Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We do custom aluminum welding on flatbeds, anything from 8-foot to 32-foot boats, and we build custom boat loaders. Just use your imagination and we've probably built it. I've been doing this 35 years. I worked for Alumaweld Boats for 14 years and started this business 27 years ago.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I was born just outside Indianapolis and moved here in 1968 from Columbus, Ohio.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? When I graduated from art school, I was looking for a job, not so much in welding but in design. I got a job offer from Willie Illingworth just out of college — it wasn't the welding, it was the fabrication part that attracted me. I made parts and whatever they needed done. Willie owned Alumaweld at the time. When Willie sold Alumaweld to Dave Boulton, he started building raft frames. When the competition clause ended, that's when he started his Willie Boat business. I worked for Willie and then Dave when he moved out to Rogue River Drive.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? The whole fabrication industry is a learning curve. There's not a whole lot you can change, because you would have to go through all those stages to establish a clientele. My clientele is so wide, because I've done work for the reforestation industry, boating industry and all kinds of commercial architects. Almost everything I work with is aluminum; no steel or stainless materials. I learned along the way not to work for big businesses. I wouldn't work for anybody I didn't know. If you work for someone out of state or out of the country, you're not going to be satisfied with the way they pay. I would do contracts a whole lot better with clients outside the state or country, because there is no way to know what to expect.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Probably to work on some of the safety-equipment industry stuff with very close tolerances — if you can, imagine dropping a grain of sand in something and it not working. Anytime the tolerances are that close — plus or minus a 5/1000th of an inch — they are tough to build.

Who are your competitors? Most of my competitors send them to me. It's not so much that they can't handle it, it's just not in their field. We have a very wide spectrum of ability. A lot of things need to be repaired that can't be replaced. It might be a part for a Jaguar or some fellow's truck is broken down on the highway and can't move until a part is fixed. We build all kinds of things for art in clients' backyards, all kinds of fences and gates. People present ideas to us, and we give them a realistic cost and figure out if it's feasible and go from there.

What training or education did you need? I went to school at the Portland Museum of Art. It was more of an escape than a job. If you have to work in one field where you want to make a living, it takes a lot of the fun out of it. My background is in art. I can be very artistic, even though it's in metal. I'm basically a fine arts student. A lot of people want something and are willing to spend $65,000 to $70,000 to add something to a pickup, and you want to add to it. You can always put lines in to match what you're building. It's the same thing in the boat industry, where you are working on something anywhere from an 8-foot pram to a $200,000 ocean boat.

What are your goals? Five years from now, I'd like to be retired. I'm working with younger gentlemen who have the drive to succeed in this field. It's very unpredictable. You never know what kind of industry is going to spring up next. It will make it challenging to stay in it. It's creative, and you put yourself into it, because the appearance of the weld is your signature.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? As an entrepreneur, you can express your own personality. Anytime you work for yourself, you can make your own hours — usually that means a lot more hours. Most people go into business because they want to express their own personality. Just don't be frivolous. When you start a business, you buy everything you think you need, just be a little more conservative in how you equip yourself for jobs.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.