In 1953, Willard Anthony Emery founded Southwest Metal Finishing Company, whose name was later changed to Southwest United Industries. The Company began operations as a metal processor offering non-destructive testing, anodizing, cadmium plating and painting. Initially Southwest served the energy and geophysical industry, but the ultimate goal was to find a niche in the aerospace market. In 1958 that goal was soon achieved with the first aerospace process approvals for chemical film, anodizing and painting. That same year Southwest installed its first hard chrome plating tank becoming the first processor in the Midwest to apply hard chrome plating on aluminum.
By the 1960’s Southwest expanded into aviation and was processing structural components from Douglas (RB-66) and Boeing (B-47 and B-52). New buildings were constructed and new process tanks were added which included the largest chromic acid anodizing tank in the Midwest. By the 1960's Southwest’s aerospace customer base included Boeing, Douglas, McDonnell, Bell Helicopter and North American Rockwell. Southwest has been largely dedicated to the aerospace industry since the 1960’s.
With the introduction of new products and services, Southwest experienced continuous growth in the 1970’s. New thermal spray technologies and precision grinding greatly expanded the company’s capabilities leading to the development of new customers in the energy, medical and transportation industries. In the 1970's Southwest began refurbishing hydraulic engine components for Caterpillar as well as developing new coatings and repairs for the aerospace industry.
The 1980’s were a turning point for the company. Participating in the Rockwell B-1B, Boeing F/A-18 and the NASA Shuttle programs engrained Southwest even further in the aerospace industry. Southwest had gained a reputation for being able to process difficult jobs with unsurpassed quality and excellence. In 1985, Southwest Aeroservice was founded, as a sister company to Southwest United, to expand thermal spray capabilities and concentrate on aircraft component repair. The company’s facilities and equipment were again upgraded during this decade to meet customer needs.
Southwest continued its quest to be in the forefront of technology and service during the 1990’s. In conjunction with Boeing and Lufthansa, Southwest developed, tested and put into service a new chrome plate replacement technology utilizing the HVOF thermal spray process. A Boeing 737 commercial landing gear component was the first to be successfully coated and tested. Other programs to utilize the company’s new technology included the McDonnell Douglas C-17, Boeing 757 and 767 programs. During this time Southwest’s gear and wing component work increased with its HVOF capabilities. In 1999, the company purchased Plasma Coating Corporation of Gardena, California to provide thermal spray services to customers on the West Coast.
Moving into the next century, the company marked 50 years of business. In 2003 Southwest became the first and only facility in North America to apply HVOF coating to landing gear parts for the new Airbus A380. Southwest continues to be an industry leader and provide innovative ideas and solutions for the McDonnell Douglas C-17, Lockheed Martin F/A 22 and the Lockheed Martin J35 Joint Strike Fighter programs, as well as many others.
For the past 50 years the vision of Southwest United Industries has remained consistant ; “To be the best full-service, single-source, metal finishing shop in the country”. With the Emery family still leading the company, Southwest continues to grow and evolve, while learning from the first 50 years of experience to make the next 50 even more successful.