A second-generation family business specializing in custom formed and welded-wire components, Connecticut based Acme Wire Products Co. supports the local business and manufacturing communities. President Mary Fitzgerald explains how the Mystic company – run by her and siblings Edward Planeta, Jr., and Michael Planeta – goes beyond financial contributions.

Acme Wire Product has long provided donations to local organizations that provide shelter, food, childcare and literacy support to New London county residents. We help causes from The Riverfront Children’s Center in Groton to the Noank Community Support Services (NCSS) in Groton.

Beyond those efforts, we support local initiatives that encourage and advance manufacturing skills education including robotics, technical education, tooling and machining. We are active participants in local, state and national manufacturing groups to enhance skills training and manufacturing career awareness.

Earlier this year we had a “Manufacturing Month” that included a tour for students of Grasso Tech (a local technical high-school). We also participated in a career/ college fair at a local school (Stonington High); a Manufacture Your Future event for high school students held at Quinebaug Valley Community College and the Fall Manufacturing & Health & Wellness Expo in Norwich, which included numerous manufacturers and healthcare and community organizations.

I make many presentations. My goal is to engage and inspire the next generation to learn about and pursue careers in manufacturing. I explain to students about the different jobs, what training/skills are required and which jobs are in demand and high paying (tool & die makers, machinists, CNC programmers, maintenance/robotic tech­nicians, etc.). I highlight apprenticeship opportunities and note that some employers (including us) have tuition-re­imbursement programs for job specific classes and provide paid industry specific training as part of the job benefits.

When we are speaking with a tour group of students on site, we stress the importance of some attributes that matter both in school and work: be on time, be ready to work, be eager to learn, but also to listen and follow directions. These are all skills that employers require, not “request,” and individuals that have them will be successful.

Four of our 50 employees were featured in the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (CCAT) Maker Multiplier website promoting manufacturing career awareness in underserved communities. We have partic­ipated in Women in Manufacturing state events, hosted a local high school student for an internship and coor­dinated a welding merit badge workshop for local Boy Scouts. We also coordinated a video challenge that paired teams of high school students with local manufacturers in Eastern Connecticut to produce videos with themes such as “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” “Manufacturing: A Path to Success” and “A Day in the Life of Connecticut Manufacturing.”

All these activities take time, but they are worthwhile, which is why we continue to support them.

Giving back has long been the norm for this leader

Acme Wire President Mary Fitzgerald has long been a big believer in donating blood, a tradition that began when she had to get a parents’ okay to take part at a high school-spon­sored blood drive. Some 14 gallons later, she continues to donate.

Mary-FitzgeraldEmployees are reminded of donation, and the company promotes local and regional blood drives but it is up to the employee to decide to donate. For Fitzgerald, donating blood is a commitment that most of her family members have long shared. Many have volunteered over the years at local blood drives, and one nephew coordinated a drive as part of an Eagle Scout project. She usually donates four to five times a year. “I have no long-term or specific blood donation goals. I just plan to keep donating as long as I can as the need is constant.” She pointed out that doing so does not take a lot of time, does not hurt and can benefit others. “I was inspired by my parents, especially my mother, who was a frequent blood donor,” Fitzgerald said. “I can remember her getting calls from the hospital when there was an emergency need for her blood type. It impressed upon me that the ability to donate blood is a gift and part of a responsibility to help others in need.”