Workspace: Tom Black, founder, Velocity Factory
A well-rounded business has sprung up in the Riverside area of Jacksonville.
Velocity is a bicycle parts manufacturer that recently relocated from Brisbane, Australia, to 444 Goodwin Street in Riverside. The move was no small feat, as all of the equipment used to create the company’s bicycle rims was shipped to Jacksonville. Velocity’s rims can be sold by themselves or can be sent to the company’s wheel assembly plant in Michigan. The company also manufactures water bottle cages and accessories.
Company founder Tom Black, 59, created most of the equipment used in the rim-building process and had to make some adjustments for operations to run on U.S. electricity.
“They operate on a little bit different system in Australia,” said Black.
Most of the hurdles to opening the factory are behind him now, Black said. The factory is set up inside of a warehouse on Goodwin Street. He is comfortable with materials suppliers, but continues to look for the best deals on metal. Staff has been trained; there are seven employees working with Black.
“We have the capacity to double staff if there is a need. But seven is good for the current demand,” said Black.
Always looking to improve the process of building rims, Black has purchased machinery to anodize rims with different colors. Anodizing is recognized as less expensive than painting rims and, because the coating is part of the rim, it doesn’t peel off like paint.
“Right now we have to ship the rims out for colors. We lose 10 days sending stuff out and waiting for it to come back. It will save us money to do it in house,” said Black.
The machinery for anodizing is scheduled to be running by January.
Black founded Velocity in the late 1980s while living in Australia and started the company by selling to the Australian market, but that market soon was outpaced by demand in the U.S. The bicycle industry has been a part of Black’s life since he was 15 years old.
“I started out changing flat tires in a bike shop and I’ve been hooked ever since. I wanted to work at something I was passionate about,” said Black.
He also wanted to create a product and says he is proud that the move has made Velocity one of the only companies to produce American-made rims.
“There used to be others, but a lot of the companies can get stuff cheaper out of China. Making a product is something I wanted to do and I felt I could be competitive at it,” said Black.