Ohio truck equipment manufacturer riding high

May 19, 2017 | GET MORE : Entrepreneurship

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This re-energized company is thriving thanks to the owners' vision and a trusted banker by their side.

During their 45-minute daily commute together, whenever Sergey Edilyan sees flat steel traveling on railroad cars they pass, he tells his wife and business partner Irina Grigoryan that it's a good sign; they’re going to have work.

Lately, on the outskirts of Cleveland, there's been a lot of steel on trains.

The couple own American Truck Equipment Co., a Brook Park, Ohio, company that manufactures ladder racks, van shelving, partitions and storage systems that help organize commercial vehicle cargo space. It outfits vehicles for fleets as well as mobile tradesman such as contractors, electricians, plumbers and roofers. 

Business has been bustling since Sergey and Irina turned to U.S. Bank to help finance their purchase of the five-employee shop in 2014.

"We re-energized the company with a successful rebranding and digital marketing plan. We began selling through our website and launched sales on Amazon and eBay," said Irina. "We are very, very busy right now."

U.S. Bank has a relationship with American Truck Equipment as well as with two separate business entities: Sergey has a real estate company that owns the building where they lease space and he’s a partner in AlphaTek Automation, a six-employee firm which makes, sells and repairs steel cutting machines and software.  

American Truck Equipment is an example of a company that started small with U.S. Bank, but after building a trusted relationship, and has steadily grown the services it seeks the bank's guidance for, said Michelle Kent, a business banking officer who has had a relationship with Sergey and Irina since 2014.

The couple started working with Michelle and the SBA group, took on a few small lines of credit, and eventually grew to working with U.S. Bank for business credit cards, treasury management services, and payment processing. They also are one of many businesses in Ohio that have worked with U.S. Bank to secure an SBA-backed loan and line of credit. In Ohio, U.S. Bank ranked as the second-largest SBA lender, completing 244 loans worth a total of $83.3 million in fiscal 2016. 

The trusted relationship with Sergey and Irina has blossomed over the years – literally.

"When [Irina once] told me she had a bad day, I picked her up a beautiful bouquet of flowers, just to put a smile on her face," Kent said.  

With almost a quarter-century in the banking industry, Kent has helped the couple with their marketing by bringing them to networking groups and even introduced them to some car dealerships and other customers.

Kent tries to be "hands on" with every client and takes the time to get to know her customers to provide them with the safe, simple and convenient financial products and services to help them navigate financial milestones big and small.  

"I’m so impressed with how quickly they have grown," she said in regard to Sergey and Irina's success.

U.S. Small Business Owners are feeling more upbeat about the economy than at any time in the past eight years, according to results of the U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey. The survey of 3,200 small business owners within U.S. Bank’s 25-state national footprint indicated that 80 percent of small business owners describe their own business as strong, an all-time high for the survey.  

Irina and Sergey immigrated to the United States in 2000 from Armenia, one of the former Soviet Union Republics. The couple have three children under 10 years old.

Being in business in Armenia would have been more challenging, said Irina, who moonlights as an adjunct economics professor at nearby Cuyahoga Community College. 

"Here [in America] business is more predictable with less bureaucracy [than in Armenia]. If you are energetic, smart enough, work hard and believe it's possible, you will achieve what you want and will be rewarded. There’s opportunity in this country." 

Sam Black is a member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.