DETROIT -- Ed Lumm spoke quietly in a conference room at his pristine new plant in Auburn Hills, Mich., where days earlier, friends and customers celebrated with a St. Patrick's Day open house accented by live Irish melodies and the scent of corned beef.
In relaxed conversation, Lumm revealed financial details of his private company -- until he remembered that a reporter sat across the table from him.
"Can you leave that out?" he asked. "I don't want it to seem like I'm bragging."
But Lumm, CEO of Shannon Precision Fastener, has something to brag about. Seven years ago, Shannon was faltering when the recession hit. It survived by absorbing the operations of another troubled company.
In the past two years, the company has opened a second plant and invested in expensive machinery and technology to focus on quality. And, mastering global sales, it sells parts on six continents.
It's a story of the resilience of Detroit's small auto suppliers. Many folded during the recent recession. But Shannon survived and now is thriving.
"One of our strategies when we started the company was similar to going to war: Get the best people, give them the best equipment and send them there," Lumm said. "And that was really what we did."
As a small supplier, Shannon by itself probably would have failed during the recession, said Lumm, who is also one of the owners. But it acquired and absorbed a weakening supplier to find the stability it needed to stay in business.
Shannon manufactures what the industry calls fasteners, but they're not common screws or rivets. They are precise and durable bolts and related pieces that hold together high-stress parts in powertrain, body, chassis and seat-belt assemblies.
In 1998, Textron, an automotive, aircraft and industrial manufacturer, bought a Detroit company called Ring Screw Works -- now part of Acument Global Technologies. Chuck O'Brien, the CEO of Ring Screw and eventual founder of Shannon, stayed on with Textron.
But when global sales failed to grow as much as Textron wanted, O'Brien left the company. He bought one of Ring Screw's former buildings in Madison Heights, Mich., a Detroit suburb, from Textron. And in 2004, Shannon was born.
Lumm, now 50, joined the company in 2005.
The following year, Shannon bought a 49 percent stake in Detroit Heading, a minority-owned business that also made fasteners at its Detroit plant. O'Brien died in 2007.
In 2008, "things tumbled quickly," Lumm said.
The economy toppled so fast that Shannon stopped shipping parts the last week of 2008. In January, the plants closed for the entire month, Lumm said. The company had to make a decision:
"Two sick plants were not going to survive. Both, if they stayed on the same path by themselves, would have died," he said.
Shannon bought the remainder of Detroit Heading and closed the Detroit Heading plant.
To save more costs during the recession, Shannon's salaried employees took pay cuts and mandatory time off. Factory workers' hours were reduced.