EAST PROVIDENCE — No one considers himself more of an “Ocean Stater” than Peter Frost.
Never was that more evident than Thursday evening, when Frost — as President/Chief Executive Officer of ATW Companies Inc. of Warwick — hosted a Grand Opening celebration of a new manufacturing business named Parmatech-Proform Corp., located at 825 Waterman Ave.
There was no hiding Frost's elation as he introduced the new 25,000 square-foot site to Gov. Donald Carcieri, General Treasurer/gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Mayor Joseph Larisa and other honored guests.
“I feel incredibly proud of this place,” said Frost, a down-home, amiable sort who admitted before the ribbon-cutting with the governor to being nervous about delivering his speech. “A.T. Wall, the founding father of this company, has been in Warwick (previously Providence) since 1886. I'm a native Rhode Islander and I live in Narragansett, and anything we can do as a corporation with the legacy we have to help the state's economy, I feel, is a social obligation.
“I feel married to Rhode Island, and it's of paramount importance to our companies to do what we can to contribute to the state,” he added. “We want to be part of bringing Rhode Island back to where it was, where it needs to be.”
ATW Companies is the parent to four businesses, including A.T. Wall Co. of Warwick; Judson A. Smith Co. of Boyertown, Pa.; Parmatech Corp. of Petaluma, Calif.; and now Parmatech-Proform in East Providence.
As a wholly-owned subsidiary of ATW, Proform focuses on metal injection molding (MIM) and secondary MIM operations for the medical, telecommunications, firearms, hand tools, semiconductor and electronic packaging markets. It's main purpose is to augment and complement Parmatech's Claifornia-based MIM operation.
Proform had been located in New Bedford, but Frost decided to move it to East Providence for several reasons, the most significant being he wanted it in Rhode Island.
“We needed to expand our facilities (at Parmatech) in California; pure and simple, we ran out of room,” said Proform General Manager Brian McBride. “That meant getting out of our building in Petaluma or move it out of state, and that's what we decided to do.
“Two years ago, we had a choice of green fielding — starting from scratch — or finding a small MIM company we could buy,” he continued. “We found Proform, a small division of Morgan Alberox in New Bedford. Once we made the purchase (in Sept. 2009), Morgan Alberox officials wanted us to pull out of the building, so we chose this site. We did that so our 12 employees could work here without a lengthy commute.”
Stated Frost: “ATW Companies is very excited about expanding within Rhode Island, our long-established headquarters and base of operations. In addition to increasing our capacities on the East Coast, we expect the new facility will generate over 100 jobs to the area over the next three years.”
Those jobs would include manufacturing technicians, manufacturing line employees, mechanical quality technicians, product and processing engineers and business support personnel (such as secretaries, public relations people, etc.).
Proform is located at the old EFD Co. building, and Ron Mitchell Construction Co. of Ashaway began demolition/reconstruction/renovation work this past January. Mitchell, the owner, indicated he worked closely with his construction manager, Paul Yoe, in developing such plans.
The move became official Sept. 3; that's when the 15 employees (three new ones have been hired since) went to work.
When asked what Proform does exactly, McBride indicated workers take a metal powder with a bonding agent, then shoot it into a mold to create what he calls a “green part.” It then is sent through a sintering process, which shrinks the part by about 20 percent and turns it into a solid state.
McBride also mentioned they use a furnace to “sinter,” one that reaches heat of over 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We have a lot of parts that go into firearms, medical instruments/devices, orthodontic/dental brackets, cellphones and the like, so we're producing custom metal components,” he noted. “We then sell these parts to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Any company who needs a small complex metal part, we make it for them.”
D.J. Lauck, a sales manager out of the Petaluma plant, explained companies go to them and ask if they can fabricate a metal part through the MIM process – at competitive prices. If the answer is yes, they begin work.
Frost estimated the cost of the building and its new equipment at between $7.5-10 million. One piece, in fact, he bought from Tiyoda-Serec Inc. of Quonset.
“I did that because it was another Rhode Island company,” Frost offered. “Anything I can do to buy not only American products but those made in Rhode Island or New England, I'll do. Right now, it's all about re-qualifying our projects with our customers, making sure they're satisfied. They need to know we have control over our quality processes and products.
“We're also looking right now for engineering staff to step in and help us,” he added. “This process is 90-percent thinking and 10-percent doing. We need talented engineers to lay out the process. That will ensure we're making those quality parts.”
Sen. Whitehouse, for one, admitted being impressed with the facility.
“It's incredibly exciting; Proform is a manufacturing company that has chosen to relocate to Rhode Island, and has great high-technology knowhow,” he said. “It's also driven by Peter's enthusiasm. He understands Rhode Island is a great place for this kind of work. It's exciting when you see business leaders who believe this is a great place to grow a company.”
Caryn Mitchell, ATW Companies' Chief Financial Officer, agreed.
“It feels great to bring manufacturing jobs to Rhode Island,” she said. “The fact that so many manufacturing jobs have moved offshore is a tragedy. We want to make it known it's happening with us in Rhode Island.”
Before the ribbon-cutting, Carcieri revealed he loves attending manufacturing business openings “because it gets the juices flowing. You people are doing real things. I've known the Frosts for a number of years, and they have such a great history. It's a great company.
“I'm really excited about talking to Peter about what he wants to do for East Providence and the state,” he continued. “People are focused on manufacturing and how we compete. I still say the United States is the best place to do business, though there is tough competition from Asia, the Pacific.
“I'm thrilled you're relocating in Rhode Island, Peter ... We need to grow the economy of this state. It's all with an eye toward making our state competitive.”
Carcieri then gave Frost a citation from the Governor's Office, wishing the Frosts and Proform great success in future years.
Mayor Larisa also proclaimed Oct. 21, 2010 ATW Companies Day in the city, and the audience – which previously had been served hors d'oeuvres and cocktails – applauded loudly inside Proform's cafeteria.
“Our goals? A year from now, we hope to be at $3.5 million in revenue, and – within five years – up to approximately $20 million,” Frost explained. “We're hoping to expand as quickly as possible. We may not reach those numbers right away, but that's where we want to be.”