A Manchester Success Story
Seven years ago, Vince Henderson found himself in a bind.
He had just come from Dallas to purchase a business in Manchester, Michigan–one that would fulfill his childhood dreams of owning his own plant. He had invested everything he had in the business, only to find out once he took over that the factory was just days short of closing its doors forever.
That business was AMI Manchester Stamping, an automotive sheet metal stamping business that makes brackets, primarily for automotive suppliers. The company, founded in 1963 by three local entrepreneurs–Ted Stautz, Clarence Fielder, and Eugene Bentschneider–had enjoyed many years of success but then was bought out by successively larger companies starting in 2000. Seven years later, when Henderson purchased it, he discovered the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. He’d been sold the proverbial “bill of goods.”
But by that time, he was hooked. Literally and figuratively.
He recalls, “When I wanted to give up, my employees wouldn’t give up. They have worked so hard and been through a lot.” So, he kept on going. He really couldn’t do much else.
In November 2007, AMI Manchester had about 48 employees. That number shrunk to 32 during the darkest days of 2007 and 2008, as the bottom was falling out of the economy and the US automotive industry was in its steepest decline. No one would loan the company money in the midst of a banking crisis, because of its precarious financial position.
Pretty much all he had were contracts with Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler. And Honda, which remains AMI’s top customer, owed them $1.8 million in back invoices. Then, in the midst of a snowstorm, Henderson got a call from Honda–they needed products that were being warehoused in Lake City, delivered to their plant in Marysville, Ohio by the next morning. Henderson saw this as his answer. His VP of Sales and Engineering, Dennis Herman, took off for Grand Rapids despite the weather, after everyone else had left for the day. He got what was needed in Grand Rapids and delivered it by 8 a.m. the next morning to Marysville, in trade for the back payments owed by Honda.
“That literally turned this company around in 24 hours,” Henderson says with enthusiasm. “And that’s what I mean when I say the people here just would not give up. I have been proud to promote from within–John Kampf, our Senior VP Of Operations, started working here in the tool crib. We have many employees who have been with us all their careers.”
AMI’s current 68 employees have an average of 15 years of experience and just a 1 percent employee turnover rate. Their four tool and die makers have a combined 125 years of experience, according to Kampf. Even so, the company is offering new opportunities for hiring and welcomes local job seekers to look at AMI Manchester Stamping as a potential employer. The factory works round-the-clock, running three shifts five days a week.
The bracket parts manufactured by AMI are all held to a high tolerance with strict quality control. Kampf estimates that 1,000,000 parts per week leave the plant–a total of 4 million parts per month. That’s a lot of quality! The company was one of the first in the US to become a Honda supplier and is still a top-tier supplier for Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler. And in 2012 and 2013, AMI was awarded the Honda “Excellence In Value” award as one of the automaker’s top three suppliers in the US.
Henderson is a self-proclaimed promoter of a higher minimum wage and believes that everyone who works for his company should be able to support their family on a living wage. He is proud to offer that promise to his hard-working employees, as the company has increased sales by more than $20 million since 2008.
In the future, Henderson expects to grow his company and keep it local. Last fall, AMI received a special recognition from state legislators for its success as a Michigan-owned business, its significant commitment to the community, and contributions to the Manchester Township economy. Currently, the Michigan Economic Development Commission, and Ann Arbor Spark are working with AMI to promote and further its successes.
“We want to continue to grow right here where we are,” Henderson said at an open house and tour for village and township officials held last Tuesday. “We’ll take it wherever our customers want us to go.”