The Faces of Entrepreneurship: Rick Houvouras, Star Technologies
Issue:Winter 2015 : Articles
Star Technologies LLC, which manufactures a broad array of high-tech metal fasteners for the transportation industry, has no customers in West Virginia even though it sells its West Virginia-made products to customers nationwide and abroad. The Huntington manufacturer exports its fasteners to Great Britain, Japan, Canada, Mexico and a number of other countries, including such unlikely locales as Poland and Malaysia.
The Star Technologies plant produces millions of parts each year, says managing partner Rick Houvouras.
The parts Star Technologies makes aren’t sold in West Virginia because the state doesn’t have the kinds of manufacturers that use them. The company’s precision clamping devices, brackets and metal stampings are primarily used in the aircraft industry but find their way into other transportation uses as well, including heavy-duty transit buses. They’re also used in commercial heating and cooling products.
To fashion its parts, the company uses the latest production laser systems and advanced water jet technology. The parts are made from a variety of metals, including aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and Inconel, a high-performance nickel-chromium super alloy known for its corrosion resistance at high temperatures.
Star Technologies got its start in 1994, when Houvouras and a group of other local investors saw a promising business opportunity after a longtime Huntington fastener maker shuttered its operations.
Founded in 1938, Adel Precision Products Corp. played an important role in World War II, when America’soutput of warplanes dramatically multiplied almost overnight. Workers at Adel’s Huntington plant worked night and day to meet the demand for the company’s aviation fasteners. But the company had its ups and downs in the post-war era.
In the early 1990s, a California-based company bought Adel, closed its Huntington plant and moved the jobs to the West Coast. That left many of Adel’s veteran employees jobless. Some had never worked anywhere other than the fastener plant. Enter Houvouras and other local investors, who teamed up and raised $800,000 to start Star Technologies. The new venture began operation by hiring a half-dozen former Adel employees — and pledging to them that, once the companyreached a given level of profitability, they could become partners in it.
Houvouras says the former Adel employees were the key to the company’s success. “They had skills that were needed — purchasing, quality control, tool- and die-making, production expertise and engineering skills.”
A former Cabell County member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Houvouras says RCBI has provided valuable assistance to Star Technologies over the years.
“RCBI not only allowed us to use some machines that we wouldn’t otherwise have had access to but provided training for our employees to help them use the latest technology,” he says. “RCBI also helped us obtain the quality certifications required by the major manufacturers we supply. Quality control is the foundation by which we operate. Our philosophy is a total commitment to quality and continuous quality improvement. This philosophy has been instilled in every employee at Star through training and involvement within our quality system.”