McHenry Industries moving, expanding

By Don Shilling

The company ships signs all over the U.S. and Canada.

AUSTINTOWN — Signs are pointing to better days ahead for McHenry Industries, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for its new $2.5 million plant.

The wholesale-sign maker will have twice as much space and new equipment when it moves from Industrial Road in Youngstown to its new home at 85 Victoria Road.

“We’ve been turning away work because we didn’t have the room,” said Ron Musilli Jr., company vice president.

About $700,000 worth of work was rejected last year for lack of production space. McHenry tallied $5 million in sales in 2009.

Instead of turning away work, the vice president expects to be adding work this year, based on what customers are saying.

“2010 looks pretty strong. It looks like some companies are ready to spend again,” he said.

McHenry makes signs that are too big or complex for retail-sign companies. These smaller shops take the orders and then contract with McHenry to make the signs.

McHenry has 125 customers, who receive orders from companies such as Burger King, McDonald’s, US Bank and BP. McHenry ships signs all over the U.S. and Canada, with less than 5 percent of its work staying in the Mahoning Valley.

With more work expected, McHenry has added two office workers to boost its staff to 41. It is planning to add three production workers once the new plant is operating.

Before the transfer is made, however, crews have to finish installing a vacuum-form machine, which creates the faces for signs. The new machine will be able to produce larger signs than the current one, which no longer will be used.

The new plant also includes two new paint booths, which have dryers that will allow signs to be shipped in less than an hour after they are painted. Now, signs need six hours to dry.

The new plant has 40,000 square feet, double the space of the current plant, which means the company will be able to set up a continuous workflow, said Ron Musilli Sr., company president. The current plant doesn’t allow for work to flow directly from one department to the next.

That plant, which is up for sale, also doesn’t have a loading dock, so trucks have to be loaded and unloaded on the street.

Musilli Sr. said the advantages to having a new building easily outweighed the risk of expanding during tough economic times. “I have no worries about that,” he said.

Sales were down 20 percent last year from the previous year, but 2008 was one of the company’s best years, he said.

The company was started in 1964 by his father-in-law, Ed McHenry Sr. It has been on Industrial Road since 1977.

Musilli Sr. joined the company in 1983 and operated it with his brothers-in-law, Ed McHenry Jr. and Bob Willison, after his father-in-law died. Within the past five years, Musilli Sr. bought out his brothers-in-law and now owns the business with his family members.

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