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Rochester Top 100: Aging population creates growth opportunity

Rochester Business Journal
December 13, 2013

Christian Curts knows how to capitalize on his demographic.
 
When he purchased AutoCrafting in 2005, the company concentrated primarily on the sale of rescue vehicles and automotive accessories, only dabbling in the wheelchair accessibility market. But Curts saw an opportunity, focusing the company on meeting a need in a growing older population.
 
"Baby boomers are aging," Curts said. "Unlike our grandparents, our parents aren't going to just go check into a nursing home. They're going to go out and make sure that even if they're disabled, they live as normal a lifestyle as they're accustomed to."
 
As a result, he added, AutoCrafting's wheelchair-accessible van sales are significant and growing.
 
In eight years, revenue has grown from $750,000 to $15 million. Sales have doubled since 2010, when AutoCrafting posted $7.4 million in revenue, Curts said. The company employs some 75 people at its facilities in Rochester, Syracuse and Los Angeles, including 55 locally.
 
"I really spent a lot of time and effort on putting the right systems and processes in place to allow our infrastructure to be able to handle that growth," he said.
 
Employees also have had a hand in AutoCrafting's growth, Curts and Chief Operating Officer Nathaniel Calder agreed.
 
"Our employees were the catalyst. We have good people who we care about, and they work really hard for us," Calder said. "They are offering new ideas and are constantly looking to improve our business."
 
AutoCrafting consists of two divisions: AutoCrafting Mobility Solutions and AutoCrafting Fleet Solutions. When the company was founded by Curts' father in 1978, its focus was on selling emergency vehicles, automotive accessories and eventually remote car starters, among related items.
 
Curts joined the firm in 2004 and in 2006 closed the emergency vehicle division to focus on mobility. AutoCrafting Mobility sells and services wheelchair-accessible vans and products related to accessibility for vehicles.
 
In 2007, Curts launched the company's fleet division, which designs and installs truck or van bodies with steel bins and cabinets for commercial use by plumbers, electricians, cable companies and others, also known as upfitting.
 
Employment at the two companies can shift dramatically, depending on the jobs they have, Curts said.
 
"I try to keep my solid people working," he explained. "Sometimes I have big projects that wind up and wind down, so my numbers truly fluctuate."
 
Curts does not expect to expand the staff significantly in the near future, but continued sales growth and reinvesting in the business are among his short-term goals.
 
"Growing a business is dictated by many more factors than people understand," he said, noting that in some cases the company is at the mercy of automakers who may change body styles without warning or promise distribution dates and do not deliver on time.
 
That is one of the biggest challenges his companies and others in the industry face over the next couple of years, Curts said.
 
"We're really not the driving force behind the market. We're subject to market condition changes," he said. "We're a very small cog in the automotive world, and even though we offer necessary components to multiple industries, we're truly left out there without a lot of control as to how things work, from vehicles' changing body styles, shipping conditions, weather, strikes.
 
"That's going to continue for the foreseeable future," he added.
 
Of the challenges AutoCrafting faces, Calder said: "As we grow, we have had the need for employees with a great attitude that fit our culture. Finding these motivated employees can be stressful and time-consuming."
 
Still, Curts is excited about the future, especially the firm's growth prospects.
 
"If you said, 'Why are you growing, why are you so successful?' I'd say it's because of three reasons: It's because of our customers, our vendors and our employees," he explained. "They support us, we support them."

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year's Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 6. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

AutoCrafting
AutoCrafting Mobility division sells and services wheelchair-accessible vans and products related to accessibility for vehicles. AutoCrafting Fleet Solutions provides upfit services for vans and trucks.
2013 ranking: 6
Founded: 2005
Employees: 75 (55 in Rochester)
Top executive: Christian Curts, president
Location: Chili
Website: www.autocrafting.com

12/13/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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