A changing of the guard at M&G Millwrights

With co-founder Cliff Gingrich now set to retire as the business celebrates its 50th anniversary, the operation is ready to make final transition to life under its new owner, Matt Kraemer

425

Matt Kraemer (left) will be taking over M&G Millwrights Ltd. from retiring co-founder Cliff Gingrich as the business celebrates half a century in Elmira.
Matt Kraemer (left) will be taking over M&G Millwrights Ltd. from retiring co-founder Cliff Gingrich as the business celebrates half a century in Elmira. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]
M&G Millwrights Ltd. is celebrating a passing of time in Elmira, in more ways than one.

This year, the Elmira company will be celebrating 50 years in business. Concurrently, original owner Cliff Gingrich will also be retiring and passing the business to Matt Kraemer.

Gingrich founded the custom fabrication and millwright company in 1967 with his then-partner Cyrus Martin.

The businesses partnership and conception came out of a common goal among professionals, and was built into much more than a working relationship between the two.

“I was in business in Floradale under Cliff’s Welding just doing repair work, and then along came Cyrus Martin,” he reminisced. “He was in that business and needed some help and decided that he was going to come out to my little blacksmith shop there in Floradale and see if I would come and work with him – and that’s how it started.

“It has been many ups and downs but it certainly has been quite a journey.”

Under the two’s stewardship, M&G’s quality work gained a reputation in the industry for its forward thinking.

“That is certainly one of the things that we strived for. Cyrus, who is in a different type of business now, that was one of the strong points – he was designing things ahead of the curve and understood the business better than a lot. He could make it happen, we certainly gained a reputation in the industry to be more forward thinkers,” Gingrich said of his past partner.

“We were one of the first people to start doing 3-D design on computers, where our competition wasn’t doing that,” Kraemer added.

Among being ahead of the curve, Gingrich credits their longevity to the quality employees they have been able to attract and retain over their many years in business.

“One of our successes was that we were able to keep the employees. Employees were always a very, very strong part of our business. We still have employees here that have been with us for close to 40 years, and lots of 25-year employees,” Gingrich said. “It was a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication from all of our employees and customers.”

He added that an addition success for them has been their loyal and happy customer-base, people who’ve enjoyed the work they have completed over the years.

“Floradale Feed Mill was one of our first projects we did, and we have had them as a customer ever since, as well as  Wallenstein Feed,” he said of the large agricultural hubs. “We just did the biggest project we ever did at Wallenstein Feed mill in the history of our company. That was Matt’s area of heavy involvement, so that was a good one for him to get his teeth into as a new owner.”

Over the past five years, Gingrich has been working with Kraemer to make the ownership transition as smooth as possible.

“I could not have dreamt of a better transition than we have had,” said Gingrich.

For his part, Kraemer says he is thankful for the extra time involved with the hand-off.

“It certainly helped having this transition period. Working together has been good for both of us – for me to learn from Cliff, and Cliff giving me the opportunity to run the company, make decisions and things like that. Knowing that I have had his experience to lean on, that part has been comforting for me,” he said. “I have had the good fortune of having that 45 years of experience of how they have tackled obstacles and opportunities and things like that, where they learned because they built it from the ground up. I am able to learn from his experiences.”

Hired just over 12 years ago, Kraemer began in the shop, working his way into the office and up to president before acquiring the company.

“Without a doubt, Matt was the guy who always took on any challenge that we threw at him,” Gingrich said. “Matt was always a guy that we felt, and this was not only my decision, we had a management team and they all liked Matt. He has really got the respect of the employees, which is an amazing accomplishment.”

M&G Millwrights now has more than 50 people on their payroll. Under Kraemer’s leadership, the business is hoping to continue to hold their reputation for quality work and forward thinking.

“I believe in what we have done for 50 years. It has been successful for us so it is important to not lose focus of those values – our commitment to quality, how you treat people and how you treat the customer – so that I don’t foresee changing, but times do change and we have to be willing to evolve and look at different things,” Kraemer explained.

“Whether we add new people or we look at different technology. We certainly toy with thinking about expanding and growing and we don’t want to become stagnant. We have been around for a long time and people, I think, look to us to be on the top end of people in our field – we expect to be that way, so we definitely want to maintain our focus in the industry and be a leader,” he added.

“We are definitely working here positioning ourselves for the next 50 years, I have boys that I hope I can turn the business over to.”

So what will Gingrich be doing during his retirement? Keeping very, very busy with his grandchildren and, of course, improving his game on the green.

“I am busier than I have ever been. I am golfing three days a week and I have lots of grandkids – I have 10 grandkids that need my attention. When they know I am a little more available … you run to hockey games and soccer games and baseball games. I try and make as many of those, so I don’t believe I am going to have a problem getting busy – there is no doubt about it.”

But after a 50-plus-year career, he will miss the daily hustle and bustle.

“The thrill of business has always been the successes. When you get a job, I get excited still,” he said. “That is still fun, it is just part of the business that I am going to miss more than anything and the people – you certainly have some strong relationships over the years.

“It has been quite a journey.”