A Chat with John Economaki, Founder and President, Bridge City Tool Works
I solved this problem by being honest with our customers regarding our precarious chances for survival and continuing operations with borrowed money from some very good friends. We did manage to float an SB-2 offering and raised approximately 1 million dollars to replace this debt.
Sept. 11 is a different story. What happened at 9/11 is that we were doing great. In fact, we were forecasting our best year ever. And we were in a 20,000 square-foot facility on the second floor of an old building. And we had all this old CNC equipment (computerized numerically controlled manufacturing/milling machines) sitting on wooden floors. And we were having trouble getting all the output from these machines that we wanted, because they were basically sitting on a trampoline in those conditions. It's expensive to move a manufacturing facility, and we had just grown and grown, so we had a lot of stuff. So, we found a place, and we entered into a lease, and it was going to cost about $250,000 to $300,000 to move the facility. Well, I put together a short-term loan proposal with my bank, and said, here's how we'll repay the funds. It was structured as a short-term note. We moved in January of 2001.
When 9/11 happened — and I knew from the first Gulf War, which by the way compounded my earlier problem with the savings and loan — I knew that was going to impact us. Because we don't make anything that people need, we make what they want. And I call it the CNN affect. If there's something unbelievable happening on CNN, my phones aren't going to ring. I just know this.
I was on a bicycle trip at the time, and I said to my buddy, "This is going to kill my company. It's an absolute death sentence." I got back from the bike trip on Sept. 14, and the girls in the call center said they hadn't gotten a call for two days. I said, "Nothing?" We had never had a zero-sales day in the history of the business. I mean, we had had low days, don't get me wrong, but never a zero day. And we had six in a row. I actually called the phone company and had them check my 800 lines to make sure they were working. It was just bizarre. I knew it was going to be a problem.