Chuck Dardas has a wish list of laser-cutting and milling machines he would like to buy to help his company compete with other suppliers in the automotive, defense and alternative-energy markets.
But for now he's just window shopping.
"The only way to get at it is to fund it ourselves," said the COO of the Alpha Group, of suburban Detroit. "There's not a pool of funding available to us, like the big guys."
Alpha had $22 million in revenue in 2009 and expects to record about $30 million by year end.
"We weathered last year, and we think that we are coming to the banks with a strong business plan. But the banks tell us that our gains aren't 'seasoned.' I'm very frustrated. We don't have a voice."
Many Tier 1 suppliers emerged from last year's crunch with restructured costs and healthy books of business, as well as the wherewithal to access credit markets, said David Andrea, vice president of industry analysis and economics for the Original Equipment Manufacturers Association.
But as the turn in fortunes has been trickling its way down the supply chain, smaller suppliers still find it difficult to access credit lines to retool or diversify.