Manufacturing Company Expands, Works with Schools to Fill Void in Work Force

by RaeAnne Marsh

Anticipation of increased market demand drove the decision by LAI International — a strategic supplier of precision components and subassemblies for original equipment manufacturers — to consolidate its three Arizona manufacturing plants and expand its Arizona presence into a 32,400-square-foot facility in Tempe. “It’s a ‘perfect storm’ when customers are telling you, ‘You need to tool up and get ready to rock ’n’ roll’ and when you’re also seeing all the market indicators that are showing the same kind of growth. That’s a good position to be in,” says president and CEO Patrick Gruetzmacher.

Gruetzmacher expects to increase the company’s employee base by at least 12 percent, and is working with local trade organizations and schools to prepare the necessary skilled work force. “The appropriate skills are not in the work force, so we have to develop the skill sets.” Tactics include aligning the company with the Minority Enterprise and Arizona Technology councils and partnering with ASU and local community colleges and high schools to promote and work with them on industrial arts. “I have specific goals and objectives for the leadership at all sites,” Gruetzmacher says, noting that, among other actions, LAI International engineers are mentoring in science and math classes.

The advantages of Tempe as the company’s Southwest location include proximity to its customers, with Honeywell and others just down the street and LA a quick hop away by air. “We do a lot of technical business, and customers like to speak with the engineers in the same time zone and the same language,” Gruetzmacher says. LAI International’s products support aerospace and defense engine manufacturers; industrial gas turbines, which convert and generate power; the medical field; and industrial oil and gas, for exploration.

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