AUTOTOOL finds local auto, manufacturing presence good for business

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Though it might sound counterintuitive, AUTOTOOL started its business and gained momentum because it was not on the radar.

The company, based in Plain City, began in 1994 with the idea of being the single source for all tooling and automation needs for automotive manufacturers and their suppliers. At that time, it was pretty much open territory for that business, says Bassam Homsi, the president and CEO.

"Starting out in a niche area gave us the luxury of a short-lived monopoly. We didn't have true competitors," Homsi says. "By starting under the radar, we had to learn from our mistakes and quickly adjust to meet customers' expectations."

Homsi started the company and along the way learned valuable lessons. From its modest start, it grew, moving into its 40,000-square-foot building in 2000, now employing 50 people. The expansion allows AUTOTOOL to design, develop and test several large production systems simultaneously.

Prior experience helped the company attract its first customers.

"It gave us the knowledge and credibility to earn the attention of customers and suppliers," Homsi says. "Also key was the ability to identify unattended segments in the market and understand the landscape of potential customers and future competitors."

The tooling and automation industry is typically located in southern Michigan or Ontario, but the Columbus Region has been a real boon for AUTOTOOL. It didn't hurt that Honda established a manufacturing presence here, Homsi says.

"Ohio continues to be a state tied closely to manufacturing and automotive," he says. "As Honda established its manufacturing presence in central Ohio . . . and gained a considerable amount of the automotive business, the result was turning Columbus into a strategic location for us to be successful."

The quality of life, diversity of education and businesses and the amount of available professional talent all contribute to foster an "environment that encourages and fosters entrepreneurship," he says.

"The number of businesses headquartered in the Columbus area speaks volumes," Homsi says.

For any new business looking to establish here, its leaders need to huddle with local officials in the business development area and connect with schools to learn about their training programs, Homsi says.

"Often businesses expect the entry-level quality of the workforce to be the exclusive responsibility of the educational system. It's not," he says. "Get involved and you'll find eager partners in the central Ohio schools and governments."

AUTOTOOL has followed this advice, promoting and contributing money to the Computer-Integrated Mobile Lab Program, designed to help promote schools' manufacturing programs.

Today, manufacturing is clean, computer-controlled and automated, Homsi says.

"Potential students, parents and grandparents for the most part do not know what manufacturing is, and this is a way to expose them to reality at various venues like state and county fairs, schools, car shows and festivals of all kinds," he says.

Looking to the future, Homsi invests in his own people with apprentice programs, and he hires summer interns and part-timers who often come back for full employment with AUTOTOOL.

"We also stay focused on our customers' trends and feedback and then adjust our processes and products accordingly," he says.

TC Brown is a freelance writer.


7875 Corporate Blvd.

Plain City 43064