Intelligencer Journal / Lancaster New Era
by Tim Mekeel, Business Editor

Tony Fanning walks through his machine shop’s new location, noting the wide aisles between rows of equipment.

It’s breathing room that his company, Flex-Cell Precision, lacked at its previous address.

But at the rate his business is growing and adding equipment, Fanning figures he might someday need to make those aisles narrower.

In a $1.75 million project, Flex-Cell has moved from Manheim Township to the former Distinguished Brands building in Lancaster city.

The 17,500-square-foot building at 1151 S. Duke St. replaces a leased 7,000-square-foot building at 209 Bucky Drive in the Flyway Business Park.

Fanning called the new location, vacant for several years, “ideally suited for our purposes.”

The size, price, layout and ceiling height all fit Flex-Cell’s needs, said Fanning, president and owner.

On top of that, the 4-acre property provides room to enlarge the building.

Fanning had been eager to find more spacious quarters for Flex-Cell, which uses high-tech computer-controlled equipment to make an array of intricate, small parts.

“We ran out of space (on Bucky Drive) about three years ago,” Fanning said Friday.

The bigger space already has been put to good use.

Flex-Cell has added several pieces of equipment and six workers since its city site opened in June, bringing its workforce to 30.

Flex-Cell is trying to increase that number. It wants to hire a machinist, a supervisor and a programmer quickly.

Fueling that fast rise in workforce and capacity is strong demand, leading to 20 to 30 percent increases in sales per year.

(Fanning declined to disclose Flex-Cell’s annual sales.)

“It’s our attention to detail and customer service. … When they want something done right, they come to us,” Fanning explained.

Said general manager Allen Leeson, “We deliver what we say — quality products at a reasonable cost, on time. We deliver on our promise.”

Established 21 years ago, Flex-Cell is a high-precision machine shop and light-assembly firm serving the medical, military and other markets.

Flex-Cell makes medical implants and implant parts from titanium, stainless steel, cobalt chrome and plastic.

It also makes communication-system parts used in military aircraft, satellites and missiles.

The firm’s portfolio also includes parts for commercial machinery, such as parts for scissors-lifts and Kovar housings for glass-to-metal-seal electronics products.

Flex-Cell bought the South Duke Street property, next to a Comcast building, last year for $685,000, according to courthouse records.

Tom McDermott of NAI Commercial Partners handled the transaction.

It next gutted the structure, replacing the lighting, electrical system, lunchroom and restrooms, among other features.

TONO Architects designed the new interior.

Future plans call for outside work, including a new sign, landscaping and an expanded parking lot, said Fanning, whose son Steve is Flex-Cell’s purchasing manager.

Funding the project were loans from the Small Business Administration’s 504 program, obtained through EDC Finance Corp., and from Metro Bank.

Distinguished Brands, a maker of business machine ribbons for typewriters, cash registers and the like, closed several years ago.

It had opened there in 1991, having moved from Plainview, N.Y., and employed 37 people, according to newspaper files.

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