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St. Louis-based LaBarge Inc. was going strong until last year when the economy failed to cooperate. As a result, business slowed and sales dipped. But the pace is picking up again.

A global provider of electronics to technology driven companies, LaBarge is forecasting a record year in 2010 and 10 percent hiring at its Pittsburgh facility which is among the largest behind Joplin, MO, and Appleton, Wis. The company's four other operations are located in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Founded in 1953 as LaBarge Pipe and Steel, the company established ties to Pittsburgh with the purchase of pipe from U.S. Steel. Today the pipe business is gone and the Pittsburgh operation on Braddock Avenue is high tech manufacturing, employing 235 and specializing in high-reliability printed circuit board assemblies and electronic/electro-mechanical systems.

While LaBarge is a public company, the culture remains very much a family business, says president and CEO Craig LaBarge, son of founder Pierre.

"We're increasingly confident that we're back in a growth mode, evidenced by additional hiring that we anticipate over the next 6 months," he says. "This year promises to be a record year in terms of revenues."

LaBarge serves a diverse mix of industries and markets--defense, aerospace, industrial applications, oil, gas, mining and medical, which are key to the company's success. Revenue and sales during the last three years have climbed at an annual rate of 13% overall and in Pittsburgh. Fiscal 2009 saw a 20% drop in Pittsburgh's business, which was primarily because Pittsburgh doesn't handle military contracts, he says.

Second-quarter net sales are up by $1 million compared to the same period one year ago. The 2010 second-quarter net sales figures included $15,723,000 contributed by the company's Appleton operation, which was acquired in December 2008.

Pittsburgh handles work for several major markets including high level electronics products, medical diagnostic and surgical products and mining and electronic equipment. One of Pittsburgh's biggest customers is a glass bottle manufacturer Owens-Illinois.

LaBarge's focus on highly complex, custom electronics enables it to compete successfully in the global marketplace, especially with China, LaBarge adds. Offshore manufacturing is better suited to low complexity, higher volume production.

We have a "relentless focus on continuous improvement," says LaBarge. "We have an organized and orderly process to ensure we get better every day and every week and every month and we measure those results."

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Craig LaBarge

LaBarge, Inc.
700 Braddock Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15112
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