Idaho Business Review By: Alx Stevens January 13, 2021
Post Falls is about to see a brand new building and more manufacturing jobs.
MetalQuest Unlimited, a machine manufacturing business, is expanding its Nebraska-based operations to Kootenai County, just outside of Post Falls. MetalQuest Unlimited hopes to complete the new building by early 2022 at the latest and — to start — bring about 25 new jobs to the area; it is already posting for a computer numerical control machinist/programmer and CNC operator.
“We are delighted with MetalQuest Unlimited’s decision to choose the City of Post Falls as home for their new site,” Mayor Ronald Jacobson said in a press release. “They have a reputation as a high-quality company known for their innovation and exceptional level of service. They not only excel in customer service, but also in creating high quality jobs for the citizens of Post Falls.”
Why Kootenai County?
Jacobson also expressed his appreciation for the collaborative effort to bring MetalQuest to the Post Falls area, namely with the Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation and Scott Harms, founder and president of MetalQuest Unlimited.
Harms also looks forward to continuing working with city and county leadership, and he said their instrumental assistance was a major part of sealing the deal. The second major part, he said, was the area’s “great population growth.”
“It (was), ‘Wow this place is really special,’” Harms said. “It’s an area people want to live in, which is important.”
Harms first visited the area and began working with members of the Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation a year ago, “who were absolutely wonderful.” This was just before COVID-19 “threw a wrench in the entire year.”
Harms was excited to see the Kootenai Technical Education Campus and the North Idaho College Parker Technical Education Center right beside it. He hopes to inspire a greater appreciation for the manufacturing industry.
“The future of your company is with you,” Harms said. “Get some youth interested, passionate about what they do; make them grow. Good things usually come from that.”
This is in line with the area’s desires as well, according to Gynii Gilliam, president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation, and education institutions are highlighted to prospective businesses.
The community rallied behind these institutions, according to Gilliam, donating land and supporting a construction bond measure with over 70% approval.
“It was industry-led, (and) the community supported it,” Gilliam said. “Workforce is key; this region takes technical training very seriously.”
The Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation helped introduce Harms to not only Post Falls Mayor Jacobson, but also to the mayors of Coeur d’ Alene, Hayden and Rathdrum, while showing Harms the area’s connections to relative business markets in the county itself and nextdoor Spokane, Washington.
The entire region, consisting of an estimated 180,000 in Kootenai County and almost 600,000 in the Washington area, is expected to benefit economically from MetalQuest Unlimited’s arrival in Kootenai County, Gilliam said.
“Our approach is very regional, even across the border,” Gilliam said. “We always think of ourselves as a unit; don’t get me wrong, I prefer them to be on this side, but we don’t talk negatively.”
The Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corporation also looked at the impact MetalQuest Unlimited could have on the several CNC machining businesses already in the area.
“A lot of our CNC operators are smaller, such as for prototyping,” Gilliam said. When larger production is required, they often have to work with larger companies outside the area, she added.
“That’s where MetalQuest complements our companies,” Gilliam said. “They can do some of that mass production. For us, that means further localizing for machine parts.”
MetalQuest exterior. Photo courtesy of MetalQuest
Businesses that typically need space larger than 20,000 square feet usually end up in Post Falls or a new commercial development in Rathdrum, or off Highway 55 near Hayden, Gilliam said. Harms said the building is currently being designed and the cost is being determined; in the meantime, MetalQuest Unlimited is renting a building.
Currently, Harms is bringing a multi-spindle machine to the Post Falls area. MetalQuest Unlimited has land spoken for, and is working with a builder, “because the area is growing as fast as it is, building space, for a shop in particular, is in high demand,” Harms said. If possible, he hopes the completion to be by the end of 2021.
While exact financial numbers regarding tax incentives, tax revenue impact and construction fees have not been disclosed, Gilliam is confident MetalQuest Unlimited’s wages will be competitive, and the capital investment will be good for the entire community, from schools and emergency services to roads and other public infrastructure.
“I know the number of employees and the wages they provide will be a big benefit to our area,” Gilliam said. “Their plan is to do above average in our area, (and they are) bringing in some large and expensive equipment.”
“We introduced Scott to a lot of people and a lot of comments I hear is he is a good fit for our community,” she added. “He’s concerned if the workforce is happy (and) what families are going to do when they get here. Everyone who has met him has said, ‘He’s a good guy.’”
What is MetalQuest Unlimited?
Growing up on a family farm in Nebraska, Harms was inspired to continue connecting with agriculture.
“You have work ethic, good common sense and a pro-business environment,” Harms said about expanding into Kootenai County. “It (will) open up opportunities.”
Then, immediately upon achieving his associate’s degree, he wanted to open a business.
“Each individual farm is a small business,” Harms said. “You understand small business things, by birth; you understand business type concepts, (like) work ethic; you’re actually getting a business course without even knowing.”
Hebron, where MetalQuest Unlimited is located, has a similar atmosphere to Post Falls, with welcoming, helpful people, and Idaho supports two industries largely utilizing MetalQuest’s services: firearms and agriculture. Harms also sees ready potential in connecting with the aerospace, defense, medical and tech industries.
“We don’t know exactly which to pick,” Harms said. “The oil field typically has been our largest sector; it got really bad beat up in 2020. We’ve known we’ve needed to diversify.”
MetalQuest Unlimited is privately held, and just turned 25 this January. It is described as being a nationwide leader in tight-tolerance, precision-machined manufacturing. The company specializes in vertical integration of manufacturing processes, including reshoring. This is the first expansion for the company, and it is using internal resources (profits from customer patronage) to expand.
To start, some employees are moving from Nebraska to Idaho to have some shifts covered. First and second shifts will be built upon, Harms said, then machines are planned to be added. In the first two years, Harms hopes to “build up” the first 25 employees, then expand the employee base.
“It’s like a portable factory, adding people around that,” Harms said. “A lot of growth is going to come from the talent and the people we find. We value people tremendously, our culture, and we hope to be a very competitive employer that takes care of their employees.”