This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Ashley’s Video
‘I had no interest in working in the family business.’
As a shy, young girl, Ashley Jordan enjoyed playing school, dress up, and cheerleading. She left climbing trees, participating in sports, and especially getting dirty to other kids. She has many memories of spending her summers at Meadowbrook Machine & Tool (MMT), the manufacturing company her father owns, in Toccoa, Georgia. Her recollections, however, consist of playing make-believe with her sister in the front office and not of the products that were actually being manufactured at the plant.
Jordan watched her dad build the company from the ground up and remembers a time when she was in high school where he spent six months fabricating his own machine to help the business run more efficiently and keep costs down. She and her sister affectionately nicknamed the machine DG6.0, which stood for “Daddy’s Gone for Six Months.”
Despite spending a lot of time at her dad’s company, being part of the business was never a consideration for her. “I never had an interest in the family business,” Jordan said. “Growing up, my dad never put pressure on me to join the company. He just wanted me to be happy.”
‘I didn’t show up for work one day and my dad fired me.’
Part of that changed at the age of 13, when Jordan spotted a silver Toyota 4-Runner on the road. Jordan realized she’d have to start saving money to get that vehicle when she turned 16. Her dad appreciated her initiative and told her that he would match whatever she earned. During her holiday break from school that year, Jordan went to work for the first time at the family business.
Her first tasks included helping out in the office, but Jordan’s first job didn’t last long. “One of the rules was to call in if you were going to be late or absent,” she said. “One day, I just decided I didn’t feel like coming to work and didn’t let anyone know. My dad came home and fired me.”
It was a tough lesson for Jordan to learn, but the experience helped her realize that even though she worked at the family business, she would be treated like everyone else. A couple of years later, the plant manager at MMT hired her back to clean the plant floor and the bathrooms. This time she held the job for seven years, helping her finally earn that car, as well as, pay for incidentals throughout high school and college.
‘I always wanted to be a teacher.‘
As a child, Jordan would make her sister dress up and play school. She dreamed of becoming a teacher from a young age. After graduating high school, she attended Piedmont College, where she earned her degree in early childhood education. She graduated a semester early though which would change the course of her career in a way that she never expected. “I graduated in December, which is mid-year in the primary schools and there were no teaching jobs available at the time, so I decided to apply for my master’s degree,” Jordan recounted.
During the next 10 months, as Jordan worked on her master’s degree, she also took on more assignments at the company. She began to grasp the scheduling component of manufacturing and started to really enjoy her everyday responsibilities. In 2012, she turned her part-time job into a full-time position and postponed graduate school to focus on her work. Although she was more committed to MMT than ever before, as she sat in meetings, she didn’t understand the technical terminology being discussed. She also realized that although she had spent time working at the plant over the years, she hadn’t cared to learn much about manufacturing. Wanting to start building a career there, she knew she had to earn the respect of her peers and the first step was learning more about industry, the company, and what they produced.
‘I waited until the absolute last day to apply.’
Eventually, her dad suggested she attend the local trade school and take machining classes. Jordan’s initial reaction was ‘I’m not doing that.’ She recounted her dad’s response: “I respect your decision, but how are you going to learn the business if you don’t know the difference between a mill and a lathe?” Thinking about it some more, Jordan decided to apply to North Georgia Technical College, but even the decision to apply came with a bit of hesitation. Applications were due the last day of November and Jordan waited until that day to apply.
“I was really nervous on the first day of trade school,” she said. “I was used to going to school with all girls and this was going to be all guys.” Jordan scouted out the building the day before in order to prepare. She woke up that morning dressed in one of her favorite outfits – jeans, boots, and a frilly blouse. She recalls walking into the classroom and everyone just staring at her like she was completely out of place. “The only other girl in class had an empty seat next to her. I quickly grabbed it,” Jordan said.
Later that day, when she arrived at the office, she passed her dad in the hall. He took one look at her, and with a half smirk, half smile, asked, “Did you really wear that outfit to class?”
It didn’t take Jordan long to fit in and get the hang of it. She started putting her girly ways behind her while in school and just accepted that she was going to get dirty. She made friends with her seatmate, as well as with other students. She learned how to make a t-slot cleaner, read blueprints, and make parts on the different machines. Jordan became very proud of her accomplishments. She would take pictures of parts that she made in class and send them to her dad to show off her latest projects.
I won 2nd place in the state.’
Recognizing that she had a talent for machining, one of her teachers nominated her to participate in a CNC Turning competition for SkillsUSA, a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. She drove the 100 miles to Atlanta for the competition, was the only female to compete in the group of 15 for CNC Turning, and won second place in the state.
It was during that same time that she also participated in the Georgia Occupational Award for Leadership, a competition for academic achievement and personal leadership presented by the Technical College System of Georgia. Students at each technical college are nominated and one winner is selected from each school. Jordan was honored to receive the award at North Georgia Tech.
‘Manufacturing is not just a man’s world and I am working to change that perception.’
As a member of a family-owned manufacturing company in a small, Northeast Georgia town, Jordan is continuously using her new role to influence others. She has been a guest speaker at the North Georgia Manufacturing Summit for the past two years, has been featured in videos about young women in manufacturing, and regularly attends local area economic development meetings.
“When I was younger, I thought manufacturing was for men. In reality there are thousands of women in manufacturing, who work in all types of jobs, both on the plant floor and in office settings,” Jordan says. She adds, “It’s important to get kids in middle and high school interested in manufacturing and looks forward to being a guest speaker in the school system to promote the industry and influence changes to close the gap between available jobs and the skilled workforce.”
“My friends think it’s cool that I work in manufacturing and also get to work with my family every day,” she said.
‘I couldn’t have imagined working in manufacturing. Now I can’t imagine working anywhere else.’
Jordan’s main job may be the office manager, but she continues to wear many hats at MMT. Some days she packs up and ships out products and other days she is filling in on the same type of machines that she went to trade school to learn how to use. She is also in the process of learning ISO 9001 so that she can help the company keeps its certification. . “I love being around everyone in the plant,” she said. “I grew up with them. They’ve seen me scrub the bathroom floors and know there’s no job I wouldn’t do here.”
Looking ahead, Jordan plans to use her teaching degree within the company. She is determined to ensure there is not a skills gap at MMT. She plans to start an internal training program for current and future employees, educating them on specific machines and processes within the plant. Additionally, she and her younger sister, Allison, who now also works at MMT are talking about long-term expansions. They dream of growing the business and possibly opening a second or third plant one day.
For a company Jordan said she never had an interest in joining, MMT is her present and now her future and she can’t think of any place she’d rather be.
About Meadowbrook Machine & Tool
In 1985 Harold Jordan opened Meadowbrook Machine & Tool (MMT), a small machine shop in North Georgia. At just 23 years old, he had already been exposed to working in manufacturing, had a degree in machining, and wanted to own his own business. In 1987, he relocated operations to a 4800-square-foot facility in Toccoa, Georgia. Since then, MMT has grown to an 18,000 square foot facility with more than 25 employees. MMT partners with companies in the medical, aerospace, and motorsports industries, and was also nominated for 2014 Small Manufacturer of the Year in Georgia.