Blackhawk finds room to spread its wings

SSN Staff  - 
Saturday, May 1, 2004

WATERLOO, Iowa - Black-hawk Automatic Sprinklers Inc. is forecasting record sales for 2004 and as a result is planning to double in size in the near future.

Last year, Blackhawk, which designs and fabricates sprinkler systems, sold $12.8 million in fire prevention systems, up 9 percent from 2002.

The company plans to move its headquarters from Waterloo to a property it bought in nearby Cedar Rapids, maybe by the end of the year, according to Blackhawk’s president, Robert Fontanini.

The company acquired the 40,000-square-foot property in December for $500,000, a price Fonanini said was too good to let pass. The square footage is double what is available at the company’s current location.

Blackhawk had wanted to remain in Waterloo, but because there was no more property available near its current location, the only alternative would have been to construct a new building, which Fontanini said just wasn’t economically feasible.

Fontanini said the company’s new building, which used to house a machine tool company, is kind of run-down, so Blackhawk is doing a lot of remodeling and hopes to be in the Cedar Falls location by next winter.

The company first looked into moving in 1998, when non-union workers purchased the company from its founding partners. At that time, Blackhawk couldn’t find any buildings in Waterloo that fit within its budget. Three years later, the city of Waterloo offered to buy Blackhawk’s property, as well as a number of surrounding buildings, to make room for a riverfront housing complex. The company looked into moving, but again could find nothing in its price range.

Blackhawk, which was founded in 1974, currently employs 73 people, including installers, in Iowa, where it does 95 percent of its business, Fontanini said.