Ask Thomas Beach what his company does and he’ll take a minute to explain that Handling Specialty Manufacturing builds production equipment and machinery to help companies make their products or carry out their services. Then, Beach, company president, will probably revert to their simple yet effective slogan: “We build big things to help our customers build big things.”
Those companies with which it works are head-spinningly varied — including Cirque du Soleil and Bombardier — because the Grimsby, Ontario, company manufactures heavy-duty lifts, platforms, rotators and carts for all manner of industry sectors.
“When a customer comes to us, they need custom-designed material handling equipment to handle extreme weights, environments and use,” Beach says. “And they come from all over the world.”
Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based human circus with shows in more than 270 cities on six continents, is the relationship most observers want to know about. Handling Specialty first built custom underwater stage lifts for “O”, Cirque’s 1995 Las Vegas production. The otherworldly land-and-water extravaganza features a 1.5 million-gallon pool that transforms into a stage that seems to appear and disappear within seconds. The company has also worked on lifts for Cirque’s Michael Jackson One show at Mandalay Bay.
Handling Specialty has since done work with similar productions, including one for Melco PBL Entertainment in Macau, Hong Kong. Entertainment-related customers include Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, Disney, Mirvish Productions and for this kind of client, Handling Specialty built travelling stage lifts, set lifts, special effects lifts and lifts for trade show displays.
On the aerospace and defence side, the company manufactures and installs equipment such as jet-engine lifts and positioning systems, paint booth lifts, stations for wing assembly and portable air traffic control towers for such international giants as Pratt & Whitney, Standard Aero, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and NASA, as well as industry leaders in the rail, energy and automotive sectors.
“We are application specialists,” Beach says. “Rather than selling a product, we work with our customers to understand the application and then we solve their problem.”
Of course building highly specialized, heavy-duty custom equipment for large scale projects often requires a performance guarantee, which can significantly tie up a company’s cash flow. So they turned to EDC for a performance security guaranty.
“There’s a lot of potential with this company,” said Robert Caouette, sector advisor for EDC’s transportation group. “They do unique, customized work, and with that comes a lot of risk. Our performance security guarantee allows them to feel more confident about entering into international deals, and it helps them with cash flow.”
The company has grown steadily since its founding 50 years ago, growing from annual revenues of $1 million 30 years ago, to $20 million today.
“In the 1990s, we grew a lot in the automotive sector and built the infrastructure required for that,” he says. “When the auto recession hit in the early 2000s, we came up with a diversification plan to concentrate on aerospace. We’re always looking for new markets.”
Beach described the longstanding relationship, which dates back to 2004, this way: “Initially we used EDC’s receivables insurance program to reduce the risk of receivable exposure when the firm began to branch out internationally.”
As the company grew and the size and sophistication of the projects increased, they turned to EDC for support when they needed to execute bonding and payment securities.
“Today, EDC also helps us by making key introductions with some big players in our target markets, and these introductions can be critical to our growth.”