Archive for Tuesday, July 30, 1996

GROWTH BRINGS SUCCESS

July 30, 1996

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A two-division Lawrence company finds growth in both its areas.

Starfire Engineering & Technologies Inc. might be better described as wildfire. The Lawrence-based company's growth is like a wildfire -- fast, aggressive and virtually unstoppable.

The family-owned and operated company has tripled its staff to 24 employees since opening in 1993 and would add about 12 more employees if its offices were larger, owners said.

Gross revenues have tripled since opening in Lawrence. And the customer base has expanded to include some large corporations, without neglecting the small one- or two-person firms, said Starfire vice president Richard Spurlock.

In addition to this growth, the technology and railroad car design company may expand its operations into some new industries.

"I wouldn't have forecasted the rigorous growth we're having right now. But we definitely want to continue to grow," said Andrew Spurlock, 48, company president.

Andrew Spurlock, who works with his wife, son, daughter, daughter-in-law and mother at the company's offices at 2429 Iowa, was chief mechanical engineer for Burlington Northern railroad in Overland Park until 1988. When Burlington Northern began downsizing, Spurlock opted to start his own company doing what he knew best: designing railroad cars. In 1988, he opened Starfire in an office in Stilwell.

Today he designs freight and passenger cars and locomotives for almost all railroad companies, including Burlington Northern.

"Not a lot of people realize railroad transportation gets designed in Lawrence, Kansas," Andrew said. "Anywhere you see railroad tracks, you're liable to see our activity."

Because of industry downsizing, Spurlock's expertise is needed by many of the nation's railroads. The few design engineers who are left at the railroads spend most of their time "doing Band -Aid work," Spurlock said.

"I'm filling a need."

The company designs refurbished cars with updated technology and safety standards, as well as new designs for highly-technical new railroad cars.

And this is where Andrew Spurlock attributes much of his success. The company's technological advances have placed Starfire "heads and shoulders" above its competitors, he said.

The technology side of the company began to skyrocket in 1993, when Richard Spurlock, Andrew's son, graduated from Kansas University. That's when Starfire initiated its technical division. Today, the division operates separately from the railroad side of the company, however the two divisions have teamed in specific projects.

"What happened is, it grew out of an original dependency. He (Andrew) had some serious computing needs, so we just decided to pull the two things together and share administrative duties and facilities," Richard said.

The technical side offers companies computer installation, service, training and system management. Most of the technology work is for businesses in Kansas City, Topeka and Lawrence.

"From the paper they use, to the printers they use, to the PCs they use, we can enhance and upgrade for companies of all sizes," Richard Spurlock, 26, said.

Richard Spurlock said he is particularly proud of Starfire's IBM business partnership, in which the company was named a service authorized premiere BESTeam member.

He said it takes technical expertise as well as certification to become a part of the vendor's partnership. Because of the status, company representatives can assist with IBM computer installation, training and technology recommendations for companies.

"It has become a trite saying that people are the most important asset, but that could not be more true anywhere else than here," said Andrew Spurlock.

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