Family-run firm adapts with times
David Moxlow, the second-generation owner of Trenton Forging Co., first took an interest in the family business at age 10, initially retrieving parts dropped into spaces too small for the adult workers to fit into.
One could say his role with the company grew from there. Early on he specialized in tying steel re-rod bars together, and then he worked every station in the plant, eventually taking over for his father, company founder George Moxlow, in 1982.
David Moxlow’s wife, Renee, worked at the business for 26 years as the head of human resources until she retired four years ago. His son, Dane, and daughter, Chelsea, have also had experiences at the business. Dane is still involved when he can, as he also created his own business, the Detroit Motion Co., which handcrafts functional art and customized vehicles. Chelsea is the health educator for Livingston County.
The forging industry has been coming out of the “Dark Ages” for some time.
“We are just trying to expedite the process with modern technology and a new mindset of developing our greatest asset – our people,” Moxlow said. “We currently build the robotics components for floor robots at Amazon and we are augmenting our (Faro Scanning) Blue Light Laser Scanning technology with 3D printing technology to use when reverse engineering or creating new products for our customers. We can bring the product to “life” with three-dimensional plastic models made overnight.”
The Trenton Forging plant has been nestled on the unpaved road of Toledo and Hoover in Trenton’s southeast corner for the past 50 years. In 1967, the 6,000-square-foot plant supplied hot-forged closed impression die forgings to mostly the automotive industry. Today with 85,000 square feet and now serving the military and commercial weapons industries, they can put out from 15,000 components a day and up to 4 million components a year. They also make sickle guards, which are sharp cutting components for agricultural use, as well as the architectural industry and golf products for a boutique golf club manufacturer.
Even forging competitors think highly of the work Trenton Forging does. Thomas Couston, director of development for Modern Forge said, “I have the utmost respect for Mr. Moxlow; he has always been a fair and strong competitor.”
Modern Forge and Trenton Forging often are rivals in the field for the same business.
“He and his staff are tough but admirable competitors,” said Couston, whose 100-year-old business resides in Tennessee. “We always have a clean, fair and fun competition and that is hard to say about most competitors today.”
Customers also concur. Laurie Fitzwater of Callies Performance Products has used Trenton Forging exclusively for its connecting rod forgings since 2009.
“They continue to deliver quality products, on-time, and at reasonable prices,” said Fitzwater. “David Moxlow and his team really know how to take care of their customers!”
Even suppliers have wonderful things to say about Trenton Forging.
“Our made in the USA partnership and family culture focused on the environment and technology has always been an exceptional experience.” Mark Candy, vice president of sales of Eaton Steel Bar of Detroit, said.
Eaton Steel Bar Owner Gary Goodman, who worked with David’s dad George in the 1970s, met George about 45 years ago with his uncle.
“He was always quite a gentleman and was very intelligent in the industrial and mechanical part of the business.” Goodman said. “They have been tremendous, loyal customers over the years and we appreciate that. Our family and their family are still quite close even going on this third generation. They are honorable people and a great family to do business with. Our inside sales rep Alan Lach was so taken by the relationship he even named his son Trenton, after Trenton Forging!”
Trenton Forging not only employs 98 people, but they support 98 families. The economic impact of any employment number from small business affects surrounding stores, restaurants, gas stations and more. It is not only the tax base that makes businesses important in the community. The plant message is highly visual on the floor with employees. You will see screens throughout the facility with messages for safety, machine real time data as well as trivia questions.
“We make sure employees are taking notice and in return we give out gift cards for those who participate in the trivia and follow safety protocol.” Moxlow said.
Jobs at Trenton Forging range from entry level janitorial positions to experienced forging personnel to highly skilled CAD and design engineers and electrical and electronic experts.
“It has been challenging finding young people who like to work with their hands.” Human Resource Manager Stephanie Cobb said.
So, the business is getting creative. They are forming a partnership with the Downriver Career Technical Consortium and providing internships to develop the skilled trades.
“I am working with Kyle VanDyne at Trenton High School to develop a work grant to train students and hopefully lead to a position with us,” said Cobb.
Those who are interested in this industry must like to work with their hands, be creative and have a fascination for metal works.
“Currently, we have two interns who work in all five departments over a two-year period.” Cobb said. “They get 40 hours or more a week plus we pay for 100 percent of their college with a B or better.”
When Moxlow was asked his thoughts on the evolution of the company over the years, he said, “We have come a long way in 50 years. My dad (founder George Moxlow) passed away at age 89 in 2008. He always used to say that ‘Trenton Forging Company is like the bumblebee, it doesn’t know it cannot fly, so it does so anyway.’”
Trenton Forging is celebrating their 50th year with lots of lights and sounds.
“We are excited to present the biggest fireworks show this June 2 at the Island Festival at the Grosse Ile Airport. We wanted to do something special to commemorate the anniversary that was inclusive of the employee’s families and the suppliers that have made 50 years of doing business through some very hard times possible.” Moxlow said.
For more information about Trenton Forging and career opportunities call (734) 675-1620 or visit the website trentonforging.com.