Co-op to CEO
Enerfab's Scott Anderson
By Keith Stichtenoth
As you venture around Enerfab's shop floor immediately adjacent to the company's Spring Grove Avenue corporate offices, just a few miles from the University of Cincinnati campus, you can't help but be overwhelmed—by the precision of the work being done, the sheer scale of the product they're turning out, and the obvious culture permeating the operation.
Wearing a hard hat and protective goggles, you're surrounded by 50-foot cranes, brilliantly bright welding arcs, and under-construction tanks half as long as a football field and heavy as a house. Railroad tracks under foot move pieces in and out. The plant can be alternately as loud as a rock concert and quiet as a church. It's the orderly, gritty, focused domain of a team of tough, smart, dedicated craftspersons who take great pride in manufacturing the kinds of precision products that almost no one ever thinks about yet virtually everyone depends on.
Carefully walking his visitors around massive vessels, pipes and tanks in various stages of painstaking assembly, tour guide Scott Anderson, Enerfab's gregarious and relentlessly positive CEO, pauses from his latest detailed description of a mind-boggling fabrication project, smiles widely and says, "I love this stuff!"
The notion of leading such a company and "loving this stuff" was nowhere near Anderson's radar as he grew up in the center of the northeast Ohio triangle created by Canton, Akron and Youngstown. He credits his unlikely yet happy career path to one thing—UC's cooperative education program. And largely because he's living proof of its immense value, co-op has become an essential part of Enerfab's corporate DNA.
Enerfab is one of the region's fastest growing privately held companies, with fabrication businesses at its headquarters and in Sharonville, plus construction and maintenance offices in Cincinnati; Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA; Kansas City, MO; Paducah, KY; and New London, WI. Its origins date to 1901 and Cincinnati's brewery roots. Bishopric, as it was then known, made the linings inside of beer barrels. Gradually expanding its services over the years and eventually changing its name to Enerfab in 1984, the company found its sweet spot in the heavy industrial marketplace providing fabrication, construction and maintenance services. When it comes to fabricating large tanks or containers for industrial or commercial liquids from herbicides to ethanol to champagne, if it flows and needs to be securely stored or transported, Enerfab can build and install the system to do it—often on an enormous scale, with single vessels weighing as much as 200 tons.
Co-op is the 'Real Deal'
By contrast, Anderson's origins go back to growing up in a farming community, expecting to go to college but not knowing where or what he would study. It just needed to pay off in meaningful employment.
"My dad heard some people at work talking about the University of Cincinnati and their co-op program, and he told me to ask my high school counselor about it," Scott recalls. "The counselor told me the school had never sent anyone to UC, so we needed to look into it. Later we got a packet in the mail and discussed it as a family."
The prospect of going to Cincinnati was a bit daunting. None of Anderson's friends were leaving the area, including his high school sweetheart who would later become his wife.
"But my dad said, 'Scott, you need to take a chance. This co-op program is the real deal. From everything I've seen and heard, that's where you need to go.'"
Anderson majored in Marketing and Finance, which led to exploring potential co-op jobs. Being a fairly typical college student, he was intrigued when he saw Enerfab on the employer list.
"The description had something to do with beer vats, and I thought 'OK, where do I sign?'" Scott laughs. But during his interview, he learned the company's story, saw the complexity of its operations, and was promised plenty of opportunity if he was willing to work really hard.
"I said half my childhood was spent on a farm—work ethic was a given. So it was a fit. And to this day, I still work really hard here. We all do. It's the kind of business we're in—there's nothing easy about it."
Anderson's co-op assignments coincided with the company getting into the business of custom manufacturing steel tank heads. He learned the business quickly through his work in this new "startup" within Enerfab, and the company's decision to hire him full-time following his 1992 graduation from UC's College of Business was a no-brainer. His capabilities continued to grow, as did his opportunities; eventually he found himself leading the company in 2017. Notably, Anderson's co-op-to-CEO success story isn't particularly unusual in Enerfab's world. The current president and several vice presidents are former UC co-ops, too. And while other schools also supply co-ops, UC is far and away the leader, with the quantity and quality generating a "feeder system," he says.
"At any given time, we have at least eight UC co-ops from various business programs plus construction management, filling engineering, data analytics, sales and marketing roles here. We truly believe that's our best talent pool. We get to know each other and can determine if it's a good fit. If they have co-oped with us throughout their time in school, all that value we've gained together is realized—they can be placed in a productive role and come out of the gates running. And if they go elsewhere, the experience they received with us will still greatly benefit them."
When I interact with Lindner students, they talk about the experiences they're receiving at school and you can see that carry over as they bring it to our workplace.
Scott Anderson Enerfab CEO
Enerfab's Co-op Pipeline
Sarah Becker, a Marketing and International Business double-major, has been an Enerfab co-op for nearly two years and envisions staying with the company after she graduates this December.
"I've been involved in many aspects of our operations, providing tons of real-world experience," she says. "I began working on social media, then created content for our new website, and have helped design videos, sales collateral and presentations for potential customers. Every day I see new things being fabricated in the shop, or visit job sites and meet with different craftspeople.
"Enerfab's work may seem 'old school' to some," Sarah says with a nod to the tough projects executed on the shop floor and out in the field. "But once you begin to learn more about it, you understand its importance in keeping everyday life moving, and our company culture reflects that."
Providing life-changing opportunities to people like Sarah is Scott Anderson's favorite part of his job. Well, that and nurturing the culture she references—which is all endlessly intertwined anyway.
"As an employee, that's really all you can ask for—'just give me a shot,'" Scott says. "When people are given opportunities and embrace them, it just fuels the momentum. And Enerfab has a lot of momentum. We're a team, and I'm just one of the employees. We all come in, we do our jobs with safety and quality uppermost in our minds, we learn a lot, and we celebrate together. That's what makes it work, and it's been that way since I came here for my first co-op job."
Alumnus Myron "Mike" Ullman named Starbucks chairman
This past June 2018, alumnus, Myron "Mike" Ullman, BS '69, took over as chairman of Starbucks after the coffee chain's former leader Howard Schultz announced his resignation as executive chairman and member of the Board of Directors.
Ullman has served twice as the CEO of JC Penney, where he was credited for turning the company around, according to news sources. He has also led top global companies such as Liz Claiborne, Louis Vuitton, Macy's and Ralph Lauren.
Ullman's ties to UC go beyond graduating in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in industrial management. From 1976 to 1981, he served as UC's vice president for business affairs and then joined the UC Foundation Board of Trustees. In 2007, Ullman and his wife Cathy made a $10 million donation to the College of Design, which was renamed the Myron E. Ullman, Jr. School of Design in honor of his father.
Young alumna combines world travel and volunteerism
Through her non-profit organization Peace Stamps, alumna Katelyn Jarvis, BBA '15 hopes to do her part to nudge humanity a bit closer to global harmony. She is currently in the midst of visiting all 193 United Nations-recognized countries plus three sovereign nations, doing volunteer work in each. To call attention to her mission, she is attempting to capture a pair of Guinness World Records—to be both the fastest and youngest female to visit those 196 countries. She is on pace to finish her tour in about 16 months at age 26; that schedule equates to an average of about two and a half days per country and would put her in the record books.
"I'm always so inspired by the people I meet, and any lingering second thoughts about my decision to do all of this are immediately put to rest whenever I enter the next country...I can't stop smiling when I visit a new place! It's one of the ways I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."