SBA Names Michael Bower Veteran Small Business of the Year
In recognition of National Small Business Week, SBA Upstate New York recognized Michael Bower of Eagle Metalcraft as the 2023 Veteran Small Business of the Year for its 34-County region. A ceremony was held Wednesday, May 3, on the manufacturing floor of Eagle Metalcraft. Michael received support from local leaders, employees, family, and friends who attended the event.
“We are proud to recognize the impact Michael Bower has had even before finalizing his acquisition of the company,” Upstate New York District Director Bernard J. Paprocki said.
“Michael became the general manager here at Eagle Metalcraft in 2020, in the thick of a pandemic and a low point in the company’s sales. Since then, he has been able to double sales and workers and led plant floor improvement efforts that have given the company 6,000 additional square feet for manufacturing,” Bernard continued. “Michael is a shining example of the skills veterans bring to entrepreneurship.”
Journey to Becoming a Veteran-Owned Small Business
Mark Pitonzo, an NYSBDC Certified Business Advisor with the Onondaga Small Business Development Center, worked closely with Michael during the exploratory and acquisition phases of becoming a small business owner.
“Michael is everything you want in a colleague, business owner, and friend,” Mark said. “His impressive work ethic began at a young age, growing up on a farm in Arkansas. He enlisted and served our country honorably in the US Marine Corps for four years.”
Following his service, Michael obtained his physics degree from Kent State University and a Master’s in engineering from the University of South Florida. Professionally, Michael worked in various operational management roles for Eaton Corporation and the United Technologies Corporation (UTC).
In February 2020, during the onset of the pandemic, Michael started pursuing his dream of owning his own business, to which Mark stated:
“I’ve never worked with anyone who has been so professionally persistent in realizing the dream of owning your own business.”
Hard Work, Diligence Result in Success
While there were a couple of false starts early on, the turning point was when Michael learned that Eagle Metalcraft was previously for sale and that there was an opening for the general manager position at the company. This position would ultimately change the course of his life.
“After several discussions, the previous owner asked Michael to help improve the company’s financial viability by working for him as a general manager, and Michael accepted. He was able to get a firsthand look at what needed to be improved upon if, in fact, he was going to purchase the company.”
Mark referenced this quote from the famous author Robert Frost, “The best way out is always through,” before adding: “Michael diligently went through the company with a fine-tooth comb and decided this was his way out.”
Michael worked with the SBA and Citizens Bank to secure the funding for his acquisition of the company, which took place in February of 2022.
The changes Michael has implemented are evident on the company floor and the many new faces on his team. He has also increased the company’s involvement with MACNY.
“Michael truly believes that CNY has an entrepreneurial heartbeat, and he wants Eagle Metalcraft to play a role in that,” Mark said.
Thank You to a Supportive Community of Business Supporters and Resources
When it was Michael’s turn to speak, he started by thanking his employees and giving them credit for rolling with all the changes – first the pandemic, and then his acquisition of the company and all the changes he has been making to better position the company for success.
“They’ve been through a lot, and I feel very honored to have their support,” he said. “You are the reason we are successful today, yesterday, and tomorrow.”
“There’re so many people that I want to say, ‘If it wasn’t for them, or if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened,'” Michael continued, thanking his wife and several key organizations. “So many people played an important part – the community of it is amazing.”
Michael said he moved to Syracuse about six years ago and didn’t have a network. He credits many people with helping him along the way by serving as partners. Many he met through Mark Pitonza, who consistently checked in with Michael to see how he was doing. When there were roadblocks, Mark would respond: “I’ve got a person” who would then provide a solution.
Michael thanked CenterState CEO, MACNY, TDO, Carl Austin, SBA, Frank Parella, Bill Adam, and the Central New York community, where he found the support to make his dream of owning a business come true.
He also thanked the company’s customers, who are “innovative, loyal and build relationships that last. They are our motivation and the reason we have our jobs. We strive to provide them with the best service we can,” he said.
ABOUT EAGLE METALCRAFT
Founded in 1953 as Eagle Manufacturing Company, Jack Helmer and his sons developed Eagle Metalcraft into what it is today. In 2022, veteran-owned Bower Industries Inc. acquired the company to carry on the legacy of quality work in sheet metal, machining, welding, powder coating, and finishing artwork.
As the premier sheet metal fabricator, Eagle Metalcraft maintains an “old world craftsmanship” using state-of-the-art capital equipment to improve quality and productivity. Whether you are in the Northeast or anywhere in the United States, we look forward to teaming up with you to produce the highest quality precision metal products – contact us today!
Photo Caption: Michael Bower, center, was recognized as the Veteran Small Business of the Year. He is pictured with (from left) Sonya Smith, Director of the NY Small Business Development Center, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, NYSBDC Certified Business Advisor Mark Pitonzo and SBA Upstate New York District Director Bernard J. Paprocki.