The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2014 Washington Small Business Persons of the Year are Fred Schule, owner/president, and Paul Clark, owner/vice president, of Cobalt Enterprises, Inc. Founded in 2004, Cobalt manufactures precision-machined parts for the aerospace, defense, commercial and medical sectors.
The company started with two people and two computerized mills in a garage, survived the recession, realigned its manufacturing capabilities to the aerospace and defense sectors, and successfully grew annual sales 26-fold between 2005 and 2013. Cobalt currently employs 80 staff primarily from the Granite Falls area.
“The SBA knows small business is America’s most powerful engine of opportunity and economic growth and, through our annual awards program, we recognize outstanding small business leaders,” said Nancy Porzio, SBA Seattle district director. “Fred and Paul embody the entrepreneurial attributes of adaptability, ingenuity and community-mindedness needed to thrive in an unpredictable market.”
Cobalt has obtained several SBA guaranteed loans during the past decade as it grew to expand its capacity, finance a second building, and support international trade.
“We have a reputation for a highly-skilled workforce and quick turnaround on orders. We make parts other companies can’t or won’t manufacture,” Schule said. “Cobalt’s promising future has its foundation in a 99 percent quality rating with customers, a surrounding network of world-class customers and suppliers, and a regional 5-10 year backlog of contracted work.”
Cobalt is also known for giving back. In concert with the local high school, Cobalt participates in the Crossroads project where the company employs teenagers who are troubled or struggling due to home-life or other issues.
Through this program, Cobalt has hired more than 25 teenagers who settle into a routine and straighten out their lives. Their successful approach has resulted in many moving on to military service, other jobs, and additional schooling.
Cobalt is an active member of the Granite Falls business community, including membership in the Chamber of Commerce and is the largest employer in Granite Falls.
“National Small Business Week is a time to recognize the impact small business has on our country,” said Regional Administrator Calvin Goings. “It’s a chance to celebrate the dedicated, hard-working small business owners who are making a difference in their communities.”
Small Business Person of the Year winners from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam will converge on Washington, D.C. in May, when one of them will be selected as National Small Business Person of the Year during the SBA celebration of National Small Business Week May 12-16.
Each year since 1963, the President has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week. SBA recognizes outstanding small business owners for their personal successes and contributions to our nation.