In celebration of IEDC’s National Economic Development Week 2017 and South Carolina’s Industry Appreciation Day on May 11, the Upstate SC Alliance and economic developers in several communities collaborated on a series that recognizes the value of our industries as told by employees whose lives are touched by these companies, who have passion for their products, and who can inspire the next generation.
This profile first appeared in the Seneca Journal and The Journal online at UpstateToday.com.
Plant Manager, Baxter Manufacturing – Hi Tech Mold Carolina in Oconee County
In May 2016, Oconee County landed its first BMW supplier in Oconee Industry & Technology Park – a beacon that called Walhalla High School alumnus Josh Ledbetter back to his home.
“It’s a funny story,” he says. “Everybody that comes here wants to hear it.”
With more than 20 years in the injection molding industry and work experiences in Mississippi and Tennessee, Ledbetter has spent time traveling to set up machines, implement automation systems, and manage engineering processes. Among his previous roles was working as the North American Injection Molding Manager with Valeo, a French multinational automotive supplier.
“Thanksgiving of last year, I was at Hi-Tech Mold and Engineering SE in Winchester, Tennessee, doing a design review, and the plant manager said, ‘You know, you’d make a good plant manager down at our site in South Carolina,’” Ledbetter recalls. “I asked where the plant was located, and wouldn’t you know it’s only five minutes from my mother’s house.”
To Ledbetter, it was a sign to relocate with his wife, Latoya, and their now seven children ages 7 months to 18 years. They returned to Oconee County 10 years to the month after moving away. Now back home, the family is focused on “faith, fellowship, and fishing trout in the mountains above Walhalla.”
“What I do is so specialized that never in a million years did I think that a tier 1 automotive supplier that runs all European equipment would be opening a production facility in Westminster, but here we are.”
Years of Service with your company?: 1
Education: US Air Force Academy, Mathematics
Clemson University, Ceramic Engineering (today Materials Science Engineering)
What does your company do, where, and how many people does it employ in the Upstate?:
The Hi-Tech Mold & Engineering family of companies are full service suppliers to the Plastics and Tooling Industry with locations in Michigan, Tennessee, and now South Carolina.
From concept to launch, small tool packages to entire vehicle platforms, Hi-Tech Mold & Engineering and Baxter Manufacturing possess the vision, leadership, experience and resources necessary to make any program a success.
Baxter Manufacturing and Hi-Tech Mold Carolina begin operations during the second quarter of 2017 in their new, state of the art facility in Oconee County, South Carolina. The family owned business has invested $14 million to date in the over 87,000 square foot manufacturing plant off Highway 11 in Westminster, SC. Over the next 18 months, the companies will create approximately 90 new manufacturing related jobs.
Baxter Manufacturing is a family owned and operated business committed to superior quality engineering, design and development, injection molding and value added assemblies. We are a true full service Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier for the Plastics Industry providing Product Design & Development, Tooling Feasibility, Mold Design & Build, Production Part Molding, Assembly and Warehousing.
Hi-Tech Mold Carolina is a 24 hour full-service tooling repair and second stage landing facility.
Tell me some about the work that you do: I am the plant manager for our newest expansion in SC. With my background, I also serve as Director of Engineering for Baxter. I am responsible for the industrialization of the new site in Westminster, as well as the day to day operations and start of production (SOP) readiness. I have been in plastics for more than 20 years, with the first half of my career focus on field service and consulting, and the last half on engineering and management. I have been part of seven injection molding startups in the past 10 years, which gives me great insight on the new startup in Westminster.
What are the skills most important to your job?: In my position, experience and technical expertise is a must. Having a diverse background in all aspects of manufacturing makes a great manager. Communication is vital in most any job, and it is the life blood of a good company.
What is your favorite thing about your job?: Working for Baxter and Hi Tech is so rewarding. We truly are a full service supplier for the plastics industry because we do it all. I love the diverse technical challenge that is inherent to injection molding manufacturing. From the software innovation required for part and tooling design; to the machining tool technology; to all the different aspects of the part manufacturing process: hydraulic, electrical, mechanical, automation; to the quality requirements to meet our customer’s standards; and finally, to the complex logistics strategy needed to meet on-time delivery. All of this combined with the innovations in plastics and materials science makes this a great field to be in.
A child tells you they want to follow in your footsteps when they grow up. What advice do you give them?: I would point them to Colossians 3:23. I always emphasize hard work and a good work ethic. In whatever you do, from the smallest job to the biggest, always give it your best. People will notice and you will be successful.
Is your company engaged in the community? If so, please share some information about its involvement and how you’ve participated: We are excited to join the Oconee County community and look forward to an active role partnering with career and technical training at the new Tri-County Technical College located across the street —particularly in plastics technologies. In addition, our company is committed to a strong employee wellness program, and our team looks forward to supporting and participating in local trails programs and locally sponsored events.