Peak performance

Father, son are driven to succeed with auto service business in Carmichaels

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For Dan Snyder, it was just meant to be.


As a child, Snyder, now 27, was fascinated by his Matchbox cars. He wanted to know how they moved, so he repeatedly took them apart, then put them back together.


After high school, Snyder, a Carmichaels resident, wanted to be an automotive technician even though he already knew all of the parts of an engine and how it worked.


“I needed that piece of paper,” said Snyder during a recent interview at his company, Snyder Performance Engineering Inc. of Carmichaels. “I went to school and then got a job at Solomon Ford in Brownsville.”


But once his day job was done, Snyder would come home and find himself tinkering with his vehicle or a friend’s truck. And in his free time, Snyder said he would work on cars and trucks for friends – and later customers – usually at Pittsburgh Raceway Park in New Alexandria.


“It kind of progressed from there and just happened,” said Snyder, explaining the genesis of his company. “I also had a few connections at Ford.”


“I just kept getting busier.”


Snyder approached his father, Scott, a fellow car and drag racing enthusiast, about starting a business that would tune and enhance engines for clients who want more horsepower for their vehicles. The father-son team formed Snyder Performance Engineering in 2011, with Scott serving as the president and Dan the vice president. Dan’s wife, Amy, is the director of operations and marketing.


“A coin flip basically decided who was going to be the president,” Scott Snyder said.


The business, which also sells automotive products and makes its own one-of-a-kind engine parts, is located in the back of a nondescript, light blue, metal building on Browns Ferry Road.


To get to Snyder Performance, you pass more cows than houses. The inside of the building is unassuming as well. There are four trucks on lifts with any of Snyder’s three employees – not related to him – working under them.


What is not obvious to any first-time visitors is that Snyder Performance Engineering is an international company that regularly sends its custom-crafted items to customers in Saudi Arabia, South America and Ukraine. Scott Snyder said revenue for the 3-year-old company is just under $1 million. He also said 60 to 70 percent of Snyder Performance’s business comes from customers outside Western Pennsylvania.


There is potential for even more growth for Snyder Performance, considering automobile racing is the largest U.S. spectator sport with more than 451,000 participants and 1,300-plus operating race facilities, according to Performance Racing Industry magazine, a performance industry publication in Arizona. Industry sales are close to $20 billion, the magazine said.


Scott Snyder said the company has business lined up for the next six months as he gestured to a number of vehicles lined up along one side of the building.


It also means that Dan, for the time being, is going to continue to put in 12-hour days, something he is getting used to as the company grows.


“We have gone from being a local business,” Dan Snyder said. “But with what Amy has done with social media, someone in Europe can now hear about what we do.”


“I was very proud of him” said Amy, who is expecting the couple’s first child – a girl – in August.


To accommodate their company’s growth, all three Snyders said they are looking to buy or build a 20,000-square-foot industrial building, preferably in the Carmichaels area.


“Everything is in motion to do this,” Dan Snyder said.


Once a building is constructed, or purchased, then more people will be hired to help with the backlog of business, he said. Plus, Snyder Performance is going to have to begin outsourcing some of the engine parts it now makes in-house to other engine parts manufacturers, simply because the company cannot keep up with demand.


Scott Snyder said it is reasonable for the company to reach $5 million in revenue within the next five years.


Dan Snyder said his goal is to build the company to a point where he no longer has to spend 12-hour days at work. If he can accomplish this, Snyder said he would like to segue into building cars and competing in drag racing events sponsored by the National Hot Rod Diesel Association, a Maryville, Wash., organization that sponsors races across the country for diesel-powered vehicles.


“I would like to build a car,” he said. “They are a fairly new and up-and-coming group. I think I can contribute.”


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