PLATTSBURGH — Jeffords Steel and Engineering has opened its own machine shop.
The firm was launched 32 years ago as a steel fabricator, then later expanded into the steel supply side of the industry.
"We've never had a machine shop. This makes us a complete (steel) fabrication center," founder and CEO Larry Jeffords said.
Customers can now buy steel, have it fabricated to order and even have it machined to finished specifications.
When Jeffords started the steel-supply division, a number of local machine shops would buy their steel from his company and then machine it themselves.
He hadn't wanted to expand his operation in that direction because it didn't make sense to compete with his own customer base and he also just didn't have the expertise to handle that side of the business.
One of those longtime customers — for 25 years — was Bob Davenport of R&S Machine, which was originally on Trade Road and later in West Chazy.
Jeffords frequently needs machined products for the jobs on which his firm bids and often went to R&S for that work.
When Davenport closed that business about a year ago, he applied for a job at Jeffords Steel. That's when Jeffords realized this was the time to move into that line.
"Here's somebody I've known for years; plus he really knows the business," Jeffords said.
That was a better option than looking for a new machine shop to work with, as many of them offer only specialized services to a few preferred customers.
He hired Davenport and had him help decide what equipment they would need. Jeffords then invested about $150,000 and installed the equipment in about 2,500 square feet of space.
The area, previously used for smaller fabrication projects, fit the needs of the machine shop, as it was already heated and had an overhead crane and adequate power supply.
Jeffords said the machine shop is expected to add to what Davenport was doing at R&S with potential new customers.
He expects to add one assistant this year, and they will explore a second shift if business warrants. That would also fit well, as Jeffords Steel and Engineering already runs two shifts in the other parts of the operation.
The company has two fabrication facilities, with about 100 employees in Plattsburgh and 15 in Potsdam.
Jeffords said he plans an expansion in Potsdam this year, which will likely increase the workforce there to about 25 people.
The company's service area extends throughout northern and central New York, from Plattsburgh through Watertown to the Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca areas.
They also do a number of projects throughout Vermont, western New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.
That includes upcoming work to supply steel for a five-story dormitory for Champlain College in Burlington.
Jeffords said that and the potential for work as the Norsk Titanium project in Plattsburgh moves forward and attracts other investment makes him optimistic for future growth.
Bid opportunities did slow down in the period leading up to the recent election, but things appear to be picking back up, he said.
That is especially likely if President-elect Donald Trump stands by his commitment to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, the Plattsburgh businessman said.
Jeffords takes pride in the fact that the company has never engaged in seasonal layoffs, preferring to pay overtime when additional work is required.
In the past, employees were often on straight time during the winter months as work slowed, but it appears there will be overtime opportunities throughout the coming year, Jeffords said.
"I'm very optimistic that things are going to be strong for the next year," he said.
The firm's commitment to its employees is at least part of the reason so many of the earliest hires are still with the company more than 20 years later, Jeffords said.
"The nucleus that we have created over the last 30 years has really stuck together."
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