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4/8/2004

Back from the dead

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — A Longmont business with roots in the community dating back more than 30 years has returned.

Sherwood Manufacturing — originally called Sherwood Enterprises — has moved into the 23,000-square-foot building at 711 S. Bowen, after having been resurrected a little less than two years ago in Berthoud.

The company is back with many of its original employees, executives and even equipment that it had before a series of events led to the closing of the firm at its longtime location at 120 E. Ninth Ave. in 2001.

Don Sherwood originally started Sherwood Enterprises in 1972 as a small manufacturing business, but his company quickly found its niche constructing power supplies and cable and wire harnesses for high-tech companies in the area.

In 1994, Sherwood retired.

Then, in early 1996, the company merged with Maine-based PrecisMetals Inc. to form Electronic Manufacturing Systems, which later became EM Solutions.

In 2001, EM Solutions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and later that year it was bought out by Sanmina Corp., which soon after closed the Longmont facility, costing about 200 jobs.

“Don actually put in a bid to buy back the company — a bigger offer than Sanmina,” said Dan Skees, Sherwood Manufacturing’s CEO. “Don had this idea — he said, ‘Look, Sanmina’s going to close this thing — there’s a big void here.’

“He approached John (Hontz, the company’s president) and me about starting up this company again to fill that void.”

In August 2002, Sherwood Manufacturing was launched in Berthoud “mainly because the building was available when we started,” Skees said.

Recently, the company and its 30 employees relocated to 711 S. Bowen.

It not only picked up an additional 4,000-plus square feet, but it’s also closer to “the little Silicon Valley,” as Hontz puts it.

Sherwood remains retired, although he is the company’s chairman of the board and has helped with financing. Both Skees and Hontz were with Sherwood Enterprises for more than 20 years, as were many of the new company’s workforce.

As Skees walked the floor recently asking employees when they started with Sherwood, responses of “1974”, “1976” and “1978” were typical.

“All of our people are like that,” said Skees, adding that the entire current workforce was employed first by Sherwood and then EM Solutions. Also, much of the equipment Sherwood Manufacturing uses was purchased from EM Solutions “for pennies on the dollar,” Hontz said.

He said the company primarily builds wire and cable harnesses for use in the telecommunications, computer and medical systems. Storage Technology Corp. is one of the company’s clients — just like in the old days — and another is Fort Lupton’s Vehicle Systems, Sherwood’s first venture into vehicular wiring.

“We’ve got a good customer base,” Hontz said. “Dealing with StorageTek, that helps considerably, and some of our other cus-

tomers, they’re good companies to work with.

“And we actually sell cables to Sanmina too,” he notes ironically.

Troy Bell, operations manager for Vehicle Systems — which builds heating systems for recreational vehicles — said engineers at his company have known about Sherwood for years.

“I think the core team that is now with Sherwood Manufacturing was with Sherwood Enterprises before,” said Bell. “It’s basically the same people, and they have an excellent reputation, in-house, in our company.”

Officials with Sherwood declined to give revenues for the privately held firm, but “they have grown pretty steadily since our start,” said Skees.

Besides its local customer base, the company has clients nationally and in Puerto Rico and China.

While the decline in American manufacturing jobs is very real, Hontz said there will always be a niche for companies like Sherwood.

“A lot of it, the volumes just don’t make it worth it taking the product overseas,” he said.

And if the company’s growth continues, more of those employees from the old days just might be brought in to add to the workforce.

“We’ve got a really strong group of people, and there’s still more EM Solutions/Sanmina people that are out there that can hopefully work for us someday,” said Skees.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.