Laser Creations operates out of a sprawling facility next to railroad tracks in Platea. Decades ago, when Platea was known as Lockport, the building was home to a lumber mill on the banks of the Erie Extension Canal.
It’s fitting, then, that today Laser Creations operates a full wood shop, creating custom wood products for laser engravings.
“We’re still working with lumber, from rough cut to finished product,” says owner Mark Youngs.
Those products range from wooden plaques and key chains to ring boxes and decorative keepsakes, all engraved with custom logos, designs or seals.
But the wood work is only a portion of the business. About 40 percent of Laser Creations’ business comes from doing jobs for other companies, Youngs says. That includes creating laser-cut items for advertising and other uses.
The job-shop work dates back to the company’s beginnings, when it was founded as a business services company in 1969 by Youngs’ father, Walter Youngs – a man that Mark Youngs describes as “a constant entrepreneur.”
Mark Youngs must have inherited some of that entrepreneurial spirit: Laser Creations isn’t the only enterprise in the family.
Another Platea business, Windtek, is owned by Youngs’ wife, Wendy.
Windtek, less than a mile down the road from Laser Creations, constructs and sells windsocks and runway lights.
In the small shop run out of the Youngs’ garage, Wendy Youngs oversees the company founded by a family friend – and fellow aviation enthusiast. Today, Windtek takes pride in selling quality equipment to airports and airfields, as well as oil rigs and other facilities.
Wendy Youngs, who has run the business for 17 years, handles the business side, while other employees work on stitching the heavy-duty windsocks and constructing other products.
“It’s an opportunity for a little retirement business,” Wendy Youngs says.
About Laser Creations and Windtek: Laser Creations had its start on the city of Erie’s east side before Mark Youngs’ father purchased the property in Platea. At one point, the bustling company had 50-plus employees working two or three shifts. Today, about six employees work at Laser Creations – though Mark Youngs believes that the company has the potential for growth, with some added marketing. Laser Creations is largely a regional operation, contracting with a Butler-based company. Windtek, which has four part-time employees, mainly sells to aviation customers who see ads in trade publications. Wendy and Mark are engrained in the aviation culture, and as a result are friendly with Windtek’s competitors. Windtek sources its heavy-duty premium windsock fabric from the mills in the South – “We’re all-American,” Mark Youngs says proudly.
Why Erie County: For the Youngs family’s businesses, Erie County presents a good geographic location – even in the mostly rural Platea area. “At one point, we were the best kept secret in Erie County,” Mark Youngs says. Erie County is not too far from major metropolitan areas, with travel easily accessible, he says.
Challenges of Erie County: Some of the challenges of Erie County are really on a broader level, Mark Youngs says – foreign competition is a challenge for his business, with lower-quality, mass-produced items made overseas available for less than the hand-made products created in his shop. He also sees federal and state regulation and red tape as a detriment to encouraging the entrepreneurs that are badly needed to restart the economy. He sees a need to build up Erie County’s economy as a whole, as smaller businesses like his feed off larger businesses.
Fun fact: Mark and Wendy Youngs also own the Green Roof Inn in Platea.