A: I was called up for Desert Storm. I remember being speechless when I got the call in my dorm room at OC. It was scary, because we weren't sure if Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons. But as it turned out, I wasn't sent with my company, because I wasn't yet through with my training.
Q: You've worked with Beam's Seatbelts since interviewing on the OC campus for an engineering position. Did you ever consider leaving?
A: I was the first full-time engineer hired by the company. I developed our testing program to make sure our products met federal standards, including 6,000 pounds of strength, resistance to abrasion, UV light and dust corrosion. In the early days, I interviewed elsewhere a few times; mainly to see what was out there. But I knew I could grow old here and be happy. We have a great culture that feels like family. I know people's kids' names and they know mine.
Q: How are you faring with the recession? Do you think we're coming out of it?
A: The past few years have been tough. We enjoyed our largest sales month ever in October 2008 and by January 2009 we were half that. We did a good job cutting costs, but never slowed our sales efforts and never laid off anyone. We traded employees to others when they were busy and we weren't. Most have since come back. In the last year, we've doubled our profit from the previous year, though it was low that year. We have about 10 competitors worldwide; only a few are in the U.S.
Q: You have new applications for your seat belts. Can you tell us about some?
A: We have some 15 products to serve municipal fire departments nationwide. They sprung from a local request for a strap tough enough to help one fireman hold a higher-powered water line himself. More recently, we had a request from a nurse to develop straps for a rollable frame to move patients from hospital beds. Typically, we get a request to help solve a problem and then help invent a product. We assign the patented technology rights to clients, who agree we'll be their sole manufacturer.