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Engineering company generates local wealth

When Ryan Phillips graduated from Grand Valley State University's School of Engineering in 2007, he was already setting up his own company in Grand Rapids. That company, Magnum Engineering, just saw its third consecutive year of doubling in size.

Phillips accomplished that growth, in part, by being flexible. His original focus was on loudspeaker development, but troubles in the economy made that a difficult area to pursue.

"In an economic downturn, that is really an area that goes away first," Phillips said. "We shifted to where the money was."

The money, he found, was in new product development. Magnum Engineering works with companies and individuals to develop new products from concept to completion.

"We work with a lot of individuals," Phillips said. "We will work with individuals who have an idea but with no engineering experience. It's ma and pa with their good idea, and we help them get it to market the quickest and best way possible."

In 2008, the revenue generated from new products Magnum Engineering developed and manufactured brought more than $500,000 in new business to West Michigan; that amount topped $1 million in 2009.

"That's how we measure our success -- how much business we and our clients have brought to West Michigan," Phillips said. "All of the jobs that we have created and economic wealth that we have brought to the area are new jobs. They're not being taken away from anyplace else in the country."

Magnum Engineering is housed in a 28th Street facility that holds manufacturing equipment that Phillips purchased from Rockford Acoustic Designs. That company closed its manufacturing operations in Grand Rapids in May 2007, ending a 60-year history of producing loudspeakers in Grand Rapids. Phillips performed six terms of co-op work at Rockford doing loudspeaker design for car audio under the Rockford-Fosgate name.

Phillips graduated from Grand Valley with degrees in three disciplines: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and product design and manufacturing engineering. It is rare for a student to complete degrees in two disciplines; three is unheard of. And he continues to turn to Grand Valley for expertise.

"All of our employees come from Grand Valley," Phillips said. "They're the only ones who have the correct skills. We would accept somebody else, we just haven't found anybody with the right skill set."


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