Networking in 1984.
Take yourself back to 1984. The Internet was in its infancy. Cell phones were bulky and for “the few.” From a 2011 perspective, it’s difficult to imagine how you could start a small business in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and reach a global audience without being so digitally connected. Yet Marten Machining did.
After completing the Northcentral Technical College (NTC) Machine Tool Program, Alan and Debra Marten moved to St. Paul, Minnesota for his journeysmanship. After a few years there, Debra, a native of Portage County, and Alan, a native of Marathon County, opted to move back to the Stevens Point area in 1984. The problem? No machining jobs were available. Instead, Alan and Debra began their one-person machining business in their Stockton garage.
Within a year, they had adapted from using manual machines to using CNC milling machines. The business took off because they could work with larger customers doing Great Lakes regional work. Alan had established business connections during his journeymanship in St. Paul and routinely made long-distance drives to meet with his Minnesota customers. Getting connected 1984-style. “The machine tool community does a lot of networking,” notes Debra Marten. “We have always attended these events and put in a lot of face time at customer open houses and tool shows. And we’ve been members of the Portage County Business Council for over 20 years — it’s a great way to network and stay in touch with people and the issues that affect our region. Personal networking has been a key to our success.”
The CNC machine also presented more opportunities for Marten Machining in Wisconsin. Today, Marten Machining does business all over the U.S. and Europe — in the past year alone, they’ve made three trips to Europe, primarily Germany and Switzerland, for business as well as workforce training.
Technical Education is Our Lifeline
“It’s a constant cycle of learning,” notes Debra Marten. In fact, workforce education and training are — according to Debra — the lifeline that has sustained and will continue to sustain their business. “Alan is a product of NTC. From the start, we’ve worked with students. SPASH students serve as apprentices here and they are graded on and receive credit for their work through the Youth Apprentice Program (YAP). YAP has been very successful for us and for the students. It gives them an opportunity to work in a field they are interested in to see whether they like this type of work or not before they commit to it in college.
“We also work with the tech schools – NTC and Mid-State Technical College (MSTC). Both students and graduates are full-time workers here. We have interns and engineering students from various University systems working here during the summer, spring and winter breaks,” adds Marten.
“These programs are getting better all the time and therefore we keep promoting and working with them. Alan is on the Advisory Board at NTC and MSTC for the machine tool programs and he works with the apprenticeship program.” Adds Marten, “It helps both us and the students. It provides us with the opportunity to understand one other — what the new generation of the workforce needs and is capable of and what we can provide them.” Adds Marten, “All of our employees are highly trained, competent, very specialized and skilled and all of them are from Wisconsin, mostly central Wisconsin. Every one them has somehow been touched by our educational system – high school, a tech school, apprenticeships. I really believe tech education is the key to developing the area.”
And the training doesn’t stop in the classroom. Marten Machining provides in-house training and specialized off-site training. Recently, a couple of Marten Machining employees visited Germany for training on the specialized equipment Marten orders from there. In return, some of the Germans came here – a true partnership in education.
To Infinity and Beyond
Debra credits her son Dave, Vice President at Marten Machining, with ensuring “we keep moving forward. He’s part of the next generation and has spearheaded a lot of our growth. All our employees are basically the next generation – they’re younger than us,” adds Marten. “Dave is very proactive in making certain our equipment, computer systems, new technologies and inspection equipment are the best available.”
The result? A healthy business despite the economy. “The economy has affected a lot of manufacturers that are high-production facilities. Many of them turn to China for production,” explains Marten. “But our customers come to us in search of very specialized fixtures, tooling or machine parts that require unique designs and precision manufacturing. Our work requires specialized talent, accuracy, precision and quick turnaround — not high production. So there is a high demand for our services.”
High indeed. Consider this, Marten Machining parts are orbiting the earth in NASA satellites. They’re part of research projects in Antarctica. And are used by the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Nanotechnology Department and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Physics Department and Space Research.
Concludes Marten, “People don’t realize how great this region is. We need to get the story out there. Thanks to hard work and a great educational system, we’ve been able to put a piece of Stevens Point, Wisconsin craftsmanship into space and on Antarctica. Not bad.”
About Marten Machining. Our core capabilities are high precision five axis milling, CNC turning, wire EDM and surface grinding. Marten Machining has also developed capacity for producing high accuracy parts in short and medium production runs with Hermle five-axis machining centers that use automated pallet changers and can machine parts unattended. The dimensional accuracy of parts and products are inspected and verified with an enhanced accuracy Leitz PMMC coordinate measurement machine.
Marten Machining has knowledge and experience in milling, turning, EDM and grinding parts from a wide range of materials including but not limited to aluminum, carbide, copper and brass, engineered plastics (such as Peek, Celazole, Ultem, Delrin), stainless steel, tungsten heavy alloy, titanium and other hard to machine and super alloys.