Six years ago, a few months before the economic recession took hold, Metalworking Solutions was founded with one machine that bent metal and another than cut it.
Now there are three laser cutters, priced around $800,000 each. And the small but growing niche manufacturer has grown its revenue from $1 million the first year to $6 million this year, making everything from boat seats to decorative car engine covers.
The company's machines and 35 employees have a new 75,000-square-foot home in Lookout Valley.
David Clark, a supervisor in the shop, said their old location on Chestnut Street was getting crowded.
"We were bumping into people," he said.
Metalworking Solutions moved three months ago after the space was prepped for about a month. The property cost a little under $2 million, said Nick Burrows, the company's general manager.
"Our president ... had a vision, that there was a need for a sheet metal fabricator that wasn't stuck in the 1980s," Burrows said. "We wouldn't have dirty shops or antiquated equipment.
On Thursday, Clark and others showed customers and suppliers around the shiny floored work area. Machines can cut through sheets of carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum, he said. They were arranged in a neat "U" shape, snaking around the open space. Men in suit pants peered through the glass to look inside the the machines.
While the lasers ran -- slicing holes -- yellows sparks flew.
Metalwork Solutions is one of the few metalworking businesses left in Chattanooga, said Clark.
"Not many shops do this kind of work," he said. "Everyone loves their job."
As part of the the open house, employees used the time with customers to raise money for a wounded war veteran, too.
Spc. Andrew Smith is in Walter Reed Medical Hospital because he lost both of his legs in Afghanistan in March.
A nonprofit, Steps 2 Hope, plans to build him a handicap-accessible home when he gets out of therapy and returns to the area.
Burrows said he plans to send a group from the shop to help build the home.
Smith came and toured the metalwork facility last week, said Clark.
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...