GRANGEVILLE As many young people do, during college Adam Forsmann decided he would like to someday settle down back home.
A 1996 graduate of Prairie High School in Cottonwood, he had spent two years at North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene in a pre-engineering program and then went on to finish in agricultural engineering at the University of Idaho.
“I really didn’t know what I’d do, but I knew I wanted to be here on the Camas Prairie,” he said.
When a friend suggested he call the fledgling company Advanced Welding and Steel (AWS) as they may be looking for someone who could use the CAD computer drafting program, Forsmann decided to giver AWS owner Ryan Uhlenkott a call.
“I knew Ryan as he was a couple of years ahead of me in school [at PHS], so I decided to see if AWS had anything open,” he said.
The next, as they say, is history.
Forsmann began as a project manager and drafter, working part time in the shop at the AWS facility, which was then located in the old blue MacGregor building.
“It was a lot of hands-on learning – the company was growing pretty quickly,” he recalled.
Forsmann was recently named general manager of AWS, giving Uhlenkott a little more breathing room to manage his multiple additional business endeavors.
The company built on its current 30-acre plot on U.S. Highway 95 in Grangeville in 2008. Now, the business employs 70-plus people. To help with employment opportunities and using the employees’ time most efficiently, the company has invested in CNC equipment and technology that helps reduce some of the man hours. To help with community awareness, a “Steel Days” open house is set for the end of this month.
“Adam has been a good fit from the start and he’s a hard worker,” Uhlenkott said. “We hope the community will stop by the open house Friday, Sept. 28, congratulate Adam and see what goes on at AWS.” He added that Forsmann is a good company person, always after the greater good for the company, all while working hard and remaining humble.
Forsmann said AWS is a good place to work as it’s family oriented, offers a challenge and produces a good product it can stand behind.
“And, to brag just a little bit,” he smiled, “AWS is quite well known in the steel industry – we offer a superior quality product and are sought after. Customers know they will have a job that is done right and on time.”
Uhlenkott and Forsmann agree one of the main obstacles in further growth is finding employees who have the skills and desire to work.
“We have great workers, but to grow more, we need more of them,” Forsmann said.
“That’s why we’ve added the welding classes,” Uhlenkott stated.
AWS has been offering 10-week welding classes through Lewis-Clark State College at no cost to participants. These applicants are interviewed and hand-chosen for the program, knowing a job will be available at the end. Participants are also paid a wage while attending classes.
“It’s kind of a way to grow our own, at no cost to the person taking the classes,” Uhlenkott said.
Forsmann added the business is about 50 percent welding, but also offers a variety of other positions including those in the office, drafting, estimating, business managers, shipping, CNC operations, painting and forklift driving.
The men said the majority of AWS’s business is in Washington and Oregon, but they have also had work throughout Idaho and in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Montana, Utah, Texas and Guam, with schools, hospitals, manufacturing plants and warehouses being among the largest clients.
“We ship an average of about 15 million pounds of steel a year,” Uhlenkott said, adding he appreciates his entire team.
Uhlenkott said Forsmann knows the AWS business very well and he feels he is an excellent choice for general manager.
“He started working on the financial side a bit heavier almost two years ago and has grown to the point that he does better than in most cases,” Uhlenkott smiled. “At that point, you know it’s time to step aside and let him run with it. He’s a great advocate for the company as well as the employees and really desires and works for a team atmosphere.
“I’m really excited to see what he can do,” Uhlenkott noted. “but I know it takes everyone from the very first step down to the last person to touch the product to make it all happen.”