Ron and Judy Smith founded Specialty Heat Treating in 1973. The company began in a back section of the south building in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 3700 Eastern Avenue. Specialty was the first company in West Michigan to provide processing of high speed and other specialty steels. When the company first opened its doors, its equipment consisted mainly of “salt bath” furnaces. The salt baths made it necessary for employees to remove heavy, red-hot metal parts from the molten baths using metal hooks on long poles.
Although Specialty Heat Treating quickly achieved a reputation for fast, high-quality service, a major breakthrough came with the purchase of the first single-chamber vacuum furnace in 1978. This technology enabled the company to start phasing out the salt baths, replacing them with units that processed tool steel in a vacuum atmosphere. The vacuum furnace was more efficient than the salt baths and provided a bright, clean finish. Customers greeted this technology with great enthusiasm, and business quickly grew. A second vacuum furnace, a three-chamber, was added in 1979.
With the Grand Rapids, Michigan plant firmly established, Ron Smith began to seek new challenges. In 1982, he opened Specialty Heat Treating of Elkhart, Indiana, to bring customers in that area the same quality service offered in Grand Rapids.
During these years of growth, the Smiths' son, Dean, who had been active in the business since he was in high school, became Vice President of the company. He worked with his father and took on the responsibility of managing the Grand Rapids facility.
In 1989, the Smiths began to lay the groundwork for the third Specialty Heat Treating plant in Athens, Alabama. Athens area industries, particularly the blossoming aerospace industry, welcomed Specialty's quality heat-treating services.
Only a few months after planning for the Athens plant had begun company President Ron Smith died unexpectedly at the age of 53. In 1989, Dean Smith assumed the position of President & CEO and business at the plants in Grand Rapids, Elkhart, and Athens steadily grew.
In 1995, Specialty Heat Treat of Holland, Inc. was formed and a 14,400 square foot facility was constructed in Holland, Michigan. The new facility opened its doors in January of 1996 to serve the increasing demands of West Michigan customers for high quality heat-treating services.
Rapid sales growth at Holland and Elkhart, plus significant expansion opportunities in the Grand Rapids Area, led to an important strategic decision in 1997. The Athens plant was sold to a North Carolina firm that could better use the facility in its pursuit of opportunities in the southeastern part of the country. This change enabled Specialty to focus its resources and efforts by investing in solid growth opportunities in West Michigan and Northern Indiana.
Major expansions at the Michigan plants were also launched in 1997. Land was purchased adjacent to the Grand Rapids facility and construction of a 33,500 square foot plant was completed. A 12,000 square foot addition at the Holland plant was also completed. Additional state-of-the-art furnaces were added at both facilities.
In 1999, the Company achieved registration to ISO and QS-9000 quality standards.
In 2000, an expansion of the Elkhart facility was launched, including the addition of a new atmosphere processing line.
Over the years, the Company has received recognition for its success and commitment to utilizing up-to-date technology and procedures to serve customers and employees. The company was named one of “West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” in 2003 - 2008, 2010, and 2011. In 2003, TS-16949 certification was achieved and Dean was named Holland’s “Small Business Person of the Year.”
In 2004, another expansion of the Holland facility was completed and Dean was named “Michigan’s Small Business Person of the Year.”
In 2005, Specialty Heat Treating was named the Wyoming/Kentwood “Manufacturing Company of the Year.”