Sonico, Inc. Breaks Ground on New Facility
Posted on Sep 01, 2016
In early 2013, Sonico President W.B. “Bill” Perdue was between a rock and a hard place. The largest of the WWII-era buildings he had been leasing from the Port of Moses Lake for his aircraft parts repair and maintenance business needed long-deferred repairs and Port officials wanted him out by October 1.
The problem, Perdue said, was that there was nowhere to go, at least not in Moses Lake. He had been leasing several buildings at the Port of Moses Lake since 1981 and new construction had been on the drawing board for years. Sonico owned about seven acres on nearby Randolph Road, but finding financing had been a problem and there was no way they could meet a October 1 deadline.
The simplest solution was to pull up roots and move the business closer to the I-5 corridor and SeaTac, where they’d have easy access to their customer base and a variety of leasing options.
But, Bill Perdue and his son, Jim Perdue, vice president at Sonico, were not interested in the simple solution. Instead they redoubled their efforts to secure financing for new construction to keep their business in Moses Lake.
They missed their October 2013 deadline—fortunately Port officials worked with them on the move out date—but this June, after three years of meetings with architects, engineers, city officials, county officials, zoning boards, loan officers, appraisers, Port officials and the FAA, Sonico broke ground on their new 28,000-square-foot building. Construction is expected to take about a year.
It may not have happened, Bill Perdue said, without the assistance of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Grant County Economic Development Council.
Bill Perdue had a long-standing relationship with Terry Brewer, the former executive director of the Grant County EDC, but he reached out to the SBDC in July 2013 for help building a loan application, identifying prospective lenders, and preparing for meetings with those lenders.
The Washington SBDC is a network of more than two dozen business advisors working in communities across the state to provide confidential, no-cost advising to entrepreneurs and business owners who want to start, grow or transition a business.
Hosted by Washington State University, the SBDC also receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other institutions of higher education and economic development. The SBDC office in Moses Lake is co-located with the Grant County Office of Economic Development.
The Perdues first met with Allan Peterson, the SBDC advisor in Moses Lake since 2004, and Peterson then called in Alan Stanford, an SBDC advisor based in Spokane who has more than 30 years’ experience in banking.
The Perdues were under a lot of pressure to move quickly, they said, but it was a complicated situation and everything took longer than they expected. With all the twists and turns, Perdue said, he and his son counted on the SBDC to provide calm, competent and consistent counsel.
“Every time I felt uncomfortable or needed help, I called,” Bill Perdue said. “There was not one time when they were too busy to help me.”
One of the most difficult obstacles was that the Perdues wanted to build a top-notch manufacturing facility with space for offices, aircraft parts storage and parts maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, the appraisal for the value of that building, once built, came in significantly lower than the estimated $4 to $5 million construction cost.
The appraiser valued the building in line with other basic warehouse space, but because Sonico is an FAA-certified Repair Station, the Perdues were required to build to a much higher standard, including an emission control system, chemical waste containment, and a full-building heating and cooling system. “We didn’t get credit for any of that,” Bill Perdue said.
Stanford’s expertise helped Bill Perdue understand what he could negotiate and what was probably non-negotiable negotiate. They had also discussed different loan terms and fees, so Bill and Jim Perdue could run the numbers to figure out what they could afford without hurting the long-term viability of their business. The Perdues had meetings with lenders at six banks, but none were willing to finance the project at terms they could live with.
Finally, at the eleventh hour, the Perdues found a lender in Pendleton, Ore., with experience in FAA-certified buildings who was willing to make the loan.
“This was really a case of, ‘I know a guy who knows a guy,’” said Peterson, who had been networking across Eastern Washington to help identify possible lenders. If Old World Federal Credit Union hadn’t stepped up, Bill Perdue said, he doesn’t know what he would have done.
“I didn’t want to put up any old building,” he said. “To the best of my ability, I wanted to do it right.”
Perdue, who grew up in tiny Cowiche, Wash., has always wanted to “do it right.” After graduating from Washington State College (now Washington State University) in 1961, Perdue went to work for Boeing. In the late 1970s, unhappy with some internal politics in his division, he began thinking of going out on his own. Eventually, he chose to locate his aviation repair service in Moses Lake, where he could afford to lease buildings at the Port and could get back and forth to Seattle easily. By aligning wages with Seattle and Snohomish counties, he said, he was able to attract great employees who enjoyed the weather and lifestyle in Eastern Washington.
“For many years, we were one of two companies doing all of Boeing’s repair work,” Bill Perdue said. In the early days they were servicing and repairing parts on 707s, 727s, 737s, as well as DC-8 and DC-9.
Perdue remembers one time they got a call that Air Force Two was grounded in Colorado needed a replacement part. Bill doesn’t remember who the vice president was at the time, but he remembers the part was a leach relay.
A jet was dispatched to Moses Lake to pick up the part immediately. Perdue laughs when he says the part cost about $500, but “shipping” was closer to $5,000.
Another brush with fame was when Sonico was tapped to repair a component of NASA’s SOFIA, the largest airborne observatory in the world. Sonico has a letter of appreciation signed by engineers at NASA.
With construction underway on their new facility, the Perdues do believe that the sky is the limit for Sonico. They are expanding their manufacturing capabilities and also have plans to develop their export market. When they do, the Washington SBDC can provide export assistance as well.
“Without the help of Alan and Allan, there is an awfully, awfully strong possibility that we wouldn’t be in Moses Lake,” Perdue said. He laughed and added, “But, I worked really hard, too.”
“That’s true,” Peterson said, “Bill worked hard, he really, really did.” And as a result, he said, 35 good-paying jobs stayed in Moses Lake, along with a business that cares about the community.