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S&S expands, may surprise

May 10, 2003
Filed under Features

VIOLA, WISC. — Brett Smith, president of S&S Cycle, Inc., says he’s ready to expand the company his family has operated for the past 46 years, and says the recent purchase of a 165,000 sq. ft. two-building facility in nearby LaCrosse, Wisc. only serves as the beginning of the planned metamorphosis.
“With our present facility, our growth philosophy has been to build to accommodate immediate future growth. This time, I wanted to be sure we had the freedom and flexibility to move forward without having to worry about having enough space,” Smith told Powersports Business during a recent interview in his third-floor office overlooking the courtyard of the 25-acre, 295-employee Viola compound.
The most prolific engine manufacturer in the country after Harley-Davidson, S&S Cycle supplies its product to more than 25 V-twin motorcycle builders and posted, according to Smith, “a conservative estimate of 15%” sales growth last year.
But what necessitated doubling the company’s available space? Smith said it had less to do with its traditional business and more to do with new and emerging markets.
“Untapped potential and opportunity,” he said. “One of the things that I announced at a meeting amongst industry members in Daytona was that, if there is a product out there that is a bottleneck in this industry that precludes the OE from growing, you will force us to make it.”
Smith cites a current chassis shortage as an example of a V-twin industry supply problem. S&S Cycle recently purchased a $1.3 million powder-coating machine at the Indian liquidation sale in Gilroy, Calif. While the machine can be used for a variety of purposes, Smith said powder-coating chassis may be one of its uses to S&S.
“And,” he said, “if you’re going to powder-coat chassis, you may as well manufacture them, too.”
So S&S added 165,000 sq. ft. to expand into chassis production?
“Put it this way,” he said, “We have no desire to compete with our best customers, but the only thing we’re not going to do is manufacture a complete on-road motorcycle. We might conceivably make every single component to make a complete motorcycle, but we won’t make them.”
If Smith’s proposed mastery of the V-twin component market sounds a bit cavalier, he says the powersports industry as a whole should look forward to a few surprises from S&S, as well.
“There is a lot more to it than just the V-twin market,” he said. “For instance, we’ve looked at ATVs, where we think there’s a real opportunity and a need for some performance packages, and that’s something we’re committed to investigating.
“Sure, there are people into watercraft or ATVs who know S&S because they know the V-twin market, but in the future there’ll be more people who will know S&S solely through those other markets. Within five years, S&S is a brand that other members of the powersports industry will be familiar with because they will be able to purchase S&S products in support of those other markets.”
The grandson of George and Marjorie Smith, co-founders of S&S Cycle, Inc. with Stanley Stankos, Brett Smith’s childhood revolved around the motorcycle industry.
A graduate of West Point and business school at the University of Chicago, Smith began his professional career with S&S as CFO in February 2002. In April 2003, he was given the additional responsibility for sales and marketing while maintaining the CFO title. Last October, he became president.
As president, Smith continues to serve as acting vice president of sales and marketing. A hands-on leader, his input seems to be required for everything from warehouse hires to advertising artwork.
Additional members of the S&S leadership team include Mike Alexander, vice president of manufacturing; Geoff Burgess, vice president of product development; Charlie Hadayia, director of sales; James Simonelli, communications and marketing director; Gary Larson, director of logistics; Steve Iggens, director of finance and systems; and Laura Bodenbender, human resources manager.
Obtained through a lease-to-buy deal, the LaCrosse site consists of a 145,000 sq. ft. building that will house distribution and purchasing, and a 20,000 sq. ft. building intended for warranty and rebuild work.
Responding to what he called a strategic commitment from S&S to focus on dealer development, Smith said the company also plans to place special emphasis on a dealer training and certification department at the new facility.
Over time, the plan is to also move assembly, packaging and finish manufacturing, billet and exhaust components to LaCrosse to allow the expansion of crankcase, flywheel, cylinder head and rod manufacturing in Viola.
The LaCrosse site is expected to initially employ approximately 60 people, including a number of Viola employees who agreed to transfer.
S&S expects to begin expanding into its new facility in the middle of May or early June. psb

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