Recent world events have shown how fragile manmade structures are in the path of Mother Nature’s fury. For mechanical engineer, Paul Ibanez, simulating the effects of earthquakes to produce more resilient designs for critical industries like nuclear power plants and hospitals – thereby minimizing damage and loss of life when natural disasters strike – became his mission.
Founded in 1971 by Paul and four friends in Los Angeles, ANCO Engineers (ANCO) designs and produces innovative test systems and services for critical material, equipment, products and structures around the world. The company’s signature product, “shake tables,” can simulate an earthquake’s forceful vibrations in a controlled environment and show whether the infrastructure would endure a natural disaster. ANCO’s systems are used by university researchers, government agencies, and private companies in over 30 countries. The company employs between 12-25 people depending on current projects, utilizes commercial off-the-shelf components, as well as local and multiple suppliers whenever feasible, and maximizes cost savings for clients and its own operations, relocating to Boulder in 1994.
ANCO’s projects vary in size, scope, cost and frequency, depending on industry trends, with bank financing readily available when the economy is strong. Once the recession hit, “traditional banks became very skittish,” said Paul. “They weren’t interested in helping us very much despite our business history.” This caused ANCO’s cash flow crunch to grow due to some suppliers requiring payment on delivery despite it taking 3 to 12 months for ANCO to complete and deliver product orders, get paid by clients, and compensate employees.
Paul consulted the SBA for assistance and was referred to Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) which provided ANCO financing over several years to bridge cash flow gaps. “They gave us a loan when other banks wouldn’t,” recalled Paul. “I truly believe CEF is there to help small businesses like ours get loans and grow, and also to get through those tough times.”
CEF’s loans helped ANCO expand its operations including acquiring equipment, building up lab facilities, and providing significant project funding. Paul also utilized CEF’s Business Acceleration Services (BAS) to update his accounting software and strategic planning efforts. During this time, ANCO was named SBA Colorado Small Business Exporter of the Year in 2009.
Today, half of all seismic testing labs in the United States use ANCO products, which are also sold to test labs and product manufacturers overseas. The company also helps these clients operate their testing tables remotely on occasion. As it celebrates its 45th anniversary, ANCO products and services continue to be in demand as nuclear energy grows in popularity, catastrophic earthquakes and human devastation increase, and more states require all hospitals and nuclear reactors to be seismically tested. “CEF allowed us to survive the recession.” Paul remarked. “We wouldn’t be here without CEF’s help.”