has talented tradespeople who went through the proper schooling and graduated with technical education to run the complicated and unique machinery at our shops.
The manufacturing industry is the largest employer in Schuylkill County, providing 9,945 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ash-Tec can be considered on the forefront of the labor market by helping communities and high school students see that there are fulfilling careers available after attending trade school. We also offer plant tours for teachers and students.
In fact, Ash-Tec was the initial partner in the pilot program launched under Representative Mike Tobash — the Business Education Partnership established under Act 168 — which provides continuing education credits for teachers who participate in manufacturing facility tours. This way, they are able to speak with students and parents of the multitude of career options available after high school. These tours help remove the stigma around manufacturing careers and show students that trade schools offer just as much fulfillment and accomplishment as liberal arts colleges.
The Small Business Spotlight is a monthly series which highlights businesses and entrepreneurs who are positively impacting their local community.
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John Powers is the Chief Executive Officer of Ashland Technologies. Prior to this role, he was the Vice President of Sales at Ash-Tec. He is also a board member and officer of the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board (WIB).