Michigan SBTDC Spotlight – Best Small Business 2012

Cadillac Culvert is one of twelve companies from around the state of Michigan that has been selected to receive the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center’s (MI-SBTDC) Best Small Business Award. These companies were chosen from over 13,000 small businesses that received confidential counseling and training from MI-SBTDC in 2012.

The Best Small Business award recipients were identified based on their success in creating jobs, increasing sales, improving their business strategy and their involvement with the MI-SBTDC. These recipients will be honored at the Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards ceremony on May 2, 2013.

“The Best Small Business Award provides the MI-SBTDC network with an opportunity to acknowledge exceptional small businesses that we’ve worked with the previous year,” says Carol Lopucki, State Director of the MI-SBTDC. “We are excited to celebrate their successes.” When Don Aldrich and Chuck Thomas found out that the company they had worked at for over 18 years was on the brink of closing, they weren’t sure what to do. They knew that the Cadillac-based culvert manufacturing company was either going to close its doors or be bought out, so they took a chance and decided to be the ones to purchase the company.
MI-SBTDC consultant Annie Shetler happened to be visiting the Cadillac Chamber of Commerce when Aldrich and Thomas stopped by to inquire about the steps necessary to purchase the company. Shetler heard the duo explaining their situation and immediately offered her assistance. Together they worked to develop a viable professional business plan and prepared to buy out the company.
Aldrich and Thomas were able to open Cadillac Culvert on May 10, 2012. They retained seven full time employees upon opening and have added three more since then. Cadillac Culvert sells their products to government agencies, private companies and the general public. They are working to expand their customer base throughout Michigan, and are in the process of launching a second spin-off company.
Cadillac Culvert manufactures a full line of corrugated metal products, including various diameters and gauges of underground pipe commonly called culvert. The company also makes single wall and concrete reinforced double wall fire pit rings and does custom metal fabrication. The business was formerly known as the Cadillac Concrete Pipe and Culvert Division of Premarc. But in the fall of 2011 Premarc filed for bankruptcy and the future of the Cadillac operation became uncertain. That’s when long-time employees Don Aldrich and Chuck Thomas decided to look into buying the business.

“They were going to close the plant or sell the plant, which meant us and all of our guys would lose our jobs, or Chuck and I could take on being business owners,” said Aldrich.

MI-SBTDCHe and Thomas had each been working at the Cadillac plant for 18 years and had already been overseeing the day to day operation of the plant. But in order to buy the business they needed to learn more about the financial side of running a business.

“The questions were what do we do, where do we start, how do we proceed with this whole process,” said Aldrich.

He and Thomas got their questions answered by business consultants from the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center.

“They provided us with all kinds of information and documentation from step one through the process starting with the business plan,” said Aldrich.

Cadillac Culvert Owners - MI-SBTDC“That was the key, getting that business plan together,” said Thomas. “Without the business plan no bank would even talk to us.”

With the business plan Aldrich and Thomas were able to secure the financing they needed to buy the business and keep themselves and seven other employees working in Cadillac. They say they couldn’t have done it without the help they got from the SBTDC.

“They helped us tremendously,” said Aldrich. “Anything we stumbled at all on they had the answers for us.”

“Without that guidance Don and I would have been pretty much on a blind mission.” said Thomas. “That guidance really provided the framework to get the business operation going.”

About MI-SBTDC
The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center provides counseling, business education, information based planning and technology commercialization to new and existing businesses throughout Michigan’s 83 counties. The MI-SBTDC Northwest Region is headquartered in Traverse City.
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