When you want something badly enough, you’ll do almost anything to make it happen. That drive, combined with hard work, is what brought a Rockford company from the back of a wagon to a 6,000 square foot facility, producing parts that are made in the stateline.
Not every owner of a company is as comfortable on the plant floor as in an office, but that’s definitely the case with Liz Baumgardt, owner of A & B Machine Shop, at 1920 20th Avenue.
“I personally know how to run everything in the shop,” Baumgardt says.
She’s going on 19 years as being a part of the family business. Her grandpa, Roy Baumgardt started the company 75 years ago.
“He pulled a coaster wagon of the parts that he had made for like, two years,” Liz says. “I just seems hard to believe that anyone would want something so badly that they would walk everywhere for years just to get started.”
Liz’s dad ran the business until the early 2000’s. She’s been in charge ever since.
“My dad’s dad was tremendous in business and he taught my dad what he knew about running a business. And then, my dad taught me what he knew about running a business. And clearly, like everything else, it changes over the years. But many, many things are still the same. If you work hard, hopefully you have something to show for it.”
A & b’s 6,000 square feet is packed with machines making machine parts. A big chunk of the business is making pieces based on customers broken samples. And because of that, workers need to be very flexible.
“Everybody has to know everything. You have to be able to, [for example] if you were honing, now you’re grinding, now you’re on a lathe, now you’re on a mill. Again, it’s a great and versatile group of guys I have and I am fortunate that everybody is so flexible,” she says.
Dan Ennis is one of the employees who makes that happen. He’s been in the industry for more than 3 decades. Dan’s had jobs at big and small companies. He prefers the personal touch.
“The smaller companies have more of a tendency to work more one-on-one with you, where you can learn more at your pace and they give you time to learn, where larger companies, they just want you to come in and start doing the job right away and you don’t have that chance to actually learn. And I’ve been doin’ this for 35 years and I still learn every day,” Ennis says.
Like any business, there have been ups and downs. A lot of that depends on how A & B Machine’s customers are doing. Many of them in the fastener industry. Those are companies across the country. But a lot are in the Rockford area.
Right now, they’re busy, and that’s good news for a third-generation company that considers employees part of the family.
“It’s true what they say, if you do what you love, you never have to work a day,” Baumgardt says. “I don’t ever have to work. This is…this is actually kind of…this is like home.”