Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

May 7, 2014

Glenn Puit: Working toward a more skilled workforce

Boride Engineered Abrasives is doing a lot right these days.

The Traverse City manufacturer at 2615 Aero Park Drive makes abrasives for moldings, dressing sticks for glass grinding, and specialized wheels for commercial use. Those products aren’t exactly household names like Tide or Ziploc, but the global market, from China to the United States, wants more of what Boride produces.

Growing demand for product led the company to more than double staff from 42 in 2008 to 85 now, said Boride President Larry Tiefenbach.

“We came back probably faster than most,” said Ken Osborne, vice president of manufacturing. “The mold-making industry, I won’t say it’s recession proof, but every time they change a model on a car, for instance, and they change the plastic design, you have to have molds. So whether you are selling 16 million cars or 5 million cars, you are still going to need these tools, and that came back kind of rapidly.

“We supply tools used in the automotive glass fabricating business as well, and that has jumped back,” Osborne said.

At the top of the list of what Boride is doing right is reinvesting in both itself and new manufacturing technology. The company was smart pre-recession to spin into a new market -- wheels used for polishing surfaces like concrete. Post recession, that market shined, and left Boride's leaders examining further expansion with limited space on Aero Park.

“We also have a real good quality management system for internal operations and we have a great sales and marketing team that goes out and finds the business,” Osborne said. “Working together, we are able to produce quality products and good service. We don’t screw up, so we don’t lose customers.”

Boride's growth begs the question of what Michigan can do to help other similar manufacturers succeed. Why? Those 43 new hires at Boride are all real people: neighbors in our Grand Traverse region who, like you and me, need work to survive.

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