For Ryan Kirkwood, running a global suspension-part manufacturing business in Philipsburg doesn’t mean ignoring the local community.
The founder and president of UMI Performance Inc., Kirkwood was busy making his rounds Saturday at the third annual UMI Performance Cruise-In Car Show, held at the Moshannon Valley Super Bowl, just outside of Philipsburg.
“It was something we wanted to do locally,” Kirkwood said of the show. “Our business is national and we ship all across the country and the world, but nobody in the area knew who we were or what we do. They would see our shirt or our sticker and say ‘Who is that,’ so I wanted to do something fun to engage people a little bit.”
So Kirkwood planned a car show, and decided to do something a little different from other shows around the state.
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“One of the big things we do is no judging,” he said. “A car comes in, they park and we get a lot of cars that are normally neglected at other shows because the car isn’t a $100,000, perfect car. We’ll get a project car where a guy has a different color fender because he’s still working on it. A lot of people will avoid a show that involves judging because they feel that they can’t win anything or their car’s not good enough. These no-judging shows really seem to draw a different kind of crowd.”
The show draws around 200 people showing cars. It was a relaxed atmosphere as classic rock and country music played in the background. People of all ages walked around the cars and talked with the owners.
“I’m just checking out the cars,” said Todd Benninghoff, of Philipsburg, who has made it to the show for all three years. “I’m into the old classics — 69s, 68s, Camaros and Mustangs.”
“We get a wide variety of cars,” said Ramey Womer, an engineer with UMI and lifelong Philipsburg resident. “What people like about this show is that is free, and there is no judging. There are plenty of judging shows, but not everyone has a 100-point car, so it is fun to just come and show your car.”
Womer was among those showing as he talked to people who came to see the UMI “company cars,” which included Camaros and a green 1979 Monte Carlo.
“This car finished second out of 70 in a national autocross in Syracuse, N.Y.,” Womer said of the Monte Carlo. “It went all the way to the finals and lost by a bumper.”
The secret to the car’s success was the suspension system, he said, which was manufactured by UMI.
According to Womer, UMI got its start when Kirkwood assisted his father, who owned a company called Utmost Machine. Kirkwood helped his father by machining parts, and then eventually began to sell the parts on eBay, and the business grew from there.
“Our company manufactures everything in Philipsburg,” Womer said. “We’re actually a worldwide suspension manufacturer in Philipsburg. We ship to Canada and as far away as Mexico and Australia.”
Kirkwood said that events like the car show were part of the founding philosophy of his company.
“Our big dedication is USA-built products and local pride, so we employ 30 local craftsmen and we are all about the community and USA and we don’t work with outsources materials,” Kirkwood said. “We feel it is important to support the community and support the USA — especially with the way our economy has been.”