Skip to content

Scientist gets valuable input in purchasing Belleville manufacturing firm


PHOTO: Physicist and Belleville resident Huston Liu.

Metro East physicist Huston Liu has acquired ABM Marking, a thermal printing, imaging and packaging company in Belleville, with assistance from the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

huston liuLiu actively researched and taught physics for 10 years as a full-time professor at Hubei University in central China where he wrote 400 scientific papers and authored 14 patents. In 1999, Liu and his family moved to the U.S., for a university teaching position in Maryland and eventually Pennsylvania. The family returned to China in 2004 and remained there until 2011, when his children asked to return to the U.S.

After Liu and his family settled in Belleville, he became interested in purchasing a business. Liu contacted the Illinois Metro East SBDC at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for no-cost assistance. He met with Small Business Specialist Jo Ann DiMaggio May in July 2015. She listened to Liu’s plan and walked him through the details of buying a firm. Two months later, Liu finalized his purchase of ABM Marking on Belleville’s west side.

May’s next step was to connect Liu to the Small Business Administration’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center for help in obtaining a D-U-N-S number – a unique nine-digit identification number needed in order to register with the federal government for contracts. In January 2016, Liu reached out to Di Maggio May for assistance in getting a vendor number and for employee management expertise. In recent months, Liu asked for SBDC advice on inventory control systems.

While physics is a subject Liu knows extremely well, the challenge of business ownership is a new experience.

“ABM Marking currently manufactures inkjet printers, inks, accessories and parts, machines and materials for various kinds of applications,” Liu explained. “My goal is to expand our product lines by making packaging machines and laboratory equipment. Our plan is to export ABM products to China since U.S. equipment has higher precision and stability.”

Liu also sees great opportunity in the semiconductor industry with global sales topping $335 billion in 2015. ABM already builds test equipment that is used in labs specific to the industry and now is researching alternative materials involved in superconductor and magnetic processes.

Di Maggio May said Liu is a focused, hard-working business owner with plans to take his company into the global marketplace.

“Huston is extremely receptive to advice and eager to implement business practices that will benefit his company for the long term,” Di Maggio May said. “He is always working to increase his business knowledge and is not afraid to ask questions.”

Receiving one-on-one, customized business expertise from the SBDC is a resource for which Liu is grateful. “I received excellent advice and creative approaches to problem solving that made it possible for me to buy my business and support my employees,” he said. “Although I knew a lot of people connected with universities and research, I was not connected with individuals who had this kind of business expertise. Jo Ann and the SBDC helped me solidify business connections that will continue to equip me to succeed.”

The Metro East SBDC assists companies like ABM Marking as well as entrepreneurs located in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph. It is a service to the community funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

— From the Illinois Business Journal, via SIUE news services

Leave a Comment