Meet Roger J. Sustar. We met years ago, but mostly I know him through the e-mails he sends. Sustar owns Fredon Corp. in Mentor, OH. It's a 65-person metalworking manufacturing shop. His claim to fame is machining complex castings to high tolerances for several markets, including aerospace, aircraft, defense, medical, and off-highway equipment.
He's obviously been a busy man. Sustar started the firm with a partner in 1969 on a shoestring budget with a few old machines. He eventually bought out the partner and built it into a successful, respected operation. At 65, he is taking it a little easier, grooming a son and daughter to take over.
Sustar is a patriotic kind of a guy. He's proud to be an American and proud to be a manufacturer. He gets involved in his industry. He wears his patriotism on his sleeve.
The metalworking industry continues to lament the shortage of skilled machinists. What makes Sustar unique in this business is that he is doing something about it. Sixteen years ago he instituted what he calls his "Canons of Freedom" program. He recruits eight high school students each year who come in on Saturdays to learn the trade. Upon graduation his goal is to offer one of them a job.
A type of insurance
"That's how we insure our supply of new skilled employees," he tells me. Some 300 students have gone through the program. An employee who went through the first year of me program Is currently me instructor.
Sustar is also working with 17 area companies to institute a degreed program in manufacturing at Lakeland Community College.
"Manufacturing in this country will not survive if we don't do this," he says.
Sustar is proud to be a manufacturer. He feels it is the key to our economy, "and I want other people to know what we do." To that end, he looks for articles that promote manufacturing and e-mails them to some 100 colleagues in the industry and the media. I'm on his list.
Occasionally, he throws us a curve--a missile that is not self-serving to manufacturers but nonetheless carries a life message. Sometimes it backfires. The latest one picked up a speech attributed to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. He supposedly gave it a while back to a group of high schoolers. In fact, if you Google "Bill Gates Speeches" you'll find it among the many speeches Gates has given.
Wrong! Gates didn't give it. The list of "things kids won't learn in school" has also been attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. Wrong again! In checking...