There may be a recession going on, but don't tell Arrow Dynamics Inc. The amusement park ride manufacturer based at the Clearfield Freeport Center says business has never been so good.
Arrow logged sales of $20 million in fiscal year 1990, and fiscal 1991 (which ends in April) should come in well ahead of that figure, said Larry J. Hays, director of marketing and sales.The amusement park ride industry may be one of the first to benefit from the parting of the Iron Curtain in Europe, said Hays. Arrow executives recently returned from an industry convention in Washington, D.C., in which the majority of interest came from potential buyers in Europe and Asia.
"We've had more inquiries over the last six to 10 months from Eastern European countries than we've had in the history of the company," said Hays. "Amusement parks are one of the things that have been lacking there."
Arrow recently opened an office in Yorkshire, England, to have better accessibility to European customers. Hays said one major project has been identified there and preliminary work has begun. Other prospects "look excellent," he said.
The company is currently engineering and building a suspended roller coaster for a park outside Tokyo, said Hays, and hopes to begin a new project in Korea within 60 days.
"Our business has shifted from 20 to 25 percent offshore to as much as 50 percent offshore," said Hays. "That's where all the development is going on."
He credits the growth in amusement parks and subsequent need for major ride attractions to expansion by the Disney organization, partial acquisition of the Six Flags Corp. parks by Time-Warner and the latest Japanese acquisition of Universal Studios/MCA, which has indicated it will expand its park attractions worldwide.
"All of this is creating a giant catalyst for the industry," said Hays.
Arrow can expect to get its share of that new business and maybe a little more. One of the biggest marketing boosts the company has received has been the listing in the Guinness Book of World Records of the roller coaster Arrow built for the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio - credited as the tallest and fastest coaster in the world.
"That ride has become a bench mark for the industry," said Hays. "Since (it was listed in Guinness) several overseas customers have come to us. That's the driving force; they want to have the biggest coaster and get into Guinness."
And, yes, the new suspended coaster being built for the Tokyo park will eclipse the Ohio ride and become the world's biggest and fastest, said Hays.
In addition to amusement rides, Hays said there has been increased interest by customers in monorail transportation systems such as the one Arrow built last summer for the Los Angeles Fairplex.
Arrow is a privately held company whose stock is owned by 12 people, all of whom are employees of the company. Originally owned by Huss, a German firm, it was bought out by a management group in 1985.
Arrow currently employs about 125 people its Freeport Center facility.