Community outreach and giving second chances are two big reasons why International Steel & Counterweights joined Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. The Youngstown company continues to battle a revolving door of employees – a familiar story in the manufacturing world.
International Steel & Counterweights has been at the North West Avenue location since its founding about 14 years ago. The company has grown to around 120 employees – fully occupying an historic and century-old industrial complex.
ISC is owned by AMG Resources Corporation, of Pittsburgh. The company is primarily a recycled metals – with ISC being the only manufacturing facility it has.
“While we are a global organization, we’re a different piece of the puzzle for them, turning metal products into finished goods,” said Larry Wiley, operations manager at International Steel & Counterweights.
Where counterweights are used
ISC makes counterweights for applications from around the world.
“Ballast and counterweights are used in every conceivable application where something needs to be pushed, pulled, lifted or anchored,” Wiley said.
The president of ISC has been in the counterweight business for more than 45 years. He started off renting a small part of the current location, but as the company grew, he ended up taking over the whole building.
ISC primarily serves customers in the counterweight industry, but the company also serves the market as a machine shop, metal service center and full-service scrap yard. ISC prides itself on being as environmentally friendly as possible.
“One of the best things about steel is that it’s the most recyclable product in the world. Nothing is wasted. We are fortunate that we have developed customers that can use steel in its every form. We have a home for every part of steel, from the beginning of its life to the end of its life, where ultimately, it’s remelted and starts life again,” Wiley said.
“In a nutshell, we’re a very large production and fabrication shop,” Wiley said.
Customers are spread throughout the United States, North America and even some overseas.
“Our business model allows us to bring savings and value to just about every corner of the world,” Wiley said.
Kristin Wheatley, the senior HR business partner at ISC, says the company is always getting creative meeting customer demands and creating products to offer customers.
“There isn’t one format for anything here. This makes our work interesting and gives us room to keep developing new offerings to the market,” Wheatley said.
The MVMC impact
As far as building a workforce, ISC wants to help people who are restarting their lives and finding a new career. The company attended the MVMC-hosted Ohio to Work impact breakfast in January, and management was on board from there.
“When we heard about WorkAdvance, that was it for us. The fundamentals are being taught in those bootcamps. That’s our biggest struggle. Candidates need to know things like basic math skills and being comfortable in a manufacturing facility,” Wheatley said.
She stresses the company needs machine operators, but the challenge is getting employees to show up every day and knowing how to behave in the workplace.
“For instance, not having someone get mad and complain because we told them to put their phone away. It’s a safety issue, and the person is also not working,” Wheatley said.
ISC needs people from all experience levels that are willing to learn, develop and grow with the company.
“Make the commitment before day one. If someone shows up on the most basic level, we will notice that. We will move people to a better job with more opportunity as rapidly as possible, but they have to make that commitment,” Wiley said.
Patience is another piece of advice for job seekers.
“You’ll be in a busy, fast-paced facility. Give it time to feel comfortable and progress. People get intimidated and give up. We’ll train on every level,” Wheatley said.
The company is also putting in some advanced manufacturing and automation tools at the plant, but they’re not replacing jobs. Workers are still needed to set up and run all facets of production and manufacturing. The goal is to help cut down on physical labor and speed up the time getting products to market.
Wheatley says the days of college being the only option for a good career are ending.
“It’s about changing the mindset. Buildings are going up. Companies are opening. We just need the workers to come in,” she said.
She added many supervisors at the plant had entry-level positions before working their way up. The president of the company even started out sweeping floors. Management is eager to see how being part of MVMC will help ISC’s workforce.
“It’s an adventure for us, and we’re going to learn as much as we can in this beneficial partnership,” Wiley said.