By Maureen Werther
Like many successful people, Tammy Aust, president and co-owner of Parker Machine Co. Inc. in Fort Edward, recognized an opportunity when it presented itself and didn’t shy away from the challenge.
In 1993, Aust was the office manager for Parker Machine and her partner, Patrick Whaley, who is now co-owner and vice president of the company, was the shop foreman. Aust had started her own bookkeeping business on the side and when the owner of Parker Machine decided it was time to transition into retirement. He offered to sell the business to Aust and Whaley.
“It was never something I expected to do,” said Aust. She said the employee stock option plans were “really big” at that time and, between the package being offered by her boss and the bank, “it all came together.”
Aust and Whaley bought the company in 2001. They are now celebrating 16 years in business. They were named a Small Business of the Year in 2015 by the Washington County Local Development Corp.
Parker Machine does precision machining for pulp mills, valve distributors and manufacturing plants around the world. It was started in 1972 and it has grown steadily since then.
In 2001, when Aust and Whaley took over, the business occupied 12,000 square feet of manufacturing space. By 2016, the company had doubled its size to 24,000 square feet.
Aust manages the production scheduling, accounting and sales side of things;. Whaley runs the production side.
“No two days are ever the same. The pulp and paper industry is very cyclical. A machine can go down and you go from having a quiet day to not getting out of here until the job is done,” said Aust.
Since Aust has taken over sales for the company, she has had more than her own share of challenges arising from being a female in a male-dominated industry. “In the beginning, people would ask to talk to the man in charge. I’ve had to earn their respect over the years.”
Parker Machine now employs 18 full-time people, many of whom have been with the company for 25 plus years.
“There are so many opportunities for people in the manual labor fields. You can almost write your own ticket,” she said.
Parker Machine doesn’t make a particular product. They receive blueprints from their customers for parts and they manufacture them. “We are an OEM (original equipment manufacturer),” said Aust.
Parker Machine ships to businesses across the United States, Canada, and across the world to Indonesia, Finland, and South America.
While Aust has become seasoned in running the company and managing the sales, she readily admits that she is only as successful as the people in the shop. “I can read blueprints, but I can’t tell you how to even turn on a machine,” she said.