It’s the success story that almost wasn’t. But Telly Skahill and Alejo Duenas believed.
The pair are co-CEOs of ESCP Corporation, a metal fabrication plant at 1833 W. Second Street in Davenport. From the outside, the red brick building is unassuming. A small metal sign points the way to the office. Machinery can be heard from the parking lot.
It may not look like much, but the pair always believed in their diamond in the rough. And it paid off.
Duenas started working at ESCP in 2006 in the paint line after the plant manager offered him a job. Over the course of the next 16 years, he worked his way up to supervisor and eventually learned a plethora of other jobs in the plant.
ESCP makes steel shipping racks, industrial wire containers and tubs, and performs contract metal fabrication for high-profile clients like John Deere and Cardinal Glass.
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Duenas said when the original plant owner died, their daughter took over and Duenas stepped in to help her run the company. When a new owner took over, Duenas was put in charge of the whole floor. The business was slowly declining and the owner was losing interest in the plant. Duenas knew something had to be done.
In September 2020, she joined ESCP as the chief financial officer after a long career at John Deere. Like Duenas, she saw beyond the numbers and knew ESCP could thrive with the two of them at the helm.
“The previous owner lived in Nebraska, and we were technically running the entire business so I said ‘Let’s just approach him. The worst he can say is no,'” she said.
After months of deliberation, they were granted the keys. It was an exciting, but scary moment, Skahill said.
“When we first started this, we had 23 employees we were responsible for,” she said. “But we knew we were buying a business that was about ready to close the doors.”
For Duenas, his years-long career taught him that if they built it, success would come.
“I knew there was a lot of potential here,” he said. “We started doing things differently and we brought on more employees to complete more work.”
Duenas’ positive thinking and innovative techniques prevailed. Nearly two years later, sales have tripled. And so has the workforce.
The pair added a second shift and have grown from 23 employees to 68 and counting. The secret to their success, he said, is opportunity.
“We try to give an opportunity to every employee,” Duenas said. “If they come to us and don’t know how to do the work, we show them.”
Previous employees have come back for a second chance, and now, it feels like a family, Skahill said. And they mean that literally: each of them has a number of family members they work with daily.
“I hope we get big some day, but I still want to keep the small-town, family feel,” she said.
Both Duenas and Skahill expect more growth. Both have plans to enhance production, but Skahill said their promise to employees is always to put them first.
“No robots,” she said. “People are more important to me. The payroll gets to be outrageous sometimes, but I don’t care. It’s about employing the Quad-Cities.”
Duenas agreed, and made sure to credit Skahill for her part in ESCPs success.
“We make a hell of a team, me and her,” he said. “We believe in each other.”
Photos: Take a look inside ESCP Corporation