Screen Machine finds Columbus' centralized location a welcome business benefit
Steve Cohen, president of Screen Machine Industries, has a pivotal question for any business owner considering setting up shop in the Columbus Region: "What are you waiting for?"
The company, located in Etna, Ohio, builds heavy duty machinery that crushes larger rocks into smaller rocks and then sorts them out into different sizes. The machinery can be used by contractors who build roads, mine rock and by demolition and recycling companies, among others. Minerals like coal, iron ore, gypsum and even diamonds can be processed by the machines at the rate of 600 tons an hour.
Cohen cites several major attracting factors for the region as helping his business succeed: adequate infrastructure; available labor force for any size company; the location of numerous universities; favorable taxes, and a wide variety of arts, sports and culture.
"Columbus is a rare gem. It is an extremely affordable place to start and grow a business, and it is a perfect test market in demographics for small businesses," he says. "It is the perfect place to balance growth of your business while raising a family."
Cohen's father, Bernard, started the company in 1966, and it now employs almost 100 people. Its area of business has also expanded from the region to the world. Screen Machine might be a unique business, but following core business principals to attract customers early on and keep them still applies.
"We discovered a need in the industry and found a solution," Cohen says. "We needed to be able to offer products to customers that provided a solution to their immediate problems."
In this instance, that meant not only meeting customer demand for heavy-duty machinery, but also being the reliable go-to resource for quick delivery of replacement parts. Most of the company's competitors, which operate in Europe, have been unable to match the speed of getting replacement parts to clients.
"These machines take a beating," Cohen says. "The customer's problem of machinery breakdowns without parts access was solved by purchasing a Screen Machine."
Cohen says his business is in the perfect location, smack dab in the heart of its domestic customer marketplace. For international sales, the Columbus Region is at or near numerous hubs for rail and interstates leading to ports in Miami, Baltimore or Los Angeles.
"Columbus is a perfect location for us to build and sell domestic and international machinery," he says. "Being centralized and surrounded by suppliers gives us easy access to the raw materials needed to build our products without excessive inbound freight charges."
Over the years, the company has learned valuable lessons. When the recession dimmed its business prospects, the organization expanded its vision globally, Cohen says.
"During the recession we decided to go international to countries where the GDP growth was still high. You have to go where the business is," he says.
Those moves were not without their own challenges and risks.
"Learning how to negotiate the international markets due to cultural differences and geopolitical issues can be very profitable and yet extremely risky," Cohen says. "Even though it may be risky, international markets are where we will be focused."
Finding qualified workers at home is also critical for continued growth, Cohen says.
"Finding key people to fill growing positions will always be our biggest challenge," he says. "No matter what you build or do, it requires personnel to get it done. Businesses with the brightest and most energetic staff will have the most success."
TC Brown is a freelance writer.
Screen Machine Industries
10685 Columbus Parkway