Fully Equipped : Firm Matches Buyers With Sellers of Old Machinery

Associated Press

For a Connecticut company that buys and sells used machinery, an aging lathe or blast furnace may be just what the customer ordered.

In its 31 years in business, the Gavlick Machinery Corp. has become a matchmaker of sorts, introducing companies that have equipment to sell to firms that want the goods.

"The whole fact of the matter is finding a buyer and seller and that can be done just as easily with the smaller pieces as with the larger ones," said Nancy E. Gavlick, the company's assistant vice president.

The used machinery market is known for its breadth and Gavlick spans it with divisions specializing in machinery for all kinds of industries: machine tools, video, electrical equipment, plastics, graphic arts, chemicals and data processing, among others.

Gavlick takes several different approaches to matchmaking. Sometimes it purchases equipment cold from companies, knowing that it will be able to find buyers. On other occasions, Gavlick brokers deals between companies or auctions off equipment for firms going out of business or closing plants.

If a machine doesn't suit the specifications of a prospective buyer, Gavlick is also equipped to rehabilitate or redesign it.

"It's as though we're an arm of the client company or a department because we do everything from market research and valuation to even helping them sell their products," said Richard E. Gavlick, the company's president and chief executive officer.

A former machine tool salesman, Gavlick founded the company with his father, Isadore T. Gavlick, in 1957. Now his daughter, Nancy, also works there.

With 16 divisions and a computer database of more than 200,000 possible sellers and buyers around the world, the privately held company prides itself in its ability to tackle tall orders.

For example, the General Electric Co. was seeking to phase out a specialized machinery line for producing wire for electrical conductors at the same time a Chilean copper company wanted to phase one in. Gavlick put the sale together last year, moving General Electric's dip-form line to Metalurgica Coplasa S.A.

"Chile is one of the most important exporters of copper," Richard Gavlick said. "Metalurgica Coplasa's use of the dip-form line could have a significant impact on the country's copper trade and economy."

But while Gavlick may have helped expand Chile's economy, another deal helped close down a segment of Great Britain's.

In 1981, Gavlick acted as co-agent for the sale of $500 million worth of surplus steel-making equipment that once operated under the banner of the British Steel Corp. The sale, executed over two years, cost workers in 14 steel mills across England their jobs.

Not all Gavlick deals have international consequences and its 500,000-square-foot warehouse in Bristol is overflowing with machinery in all shapes and sizes being rebuilt or awaiting sale. The company also has offices in Miami and Cleckheaton, England.

With about 100 employees at the Bristol headquarters and 40 representatives abroad, the company is ready to strike quickly when opportunity arises, Ms. Gavlick said.

"We're pretty much wide open and ready to go at a moment's notice," said Ms. Gavlick.

Richard J. Callahan, who heads Business Information Services Inc., publisher of newsletters covering the wire, fastener and supplier industries, said Gavlick is able to respond when a business suddenly booms and needs equipment fast.

"When things turn around and you need it in a hurry, they'll have it for you," Callahan said.

The company, which would not disclose any financial figures, has also seen its share of lean economic times. A 1973 fire destroyed its 104,000-square-foot complex in Torrington, Conn., and the downturn of the steel industry during the early 1980s hurt Gavlick, officials said.

Gavlick said the company made a series of purchases in the early 1980s and extended its credit, only to face a shrinking market. He said at the height of the depression in the steel industry, Gavlick sold machinery at a loss just to meet payroll.

He said the steel market is now on the upswing and Gavlick Machinery along with it.

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