Forging the World
Written by Cindy Bevington
Not only that, as Keith Turner, BSME ’76, and his friend and business partner Rick James, BSBA ’76, can attest, the industry’s doors are still open to entrepreneurs. “Rick and I were working together at Auburn (Indiana) Foundry when I saw an opportunity through acquisitions to help them grow,” Turner says. “We took them beyond Auburn to Mexico, England and Germany. Then, in ’96, they had an opportunity to acquire Briggs & Stratton—but the Auburn shareholders decided against it and expanded in England, instead.” What happened next is the same dream that brought America’s foundry forefathers to this land in the first place: Turner and James decided to partner on the acquisition opportunity themselves and go into the foundry business.
The rest is history: their partnership business became Metal Technologies Group, which formed Milwaukee Gray Iron LLC in 1997—now the West Allis Gray Iron Plant in West Allis, Wisconsin—then acquired the former Briggs & Stratton gray iron foundry that the Auburn Foundry turned down. The men invested in facilities, increased sales, productivity and quality, and centered their trademark on customer needs and the personal growth and success of their employees.
The FEF is a voluntary organization
financed through annual contributions of members similar to the dues assessments of trade associations. All revenue received from annual contributors goes into the FEF’s general fund and is used to support the regular scholarship program
as well as other FEF activities.
FEF scholarships in the amount of $500 to $2,000 are offered each year at 25 colleges and universities across North America. Scholarship recipients are selected by key professors at FEF schools. The FEF also manages many industry-related scholarship programs and endowed scholarships.
Determined to grow their company, they next acquired Dock Foundry, now the Three Rivers Gray Iron Plant in Three Rivers, Michigan, in 1999. Today Metal Technologies is one of the largest metal casters in America, a $400 million-a-year corporation with operations in Germany, Canada, Mexico and five plants in the U.S. Serving primarily the small engine, automotive, heavy duty truck, appliance, compressor and trailer markets, the company employs 950 and produces more than 250,000 tons of quality iron castings per year. It also has machining capabilities for its castings since acquiring the Auburn (Indiana) Clutch Company (now the Auburn Machining Plant) in 2000.
“There’s always a place for entrepreneurship within this industry,” Turner says. “The future is in a targeted and very niche-oriented capability. I believe that looking at a traditional industry like this will give young people promise for their future. There’s a wealth of opportunity associated with this industry, just because it is competitive.”
The industry also abounds with opportunities for internships and co-ops at the college level—and, coupled with scholarship monies available through the Foundry Educational Foundation and the American Foundry Society, cast metals quickly becomes a lucrative lure for goal-oriented students.
“Potentially, over the course of an academic year in metal casting at Tri-State, a student could earn as much as $7,000 in scholarships, and that certainly helps to attract students to metal casting,” Trueba says. In October the Northeast Indiana chapter of the AFS granted three TSU students scholarships for their academic excellence and demonstrated interest in the foundry industry. At its November 2004 annual College Industry Conference—where industry leaders from around the world congregate with 100 of North America’s best metal casting students—the FEF awarded 22 delegate scholarships and nine named scholarships totaling $64,000. Eight of those scholarships went to TSU students.
In the past 18 years, 151 Tri-State students have received FEF scholarships.
This kind of recognition doesn’t go unnoticed in the industry, particularly when it comes to seeking undergraduate interns who want to practice in the real world what they’re learning at school. Those internships often materialize into employment with the same companies after graduation.
One such intern and FEF scholar is Meredith Naugle, ’02, who interned for OmniSource Corporation while at Tri-State, then went to work there after graduation. OmniSource is one of the largest scrap recycling firms in North America. During her internship, Naugle began compiling an American Foundry Society ferrous scrap guide, a first of its kind in the industry. The book provides a glossary authored by Naugle, also a first of its kind. In 2004 Naugle was named the Outstanding New Member, Division 8, of the American Foundry Society. “Basically, the book became my project, start to finish,” Naugle says. “Probably the hardest thing to learn in this industry is all the vocabulary, so one of the cool parts about doing this scrap guide was the glossary I made.”
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