Greenville Daily News: Sen. Gary Peters takes manufacturing tour of Greenville Tool & Die

Touring a factory floor, greeting employees and asking questions of management, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters received an up-close look at manufacturing in Montcalm County.

Peters, D-Pontiac, made several stops during a visit to West Michigan, including a stop at Greenville Tool & Die on Thursday.

After meeting with managers from the company, as well as representatives from The Right Place, Montcalm Community College (MCC) and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), Peters toured the facility with great curiosity.

“Whenever I get a chance to get out, I love to visit manufacturers in Michigan and learn more about their business, and learn about some of the challenges and opportunities,” Peters said. “You’ve got to get out into the community, get out onto the shop floor, and talk to the folks who do this day in and day out. It’s essential. As a representative, my job is one that I take very seriously, and the only way you can be a representative is if you’re actually out talking to people about their business.”

Peters said Greenville Tool & Die was specifically chosen for a visit due to the company’s success with implementing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which is a retirement benefit plan designed to give eligible employees a special kind of ownership in a company.

“The employees actually own this company, and that, I think, is a wonderful model,” he said. “Everyone I saw walking around here today has a direct stake in the success of this company.”

Peters said he is actively working on legislation in Washington, D.C., to help expand ESOP plans to other companies. He said visiting Greenville gave him more insight on the matter.

“The questions are, how do you incorporate your plan into the day-to-day management of the company, and how do you leverage that plan so it is a morale booster, increases productivity and competitiveness?” he said. “Greenville is a prime example of how well that has occurred — a great success story.”

Last June, Peters introduced the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Improvement Act, which would expand and improve the MEP program to better serve small to medium-sized manufacturing companies such as Greenville Tool & Die, which Peters described as “a critical part of Michigan’s economy, as well as our national competitiveness.”

Peters is also is working on legislation to promote workforce development by expanding dual enrollment and early college programs, such as those offered at MCC.

“Manufacturing is a very exciting, high-tech business,” he said. “There’s a lot of young people today that don’t necessarily see manufacturing as a place where they would like to spend their career. But I think they need to spend some time looking at it, it’s an incredible career, it’s an opportunity to earn a real good wage, to be challenged with interesting work, and to do it for a lifetime. Greenville is a prime example of that.”

Peters noted one third of employees at Greenville Tool & Die have worked for the company for more than 25 years.

“This is a company where when people come here, they don’t leave, so that tells me this is a great organization,” he said. “Folks find good pay and challenging, interesting work. This is a model of how we can be competitive in a very tough, global world. It’s not about having cheap labor, it’s about having good skilled labor and a management team that understands how to engage every employee in the process.”

Greenville Tool & Die President Larry Caverley said he was humbled to have Peters visit his company, and was satisfied with the conversations on the day.

“It went really well, we’re flattered to have him come here and tour our facility,” he said. “We’re trying to attract the type of workers you need to be successful in business, so we talking about the benefits of a job like that, the financial regards, and our ESOP position.”

As a manufacturer of sheet metal stamping dies for both automotive and appliance, Kathy Jo VanderLaan, who is a business development coordinator with The Right Place working for Montcalm County, said Greenville Tool & Die serves as a model of success that has overcome difficult times. She believes the conversations between the company and Peters will lead to further success.

“It’s very important that we have friends in both Lansing and Washington, so it’s very meaningful to have (Peters) come here. He was very engaged, asked lots of great questions,” she said. “The focus being on manufacturing, that’s a plus for us. At The Right Place, our focus was retention and growth, and then attraction. Greenville Tool & Die being here as long as they have, since 1946, they are a solid company and seem to have it figured out, despite highs and lows.”

Montcalm Economic Alliance Board President Rob Spohr said it excited him to see Peters placing a focus on a success in manufacturing within Montcalm County, as opposed to previous failures. 

“People like to point to Electrolux, and everybody focuses on all of the companies that left, but what about Greenville Tool and Die, which has been here this whole time?” he said. “Yes, they went through some tough times, but look at them now. They are still employing people with great jobs, and now you have all of these companies that are doing that.”

By:  Cory Smith
Source: The Greenville Daily News