Milbank Manufacturing Company wins statewide award for business excellence.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Milbank Manufacturing Company, Kansas City, is the winner of a statewide award for business excellence.

The electric metering sockets manufacturer received a 2013 Excellence in Business Award from the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers (MO SBTDC) and Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC) at a gala banquet in Jefferson City, Mo., on Jan. 30. The firm also received legislative resolutions at the Missouri Capitol from Senator Paul LeVota, District 11, and Rep. John Rizzo, District 19.

Milbank is one of 22 outstanding Missouri small businesses that received the award. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in business management, government contracting, job creation and revenue generation by client firms of the two programs.

Milbank, family-owned by three generations of the Waldrop family, is a leading provider of the electric metering sockets seen in nearly every home, school and business, having captured as much as 50 percent of the U.S. market. The company has also added electrical enclosures, pedestals, generators and product lines in the renewable energy arena.

The company’s products and profitability have always been tightly tied to the housing industry, however, and the collapse of the housing market in 2008 posed a grave threat to Milbank. A cascade of cheaply made foreign electrical products, some copycat products with reproduction Milbank logos, exacerbated the crisis.

In 2008, the firm approached the Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC) in Blue Springs, which administers the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) program. TAAF is a program of the University of Missouri Extension Business Development Program and an SBTDC sister initiative that provides grants for manufacturers in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas and has resulted in millions of dollars of production improvements and increased sales.

Over the course of several consultations and an in-depth company assessment in 2009, a grant was secured with the assistance of TAAF project manager Jeannine Goodrich.

Milbank decided to use TAAF funds for an assessment of the firm’s managerial team, including job responsibilities, pay scales and skillsets; three diverse marketing projects; a plant reorganization using lean principles and methodologies; and two system projects, developing customized billing software and data content and design.

The firm also began using kaizen, Japanese for improvement, a focus on continuous improvement that characterizes many Japanese firms, to make Milbank leaner and more competitive.

Margaret Fitzgerald, director of marketing and public affairs, says Goodrich has been her partner throughout these processes.

“Jeannine has gone above and beyond so many times. There was a period when TAAF funds were on hold, and we were not able to advance one of our final programs. Jeannine reached out on her own initiative to provide us with updates; we didn’t have to call her. And once the funds were released, she worked with us so we could go forward. I wish every consultant was as responsive, as much of a partner as she was.”

As a result of these investments Fitzgerald says Milbank has not just weathered the financial storm but thrived and reinvested funds, with TAAF assistance, to secure the future of the company. That future is bright: Milbank recently introduced an electric vehicle charging station to the market and is moving further into renewable energy products.

The MO SBTDC and MO PTAC are a statewide network of business technical assistance providers and educators who serve Missouri businesses with consultation and training in the areas of management, marketing, international trade, financial management, government contracting, technology commercialization and market research.

For more information, go to www.missouribusiness.net. Or call Mary Paulsell, director of communications, at 573/882-1353 or paulsellm@missouri.edu.

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