Born to repair

Nov. 8, 2000

Born to repair

Family business finds
success in an off-airport location

By William Otto

November 2000

William Otto, president I?The business began in Riverside and then moved from there to the old, orginal San Bernardino Airport that?s long gone, and in 1951 it moved here to Ontario,? says Otto.

Otto Instrument offers instrument service and repair and autopilot installations. Explains Otto, ?Everything from antiques to the airlines is what we specialize in.?

Following in his father?s footsteps, Otto grew up in the business and attended the Spartan School of Aeronautics in the early 1970s. Otto worked for his father and eventually took over as the years went by.

?Business has been very good lately. We?re fortunate it?s been a steady increase anywhere from 25 to 29 percent per year for the last few years,? Otto says.

He attributes this success to a good economy and the company?s diversification through a large segment of aviation. ?We do work for everything from people restoring antiques to the airlines and the freight haulers,? he says.

Originally, the company was focused more on general aviation. ?While the company didn?t abandon that segment, it diversified itself through some airline and military projects about 4 or 5 years ago,? Otto says. ?The largest profit segment of the business is very centered around the general aviation segment and commercial aviation.?

Expanding Off-airport
Wth increasing profits, Otto Instrument looked to expand. The company remained at the airport until about eight years ago. ?At that time, we outgrew our building, bought land adjacent to the (Ontario) airport, and built our own building,? he explains.

On the airport, Otto Instrument occupied a 6,000-sq. ft. facility. It?s new building, about one block adjacent to the airport, is 15,000 square feet and home to 42 employees, double what the company employed at its airport location.

Otto says the choice to move off-airport was fairly simple. ?It?s made a difference in that we control our cost because it?s my building. At the airport we looked at very large rent increases. They were 300 percent every five years. And when we saw the costs getting so high it finally got to the point where we could pay our whole mortgage on this for what we were renting a small facility for which was a third this size,? he says.

According to Otto, remaining at the airport with the increasing rent costs wasn?t economical for the business. ?We didn?t? do that much direct work with the individual customers. It was more a wholesale business,? he says.

A majority of Otto Instru-ment?s businesses is sent in to the company from FBOs or radio shops, with Otto Instru-ment working on a wholesale level with the repair shops. ?We do not have very much walk-in general customer business at all,? he says. ?We found that moving off the airport and controlling our rent costs was a big advantage,? he adds.

Otto Instrument also still maintains a presence at the airport to work with Mercury Air Center, where he conducts repairs on the ramp.
Another advantage to its location, Otto says, is that

the company is very close to the freight hubs. ?We don?t have to worry about any problems with late night calls when we have to respond at 5 or 5:30 p.m., we can still go right over to the airport and get things shipped,? he adds.

With an expansion that has brought the company to double in size, Otto says, the company plans to continue on its same course.

?We have to continue on in our present mode which is just an increase in commercial and general aviation,? he says.