HORST Engineering Expansion

In recent years, I’ve written more about running and cycling adventures than I have about business adventures. The pattern of highlighting my family’s outdoor pursuits won’t stop, but today, I’m sharing news of a major expansion at the HORST Engineering Family of Companies.

Our website post and press release cover the basic facts.

There is sure to be more news coverage (and we hope positive) about our expansion, but also more generally about the resurgent growth of manufacturing in the USA, and particularly in Connecticut. I’m proud of our 73-year, three generation track record of crafting precision machined components for aerospace and other high technology industries.

Our Core Purpose has never been more powerful: We help people fly safely and keep our communities strong by making precision parts in the USA.

Yesterday, I gave a new hire presentation for four people (including a summer intern) at our Massachusetts operations (HORST Sterling Machine) and I repeated our Core Purpose multiple times. I showed them that in the front of my notebook, I carry a laminated copy of the Core Purpose along with a copy of our Core Values, so that they are ready to share at a moment’s notice.

Manufacturing is a tough sport, just like cyclocross, ultramarathon trail running, and some of the other crazy endurance activities that I do in my “spare time.” My business experience helps me become a better athlete, and my athletic strengths (and training)  make me a better businessperson.

The passion that I have for business is very strong and that comes through whenever I host a shop tour. I did one last Friday for a group of new hires at our Connecticut operations (HORST Engineering) and they were thrilled with the prospect of moving to a world class factory. It helps that our new location will only be three miles from our legacy Cedar Street plant site where my grandfather moved (from 602 Garden Street in Hartford) in 1950. We have accumulated a LOT of stuff over the last 69 years. This will be no ordinary move!

At our Massachusetts plant site, where we lease the building, we are also making improvements to the work environment with updated offices, conference space, and a renovated cafeteria. A modern factory is a key part of any manufacturing company’s infrastructure, but we have survived (and thrived) since 1950 headquartered at our current location. We have never had a chance like this to realign our manufacturing processes using lean enterprise to organize in cells and flow lines. This move requires an entirely new way of thinking.

Naturally there have been many expansions over the years, but the opportunity to get our three Connecticut plant sites under one roof is a huge step forward. I’ve personally worked on the project to acquire 141 Prestige Park Road (East Hartford), since last August. It was an atypical deal that required a lot of perseverance. It’s helpful that perseverance is one of our five Core Values and that I practice it all of the time.

I spend most of my waking hours working. That ethic has been in my family’ s blood for a long time. If you know me then you know that I commute to and from work by bicycle frequently. Those rides are when I do a lot of my thinking. My role as a business leader and manager requires a lot of decision-making and it is in solitude when my thinking is most clear. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this expansion and the risk associated with it. Despite the success of our key customers and strong demand for our products and services, manufacturing in New England is a battle. We have a tough business climate, particularly in Connecticut, and the cost of doing business is very high. That is often a tradeoff when a region has a highly skilled workforce. I want to believe that the business climate is better than perceived. I wish it wasn’t so negative, but I don’t have control over how others react to the situation.

I choose to focus on what I can control and I’ve put 100% into improving our business by focusing on four principles: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. These four are espoused in Scaling Up, a book that I keep on my desk. Our Senior Leadership Team and our Management Team have rallied in support of the plan that we have in place and the foundation is the Core Purpose and Core Values, which are “forever.”

I’m sure that I’ll share more about this project as it progresses. The building will be green…very green. Our goal is to grow responsibly with the welfare of our people at the top of the list. Everyone knows that it is very hard to recruit skilled workers to the manufacturing sector. We have made much progress by focusing on our culture and investing in technology and lean enterprise. We spent the better part of the last four years implementing a next generation ERP system. It has been rough going at times. The building project has been on the back burner for nearly 20 years. I first started looking at new locations in 2000. Sometimes it takes that long to find what you want. I passed up (some time regretfully) on other opportunities when the timing wasn’t right, or the risk was too great. The good news about being the steward of a 73-year old business is that you can take the long view.

It was a lot of work to get to the closing at the end of April, but we are merely at the starting line now as the major renovation has just begun. That will be followed by a multi-year transition from our current plant sites. The good news is that we have the decades of experience and many business cycles to look back on as we ponder the next steps for our family enterprise. This new factory will be a symbol of our progress and the fulfillment of more than one dream.

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