Regional Voices: Art Coffey – Able Label
Art Coffey is president of Able Label, a manufacturer and worldwide distributor of blank labels. Founded in 1985, Able Label was one of the first to use computer graphics for individual printed commercial labels. Today, Able Label offers customers more than 1,000 products.
What brought him to Spokane: We moved here 37 years ago, leaving California’s upper desert to live in a beautifully forested area with four distinct seasons. Having one child and expecting more, it was a priority for us to live in an area where family values were important and we could see our children thriving as they grew. We happened to arrive one week after Mount St. Helens erupted, but that didn’t scare us off.
The story behind Able Label: When we first moved here, I worked for the hospitality company now known as Red Lion, eventually becoming CEO and retiring after 27 years. After helping start several other businesses, I eventually found a perfect fit when I bought Able Label. It was founded over 30 years ago by Dick Shanks, who was 90 and still working every day when we acquired Able Label.
How Able Label has evolved since then: When my wife, Kaleen, and I acquired the company, it had 12 employees and a 10,000-square-foot plant. We now have more than 20 employees and a 24,000-square-foot plant. Able Label manufactures approximately 90 percent of its products in Spokane, and distributes to customers in every state and 25 other countries.
Why Spokane: Less than one percent of our customers are in Spokane, so we could be located anywhere. The quality of life, outdoor activities, abundant clean lakes, and large-city services in a small-town atmosphere is what drew us here 37 years ago. Since then, our family has grown, with four out of six married and seven grandkids, all living productive lives here in Spokane. We have a beautiful home in the country just 10 miles from the Able Label factory, and a great retreat home on Priest Lake. Our quality of life could not be duplicated anywhere else, even at twice the cost.
Resources to grow a business: The main resource we look for locally is transportation and trainable personnel. There is an abundance of freight companies always eager to bid for our business, and we have never experienced a lack of qualified applicants for any open position.
Other career opportunities: Spokane serves a large area stretching into Canada to the north, Montana to the east, Oregon to the south, and the Cascades to the west. Spokane has most every career you can imagine – from banking and finance, insurance, legal, medical, engineering and architecture to hospitality, entertainment, retail and manufacturing.
How the city has changed: Spokane continues to develop its hospitality and convention business. Downtown has more restaurants and entertainment venues. Our focus on the Spokane River has been dramatically enhanced. And we’ve added two medical schools, one of which recently accepted one of my sons.
The community’s greatest assets: Caring and giving citizens. I am deeply involved with the Union Gospel Mission and see firsthand the results of volunteers and many selfless donors.
Goals he would like Spokane to embrace: Further enhancement of its gateways with welcoming facilities and art.
New businesses that would be a good fit: Manufacturing, since there is a large pool of underutilized people who stay here for the quality of life and are eager to put their skills to work.
What he enjoys showing visitors: The Spokane Falls during spring runoff.
How he relaxes: I explore the many trails around Priest Lake on foot or astride an ATV.