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Buoyed By Optimism, City's Entrepreneurs Still Inch Along With Employment Plans

Jim Benjamin, CEO of Precision Brush in Solon (pic by Brian Bull)
Jim Benjamin, CEO of Precision Brush in Solon (pic by Brian Bull)

The production floor at Precision Brush is in full swing. The Solon company's 16 employees are threading, cutting, hanging, or carting away a variety of products.

Jim Benjamin is the company's president.

"We manufacture custom industrial brushes," says company president Jim Benjamin, walking across the production area. "We've made over 90,000 different variations…"

Benjamin is also president of the Cleveland chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). It has 135 members in a variety of businesses. All have at least $1 million in annual revenue. And most plan to hire in 2013, according to EO's recent survey of members.

Benjamin says Precision Brush plans to hire in a few new employees full-time.

"We've been in a holding pattern the last couple of years. We dropped sales a little bit in the last couple years but things are starting to pick up. We'll probably add two to three, maybe by the end of the year."

Kirk Zehnder, CEO of Earnest Machine Products, also expects to hire this year. His 65-year-old company in Rocky River makes large, specialty nuts and bolts for heavy industry. He says business fell off BIG during the recession.

"There were hiring freezes, layoffs, there was some downsizing, we closed some facilities. We went from four to two. We had about 95 employees at the end of 2008, and we laid off about 28 actually." )

Now, with the economy recovering, Zehnder hopes to bring in a dozen new workers by year's end.

Precision Brush and Earnest Machine Products are among the 42 percent of the EO companies surveyed that expect to hire full time workers this year. 56 percent say they'll be bringing on part-timers.

VoxMobile, a communications support firm based in Independence, has held its staffing steady for the last several years. Now it’s looking to hire 15 in the coming months. CEO Kris Snyder says it wasn't so much the recession that's held VoxMobile back. As a young company - founded just six years ago - it's had a hard time getting access to capital.

"We've worked hard locally to have banking relationships, to have -- at one point -- angel investors," says Snyder. "I remember last year, we were fortunate enough to get an institutional investor, that brought $7.5 million."

Snyder says business is picking up, and it's a challenge finding skilled, reliable part-time workers.

"We run a 24-7 operation, and we have contracts with organizations to support all their mobile devices and mobile workers. Our challenge is with 24-7 is all the interesting shifts. The ones that aren't your standard first or second shift."

Snyder says students are often good for evening or weekend schedules.

All this is in keeping with many economists’ forecasts of very modest growth through this year. For further evidence, look to a company that supplies workers to other companies.

Aaron Grossman is president of the staffing and recruitment firm Alliance Solutions Group. He says in 2007 they were enjoying one of their most profitable years ever. But then…

“By 2009, our revenues had dropped 45-percent because of the recession.”

But now, demand -- and profits – have bounced back, as Alliance focused less on manufacturing and more on placing health care and science personnel. Grossman says last year Alliance Solutions signed on 9,000 to its temp worker force. It’s also rebuilt its own staff.

“When the recession was over at the beginning of 2010, we had 23 employees. And we’re standing here today with 85 internal employees. So we’re now one of the largest staffing and recruitment firms in Northeast Ohio.” (:14)

Grossman says they plan to hit 100 internal employees by year’s end.