Manufacturing was one of the sectors hardest hit in the 2000-01 economic downturn, with 2.8 million layoffs and the largest export drop in 50 years. Now, the industry's back on its feet, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Here's a look at two Hispanic-owned manufacturing companies that have also weathered the storm.
48 Percent Growth in 2005. In 2001 Dolores M. Rodriguez did something brave – she launched her own small manufacturers'packaging firm. The industry had seen tough times, but she was confident her Dundee, Michigan-based company, Milagro Packaging, would be a success. "I used to be a buyer in the industry, and it was very time consuming and inefficient to have to buy products and supplies from different places," says Ms. Rodriguez, who wanted to create a one-stop shop. "We wanted to offer all types of packaging, such as collapsible containers, expandable and returnable shipping containers, and plastic pallets." Milagro, a joint venture Ms. Rodriguez created with Concept Packaging Group, also provides associated solutions to manufacturers, such as dedicated inventory management programs, design and manufacturing of internal dunnage (cargo cushioning/separation products), and logistics programs. Milagro's customers include Toyota, NACOM Networks, 3M, Eaton, and Toyotomi. The company has manufacturing facilities in California,Michigan, Kentucky, and South Carolina, as well as assembly and warehouse locations in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Milagro (debuting at number 231 on the Hispanic Business 500) boosted its revenues 48 percent in 2005, from $14.18 million in 2004 to $21 million. "We've been able to grow our business by concentrating on our processes and refining them to meet the needs of our customers," Ms. Rodriguez says. Coming up with creative solutions and tailoring services for a customer's individual needs is key to maintaining Milagro's competitive edge." High Growth in Hog Heaven. Gusto Packing Co. has certainly kept its competitive edge. The Montgomery, Illinois-based meat processing and distribution company, launched in 1972 by CEO Rafael Caballero Sr., has been growing strong ever since. The family-run business has carved a niche in the industry with five pork product lines. And even with production at 1.5 million pounds a week, Gusto sees continued high-growth potential in a U.S. food manufacturing industry worth $168 billion in 2004, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Besides the greater Chicago area, a large portion of Gusto's business comes from California, where customers include Hispanic food chains, such as Northgate Gonzalez Markets. Total 2005 revenues for Gusto (also a newcomer to the list this year, at number 90), increased 14.7 percent, to $78 million in 2005. Danny Caballero, Gusto's director of finance and the son of the CEO, attributes their growth to excellent customer service and attention to detail in budget and production-line management, supported by "our investment in technology and state-of-the-art equipment, which has allowed us to cut our costs and send products to the market with minimal lead times." "There is a lot of competition, and we're starting to see companies our size be bought out or close their doors," he observes. "We hope to remain competitive."
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