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Alan Russell, owner of Pre­cision Metal Arts, recently moved his company to Hillsdale’s Indus­trial Park. Courtesy|Alan Russell

Quality, speed of delivery, and cus­tomer service are key at Pre­cision Metal Art, a dec­o­rative metal sign maker newly located in the Hillsdale Indus­trial Park. Owner Alan Russell founded the local company on a dream, and has sus­tained its expo­nential growth with fore­sight, pluck, and an affinity for risk taking.

Russell said he had long har­bored entre­pre­neurial aspi­ra­tions. While vis­iting his parents-in-law in Florida a few years ago, he realized the price­lessness of financial freedom and lifestyle flex­i­bility, and decided to act on his ambi­tions.

Russell eased into entre­pre­neurship by taking on after-hours odd jobs, and in early 2016 began making dec­o­rative metal hangers with a friend, selling the pieces on Etsy.

“We were just working on plain-Jane equipment in a pole barn,” he said.

Soon, a whole­saler in Los Angeles dis­covered their work, and offered to buy their hangers in bulk. Hoping to sell 30 in a month, they agreed to the deal, and achieved their target sales in only a few days.

By 2017, Russell and his friend realized their project had grown into a full-time oper­ation, and on July 5 opened Pre­cision Metal Art in a 3,500-square-foot facility in Jonesville. The business makes pre-designed and custom metal signs and acces­sories for home use and decor, com­pleting each stage of design and pro­duction in-house.

In Sep­tember 2017 Russell bought full own­ership rights from his partner, and by October Pre­cision Metal Art employed three workers, including Ashley Price, whom Russell recruited to oversee cus­tomer service and assist with mar­keting and accounting.

“If you want good people, hire good people. Hire Ashley,” Russell said of Price.

One year later, Pre­cision Metal America boasted 28 employees, and moved into a 36,000-square-foot facility in the Hillsdale Man­u­fac­turing and Indus­trial Park in December 2018. The business has expanded pro­duction and diver­sified its offerings rapidly, and recently began selling inter­na­tionally.

“We’ve been driving the bus and building it at the same time, and it’s kind of a chal­lenge,” said Price. “We lean on action more than we do planning. It’s been amazing to see what you can get done on sheer gumption and will power.”

Russell has embraced the chal­lenges and risks of growing a small business boldly, and learned met­al­working “at an expo­nential rate.”

“I’ve developed the skill of not seeing bar­riers and seeing oppor­tu­nities instead,” he said. “When it’s not a struggle, we’re getting com­placent. We always have to push.”

Russell and Price agree that the many “little rewards” along the way has made expansion exciting. Pre­cision Metal Art recently added a laser cutter to its lineup of plasma cutters, allowing the business to amp up pro­duction, and just last week set up a powder coating oven. As it expands, the business aims to dis­tin­guish itself from similar pro­ducers with excellent cus­tomer service.

“We’re building a brand on quality; one people can trust,” Price said.

Pre­cision Metal Art directs its resources toward bet­tering the com­munity, con­tributing reg­u­larly to local char­ities, including the Jonesville Ath­letic Boosters Asso­ci­ation, the Department of Cor­rec­tions, and Child Abuse Pre­vention and Awareness of Hillsdale County. It is also delib­erate about sourcing mate­rials from local busi­nesses, such as Alro Steel and Jonesville Lumber.

“It’s nice to be rooted in our home com­munity,” said Price. “Hillsdale’s been good to us.”

The business’s goodwill is an extension of its sup­portive employee culture.  

Eliz­abeth Hawkins pri­marily works as a laser operator at Pre­cision Metal Art. Hired on New Year’s Day, she con­siders her job a holiday sur­prise, and said she appre­ciates the business’s family-friendly policies and upbeat envi­ronment.

“It’s been a life-changer, like some­thing from Heaven,” she said. “I love coming to work.”

“It’s fun,” Russell said. “That’s the best part about it. There’s never a dull moment.”