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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 10, 2017 1 year ago

Big bang

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The spend-money-to-make-money theory is the linchpin to the Zaiser family business model. It works.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The founders behind Azimuth Technology LLC made a multimillion-dollar decision five years ago: When they launched the business, a Naples-based contract manufacturer, they did it with several licenses and certifications in hand.

The list includes International Organization for Standardization certifications, such as ISO 9001:2008. ISO licenses require companies to pass several tests, from product capabilities to the quality of its machines to the cleanliness of its factory floor. The process can be time consuming and costly, which is why many manufacturers wait several years to do it, when sales justify the expense.

But Azimuth Technology founders LeNoir “Len” Zaiser, 80, and his son, Len Zaiser IV, 47, didn't want to wait. They believed having the certifications early would be a competitive advantage later. “We built the field before we had a place to play,” says the younger Zaiser. “That was very expensive.”

Five years later, Zaiser says the decision has been a major victory. The company, which makes precision parts for weapons used by military, law enforcement and gun owners, has won some contracts it never would have earned without the certifications, says Zaiser. And getting the certifications early on, Zaiser adds, means the company avoided distractions at a later date.

Now Azimuth Technology LLC has engaged in another build-it-first scenario.

It's spending $4 million to $5 million on a 30,000-square-foot facility next door to its 30,000-square-foot plant, Zaiser says. The investment includes buildout and air conditioning of the existing empty shell building. It also includes purchasing 20 to 24 CNC machines. The machines are used to manufacture precision parts for handgun and rifle producers and parts for other clients, which range from oil and gas companies to aerospace firms.

The twin facilities are on Market Street, near Collier Boulevard and Alligator Alley.

Revenue at Azimuth grew 60% in 2016, a surge due partially to the perceived threat of late-term Obama administration restrictive gun policies, Zaiser says. With President Donald Trump, he projects a sustainable increase in business is on the horizon, not just a bump. This time it stems from a planned rise in defense and military spending. Says Zaiser: “Everyone seems to be gearing up.”

LeNoir “Len” Zaiser, named a Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Laureate in 2010, has been in manufacturing since the 1970s. Back then he made fighter-jet Sidewinder missile parts in a Naples plant.

Other companies Zaiser founded include Defense Research, Southern Research, Inovo and Inovo Technology. Prior to Azimuth, the father-son duo had operated Naples-based orthopedic-implant manufacturing business Structure Medical. But customers that couldn't get financing evaporated in the downturn, so the pair sold the business in 2010. They used some of the proceeds to launch Azimuth Technology in 2012.

Azimuth has about 130 employees, including 25 hired in 2016, and more hires are expected this year. Zaiser says the firm looks to hire people with the right soft skills and attitude, train them and then pay enough to stave off competitors. “You could find and keep some really good people if you treat them right,” he says.

The Zaisers have steadfastly resisted overseas manufacturing, down to the supply chain of parts and materials. It's all American made. One reason is the client base requires it. But Zaiser says Made in the U.S.A. is more than a slogan at Azimuth. “It's huge. Not to get all Trump-like, but this country really needs American manufacturing jobs,” says Zaiser. “It's critical.”

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