When we talk about a company that was founded in 1940, it is hard not to imagine all the events that have passed and how the world has changed since then. There has been a world war, technological advances, three generations, and now we can even say a pandemic! In order for a company to survive all this, it must be constantly changing, resulting in expansive growth and a wide breadth of experience.
This is the case for Metal Finishing Company (MFCo), a business established over 60 years ago in Wichita, Kansas, USA to provide surface finishing services for aircraft and industrial operations in America’s Midwest. Today, the company forms an integral part of the supply chain and industrial ecosystem in Chihuahua, Mexico. Now in its third generation of family leadership, the business played a key role in the development of the aviation industry in its hometown, an area known as “The Air Capital of the US,” where several of the world’s largest aircraft makers were formed, including Cessna, Beechcraft and Boeing.
In the years after Metal Finishing Company’s establishment by Harley Babst, it experienced rapid expansion helping support the WWII war efforts, creating an aircraft fleet under the Army Air Corps. The company continued to grow through the 1970s under the second generation of family leadership with Bob Bast by diversifying its services and opening up a new facility to perform processing on larger parts. This constant evolution is clear evidence that Harley Babst’s legacy was in good hands, just as it continues to fortunately be now with a third generation.
In 2011, with this third generation of Babst’s, Rob and Alex, at the helm, faced an urgent need to expand to support one of their main clients, Beechcraft. With an open mind and ready to face new challenges, and initially attracted by Mexico’s lower labor costs, they began looking into how to start up manufacturing operations in Mexico, contacting several providers of shelter services in Mexico. With the expansion becoming urgent, they were ready to take action and saw immediately that American Industries (AI) was the right company to help them. It was clear that AI had the most professional team, provided the most value, and had deep roots in helping manufacturing companies like theirs to start up business in Mexico.
This, in addition to the hospitality and warm and helpful nature of AI’s team, made them feel immediately at ease with the daunting process of setting up manufacturing operations in a foreign country. Even with the company’s schedule constraints in meeting their customers’ delivery dates, AI took the time to not only set up appointments with potential customers, but also brought them to visit other cities and sites for industrial real estate Mexico—even to properties that weren’t owned or operated by AI. This gave Metal Finishing Company a deeper understanding of the broader panorama and the value of Chihuahua City for their business.
Once they had chosen a site, AI got to work to ensure that Metal Finishing Company’s equipment was set up correctly, that it complied with all tax, legal, and import/export issues, and that the right personnel was in place. Knowing that AI was conducting themselves ethically and according to the law gave the company’s leadership peace of mind and the ability to focus on their customers’ needs and its operations.
“Working with AI I don’t have to worry about any legal issues I don’t understand. They take care of all of that, and compliance with regulations, to allow me to focus on my core business and not worry about nuances of operating in another country.” Bob Bast, President, Metal Finishing Company
Though the company was initially attracted to Mexico to become more competitive and save costs, the benefits have been far more than they could have expected. The collaborations resulting from the connections AI has helped them make facilitated expansion into markets that it would have been difficult to come into contact with otherwise. In this way, manufacturing in Mexico has allowed the company to meet its original objective of becoming more competitive and develop a team of expert operators and management professionals with the attractive benefits package AI designed for them. The Mexico team has even implemented new developments in their manufacturing processes and pushed for its US operations to adopt them.
Without a doubt, Metal Finishing Company’s landing in Chihuahua City has resulted in a mutually beneficial and synergetic relationship. The highly-specialized services it offers to the aerospace industry, as well as the impressive installed capacity it has today in Chihuahua City, and the numerous national and international certifications it has earned, among other benefits, has brought the company and its reputation to astronomical heights, in not only the city but in all of Mexico.
Metal Finishing Company’s core values and one-of-a-kind service have stood the test of time: anodized by its strong roots in the aviation and aerospace industries, protected by the strong coats and lessons learned over the years, it has emerged with an indestructible finishing.
Today, ten years after having start up business in Mexico, Metal Finishing Company has grown from a company focused mainly on a single aerospace client to one with a world-class facility providing specialized services to clients in Mexico and the United States. The company is proud to remain true to its beginnings as a family and American-owned business, bringing its ideals and expertise to expand industry in Chihuahua City, Mexico and across the globe. Becoming part of the AI family and working hand-in-hand with their group of experts has been invaluable in helping the company to continue to flourish, innovate and provide more a broad and professional services offering than ever before. Here’s to the next 60 years and beyond!
“AI is a true partner. They listen and react to our needs, treat us like family, and are with us every step of the way.” Bob Bast, Metal Finishing Company President
By Sandra Malottky | Chihuahua Business Development Manager | American Industries Group®
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