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Story #74Phoenix SpecialtyBamberg, SC

Whether you’re making a jet engine or a lawn mower, you need every component on your assembly line at the right time for things to work correctly.

Now in its fourth generation of family ownership, Phoenix Specialty has been manufacturing custom parts for original equipment manufacturers since 1907. From its base in Bamberg, S.C., the small business supplies over 9,000 different parts to over 2,000 customers in a given year, with customers ranging from fellow small businesses to large corporations like GE Jet Engine and Eaton Corporation.

The owner and president of Phoenix Specialty, Robert Hurst, didn’t originally plan on taking over the family business. Between getting his undergrad and postgrad degrees in engineering, he served in the National Guard and then started working for the company full time. “I was partially running the company,” he says, “And I just got hooked on the business. I like making things, and seeing what is produced. Every business is a challenge, and I got hooked on the challenge.”

Phoenix Specialty has managed to stay in business through the Great Depression and the more recent recession, because Hurst believes in the importance of evolving with the times. Whereas they used to specialize mostly in commercial type washers, 40 percent of their business is now dominated by aerospace, which involves more complicated parts. “You have to keep developing the people, adding new processes, new equipment, and stretching the organization.”

Hurst is a strong proponent of small business, even when he isn’t running his own. He is active in external organizations such as the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps provide small businesses with needed resources. “We’re here to make small to medium-sized companies more competitive.”

With new COO Pat Moloney, Phoenix is now in the process of transitioning the family business to the next generation, but Hurst plans on staying active in the business. “My biggest thrill with the business is the actual parts we produce. The happier moments are like little things one at a time. It’s little victories every day that add up.”

 

Photos by Jessica Dimmock

  • A worker tightens a screw in one of the many machines responsible for making specialty washers and other custom parts at Phoenix Specialty.

  • Robert Hurst (left), president and current owner of Phoenix Specialty, checks in on various departments throughout their Bamberg, S.C., facility.

  • Scrap material comes down a machine chute after the parts are stamped by one of the dozens of unique machines at Phoenix Specialty.

  • Formed washers made by Phoenix Specialty sit in a bin before being prepared for shipment. The company used to specialize mostly in commercial type washers, but 40 percent of their business is now dominated by aerospace, with their largest client being GE jet engines.

  • Phoenix Specialty employs roughly 95 people at its Bamberg, S.C., plant.

  • Small parts go through a process to remove any debris before being shipped to a client.

  • Tooling components made by Phoenix Specialty sit on shelves at the facility.

  • Robert Hurst (left), didn’t originally plan on inheriting his family business, Phoenix Specialty, but while working full time after serving in the National Guard, he became hooked on the challenge of running his own small business.

  • A small air press, designed for intricate forming and bending of washers and other precision stampings, at Phoenix Specialty.

  • An early newspaper clipping about Phoenix Specialty, which was founded in 1907 and has weathered the Great Depression as well as the more recent recession.

  • A small selection of the washers and custom parts made by Phoenix Specialty. The small business is considered a job shop, in that they don’t make an end product, but make components that go to other companies’ assembly lines.

  • Awards and other forms of recognition hang on the walls of Phoenix Specialty. A fourth generation family-owned small business, Phoenix Specialty ships over 9,000 different parts to more than 2,000 clients in a given year.

Business Details

Proprietor: Robert Hurst
7433 Main Hwy Bamberg, SC 29003
PH: 803-245-5116 / Website
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