Orange County Manufacturer Dynamic Fabrication Celebrates Three Decades in Business

By JAN NORMAN
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

 

Mike Kartsonis started Dynamic Fabrication when he was 26. Now that he’s been in business 30 years, he says he might work another 15 years.

Dynamic Fabrication Inc., a contract metal manufacturer in Santa Ana, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in business at a time when California is losing many of its manufacturers and their good-paying jobs. Founder and President Mike Kartsonis attributes his longevity in business to the fact that “I couldn’t work for someone else.”

On a more serious note, he says it’s really the diversity of industries and types of work Dynamic does that have helped it survive five recessions.

Dynamic’s clients are in aircraft, defense, environmental, semiconductor, oil, gas, energy, entertainment, transportation, architecture and medical industries.

“Stay diversified and you’ll stay busy,” Kartsonis says.

Always a hard worker and a good salesman, Kartsonis worked his way through college selling books door to door. Having attended high school and college in Colorado, he got tired of cold weather and moved to Orange County after graduation.

“I went to work for a company selling maintenance equipment on straight commission and after three years they put me on a salary,” Kartsonis recalls. “I didn’t like that. I was losing $1,000 to $1,500 a month. So I quit and started my own company.”

That was 1981 as the country was going through a double dip recession.

What has changed in 30 years?

“When I started you could do business on a handshake. They’d say ‘I’ll pay’ and they would,” Kartsonis says. “Now I have to require a 50% deposit up front and have a written invoice. “Also, you can’t just stop in and talk with customer anymore,” he adds. “A lot of lobbies don’t even have a receptionist.”

These days Dynamic gets business by working trade shows, keeping current customers happy and some referrals, Kartsonis says.

The company did hit some tough times in the most recent recession, he acknowledges. “Two years ago I had to lay people off for the first time in the history of the company because of a lack of work. We had 25 people and had to cut five.” Laying off workers is the hardest thing an owner has to do, he adds. “In the last eight months things have done a lot better,” he says. But he’s still not sure what the future holds. “I’m 56 and I plan to work five years, maybe 15 years more. Who knows?”

Stainless steel hopper fabricated for a clean room

Some competitors have disappeared because they bought fancy homes and cars during the good years and couldn’t survive the lean years, he says. In contract, he has paid all his equipment and loans off so his business remains profitable. Kartsonis’ challenge now is finding skilled workers who can manufacture with precision. Some of his products might be the thickness of a human hair.

“If you know a good welder fabricator, I’ll pay you $500; it’s that tough to find good workers and I pay 100% medical, 401(k), and profit sharing.”