Kevin Corpe and Jim Fritz grew up knowing each other, but only met shortly before they started working together at Timron Precision Gear, the company their fathers founded in 1989 and eventually took over. 2001.
Jim was a wrestler for Chaska High School who aspired to be a doctor. Kevin was a hockey player at Elk River High School who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in mechanical drafting and machining. They were separated by the age of one month.
It was during their senior years in high school, however, that Ron and Bonnie Fritz and Tim and Marilyn Corpe pledged their homes as collateral for the Timron Precision Gear startup. They started out on 4,000 square feet of space leased from Osseo.
Ron Fritz was in charge of sales and production. Tim Corpe was in charge of engineering and quality control. The women took care of the office and the books.
“I remember my parents saying, ‘Things are going to be very tight,'” Kevin said. “But they were confident they would be a hit. They had budgeted for all of this.
“Our family was very excited about this opportunity. We helped wherever we could to set up the shop, from cleaning, painting to managing the air lines. »
Kevin’s younger brother, Jeff, even designed the micrometer for their father’s CAD software logo.
By the time Jim was a freshman in college, he was beginning to question his desire to become a doctor. The thought of another four years of school wasn’t too appealing. After graduating from college in 1993, he started selling medical supplies.
Kevin had worked in lawn care, landscaping and sprinkler systems in the summers to help pay for half of his education. While in college, he started working at machine shops like Pomeroy Tool and J & J Machine in Elk River. Kevin would probably have worked at Timron, but the original business plan was to wait for family members to work in the shop. In June 1995, however, Kevin was approached by his father to work at Timron.
Jim said that after a few years of selling hearing aids, getting married and buying a house, Timron was starting to expand his staff, and that’s when Ron came to him asking for a job. for Timron.
“Kevin and Jon (my brother-in-law) were already working there, he recalls. “Dad asked me if I was interested. I wasn’t all in to begin with, but thought I should at least give it a try.
“I enjoyed doing things, seeing a difference from start to finish,” he said. “Selling hearing aids was a push and didn’t really do anything, so manufacturing appealed to me.”
When Kevin and Jim finally met, it was interesting for the Timron team. “Everyone assumed we knew each other,” both said in separate interviews.
Jim said he went around the shop learning first how to grind threads, then grind outside diameters, and then started running a department.
“I gradually took on more office work and hired salespeople,” he recalls. “As Dad approached retirement, I gradually started working with clients. I really enjoyed my job and medical school faded away from my thoughts.
Likewise, Kevin walked around the shop and learned the craft and the business. Slowly but surely, the couple filled their fathers’ shoes, so much so that they were able to take over the business in 2001.
Kevin and Jim have shared the same office for 21 years. That’s how Ron and Tim set it up, and the pair had no reason to change it, Kevin said.
“They felt it was beneficial to keep a pulse on day-to-day business events,” Kevin said. “Back then, everything was done over the phone, so they could hear half of what was going on. Now we have emails and everyone is CC’d, but there are also Zoom calls and team calls that we can hear and sometimes jump in to if our name is referenced. It also works for us.
Both knew very well, looking at their fathers, that running the show would take hard work, dedication and commitment as well as a great deal of humility to make it a success.
Timron has played a significant role in manufacturing parts for the aerospace industry for customers like Boeing early on and others like Collins Aerospace, Moog and Eaton in recent years.
Kevin and Jim’s first challenge would be dealing with the fallout from the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. As Timron supplied many parts for the aerospace industry, they were among the manufacturers immediately affected by the shock waves that crossed the country.
“We had just taken over the property and 9/11 happened,” Kevin said. “It shut down the airlines and changed the way the world would use air travel. Timron being heavy in commercial aerospace, put a stop to shipping.
Timron also lost a key account that he won’t recover for two years.
“Our cash did not match our projections,” Kevin said. “We had to cut costs. We did not lay off any staff, but we reduced working hours from 46 to 32 hours per week. It really taught us a lesson. You never know what will happen.
“Since then, we’ve become great friends over the years,” Kevin said. “Like our fathers, we also travel together on business, attend Viking games, other sporting events and dine with our wives. Our families have planned family dinners and winter vacations together over the Christmas holidays. .
As new owners, a salesman took them on a tour of Germany and followed that up with a trip to Italy a few years later.
“Both were with our wives and were unforgettable,” Jim said. “So much fun. Kevin and I also took a five day trip to the Philippines for work. It was about 24 hours of travel each way. If you can get along on a trip like this, you can always hear you.
The couple also traveled to Chicago every two years for IMTS (International Machine Tool Show), another trip they usually take their wives to.
Their families are also close.
Kevin and his wife Shannon are godparents to Jim and Angie’s firstborn, Zach.
“We have been included in every event of Zach’s life, from baptisms, confirmation of his high school baseball and football games, to his graduation from UW Madison this spring,” Kevin said.
The store staff is also a close-knit bunch. Many employees have worked at Timron since the early days. Many have been there for more than 20 years and some have even passed the 30-year mark. That includes Brad Lorge, a 1989 ERHS graduate who turns 32 with Timron on November 1.
Other longtime employees include Eric Wolf, Scott Rea, Paul Dilley, Jeremy Dahlheimer and Jessica (Storkamp) Larson.
Kevin and Jim are grateful to their fathers for establishing such a solid foundation. They had worked together for another gear manufacturer when it was sold and they decided to go into business.
“It was a niche business started by two guys who knew what they were doing,” Jim said. “Tim and Ron treated their employees well. Half day Fridays, good benefits and they did the little things to make the employees feel appreciated. Dinners, Christmas parties, delivery of a turkey to each employee for Thanksgiving.
“Kevin and I tried to emulate that, and I think we did a good job. We always give that turkey.
They employ over 30 full-time and part-time employees. They had about 40 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first years were the hardest.
“When we started at Timron, we were here all the time,” Jim said. “6:00 a.m. or earlier, 6:00 p.m. or later. Fortunately, we now have very knowledgeable, experienced and talented employees who can handle things while we are away. Plus, our dads knew that employees really are the key. You have to provide them with the tools and the equipment, but they have to make it work.
Over the years, Timron has worked with Elk River High School and the Elk River Area School District to provide apprenticeships. At the time, they were working with teachers like Joe Angelo, Tim Wick and Paul Nelson. Now they are working with Amy Lord, CTE Coordinator for District 728 Schools. Their efforts with Lord were cut short when the pandemic hit and they had to back off. They start rolling again. A student from Rogers High School is currently working there as an apprentice and plans to participate in the Oct. 27 Cool Jobs Tour sponsored by the school district, local businesses and the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Finding people with equipment experience is nearly impossible, so we look for people with a good work ethic and common sense,” Jim said. “The military and farmers make excellent candidates. But young people too. »
He said they can help children who want to work, especially if they want to work in a field where they will have the opportunity to grow and learn a trade.
“We have really good processes, an absolute necessity in a quality-driven business, and we can make a great employee out of them,” Jim said. “We are always on the lookout for talent.”
Building expansions were considered, but economic downturns later crushed those talks. They remain focused on delivering great products, on time and at reasonable prices.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Jim Fritz said of taking over the business. “I can’t imagine what I would do without this opportunity. I am eternally grateful to him. I guess I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve changed over time to keep up with the world, but still maintained the core values and relationships that made us successful.
He attributes Timron’s success to its great team of employees.
“I’m very proud to have carried on the legacy of Ron and Bonnie and Tim and Marilyn who risked everything from the start,” Kevin said. “I want to make them proud for giving me this opportunity.”