Paul Aultman thinks that a manufacturer should look well beyond the boundaries of its parking lot and customer base when it comes to developing a meaningful corporate mission statement.
“Our mission statement is Forming Solutions, Forming Better Lives, Forming Sustainable Futures,” said Aultman, president of Vantage Plastics Inc. in Standish, the 2017 winner of the MMA’s Community Impact award. “All three of those phrases say — in one way or another — that our company needs to be involved with our community.”
Along with corporate sponsorships, Aultman encourages the approximate 190 employees of Vantage Plastics and its two sister companies, Airpark Plastics and Edge Material Management, to also play personal roles in building the greater Arenac County community.
Aultman and his wife Michelle founded a 501(c)(3) organization called Weaving Effective Life-skills & Leadership Outreach (The WELL) that aims to build a stronger community by “empowering individuals to take charge of their lives” with activities such as 5-K health runs, weight-loss programs, parenting classes and charity flag football games.
Aultman draws a strong link between the growth of his manufacturing companies and their support of community events.
“I just think that if you give back, that’s how you grow,” he said. “We went through some awfully tough times in 2008 when the automakers and the economy tanked, and I really believe that our community support prior to that helped get us through that time.
“And we all know how business often gets a bad rap, either in the way it’s portrayed in the movies or how it gets covered by the media when something unfortunate happens. I just think that if you are an integral part of the community, they know the moral fabric of your business and support in the case of an unfortunate circumstance.”
Vantage Plastics has prospered in Standish after Aultman started the company in 1996, with six employees and three thermoforming machines in a 45,000-square-foot plant. The manufacturer of thermoformed plastics products such as industrial grade, reusable plastic dunnage for precision machined metal parts now has about 150 employees.
The company spawned Airpark Plastics, a manufacturer of custom thermoplastic polyolefin sheet stock, and Edge Material Management, a company that accepts, qualifies and processes durable packaging from manufacturers so that it can be turned into reusable dunnage. All three companies are housed in a total of 200,000 square feet.
With his companies in the manufacturing sector, Aultman has been active in exposing youth to careers and opportunities in manufacturing and in supporting the growth of manufacturing in Arenac County and the state of Michigan. He is serving as president of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers Association and serves on the board of the Mid-Michigan Community College MTEC — Plastics Grant Initiative. His companies have been recognized by several agencies and organizations for sustainable growth and business practices.
But Aultman said that it was the recognition that he and his wife received from his employees during the Christmas season of 2014 that is “one of the most favorite things that has happened to us.”
The employees established the Paul and Michelle Aultman Community Scholarship that year with the words “In 1996, you came into the Arenac County community and began a journey that has since touched many lives...Your support to the employees, their families, and the young people of this community has brought much hope for a better future.”
“I think of that often,” Aultman said. “That, to me, is meaningful and better than a physical gift.”