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Small Business Award State of ND

March 13, 2007


Author: John Edison, Herald Staff Writer

McFarlane Sheet Metal may be located on the far north end of Grand Forks, but the impact of the company is felt throughout the city. Literally and figuratively.

According to president Dave McFarlane, part of the business aims to make the environment of buildings more comfortable as a heating, ventilating and air conditioning contracting company.

His company also does some aethetic work, such as the award-winning paddle wheel that marks the entrance to downtown's Town Square.

Add "award winner" to McFarlane's resume, too.

Friday, McFarlane learned he was named 2007 North Dakota Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration.

Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown broke the news to the community during his State of the City address Monday.

According to SBA area manager Eric Giltner, McFarlane was nominated for the award by representatives of SBA, The Chamber and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

"I immediately thought of Dave McFarlane becuase I see him doing so many things right as a small business owner," Giltner said.

One of those things is marketing his company of the internet, Giltner said.

McFarlane's role

Since 1979, McFarlane has been growing the company, which was started in 1959 by his father, Bob, in a small garage on the corner of South Third Street and Division Avenue. Dave bought the business from his dad in 1981. The company since has moved to 3473 N. Washington St.

McFarlane returned to the community after designing and building chemical plants in Ohio with the BF Goodrich Chemical Co. and the Stepan Chemical Co. in Illinois. Before starting his professional career, he studied chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Under his leadership, sales at McFarlane Sheet Metal have grown at a rate of about 14 percent annually - from $220,000 in 1980 to $7 million in 2007. Employment has grown as well. The total payroll for the company increased from $87,000 to $1.9 million over the same 27-year time period.

The growth is somewhat unique, considering McFarlane will flat out tell you his company is not the least expensive. However, he feels his company makes up for a higher price tag with high quality and strong customer service - goals that are outlined in the company's vision statement.

"All the people who work for us buy into that," he said.

There's room for more growth, too, McFarlane said, "I think we've proven to ourselves in the last three or four years that we can operate at higher level."

He said he has a strong base of employees who are ready to move the company forward.

The core business at McFarlane Sheet Metal involves commercial ventilation projects for large buildings and industrial work for the food processing industry.

McFarlane said one area where there is room fro growth is in a field called retro commissioning, which involves fixed heating, cooling and other climate-related problems in the commercial ventilation systems of existing buildings.

"We go in and make it work right," he said.

After 27 years of growth, especially during reconstruction projects after the Flood of 1997, McFarlane, 59, said he still sees a bright economic future in Grand Forks.

"Sometimes," he said, "I wish I was 20 years younger and starting now."

Copyright (c) 2007 Grand Forks Herald
Record Number: 0703130046

Reproduced with permission.