By Fran Eaton for the Technology & Manufacturing Association of Illinois News Bulletin – reprinted with permission
Five years before David Long and his business partner Walter Schaub started Pro Mold & Die, David was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent most of his two-year military stint between Western and Eastern Germany. “I served in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie,” Long said. Checkpoint Charlie was the iconic wooden shed that served as the gateway to freedom for those imprisoned in Communist East Berlin. While on a month-long training exercise in Western Germany towards the end of his second year of service, Long says he was sent back to the U.S. to begin training at the TMA. “During my second year, I applied for an early discharge of 90 days to start schooling. My ETS – Exact Time of Separation – was in early December. I sent in the necessary paperwork to get back in time to start TMA classes in September, but forgot about it when I never heard anything back,” Long said. “I remember I was out in the field, and a helicopter with supplies touched down and they yelled out, ‘Which one of you is Long? Get in, you’re going home,’” Long said. “I started classes at TMA right away.”
Long studied Related Theory and Moldmaking for three years at TMA with hundreds of other students, then finished up his education with math and physics classes at Harper College. He completed his apprenticeship, and equipped with his training, he and Walter Schaub partnered to launch Pro Mold & Die in 1973. The company is now located in its third location – a 30,000 square foot venue in Roselle, IL. Pro Mold & Die works in plastics, die cast dies, mold & die repair and custom machining for the medical, appliance, lawn care and automotive industries.
During Pro Mold & Die’s 44 years in business, Long has worked through a lot of economic highs and lows. Much of those fluctuations in manufacturing can be traced to the political views of those making public policy, he says. “American manufacturers do well when those making policy keep in mind that all money, all wealth, starts in only three places: mining, agriculture and manufacturing,” he said. “Every dollar that is earned comes from those three sources.”
Long served as TMA’s Chairman of the Board in 2007 – just before the 2008–09 recession. Those days were among the toughest to stay optimistic, he said. Even though plastics were becoming more and more used in the automotive industry, the normal two-year delay of invoice payment made it more and more difficult to compete with Canadian moldmakers just north of the border. The Canadian government provides financing for Canadian companies, while American suppliers either have to fund themselves or develop an expensive credit line that slowly eradicates profit. A fluctuating economy and instability of automobile companies, along with competition from an emerging Chinese workforce encouraged Long to seek out other more dependable industries – specifically household appliances and medical supplies.
Long says that over the years he’s found that the company’s attention to customer needs has been a key source of return business. “Sometimes we just need to talk them through the process and talk about what we think will work best. One customer told us a few years ago that the reason we come back to you is that you do a terrific job of protecting us from us,” Long said. “We see our customers as our employers. There’s an element of trust that develops over the years. Talk is one thing, but delivering what you promise is something else,” he said.
Long says he’s confident the business will continue to thrive as he gradually spends more and more time focused on his hobbies. He’s an avid flyer of vintage military planes and he can be often found at air shows, showing off his T-34. He also flies the company plane that seats six. But there’s no question that Long still enjoys the satisfaction of quoting a job, creating a design for a customer’s mold and suggesting changes that make it better or last longer.
“Sometimes it takes a meeting of the minds and a week or two of discussions, but it’s rewarding to see things come together,” he said. “And now that so much is computerized, the quality of the parts is so much better, as is the design and the parts themselves.”
Pro Mold & Die
55 Chancellor Drive, Roselle, Illinois 60172
Sales and Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – http://www.promolddie.com/