Culture - Feb 27, 2023
Promoting from within – a weapon for successHeather Graves | The Business News
A Waupaca Foundry employee monitors a 120-ton holding furnace, which maintains the temperature of molten iron to prevent cooling.
NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Looking back over the last 30 years, Todd Pagel, vice president of operations at Waupaca Foundry, said he expected his life to take a much different path than it did.
“I grew up in a small town, and I worked on a farm in our community,” he said. “When I graduated high school, I went to college for a year and a half, and with my background in 4H and working on a big beef cattle operation, I was going to school to be a veterinarian.”
Pagel said after realizing college wasn’t for him, he returned home and went back to work on the community farm.
“After about eight months of being back, I felt guilty about not finishing school,” he said. “I thought, ‘well, if I'm going to go back to school, I need to be able to support myself.’”
Pagel said a friend of his worked at Waupaca Foundry, and before he knew it, one thing led to another, and he started working at the foundry.
“He showed me his paycheck and I said, ‘Holy cow, that's a big difference than working at a farm,’” he said. “So, I put an application in with Waupaca Foundry and got hired.”
Pagel said his intention was to work at the foundry for a year to a year and a half, save some money and then return to school.
“Well, in that year and a half, life happened – I met my wife, we got engaged and then bought a house,” he said. “A year later, our daughter was born and the next thing you know, you're saying, ‘hey, there's lots of opportunity at Waupaca Foundry – there's no reason why I can't make a career here.”
Pagel said that was 30 years ago.
Over the last three decades, Pagel has worked his way up the ladder thanks in part to the opportunities he said the foundry has provided him.
“I started as a general laborer in what we call our molding department,” he said. “I was in the molding department as an operator for a couple of years. I then took a quality role. Then I was asked to come back to the molding department as a team leader. Then from team leader I became a foreman, then an assistant production manager, production manager, then assistant plant manager, plant manager, director of operations and now vice president of operations.”
Pagel said it’s been 30 years of one opportunity leading into the next.
However, he said his story is not unique.
“We could line up 100 people or more who could tell a similar story to mine,” he said. “The foundry is like a family.”
In hindsight, Pagel said he has no regrets about where life led him.
“Waupaca Foundry has been an amazing opportunity for me and my family,” he said. “Everything Waupaca Foundry has given me, I feel like I'm responsible for giving back. We have a lot of our employees who feel that same way, and that goes back to that family atmosphere and culture of promoting from within.”
Committed to its employees
Rob Johnson, executive vice president of administration and CFO of Waupaca Foundry, said though his tenure with the company doesn’t extend as long as Pagel’s, his experience with the foundry’s family-like atmosphere runs deep.
“My father worked for the company for 35 years, so I've been around Waupaca Foundry for my whole life,” he said. “I did work in the mill room for summer college help. I also worked in accounts receivable for a summer.”