Sales grew quickly, but it took a decade for Middlebrook to land the capital he needed to do all of his own manufacturing. In 2000 he moved Vortech to the company's present location in Oxnard, eventually acquiring competitors including Paxton Superchargers.
Today, Vortech is located on a four-acre industrial park campus with 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The heart of its assembly line is three horizontal milling machines that enable two to three employees to accomplish what used to require seven or eight.
The machines, which cost $2.5 million each, can be programmed to operate virtually around the clock.
"You save time. We call it 'lights out' engineering because no one has to be here. It is much more efficient than the way we used to do it," Middlebrook said. "We pay more attention to all costs. What we are managing now is very competitive."
Vortech's main competition is Eaton Corp. of Cleveland, a $13.7-billion industrial heavyweight with powerful automotive connections. In contrast to aftermarket players like Vortech, Eaton supplies supercharger technology directly to General Motors Co. and other original equipment manufacturers.