Micro Products, the Peoria firm you never heard of, is still the little company that can after 90 years in business
You don’t have to be a big company to do business overseas. That’s been the message from the International Trade Center (ITC) at Bradley University for years.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Micro Products Co., 6523 N. Galena Road, was recently named the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship’s 2023 Exporter of the Year.
With its workforce of 24 employees, the company manufactures world-class resistance welders under the Micro Weld brand. The machines are used primarily in the electrical wire and cable industries, as well as in the production of common office items such as paper clips and staples also use resistance welders.
‘In 2023 we look for our third record breaking year in a row’
“Micro Products underscores the fact that you don’t have to be a very large manufacturer of mining or construction equipment in order to promote and sell your products globally,” said Jim Ryan, international trade specialist at ITC.
Starting local, going global
Formerly known as the Sommer Products Co., the company was founded by Samuel Christian Sommer in 1928. The company’s shareholders are third-generation descendants of that family, said Robert Bulitta, the firm’s president and CEO.
“Our machines can be found in some 30 countries around the world,” said Bulitta, noting that the company has been active in international markets for decades.
Bulitta, who joined Micro Products in 2013, credited his predecessor, William Banks, Jr., with intensifying the company’s focus on international sales by engaging Bradley’s trade center more than 10 years ago. Through ITC and the Illinois State Trade Export Promotion program, Micro Products has participated in trade shows in Germany, China, Thailand and India.
“The Center has been instrumental in connecting us with foreign consulates along with new prospects,” Bulitta said.
While exports make up only 9% of Micro Products’ sales at present, the family-owned company’s board seeks to grow that figure by 50%, said Bulitta.
During the pandemic, Micro Products kept operating, adopting a cautious, wait-and-see attitude, Bulitta said. “Things came roaring back in 2021. In 2023 we look for our third record-breaking year in a row,” he said.
The butt welders and resistance welders that Micro Products makes are built right here in Peoria at its spacious company headquarters on Galena Road, a facility that also houses Roecker Cabinets. The building was the home of Foster & Gallagher Co. before the catalog business went bankrupt in 2001. The ornate fixtures in the Micro Products front office are reminders of the glory days of the national catalog business that operated out of Peoria.
Touring the manufacturing area with Bulitta is an opportunity to see the variety in the Micro Products line. The machines can range in price from $8,000 to $200,000.
“We’re known for the ruggedness of our products. It’s not unusual to find machines that are 30 to 70 years old still in operation,” said Bulitta, pointing out that the company also provides repair work to customers. “We’ll upgrade old machines as well as providing training service on a company’s machines at their location.”
The company’s customers need a seamless, strong weld that holds up under stress, said Bulitta. Some of those customers are big companies such as Georgia-based Southwire, one of North America’s largest wire and cable producers with some 7,500 employees. Another is Cerrowire, a copper wire manufacturing company based in Alabama with plants in four states.
“We make machines to order. What differentiates us from our competition is that we can deliver quickly,” said Bulitta. “We’ve been in business a long time. As a result, there’s a lot of brand loyalty.”
American-made and proud of it
“We may be a small company but we have a great team of people where the sum is greater than the parts,” said Bulitta.
“We are very proud to be an American manufacturer that’s highly vertically integrated. That allows us to provide very short lead times and quick delivery. Our differentiators are the quality of our product, our lower total-life cycle cost, our agility and the focus we put on exceptional customer service.”
Bulitta likes the fact that he has room to grow at the Galena Road location, with not only space for more machines but for more workers to handle another shift in the near future. “We’re just running one shift at present,” he said.