SPOKANE, Wash. - Tipke Manufacturing has a rich and storied history. The late Jim Tipke founded the company to make race cars. He even fabricated the Indy car Spokane racer and Indy 500 champ Tom Sneva drove during his rookie test in 1972.
Eventually, Tipke moved into general manufacturing, designing and patenting the do it all "Foldit Cart" in 1987.
"Jim originally built the Foldit Cart for a family member and it just, everybody thought it was a good idea, so he decided to start manufacturing it," explained Tipke Vice President Ryan Ford.
The company now sells 3,000-4,000 of them a year to places as far away as the Marshall Islands.
"They'll use their bicycle hitch and pull them around with their bicycles to haul things around," said Ford.
The aluminum carts, which can be folded out or back up in just seconds, are commonly used by gardeners, boaters or anyone who needs to haul things around. The cart weighs only 33 lbs., but it hauls 330 lbs. And the slim design allows it to fit nicely in your garage or storage area.
"We actually use them all over the shop for jobs we're working on," said Ford. "So they get tested daily here."
Tipke Manufacturing has 40 plus employees. And these days, it's mostly a job shop, doing work for all kinds of industries. Ford said they make things like, "construction equipment, man lifts, espresso machines, hot tubs, spa accessory parts."
They even do military plane work, including countertops built for a Seattle company that will put them in lavatories on C-17s.
"They'll put the sink, countertop and toilet in kind of a little self-contained enclosure," said Ford. "And then, from there, they give that to Boeing and it goes into the plane."
Tipke also specializes in tube bending, a niche that's grown quite a bit over the last few years.
"We do a lot of work for Genie Industries for the man lifts. It's one of our bigger customers. We build a lot of their exhaust and air intake components."
And Tipke has made a living on intermediate volume manufacturing, being more flexible for its customers, "to where there's not as much of a set up cost as there would be with higher volume manufacturing."
But the company has also held on to its roots. That Indy car Sneva first drove in the 1970s was fixed up and sent back to The Brickyard in Indianapolis for vintage runs in 2014 and 2015.
It's Tipke's past meeting the present in what's been a 50 plus year race.
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