FORT COLLINS — Steven G. Anderson represents the third generation of leadership at Fort Collins-based Forney Industries, an 86-year-old manufacturer and distributor of metalworking and welding products. But while honoring the past, he actively works to build the future.
As a member of the Front Range Community College board of directors, Anderson dedicates his time and company resources to help train welding professionals.
“I really am very passionate about this,” Anderson said. “Blue-collar workers don’t have the same financial ability to go to a four-year college, and we need those skills in the workforce.”
FRCC offers a two-year associate’s degree in welding technology, and when that program started growing, it reached out to Anderson, who was eager to help by offering scholarships.
In 1932, taking a risk during the Great Depression, James Donovan Forney, Anderson’s grandfather, went into business for himself by selling “The Forney Instant Heat Soldering Iron” door to door. He later invented and produced a line of welders as well as auto generators, battery chargers, vacuum cleaners and even a two-seater airplane.
When Forney died in 1986, his son Jack took over as chief executive and board chairman, and his daughter Donna’s husband, Ted Anderson, was named president. Ted and Donna’s son Steven soon was added to the business.
“I started mowing lawns when I was about 12,” Steve Anderson said. “Then they gave me a raise and I started cleaning bathrooms, then filling pop machines. I was finally able to work in manufacturing, where I was winding transformers and manufacturing welders. I also made helmets and assembled other products. I finally moved into sales coordination, pricing out invoices, taking customer-service phone calls and orders.”
Anderson grew restless in the family business, however, “I lost my mind and moved to San Diego for about 14 years,” he said, “but I came back and have been here ever since.
“In 1990, my dad wanted me to be products manager, then vice president for sales and marketing.” When Ted Anderson passed away in 2002, Steve and his sister ran the company, but “it was a pretty rocky road with family issues,” he said. Finally in 2007, Steve Anderson was named president and CEO. Jack Forney died in 2014, leaving the board chairman position to Steve Anderson as well.
That hiatus in Southern California taught him a lesson he uses today to help Forney Industries remain a leader in its field.
“When I moved to San Diego, I was in architecture and wanted to continue with it,” he said. “When I finished school at San Diego State, I started designing and building homes. But I was doing it on the cheap; I would go out and hire the most inexperienced people I could find, and the cheapest subcontractors, because I thought I could try to make money that way.
“But that didn’t work,” he said. “What I found out was that to get quality work, you have to hire the best possible people, even if you have to pay them more money. You get a better job.
“So that’s what I’ve tried to do at Forney,” Anderson said. “I hire the best possible person I can find for the money. That’s actually worked pretty well for me. My staff is extremely intelligent, aggressive and much smarter than me — and that helps me look good.”