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Executive Q&A: Guthrie manufacturer has an 'uplifting' job

Joe Robillard moved from Connecticut to Guthrie, Oklahoma, 14 years go to head the Autoquip lift manufacturing plant.
by Paula Burkes Published: February 10, 2013

/articleid/3753460/1/pictures/1948021">Photo - Welder Billy Hawkins assembles a hydraulic lift at the Autoquip production plant in Guthrie. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman <strong>PAUL HELLSTERN</strong>
Welder Billy Hawkins assembles a hydraulic lift at the Autoquip production plant in Guthrie. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman PAUL HELLSTERN

Q: And life after football?

A: I was awarded a fellowship to earn my master's in business at Michigan State. Following graduation, I spent the next 16 years in human resources for Eaton Corp., a large manufacturer of automotive and truck components. I joined Eaton in Cleveland and moved from there to Tennessee, North Carolina and back to Ohio — Columbus.

Q: How'd you settle in Connecticut, where you lived before coming here?

A: A friend at Eaton had left and gone to work for United Dominion, now SPX, which makes rotor assemblies for helicopters. I joined United Dominion in HR but, over the 10 years I worked there, moved to vice president of operations. I was out of a job before I came to Oklahoma. I tried to buy the Connecticut company one day and was relieved of my job the next.

Q: You've always worked for manufacturing companies. What do you like about the sector?

A: You're contributing; adding value to the rest of the world.

Q: Tell us a little more about Autoquip.

A: We have a cadre of 12 mechanical engineers, who custom design 70 percent of our lifts to meet our clients' unique lifting needs for material handling. In 2009, we acquired American Lifts, a competitor that was based outside Indianapolis, and have maintained that brand and technology. We manufacture some 1,200 lifts annually, which can take anywhere from four weeks to 14 weeks and longer to make, including sheering pieces, welding and assembling. We believe we have the best employee base in the industry. We have a union shop with an average base salary of $20 an hour plus benefits. Eighty percent of our workers live in Guthrie and average service is 28 years.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Position: President, Autoquip Corporation in Guthrie


Birth date: Dec. 12, 1946

Education: Michigan State University, master's in business, and Linfield College in Oregon, bachelor's in economics

Family: Suzie, married 40 years (they met through friends at Michigan State); daughter Nicole Paro, 34, of Washington, D.C.; son Matt Robillard, 32, of Cincinnati, Ohio; and a granddaughter, 5, and grandson, 21/2, who live in Cincinnati

Civic contributions: Logan County Economic Development Council. He's served on the board 10 years, the past five as chairman

Bucket list: “To spend more time with my grandchildren.”


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