Exports help manufacturer in Elko weather recession

The palm nailer, a handheld tool that slips over the head of a nail and drives it pneumatically, can be a carpenter's best friend.

It's been a pretty good friend for an Elko-based manufacturer as well.

The palm nailer manufactured by Danair Inc. is especially treasured by carpenters on construction sites in California, where seismic building codes call for a host of reinforced steel strapping and hold-downs to beef up wood-frame construction.

Driving dozens of thick, 16-penny common nails to secure hold-downs in wood posts has made many a sore-armed carpenter wish for a different vocation. But the palm nailer makes the chore a breeze.

Danair relocated from Visalia and began operations in Elko County in mid-2004. The move was spurred in part by owner Mark Hayward's love of the area, says Secretary/Treasurer Jim Martin, one of three employees to relocate from central California to the high desert.

The handheld air nailer, invented in 1967 by Art Smith, has long been Danair's most successful-selling product, but Danair's other product, an auto hammer, has taken top spot in sales revenues as construction markets have slumped domestically and worldwide.

The auto hammer is used in the furniture industry and takes the place of a mallet in many situations.

Europe is the small Elko company's major foreign market. Competitors have copied its product, but many of Danair's competitors manufacture lower-quality nailers that can't stand the rigors of heavy construction use, Martin says.

"Our biggest selling point is service and availability of parts, which are always in stock," he says. "Our tool has been copied by the Chinese, but they are just not the same. Service is difficult to come by, and parts are difficult to come by. The palm nailer is totally U.S. made."

Martin says U.S. sales have picked up in recent months through one of its top distributors, White Cap Construction Supply. Sales of the auto hammer also have grown due to a wide variety of specialty adapters manufactured for the tool that allow its use in different applications.

Casings for Danair's palm nailers and auto hammers are subcontracted, but employees at the company's 5,000-square-foot facility at 2180 Pinion Road in Elko perform minor machining, assembly, testing and shipping.

Martin says logistics often poses a minor problem it sometimes can be difficult to ship in and out of Elko County and the construction downturn has led to a reduction in workforce. Danair currently has just three employees.

"We have streamlined our operations, and things are going well," Martin says.

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