Solid footing – Raised-floor company poised for comeback of high-tech sector

Charleston Post and Courier
Charles Williams, Staff Writer
August 1, 2001

Instead of whining about economic woes, executives at Maxcess Technologies are looking to the future.

The Summerville company manufactures and distributes raised-floor products for high-tech industries. Management expects revenue to remain flat this year due to the global slowdown but said Maxcess is preparing for a rebound it feels is just around the corner.

“We’ll be the first business to be able to enjoy the upturn in the economy,” said Martin Bando, president.

Maxcess, whose floors are used in offices, equipment rooms and the communications industry to allow cables and other equipment to be routed beneath them, cut back on its part-time work force in the spring. However, its slowdown has been more of a pause, not the high-profile carnage that a lot of today’s “new economy” firms are going through.

For instance, the company is hiring engineers and sales representatives. It’s also expanding to a building next to its 70,000-square-foot plant in Eastport Commerce Park.

“We leased an additional 30,000 square feet to give us a little more breathing room,” said Andy Miarka, executive vice president.

Since Maxcess began operations in 1996, it has grown from 90 employees to 170. Revenue has increased from $15 million the first year to $40 million last year.

“It’s been a real success story,” said Jim Friar, director of economic development for Dorchester County.

Take last year: Maxcess sold almost 1.5 million panels that make up the flooring systems.

If those panels – which range from $10 to $100 each – were placed side to side, they would create a path more than 550 miles long.

“We could pave a road to Washington, D.C.,” Miarka said.

The company was so busy in 1999 that it was filling a container load a day at the port with its systems. Many of those were bound for South America.

That’s also when Maxcess hired 40 additional part-time workers to keep up with demand. When the economy cooled, the company had to lay them off.

“Internet provider centers were popping up all over the country back in 1999 and early 2000,” Miarka said. “These folks are big users of our products.

“The Internet provider sector … went from hot to cold overnight. You could say that that sector went into hibernation rather quickly,” Miarka said. “We do expect it to wake up again, but we’re not exactly sure how long it wants to sleep.”

Bando said when companies resume investing in new computers and hardware to improve productivity, the economy will begin to slip out of its malaise. That capital investment more than likely will call for the use of Maxcess’ access floor systems.

“We are building the infrastructure now in order to take full and quick advantage of the market for when the market once again turns in a positive direction,” Miarka said.

The local plant makes more than 6,000 flooring panels a day. It takes steel, forms it into panels and welds them together. The paneling and finishing touches are later added.

The raised-floor systems take different shapes, depending on the order. There are concrete-filled steel panels that can accommodate loads up to 10,000 pounds; the all-steel panels are made for computer rooms, for example.


The economic weakness hasn’t deterred the company from looking for business.
“Now that the domestic market is in a bit of a downturn, we are once again courting export business – mostly to South and Central America, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean,” Miarka said.

“The dot-com sector may be sluggish in America, but the semiconductor business in Asia could be brisk.”

In general, though, Miarka is positive about Maxcess’ prospects in the United States.

“We expect it to be a growth business as the concept of access flooring takes hold in the market. Only 8 percent of commercial office buildings in America utilize access floor systems as compared to 50 percent in such countries as Japan, England and the rest of the world. That’s tremendous potential for us,” he said.

The company is a division of Hitachi Maxco Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi Corp. of Japan, the global electronics giant.

Maxcess has some major customers on its list of clients, including AT&T, IBM, Intel, Citibank, Dell Computers and Bank of America.

“Most of the Intel computer chips are built on Maxess technology floors,” said Dennis Pierce, a supervisor at the plant.

The company, whose main competitors are Tate Access Floors in Baltimore and Interface AR Ld. of Grand Rapids, Mich., has 20 percent of the U.S. market and 14 percent worldwide.


Maxcess chose Summerville after looking at various states. Deciding factors included proximity to Interstate 95, a major corridor for distribution, and the port, which the company uses to export to South America and the Far East.

The availability of labor and tax incentives added to the mix. Maxcess got the standard incentives used to lure industries here, tax breaks and employee training, according to Friar.

“There was plenty of labor in light of the Naval Base closing,” Miarka said. “Also, Charleston is a very nice place to live, and it’s an attractive place for our customers who visit us here.”

Bando, who came here from Tokyo where he was general manager of sales strategy at Hitachi Metals, said Charleston may have cinched the deal.

“The charm of Charleston was very impressive. It caused our executives to look a little closer at this area.”

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