Calumet Electronics on IMPACT 2018

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This year at IMPACT Washington, DC, I made it a point to talk with first-timers, which is what I did when I sat down with Steve Vairo and Mike Kadlec of Calumet Electronics, to get their overview on the event.

Patty Goldman: Hi Mike and Steve, I’m looking forward to your thoughts. Steve, tell me a bit about yourself and Calumet.

Steve Vairo: Calumet Electronics is an independent printed circuit board manufacturer in Calumet, Michigan. We're celebrating 50 years in the industry. We are community-inspired, after the copper mines closed in our area. We've been continuing to grow over the years. We have 270 employees in a town of 3,000, so we have a huge impact on our local economy. We supply mission-critical boards to the military, aerospace, defense, and high-reliability industrial controls used around the world.

I'm 28 years at Calumet Electronics and born and raised in Calumet, Michigan. I went to the University of Notre Dame. I spent a year in Chicago, and I've spent the rest of my career at Calumet in various areas with the company. In 2002, I took over as president and CEO.

Goldman: Mike, let’s hear about you.

Mike Kadlec: I joined Calumet in 2013 initially as a consultant. We determined that it was a good fit, and chose to continue the process as a direct member of the executive team. I'm responsible for corporate development, business development, managing field assets, and tracking market potential to identify key electronic sectors. My professional industry background dates back to 1978. This is my 40th year working in business development in North America’s electronics industry. I grew up in the business. I have a unique perspective, dating back to 1960. Steve has the same unique frame of reference, because he grew up in the industry as well. While we understand what has sustained our success to this point, we recognize the need to raise the bar going forward.

For me, Calumet Electronics represents the opportunity of a lifetime and an awesome company to work for. Having supported thousands of PCB fabricators from coast to coast throughout my career, Calumet represents the only supplier in North America that is not for sale at any price. The company was originally inspired in 1968 by the community, and true to its original mission, is here to enrich the lives of those who live in the community today, which is a noble and unique position in an industry plagued by consolidation.

Goldman: We're here at IMPACT 2018. Is this your first time?

Vairo: First time in a while.

Kadlec: First time for me.

Goldman: Steve, your impressions?

Vairo: The meetings were very productive. I think our voice is being heard with respect to supply chain, and concerns about security—national security, economic security. I think we've had very productive meetings, and the experience has been a good experience.

Kadlec: I mirror Steve's thoughts on that. The meetings are engaging. The people are interesting. The process is fascinating. I have to say I've gotten a lot more bang for my buck than I expected. I am inspired by the bipartisan sense of urgency projected by those we have met with. 

Goldman: It is a complex process.

Kadlec: Yes, it's fascinating. If you haven't been to Washington, D.C., you need to come here.. I feel like our message resonates with those we have met and talked with. Naturally, we're dealing with unique personalities from Representative or Senator to Senator and their staffs, yet, I sense real concern for a sustainable U.S. supply base and a passion to make a difference. There's a fire under their feet that I did not anticipate.

Goldman: Yes. They're also very tightly scheduled. Did you notice that?

Kadlec: Oh my goodness. It's unreal. How many meetings today? You probably have 20 different contacts and meetings scheduled, and we will probably have attended eight or nine meetings by the end of the day. We are running!

Goldman: Right, and we're not nearly as tightly scheduled as they are.

Kadlec: I can't imagine.

Goldman: We're off to the EPA building soon, and that's a big, solid building for sure. The first time I looked at it I thought, "The EPA is very permanent." This is a permanent big, stone building. It's going to be here forever. I’m sure we'll find our meeting there very interesting.

Vairo: We look forward to that. Plus we will be meeting some additional Representatives from Michigan; we previously met with the staff at Senator Stabenow's office, and we have meetings later in the day with Senator Gary Peters and Congressman Bergman.

Goldman: Fantastic. You're going to hit three of them. Are you inviting them back to your facility?

Vairo: Yes, we've extended an invitation to any of the Representatives that would like to come back to the area. Our story is certainly a success story for American manufacturing. Calumet Electronics is a bit of a contrarian in this industry. 100% of what we sell, we manufacture in Calumet, Michigan. We don't have a relationship with a broker in a low-cost region of the world, and so it is unique. Since the early fall, we have added close to 60 manufacturing jobs. Like I said, in a town of 3,000, it's a real success story and a real impact on our community. We're very proud of that.

The IPC IMPACT event has been a good event for us to attend and get the message out that there's concern about losing the industry. We look forward to continuing to do what we do best, and that's making circuit boards and ensuring the security of the supply chain.

Goldman: Any final thoughts, Mike?

Kadlec: I guess one thing that crosses my mind, it seems like there should be more companies representing the industry here this week, particularly companies that have struggled over the last decade or more. I would think they would want to have representation or try to influence the outcome. From our experience this week, participating in future IPC IMPACT events is the best forum for our industry to communicate the immediate state of our industry and brainstorm incentives that ensure sustainability of a U.S. electronics supply chain.

Goldman: As John Mitchell mentioned, there are over 2,000 member-locations in this country. Here in Washington are the people we need to talk to. Hey, industry people, get over here! I've been working on that one for a while.

Kadlec: Having participated in, and borne witness to, this process we are motivated to help in any way we can. A big thank you to the IPC team for hosting this event and the incredible schedule they have set in motion.

Goldman: I know everybody's busy, but some things you need to prioritize. This is one of them.

Vairo: I also want to thank IPC for the wonderful job they did setting up this event and putting all the meetings together. We know that there's a lot of hard work involved in doing that. It was very productive.

Goldman: When you think about the tight schedules of all the people you're seeing, that IPC can coordinate it at all is just amazing to me.

Kadlec: It's incredible. The process and those we met with were so engaging.

Goldman: Yes. Thank you so much. We'll be talking again.



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