This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Nathan’s Video
‘My fascination with building things on the farm started merging with science experiments.’
Nathan Wilmoth was born in Atlanta, but prior to beginning elementary school, moved to a farm in Brooks, Georgia, a town 35 miles south of the city with a population of 500. His father, an airline captain, and his mother, a biology teacher, always had an interest in science and farm life.
As a child, this suited Wilmoth and his siblings’ adventurous sides. He and his brother spent their summers exploring nature on the farm and using materials they found on the property to build what he describes as “experiments.” These experiments included, constructing their own athletic equipment, modifying motorcycles and cars so they would run faster, and even once attempting flight by building a parasail and trying to get it airborne with the assistance of a tractor.
As Wilmoth got older, his family made a trip to San Francisco’s Exploratorium, where he discovered an interest in mechanics. From there, his experiments became more sophisticated and he began incorporating the laws of motion and force.
‘At an early age, I learned how to create teamwork.’
At 13, Wilmoth got a job at a local vineyard. By the third summer, he was promoted to a lead position. The work was hard, but he found that if his team members were excited about what they were doing, they’d put in the effort. He began to form friendly competitions within the rows of grapes for motivation. It was through these competitions that he watched his teams rally around each other to get everyone involved and working together to accomplish a goal.
Wilmoth quickly rose to be a leader among his friends. By high school, he became focused on athletics. As a talented pole vaulter, he spent his time training, competing, and hanging out with his teammates. His studies, however, became less of a priority.
A few years later, he took his pole vaulting skills to college, where he competed for the Troy State University track team in Alabama. During his time at Troy State, the airline his father worked for went out of business and his father lost his job. With this, Wilmoth was no longer able to pay for college and came back to Georgia to start working.
‘I wanted things to run faster and be more productive.‘
He got a job working at a print shop, where he operated several printing presses. Although this kept him busy, he wasn’t engaged. Wilmoth was more interested in tinkering with the machines to get them to run faster than he was in actually running the press. He was told, “If the machine wasn’t broken, he shouldn’t be fixing it.” For Wilmoth, this didn’t relate to his childhood fascination with mechanics and experimentation. However, it did give him his first working glimpse into a career in manufacturing and engineering.
To feed this interest he enrolled in the drafting program at Griffin Technical College, now Southern Crescent Technical College. He also left his position at the print shop and was hired by M.A. Industries of Peachtree City, Georgia., a leading manufacturer of plastic products for the precast concrete industry, paper strapping for paper and pulp industry, and porous plastics for the automotive and medical markets.
‘My calculus book kept disappearing.’
At M.A. Industries his supervisors discovered his interest in engineering and he began receiving requests for design work, which led to a junior design position. He began working under the guidance of several engineers who often requested his assistance on mathematical issues. “My calculus book kept disappearing from my desk and the engineers who borrowed the books would often come back with questions for me,” he said. It was at this point that Wilmoth says he realized he was very capable of becoming an engineer and made a decision to return to college.
“I knew if I was going back to school, that I wanted to go to the best school in the South for engineering, so I decided to apply to Georgia Tech,” Wilmoth said. “Based on my previous academic history, I didn’t think I would get in. I was denied admittance, but decided I wasn’t giving up my dream.”
Wilmoth starting putting together a portfolio of design work and other projects he had worked on at M.A. Industries, including a patent on a new machine that he had designed. He paired those with a series of recommendation letters from both his employer and previous instructors, and reapplied to Georgia Tech. This time he was accepted into what U.S. News and World Report ranks as the nation’s fifth-best engineering school.
‘I tried to resign from M.A. Industries to go to school full-time.’
For Wilmoth, the acceptance into Tech, with its rigorous academic demands, came with a dilemma. He knew he wanted to focus on school full-time, but by doing so he was unsure how he’d pay his bills and support his family. With trepidation about leaving a company he had grown so fond of, he wrote his letter of resignation. He scheduled a meeting with his boss and had every intention of giving his two weeks’ notice.
More than 15 years later, what came next still stuns Wilmoth and even renders him speechless. “My boss refused to take the letter from me,” Wilmoth said. “He looked at me and said ‘Get your degree, but you still work here. You just work when you can.’ ”
Wilmoth didn’t let his boss or his company down. He went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with a 4.0 grade point average and a degree in mechanical engineering. He was also able to immediately take what he learned in the classroom and incorporate it into his job at M.A. Industries.
‘Manufacturing is part science, part art.’
It’s been 19 years since Wilmoth began working at M.A. Industries. He is grateful for a tight-knit company that continues to invest in him and other employees.
He is now the vice president of operations, where he gets to apply skills he learned in the vineyard, such as getting his team excited to design new equipment, increasing productivity, and making the operations more efficient. Wilmoth has also authored or co-authored six patents, including one machine that has 65 units currently in production around the world.
“One of the great things about engineering is that I get the opportunity to try to solve real-world problems,” Wilmoth said, adding “the science I learned in the classroom had an exact answer. Those tools gave me a great foundation, but what I get to do in application is apply creative solutions within a framework, allowing me to be successful in a manufacturing environment”.
‘Every day I get to bring my childhood interests of building and experimentation to my job.’
Today, Wilmoth is continuing his education and pursuing an MBA. At the same time, he still gets to tap into his childhood every day. He gets to be inventive, explore possibilities, and build. “It’s a little different now. I leverage science and mathematics and do a lot of work up front to prepare for the design,” he said. “The satisfaction I got when I made my motorcycle run faster as a teenager is now the same as when I manage the development of a new piece of equipment or manage the modification of existing equipment to make it run more efficiently.”
Wilmoth said manufacturing has not only given him a breadth of opportunities for a challenging career, but it also helped him grow personally, “Manufacturing has provided me with a sense of purpose, strengthened my character, enhanced my integrity, and gave me a strong sense of community,” he said. “I owe a lot to manufacturing and manufacturing does a lot for people.”
About M.A. Industries
Founded in 1969, M.A. Industries is a multifaceted company with three distinct divisions that provide quality products to the precast concrete, porous plastic, and the pulp and paper marketplaces. As the second-oldest company in Peachtree City, Georgia, M.A. Industries is ISO 9001:2008 certified, maintains a network of satellite warehouses located in every region of the 48 contiguous states, and serves customers in 35 countries around the world.
Led by president and CEO, Tom Windham, M.A. Industries prides itself on employee retention and promoting from within, as has been the case with Wilmoth. More than 50 percent of its full time team has been employed by the company for five years or more.