Founded upon finding a market niche welding trailer hitches in the mid-1970s, Torklift Central Welding in Kent has since been off and running as a small, local manufacturing business.
In fact, now with three South Sound manufacturing and distribution centers, and customers all over the globe, you could say that company has definitely grown into a major market competitor over the decades. And recent events indicate that business is poised to get even better.
“It’s been a busy year,” said general manager Jay Taylor.
With 24 percent growth for 2014 as of this month, some might say that’s an understatement. One significant cause for that business, and the record growth, is Torklift’s recent installation of a new Powercoat system. This will allow the company to accomplish even more work in-house, which Taylor estimates will reduce production costs by roughly 50 percent.
“Actually, we’re a little ahead of that right now, at 60 percent,” he said.
The growth curve harks back to the company’s nimble move to focus on trailer attachment mechanisms, instead on making auxiliary gas tanks during the fuel shortage years just after its founding. Then over its next decade of building and expanding locations and products, the company changed further.
The 1990s saw Torklift’s custom-designed trailers, hitches, tow bars and related items rise to the top of the list for regional retail equipment dealers and distributors. In 2000, and then again in 2009, growth happened so rapidly that the product and development teams branched out into separate facilities.
This year, the expansion of brick-and-mortar sites continues with a 45,000-square-foot addition to the central welding site, which will result in 26,000 square feet of extra work space that will be ready by spring of next year. More in-house production capability means more employees; Torklift plans to add a dozen or more by mid-2015.
“Altogether, the moves are expected to increase manufacturing by 30 percent,” Taylor said.
Among the company’s main geographic targets now, after 50 years in the business and a strong foothold across the U.S., are international markets like the nearby Pacific Rim countries. Torklift already partners with 40 RV service companies throughout the region.
Australia alone has more than 700 RV dealers with needs for trailer equipment and welding, and a network of popular RV-friendly state and national parks where travelers are taking their rigs.
With RV travel and national park visits on the rise in surrounding countries like New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, Taylor said it’s this low-hanging fruit that the company plans to build on next — starting with a new distribution center in Sydney, Australia, that will employ 18 workers and open at the start of 2015.
“It’s taken a year and a-half, but we’re in the thick of things now, and ready to use that as a springboard for serving the region,” he said. “Who knew that, for example, there is a push to develop and bring people into new national park networks in countries like Vietnam?”