From the Power Company to Men in Power
Taking on business ownership later in life
It’s a specialized product made in small town Nebraska, but Jim Hanna and Bob Powers have made it work. The company they purchased in 2003, Tran-Tec Corp, makes heat sinks, which are aluminum pieces that siphon off heat from electronics and dissipate it through natural convection or fans. Heat sinks can be found everywhere from phones to industrial and medical equipment. The Columbus-based company has a wider national presence than statewide, as roughly only 2% of their work stays in Nebraska.
When Hanna and Powers took the reins from the founding owner, neither had any real experience in the industry. “It was three years of sheer terror,” says Hanna in regards to the learning curve. While Powers handled the financial side, Hanna took some classes at the local community college to familiarize himself with the machinery and the process.
That’s not to say they were total outsiders. Hanna had spent 34 years working as an electrical engineer for Nebraska Public Power District, while Powers had been employed in a similar arena. Both of them had connected over the years through their common field and on occasion even traded equipment in order to “dig ourselves out of the holes we had gotten into.”
"This partnership has allowed Tran-Tec to 'create with even more precision than in the past'.
- Jim Hanna
But getting himself into a financial hole was not what Hanna had in mind when NPPD began reducing numbers and offered him a buyout. Just as Hanna was thinking of retirement, Powers approached him with the possibility of owning Tran-Tec. When asked why he chose to take such a large risk at that time, Hanna simply states that “he likes a challenge, besides it is hard to turn down a good business opportunity at any age.”
Hanna and Powers were gifted with the previous owners staying on in a part-time capacity throughout their ownership of Tran-Tec. In business since 1971, Tran-Tec’s founder had sought to “help make sure we were successful,” says Hanna. He and Powers are paying it forward in kind.
Just this past September the two decided to sell their company after twelve years in order to fully retire. Both partners have signed contracts to help transition the new owners over the next year. In the twelve years that Hanna and Powers ran Tran-Tec, they managed to double the sales and growth of the business. Hanna is humble about this success.
When asked to name one of his favorite projects, Hanna mentions a California-based company that manufactures large, high-powered microwave amplifiers used in military communications equipment. Tran-Tec’s responsibility is to incorporate the heat sinks into the base of the amp, so that not only is it a functional part of the equipment but also a way to get rid of the heat produced by the electronics in the piece. On the surface it doesn’t seem exciting, but this partnership has allowed Tran-Tec to “create with even more precision than in the past.” It’s been a cooperation that has stretched their capabilities to greater distances then they imagined possible.
This same curiosity for innovation and exploration bleeds into Hanna’s keen interest in railroads and railroad history. Hanna sees the advent of railroads “as an interesting time of history in our country and a really vital part of the economics of this country.” He hopes to devote more time to his hobby in retirement. While Hanna does not plan to dig back into business ownership, his mantra is “never say never.”
The Firm Deal Review
Customer Base: Only 2% in Nebraska
# of Employees: 18
Year Established: 1971