Brand Story – The Sherwood-based aerospace parts supplier marks two years with Banner Bank and notable expansion.
It was the night before Christmas 2006 and Alabama-based Fort Rucker Army Base needed special landing gear for its helicopters. Aviatrix, the Sherwood-based aerospace parts supplier, did what was necessary to deliver its military client the required equipment.
Co-owners Courtney Wahlberg and Waseel Azizi both flew into Hot Springs, Ark., loaded the specific gear onto a truck and drove through the night, arriving at the Army base before the holiday. Sometime during the haul, the pair’s map flew out an open window. This being the days before digital maps were loaded onto cell phones, Wahlberg and Azizi navigated a portion of their nearly 616-mile journey via phone with their wives back home.
They arrived before Christmas. “This is just an example of how we’ll do anything for our customers,” Azizi says. Clearly.
Founded in 2002 with only a 500 sq. ft. warehouse, Aviatrix today has a 17,000 sq. ft. building to store their expanded inventory after years of steady and impressive growth. Aviatrix is a small business of 22 employees with 250,000 line items in its inventory, providing for clients in in North America and 23 other countries.
Roughly 80 percent of Aviatrix’s business is in after-market specialty helicopter parts. It also is the leading distributor of Meggitt fuel cells, the Rolex watches of the aviation industry that increase crafts’ flight range.
Wahlberg and Azizi credit their recent success, including 15 percent annual growth, to the aviation-industry expertise, top-drawer customer service and their decision to move to Banner Bank.
Aviatrix’s facility in Sherwood
“We sell parts and we also sell service,” Wahlberg says. “And we never lose sight of that.” And they appreciate their bank takes the same approach. Wahlberg adds, “Any time we call, they’re able to help us.”
About five years ago, Brad Buchholz, one of Banner Bank’s commercial banking relationship managers, began talking with Wahlberg and Azizi, believing the bank was the best fit to help Aviatrix meet its goals, including expansion of its physical footprint and its client base.
“Before I started my career as a banker, I was a business owner and I think that helps me better serve my business clients today,” says Buchholz, one member of a knowledgeable Banner Bank team that for years has supported Aviatrix’s financial needs and vision.
He adds that like Aviatrix, Banner focuses on its customer relationships and the growth of its partnerships. Joining forces with Aviatrix provided the perfect symmetry; Banner earned Aviatrix’s trust, and the two organizations work in tandem to chart the aviation company’s future.
“We were looking for a bank that would be flexible,” Wahlberg says, recalling his company’s previous bank, which barely understood its business and whose lack of flexibility strangled Aviatrix’s plans for expansion.
“We wanted a bank that would grow with us,” and to think outside the box when necessary, Azizi says. Banner Bank delivered.
Aviatrix envisioned a substantially larger and more efficient warehouse for its hundreds of thousands of specialty items primarily for manufacturers of helicopters. Shortly after switching banks, Aviatrix secured the financing from Banner to move into a warehouse on 1.4-acre parcel that can expand from its current 17,000 sq. ft. into 25,000 sq. ft. It holds at least 35,000 parts at any one time for every sector of the aerospace industry except commercial jets.
In addition to the warehouse expansion, Buchholz notes Aviatrix’s steady and impressive year-over-year growth and its maintenance of this trajectory even during the pandemic. From our perspective, Aviatrix is an ideal client, he says “They understand exactly how to plan for the future and we’re looking forward to helping them make it happen.”
Wahlberg and Azizi recognize they have been very fortunate during the pandemic; while the commercial airline industry suffers, Aviatrix has taken off. Its regular clients — numerous military bases and domestic and international companies — still need critical parts.
“When we decided to go into business together in 2002, we wanted to treat our employees better than we’d been treated in prior jobs,” Azizi says. “This also is our mentality with our customers, and many of our customers from 18 years ago are the same ones we have today.”
Clients trust Aviatrix implicitly for its parts, perhaps especially during crises and natural disasters, which unfortunately have been in abundance of late. Helicopters are unique aircraft; they can hover, take off and land on a dime, making them ideal for search-and-rescue missions, firefighting from the air and removing people from danger.
Oregon and California’s recent wildfires, as well as the roiling hurricane season in the South, keep Aviatrix in the hot seat, securing and getting necessary parts and supplies to their customers who are critical participants in emergencies.
“We’ve been involved with search-and-rescue and other critical missions like Hurricane Katrina,” Azizi says. “It’s rewarding to know that Aviatrix plays a part in helping during natural disasters.”
He adds, “We believe in the versatility of helicopters; they truly save lives. Our company makes an impact.”
That commitment to service is an integral part of Aviatrix and they look for professional partners who have similar values, which is one reason they moved to Banner. As a 130-year-old institution, Banner has built its reputation on a similar premise knowing its success depends on how well it serves each and every client, which is one reason it has been named the “Best Bank in the Pacific Region of the U.S.” by Money and one of the “World’s Best Banks” by Forbes.
Azizi says Aviatrix’s Banner bankers never try to put the company into a box or apply a set formula. “They know the business and what makes our company so robust. They are right there alongside us, offering advice and guidance as our company broadens,” Azizi says.
“They knew we were a strong company from the beginning,” he continues, referring to the first call five years ago from Banner’s Buchholz. “We share the philosophy that our relationship grows year after year, along with our businesses. Banner Bank gets us.”
Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.