Manufacturers always manage to add something special to their communities. They are the unsung heroes across Michigan; working behind the scenes and beyond their four walls to support their schools, community organizations and fellow manufacturers. Every day across the state, manufacturers continue to strengthen the bonds of a relationship that has endured for generations — the bond between business and community.
“My grandfather understood the importance of relationship building and made it a point from day one to connect with local schools and educators and the entire community,” said William “Bill” Henderson III, the third-generation president of Aircraft Precision Products Inc. (APPI), an Ithaca-based manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft components. “Even the most self-sufficient small manufacturer depends on schools and external resources for skills training, career awareness and locating raw materials — engaging with your community can help ease those early pressures.”
Henderson’s grandfather, APPI founder William W. Henderson, worked to push forward the message that the company was about more than just creating a product or creating jobs; it was part of the community. That commitment continues as a spirit of outreach remains one of APPI’s defining characteristics, even half a century later.
As Sheryl Presler, superintendent of the Clare-Gladwin school district affirms, “APPI leads by example. If there’s an event planned by the group, or a subcommittee formed to tackle a specific issue, APPI is frequently the first company to volunteer their expertise and elbow grease. In my opinion, APPI is an exemplary company with outstanding leadership.”
APPI advocates for quality partnerships between industry and public education and between manufacturer and manufacturer. Well known as a believer in the saying “by raising the water level, all ships rise together,” Henderson understands the importance of banding together and sharing resources toward a common goal.
“If the community is doing well, everyone within the community has the ability to benefit,” explains Henderson. “In this time of close to full employment it is incumbent on all of us to share the stories of manufacturing and boost career awareness. These aren’t stories we can tell in a vacuum; we need to work together, rely on each other — when we do that, we all go farther.”
Henderson’s vision of a community working together to elevate itself has been an example to his team. Almost every Ithaca event has representatives from APPI in attendance or working as part of the team leading the effort.
“When Bill Henderson became president and CEO, the company and its employees took on greater leadership roles in school-to-work programs to help local teenagers recognize the choices they have for their future,” explained John Leppien Sr., president of Alma-based Garr Tool Company. “Bill’s efforts to change the schools’ perception of manufacturing from a ‘last choice’ option for students to the site of exceptional career opportunities has helped Gratiot County retain many of its young people and helped other companies, including our own, locate better applicants.”
In an industry where many executives struggle to balance just what happens in their facility, Henderson and the APPI team know it’s what you do beyond that which matters most.
“Manufacturing is exciting — being able to tinker and create with your hands is what got me interested in it and I know our team is the same way; it’s our responsibility as stewards of the industry to ensure there’s a next generation to hand this all off to,” says Henderson. “If you can make it fun and exciting, while informing people about the career opportunities, they’re more likely to get engaged and that can all start by being an active part of the community.”