To the Marchant family. the 50-year anniversary of Gloucester Engineering is not just something to celebrate as a leading local industrial pioneer.
It's a very big part of their family history, too.
Gloucester Engineering has given back to Gloucester native and employee Jim Marchant, he says; among other things, it has helped give his children — Alicia Marchant and Jimmy Marchant Jr. — careers with the company as well.
"I've been very lucky," says Jim Marchant Sr., who has worked at the company for 34 of its 50 years. "This has been my whole living. This is how I raise my family. I've had four kids and everything I have is all from what I've done here."
Marchant started in a cooperative program as a machinist, and once he graduated from high school he saw a posting in the shop for a machine maintenance helper with Gloucester Engineering, He landed the job and has held several positions with the company over the years.
"I keep the machine shop and the building running — I even empty the trash," Marchant jokes as he describes his responsibilities as a machine maintenance and repair technician at Gloucester Engineering.
But the Marchant family members' diverse roles at Gloucester Engineering and their paths to jobs at the company, in some ways, show the changes in Gloucester Engineering and in the industry itself. The company uses software to make the capital machines that generate food wrapping and plastics for agricultural products and shrink wrapping to precise specifications.
Alicia Marchant has been with the company since 2007 as a CNC programmer, and her path to the company was much different than her father's. It included machine shop in vocational school, going to North Shore Tech to become a hairdresser, a few years working for the Disney Corporation in Florida, and time studying at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.
"My father's boss at the time kept saying, 'Bring her in, bring her in. When are you going to get your daughter in here?' she recounts now. "As a kid, every time we needed something we had it, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to start a career and do the same."
She remains one of the few women in a primarily male-dominated industry.
"I'm the only programmer I've met that's female, and I've met very few female machinists," she says laughing, "In all my training and my programming seminars, I'm always the only female.
"I like the challenge," she says. "You always have to prove yourself, but I don't mind it. We have an eye for some things that men don't."
Alicia also serves as part of the advisory committee for the Gloucester High School machine shop, and talks to the kids about her experiences in the industry,
"I've noticed that there are a lot more female students that are interested in getting into machine shop," she says.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Marchant Jr. holds a bachelor's degree in business with an accounting concentration and serves as a staff accountant for the company, helping out in all facets of Gloucester Engineering's Finance Department.
"We have a wide range of customers, from small one-shop customers in the middle of nowhere to multi-national companies — huge companies," he says. "The whole spectrum of our customers is pretty large.
"Most of our bigger customers have been with us the whole time, which helped through the hard times," he says.
Those hard times began to ease, however, when Blue Wolf Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, came to the rescue and put in more than $26 million to get the company out of bankruptcy in December 2010. Now, the company — hailed as industry's "comeback kid" by state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante during a ceremony marking the company's 50 years two weeks ago — has been granted access to a $1 million line of credit from the quasi-public Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp. to help to meet the demands of new orders and other issues.
Jim Marchant Sr. can recall much of the history from his own recollections on the shop floor.
"When I first started, the whole machine shop was at Sargent Street," he explains. "There was a couple hundred people working there and most machines were manual machines that you would crank by hand. Slowly, they started to replace them with new machines that are now automatic which cut the number of workers in half because of the new technology."
The company that regularly employed some 400 workers from the 1970s through the early part of this century is now back to employing more than 100 — including a number of longtime workers like Marchant.
"The machinery has changed a lot in the 34 years I've been here<" he says. "We've been keeping up with the high tech. It has gotten faster and more efficient.
"When I first started," he says, "it took weeks to make some parts. Now, it takes just days because we went from a lot of manual work to a lot of automation."
Alicia remembers her childhood watching her dad go to work every day. She touched upon how that influenced her to join the company,
"I always did 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day,'" she recalls excitedly, "I've known all these workers in the company since I was a baby. We always had the company cookout every year and the Christmas party every year. I was around here all the time. Even now there are six to eight people who live in our neighborhood that work here,"
Jimmy Jr. remembers what influenced him to consider joining the Gloucester Engineering team as well.
"First of all, with my dad knowing the whole background of the company and knowing how they have been doing, it helped the process of making my choice to start a career here," he says. "It definitely influenced me. It's exciting to know that they've lasted 50 years. Joining their team and seeing where they are headed is very exciting."
One perk to working with his dad, he says, is that he gets to see him more often.
"Before I came to Gloucester Engineering, with school and work, I got to see my dad every now and then, but now I see him a couple times a day — every time I walk through the shop floor," he says.
Alicia jokes that her most cherished benefit is "my four-minute commute."
But, she also notes the benefits of working for a local company,
"Everything I do here is helping the city (economy)," she says. "The benefit is you're working with your neighbors, your friends, your family."
Jim Marchant Sr. says he's confident in the company's future — and what it means for his children.
""I've gotten many opportunities here and there have been a lot of people who believed in me," he says. "I've made a decent living here, so there's no reason why the two of them shouldn't.
"This place has been good to me," he says proudly. "I'm sure it will be good to them, too."