Echo Industries in Carbonville wins first 'Golden Bear award'
Greg Ferderber, founder of Echo Industries in Carbonville, has won the first Golden Bear Award from the county's Business Expansion and Retention program.
The award recognizes what BEAR board member Karl Kraync calls "a classic American success story." Ferderber created his mine supply business 24 years ago as a one-man, part-time shop, and for more than two decades has nurtured it into an electrical repair and service center that employs five full time employees, four part-timers, a manager (his son Frank) and himself.
While the company was growing, he also had to fight back from heart attacks and a major car accident.
For the first five years of the operation, he did not draw a paycheck. Early on, he told his son that the plan was to establish a reputation: "I said we'll pay our suppliers and our employees first, then we'll keep what's left over," he recalled. He was able to stay afloat from his salary as a mining instructor at the College of Eastern Utah, and kept reinvesting profits in the company rather than drawing out.
It took four years to reach the point where he was able to have enough cash to take advantage of volume discounts offered by the manufacturers he represented.
By 2004, he was ready to make the big jump. Echo Industries bought Cyfer's Cable Repair Company and moved from being a sole proprietorship into a limited liability company. In 2006 he retired from teaching and joined the company full-time.
The majority of the work at Echo Industries is fixing the thick, high voltage cables that supply power to mine equipment deep underground. As Ferderber explained it, there are two reasons why mines depend on his service.
First, as a mine develops, its operations naturally move deeper and deeper into the earth. That means the heavy machines move farther and farther from the power supply. "This of us as supplying extension cords," he quipped.
Second, these insulated metal cables are as thick as a man's forearm and heavy. Since they have to hang from the mine roof, it takes machines to hoist them overhead. That means the cables occasionally get dinged.
Echo Industries splices and reinsulates damaged cable and cleans and repairs the heavy couplings that are massive equivalents of plug ends. Echo has installed more high voltage couplers - 25,000 volt - than any company in the U.S.
From its earliest days, Ferderber's company has also supplied specialty leather equipment to the mines - tool belts, carriers for breathing apparatus, cases for meters. Now it makes them. In 2009 their supplier retired, so Echo Industries decided to build the business and make its own leather gear. It has recently completed a new building at the Carbonville site to accommodate that expansion.
The Golden Bear Award was presented in a brief ceremony last Tuesday at the plant. Representatives from the Governor's Office of Economic Development and local economic development officials attended and toured the operations with Ferderber.
The BEAR program itself is something of a success story. It was organized to provided training and advice to local businesses in such things as marketing, finance and operations.
Representatives visit with owners and managers to work on specific programs.
It has also worked with Four Corners Behavioral Health to develop an on-site drug avoidance program which has been served more than 1,700 employees. It has also helped businesses to obtain more than $1.2 million in available tax incentives for expansion.