MOREAU -- When Ronald Richards and Michael Close tell people their company, RASP Inc., builds panel boards, people often envision the household electronic version — the metallic maze of an electric circuit printed on a thin, green board.
It’s sort of like that — but on a much larger scale.
These industrial control panels help power and control the automation in manufacturing industries.
They require a clean environment, but no clean rooms or white “bunny” suits.
“Other companies that do what we do, they do have specific target companies. We don’t. We have built systems for baking companies like Freihofer’s, for chemical processing plants, the pulp and paper industries,” Richards said.
“And medical,” added Close.
The client list includes global companies who send the equipment built at RASP to overseas factories. With modern-day technology, RASP can service it remotely over the Internet.
In addition to manufacturing industrial panel boards, the company provides a long list of other technological services for manufacturing companies.
In many ways, Rasp Inc. acts as an extension of manufacturing companies by providing electrical engineers, programmers and electronic panel builders, for example, for projects where a manufacturer otherwise might have to turn down work because it didn’t have enough need to employ people year-round with those skills.
Client names range from General Electric Energy, Emerson Process Management and AngioDynamics to small businesses like HJE Co. in Queensbury and the pair’s former employer, machine manufacturing company Raloid Tool Co. in Mechanicville.
“We’re in so many different industries that we stay pretty steady to borderline crazy busy,” Close said.
That’s fine with Richards, Close and their team of engineers, programmers and panel builders, all of whom may also fall under the title of artist.
“This is artwork as far as I’m concerned,” said Close as he unveiled a partly-built massive industrial control board that would take 165 hours to build.
Sometimes, the employees also custom-build steel cabinets for the panels.
“When a customer pays $100,000 for a product, they want to see what they’re getting,” Close said.
It all starts with the engineer, from RASP or the client customer. They create the designs on a computer program, list needed materials, which could be in the hundreds, and then a panel builder gets a set of schematic plans to build the panel.
“Out here, you’ve got to have a good mechanical background — somebody that can actually picture the neatness necessary,” Close said.
And all of the wires and tiny plastic and metal pieces arranged neatly and drilled into place all lead to the PLC, programmable logic control unit. That’s the brains behind manufacturing machines.
“Without the brains, all of this is just a hunk of steel sitting there,” Close said.
RASP started 18 years ago in Richards’ garage. It was a bumpy launch considering one of the founders backed out before the business paperwork was in the mail, Richards said. A year later, the third partner left the business.
RASP stood for the last names of the three founders, with “P” standing for products.
“It was a gamble. It was scary. We had families and kids and full-time jobs,” Richards said.
Richards, with an engineering background, didn’t fold. He kept working full time at another job, and Close, with a mechanical background, joined him.
“I just saw a need in this area. There’s a lot of manufacturing that people aren’t aware of — companies, a lot of small businesses, that we felt could use our services,” Richards said.
Without any employees, Richards and Close in 1997 leased an 18,000-square-foot facility at 22 Hudson Falls Road in South Glens Falls. In 1999, they hired their first employee, and with a slow-growth strategy, they’re now up to 20 people.
“We operated quite a few years without bank help, which led to us growing very slow,” Richards said.
They didn’t stop there. Earlier this month the company moved into its new 22,000-square-foot building at 8 Dukes Way in Moreau. Just a mile south of Northway Exit 17 and visible from Route 9, the new facility has already attracted plenty of attention, with the company being flooded with resumes (though they’re not hiring at the moment) and even getting a couple of new client calls.
“At the time, and still to this day, it’s reputation. We were kind of in the background here for a long time. A lot of people hadn’t heard of it. But, it’s still a small industry, Everybody knows everybody and what kinds of talents we have. Work tends to follow that,” Richards said.
Building relationships with clients and employees is important to RASP.
Production Manager Mark Campbell started at RASP in 2008 working on the floor.
“It’s growing. It’s expanding, but Ron and Mike give it that mom-and-pop shop feel,” Campbell said.
He said his bosses hold everyone to high standards, and there are rewards when those standards are met.
Renovating the new facility was a $1.5 million project including two additions to an existing 6,000-square-foot manufacturing building: one 10,000-square-foot warehouse and manufacturing space and a nearly 6,000-square-foot office and engineering space.
The engineers all have their own offices, the employees have a break room and a cafeteria with a kitchen. They also have a physical fitness room.
“A lot of hard work went into it,” Campbell said. “I’m really glad to be a part of this company. There’s a lot of talk on the street so to speak.”
Engineer Sean White started building panels after completing the industrial electronics program at Adirondack Community College.
“I love working for Ron and Mile. They take care of their employees. It’s a small company, but things are pretty dynamic and it provides challenges every day,” White said.
The expansion was made for the growth, and the company also owns 28 acres in its parcel that is zoned industrial.
Richards said the company is hoping to turn it into an industrial park. Infrastructure is still a question, but he and Close will begin that process in the new year.
Editor’s note: This is a regular series focusing on interesting local businesses and the ways they survive, thrive and innovate. Local business owners with stories to tell about their new or established businesses are invited to contact The Post-Star.