Company Profile: Diamond Discs

Company: Diamond Discs International

Products: Diamond Discs is a wholesaler of diamond-edged cutting tools including blades, bits and grinding wheels that are used to cut and shape concrete, asphalt, granite, marble and tile. The diamonds used are synthetic and are bonded to the blades and other tools. The company also has a design team that works with customers to develop application-specific tools for materials encountered on the job site. In addition, it performs some light manufacturing, including re-tipping/welding of core bits.

Location: West Allis, Wis.

Employees: 15

Founded: The company was founded in 2001.

Leadership: Ugo Nwagbaraocha, president, purchased Diamond Discs from its previous owners in 2007. He had been director of sales for the company. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Nwagbaraocha is 39. His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria 51 years ago.

Operations/Market: Before 2007, Diamond Discs’ primary customers were masonry contractors, both commercial and residential.

“Whether they were building an office tower or a new kitchen or bath, they needed our tools to cut the materials they were using,” Nwagbaraocha said.

However, he saw additional sales potential in infrastructure industries, such as transportation and utilities, and researched those sectors in 2007 and 2008. As a result, Diamond Discs joined the National Utilities Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Wisconsin Underground Contractors Association, and Nwagbaraocha began building relationships as well as finding new sales.

“We’ve earned the opportunity to compete. We won some opportunities and have maintained those relationships. It was an uphill battle, but we have a great sales force,” he observed.

Part of the company’s success has been in growing business within Wisconsin. Nwagbaraocha said that when he bought Diamond Discs, less than 2 percent of sales were in Wisconsin. Today, it’s 18 to 20 percent. The company is a “Featured Diamond Blade Supplier” to the transportation construction industry in the state.

Business Successes: In 2011, Diamond Discs was one of two Wisconsin companies to participate in the Great Lakes Governors’ Trade Mission to South Africa. Nwagbaraocha met with 30 new business prospects during the 11-day mission. That effort has paid off with four or five orders shipped to one South African customer. In addition, the company established an initial relationship with a distributor to handle its products in that market.

But Nwagbaraocha said the biggest untapped growth potential for Diamond Discs lies closer to home, in the U.S. public sector market.

“We’ve been able to work with municipalities in Texas, Louisiana and Ohio,” he noted.

Again, Nwagbaraocha said that building relationships – both with construction firms in those states and directly with the municipal agencies – is key.

“To be able to compete in that market, it will increase employment opportunities here,” he said.

Wisconsin Business Environment Benefits: Diamond Discs has participated in a number of state programs that Nwagbaraocha said have benefited his business, including certification by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and becoming a Wisconsin Energies Certified Vendor. Also, WEDC provided a grant to help the company research potential new markets for its products.

“The people in the State of Wisconsin agencies are phenomenal,” Nwagbaraocha said. “Our business is growing, and we are currently evaluating expanding our headquarters in the Milwaukee area.”

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(July 2013)