Dawson Metal Company To Celebrate 70 Years In Business
One of the few remaining family-owned manufacturers in Jamestown is celebrating seven decades of success.
Dawson Metal Company was started in 1946 by a Swedish immigrant and a civil engineer who was returning home to Jamestown after serving in the Navy during World War II. The metal fabrication manufacturer maintains the tradition of a family-owned business as David Dawson continues the legacy his grandfather and father started 70 years ago.
Dawson said his grandfather, Axel, came to Jamestown through Ellis Island from Sweden in 1910. He said that Axel learned English from fishing on the shore of Lake Erie in Barcelona Harbor. Dawson’s father, George, graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in civil engineering. After serving as a captain in the Navy during World War II, he returned back to Jamestown looking to start a career. Together the father and son team formed Dawson Metal Company.
”It took nerve to start a new business,” Dawson said about his grandfather and father. ”It wasn’t easy. It has been easier for me than it had to be for them.”
In 1981, Dawson, who was working for the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, started working part-time at Dawson Metal when his father was sick with cancer. He said he helped his brother, John, with the family business. In 1993, prior to John retiring, Dawson joined the business full time.
Dawson said he has no plans on exiting the business anytime soon, but when he does, the family legacy will carry on as his son, Justin, works as a Dawson technician and floor supervisor.
The business has 115 employees and is located at 825 Allen St. The Dawson Metal Company has a separate division titled Dawson Doors. Also, it has another business, Spray-Tech Finishing & Assembly, located at 1853 Delaware Ave., Falconer. Dawson Metal Company and Dawson Doors is located in a 100,000 square feet metal fabrication facility. Spray-Tech is located in a 50,000 square feet industrial powder coating, wet painting and custom assembly facility.
”We have a fantastic team here. Everyone understands their expectations,” he said. ”The team is solid. We have good people doing good work.”
Dawson said he is not a metal fabrication technician. He is a businessman.
”They don’t let me go near the machines,” he joked. ”My job is worry about the future.”
In worrying about the future, Dawson said he thinks about the future direction of the business, how to grow the company and how to attract quality people to work at the facility. He said you build a good company around people. He said some people have a strong technical background, but haven’t succeeded at Dawson because they didn’t have the right attitude and weren’t willing to work as part of a team. He added that some of his best employees weren’t the strongest technically, but because they had the right attitude and were willing to learn, they have succeeded.
”Attitude is important. A willingness to learn. That is when people want you on their team,” he said. ”One of my jobs is finding those people to build the company around.”
Dawson said success hasn’t been a straight line. He said the manufacturer’s largest two customers when they first started were IBM and Eastman Kodak.
”Now, they’re zero percent of what we do,” he said.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Dawson said they almost went out of business. In 2002, Dawson was geared to do $20 million in production. However, after the terrorist attacks, they only did $10 million as customers canceled their orders.
Today, the business is part of three high-end architectural fabrication companies located here in Jamestown, Dawson said. He said that along with Hope’s Windows and Ellison Bronze, the city has three of the best metal fabrication companies in the world.
”That is one thing the town should feel good about,” he said.
The metal fabrication company continues to receive prestigious jobs from some of the most well-known businesses and organizations in the world. Recently, Dawson Doors finished the first of three phases to replace the doors to the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C. Dawson said that job wasn’t easy to secure. He said they first submitted a bid for the work more than a dozen years ago. However, they didn’t receive the initial contract. However, after time passed and other manufacturers couldn’t finish the job, Dawson Doors was approached to complete the project.
”It took us a long time to get the job, but we did it,” he said.
Dawson Doors is also working on replacing the doors at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills. Dawson said the doors are 30 feet high. He said the business is also working on the doors for the new Donald Trump hotel that will be located in Washington, D.C., which is a $200 million redevelopment of the former U.S. Post Office building.
Dawson Metal Company is a metal fabrication, cutting, bending, welding and finishing manufacturer creating close tolerance, custom metal fabrications. Dawson said the Metal Company produces mostly self-checkout machines and enclosures for electronic components inside locomotives.
For more information on Dawson Metal, Doors and Spray-Tech Finishing & Assembly, visit dawsonmetal.com, dawsondoors.com or spraytechfinishing.com.