When college graduates attempt to enter the working world, many echo the phrase, "How can you get experience when no one will give you a job?"
But that question isn't limited to college graduates, as one American Fork businessman has been finding out.Joe Horvath has been working to set up an airplane parts assembly plant for more than a year, and from his perspective everything is ready to go. There's only one problem: He hasn't been able to sign a contract for his company's first job.
"We've got the land and the facilities," Horvath said. "We just haven't been able to sign a contract."
Setting up shop without any prospects for business would seem risky to some, but several factors led Horvath to believe that an aerospace support company would be successful.
He currently runs an auto body and paint shop in American Fork, but he said news reports led him and his partner, Ron Corey, to believe there was a need for a plant in this area. So Horvath and Corey decided to open Constant Precision Inc.
He was looking for a way out of the auto body repair business. After 18 years of working on cars, his lungs were suffering from the paint that's used in the work.
So with some level of confidence that an aerospace support company was needed, Horvath set out to learn the business, find land and facilities and seek contract work, particularly from McDonnell Douglas in Salt Lake City.
After a year, Horvath said he's able to read the spec sheets, has a 3,000-square-foot facility, 7.5 acres on which to expand if necessary and a lot of frustration.
"The biggest stumbling block is getting that first contract. We don't have a contract, because we have no experience. But where do you go for experience?" he said.
Horvath has been told by friends within the industry that contracts are assigned approximately three years in advance, and in some cases a contractor can wait 10 years with no luck. But he's betting on some better luck.
His best hope is to get a contract for work that is running behind. At least that would give Constant Precision its chance to prove itself.
A similar company in Arkansas met the kind of luck Horvath is seeking. The company was given a chance to do some assembly work with a six-person staff. Three years later the company was employing 165 people.
"I know if they give us a chance we can pull it off. If they're making parts in Colorado, then shipping them to Arkansas, and then to Long Beach for final assembly, then logistically we're in a better place," he said. "I think we're overlooked right now."
Horvath said another reason he felt he could set up an assembly plant in Utah was the availability of federal funds for Utah businesses such as his. And while officials at McDonnell Douglas were saying in news reports that there were no support industries within the state, Horvath was nearly ready to begin work.
Now that his company is ready, he wonders where federal money is going and why he is unable to get a contract.
"If that money is available, then they could bring a lot of jobs to Utah County."
But he's had a difficult time just getting a meeting with officials at McDonnell Douglas. Until that happens, he'll be forced to wait.
For now, Horvath will continue in his current profession. But he sees a day when Constant Precision employs hundreds. "Once you have the chance you have to run with it. This is a well-educated workplace. It would be nice for the next generation to be able to stay."