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A week before his featured appearance at the March 8th ACG Portland Peer Growth event I spoke with Rick Kenyon, President and CEO of Selmet, Inc. A conversation that began with my blogging plans drifted into his thoughts for the presentation. Early in that segue Rick energetically spoke of the company’s initiatives in workforce development arising in equal measure from his devotion to the economic well-being of his “home town”, and the company’s need – distant from the deep labor pools of larger cities – of a stable and highly skilled workforce. I commented that he seemed very passionate on that subject and that topic alone is substantial and distinguishes him and the company enough to be an agenda unto itself. Rick’s retort was quick and full of the challenge that comes with a subject larger than the confines of an event… “I am passionate about it. But I am passionate about everything! I have to be. We are in advanced manufacturing.”
At The MAC podium the following week, Rick backed up those words with a high-energy review of the company’s extraordinary history of growth, failure, recovery, change, more growth and durability that only comes to companies lead with tireless initiative and boundless passion.
Most of us came to the event bearing only a general understanding of what it means to be a leading manufacturer of large cast parts for the aerospace industry using a “lost wax” process that Rick informed us dates to the Egyptians. I remember free time spent in the jewelry shop at college trying to make a silver bracelet with a lost wax process. So I’ve got this, right? Nope!
Rick walked us through the extraordinarily complex process required to produce large parts to the tight specifications of the aerospace industry using specialty metals such as titanium. He highlighted the “centrifugal pour” process required to perfect results with titanium contrasted with a conventional “static pour” utilized by the other large producers of aerospace cast parts in Oregon. Against the backdrop of the aerospace industry’s increasingly rapid transition to titanium, the centrifugal pour differentiation paints a bright picture of competitive ascendancy for Selmet.
Kenyon reflected that their successes relied upon “vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan”. From the adversity of losing its large and lucrative golf products business to China in the early ‘90s after just 18 months of production, Selmet turned to the more off-shoring-proof Aerospace and Defense Industry but did so thoughtfully and methodically, investing first in top flight engineering talent out of MIT to drive their quality and capabilities up and their costs down. They are now 100% A&D. In 2012 they became a “Gold Supplier” to Pratt & Whitney by consistently delivering minimal error rates and very high on-time-delivery.
Selmet is growing, working with the community to expand production facilities and to attract and retain highly skilled labor. Rick cites that the company is one of the largest employers in Linn County. He states that the use of titanium in next generation aircraft and engines is up to five times that in prior generations. He says he expects Selmet parts to be in every aircraft flying. This bloggers impression is that the shareholders, employees, and community have a terrific champion in Rick Kenyon.
Don’t miss the next great ACG Portland Peer Growth Event. April 12th, DeWight Wallace, CEO of Johnstone Supply at The Embassy Suites by Hilton.
From the Chair of the Communications Committee, ACG Portland