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Small Business Spotlight: Surmotech

Brett Davidsen
Updated: November 13, 2019 10:53 PM
Created: November 13, 2019 10:02 PM

VICTOR, N.Y. (WHEC) — There's a lot to impress you as you walk the floor of the Surmotech factory. Surmotech is an electronic contract manufacturer in Victor, primarily building circuit boards for other companies' products.

"We build some wearable devices, some for medical, some for the consumer market, some military products that are used out in the field—combat field," Surmotech CEO Susan Horne said. "We build some industrial devices that are involved in timing and up in satellites."

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Recently Horne and CFO Jeffrey Thaler gave us a tour of the plant and showed us some of the products they're working on. For instance, they build the circuit boards for license plate readers used by police agencies and assemble the entire product.

"We built the first 20," Horne said, showing us the partially assembled license plate reader. "Then we built 100, and then by the end of the product's life cycle, which really just ended, we built probably over 7,000 to 8,000 license plate readers."

They also build circuit boards that go into drones and electronic personal safety devices. 

"So instead of going to that red light and picking up the phone, you hold this device down and it hooks you right into the campus security,"

Horne explained.

But business wasn't always this good. Horne and Thaler bought Surmotech in 2013. They say at the time the business was struggling and tied to just one customer.

Brett Davidsen: “Why jump into that situation?”

Susan Horne: "Well, the infrastructure here was tremendous." 

They had about 20 employees back then and preached patience and teamwork, because growing the business took time.

Brett Davidsen: “When did you know that the company would make it?”

Susan Horne: "I never was afraid that we wouldn't make it."

Jeffrey Thaler: "The thing that we expected though was because we had so many contacts in the business, that we could bring it in a lot quicker. and that was a surprise. The good news was we had very controlled growth because of it too. It didn't all happen at once."

Their patience and perseverance paid off. They now work on 60 to 65 products a month with different partners.

The circuit boards run through a series of pre-programmed machines which add the components and even let employees know if the board is good to go. An employee x-rays the board before it is sent to an automated soldering machine. The circuits boards are then washed to get the contaminants off before being inspected again.

Revenue at Surmotech is now up tenfold, and with 68 employees, they've been able to pay out employee bonuses 13 quarters in a row.

Earlier this month, Surmotech was listed in the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce's Top 100 companies for growth -- coming in at number 32.

Horne says they've built a nice foundation.

"I don't think we ever want to be a $200 million company. I don't think we ever want to be that. I think we like this family atmosphere. So maybe, 100 employees, maybe $30 to $40 million, something like that would be a nice place to be."

If you know a small business we should feature, email us at spotlight@whec.com.


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