Global metal supplier opens North American base


FAiST Light Metals opened its sales and engineering office for North America on May 1 in the BTR Park's Weidenhammer Building. Courtesy FAiST

A global metal supplier based in Europe has selected a West Michigan site to establish its North American presence.

FAiST Light Metals, which is headquartered in Italy, has opened an office in the WMU Business Technology and Research Park, making it the first company to use the park to establish a North American presence, according to West Michigan University officials.

The firm opened its sales and engineering office for North America on May 1 in the BTR Park's Weidenhammer Building.

About FAiST

FAiST Light Metals is a division of FAiST Industrial Group, a multinational manufacturing firm based in the United Kingdom.

The company, which is headquartered in Citta DiCastello, Italy, specializes in high quality aluminum die-casting, precision machining and surface plating of components and assemblies for the telecom, automotive, electronics and industrial markets.

FAiST has a strong product presence in the telecommunication and automotive industries, with major customers that include Ericsson, Eaton, Borg Warner and Brose.

Potential for growth

The 1,000-square-foot space FAiST is leasing in the Weidenhammer Building comes with an option on additional space for the company to fill as it grows.

According to Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach and BTR Park point person, the leased space is one that has opened up in an existing facility in a park that is now full and looking toward expansion on a nearby parcel of land already designated for that use.

"All of the space for building is committed," Miller said. "Right now, and until we can expand, we'll focus on those spaces that occasionally open up in multi-tenant facilities.”

He added that FAiST is the type of firm the park was designed for, “one that fits into the park's profile and one that plans to be actively engaged with the university's academic programs and students.”

"Our focus is on companies in the life sciences, advanced engineering and information technology," Miller said. "We've built an environment in which there's a real sense of synergy between our more than 40 business park partners and the university's academic mission."

North American leadership

Jeff McCain, business development manager for FAiST Light Metals North America, will be directing the new Kalamazoo office.

He was recruited a year ago specifically to develop a presence in North America for the company.

McCain is a WMU alumnus, who was working in China when he first became acquainted with FAiST’s company president.

McCain said he found the international perspective of the firm appealing, and noted "from the top down, we think and act globally."

Recruiting in progress

FAiST is in hiring mode.

Company officials have been preparing for the launch of the new location with a hiring initiative to identify both new engineering staff and WMU interns to work in the company.

FAiST’s global head of engineering was in Kalamazoo in April to interview candidates for initial hires in engineering and to meet with WMU engineering faculty, as well as students from a number of disciplines.

“We're looking at immediate full-time hires as well as interns who could later become regular employees," McCain said.

He said the positions offer the opportunity for “strong international experience.”

"Our vision is that within the first year, we'll have a staff of five to six professionals, and in three or four years, we will have a strong core group focused both on sales and engineering," McCain said.

Working with clients

FAiST has already established a reputation for working with U.S. companies to bring client-engineering teams into the development and design process for products FAiST will ultimately produce.

He said the company typically “works with product engineers who don’t have extensive die casting experience.”

"We develop a relationship with the key customers and even do customized, on-site training so the engineering team has a better idea of the process to apply,” he said. “Working together, we are able to design some of the costs out of a product and streamline the development process."

McCain said the components developed through that design process are made in China, Mexico, Romania or Germany and shipped globally to use in the final products.

Future expansion

In addition to its current locations, FAiST just completed an acquisition of a tooling company in Italy and is evaluating expanding to manufacturing locations in the United States, South America and India, McCain said.

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