A strong competitive drive is what keeps Andre Gist thinking about how to parlay his success with Manufacturers Industrial Group (MIG), LLC into new ventures. Gist has the largest minority-owned business in the state of Tennessee. Today, he is considering how to diversify his $300 million business while branching out into foreign markets.
His daily routine includes monitoring opportunities emailed through MBDA’s Phoenix Opportunity System. “I signed up a few years ago, and I have gotten involved again. Since then, I go through the opportunities on a regular basis,” Gist said.
With MBDA’s help, he is also hoping to participate in one of the upcoming U.S. Department of Commerce trade missions. While he has 1,400 employees and six locations in Tennessee – three in Lexington, two in Athens, and one in Chattanooga – he is exploring the possibility of opening a facility in Mexico.
MIG is a contract manufacturer of welded assemblies and fabricated metals for the automotive and construction industry. The company specializes in automated welding processes, assembly and fabrication.
A key Tier 2 supplier to the automotive industry as well as a major metal fabricator for the commercial and industrial industries, MIG has been in operation since 1998.
The company’s customer base includes Johnson Controls ASG, Lear Corporation, Intier Automotive, Fisher Dynamics, ARJ Manufacturing and Nissan North America.
MIG is a full-service metal fabricator for the construction, medical, industrial, military and commercial industries. Gist has also diversified the business, establishing MIG Construction Services, which expects nearly $20 million in sales.
However, the success of the company has been based on his personal drive to “be the best” and “deliver the best.” Much of his competitive spirit comes from his successes as a track star in high school and at Bowling Green State University, where he earned a B.S. in manufacturing engineering technology.
After a three-year internship with Westinghouse Electrical Systems, which was a part of his degree program, he launched a career that included experience at General Motors, Ford and Johnson Controls in various engineering and quality engineering roles.
“I’ve always been competitive. I like to win. There is a lot of opportunity out there. I feel like I’m pretty good at putting teams together to go after opportunities.”
His leap into entrepreneurship came when a unique opportunity was presented to him to buy into a metal stamping and seat structure company with the understanding that he would buy the owner out and become the majority owner in three years. Gist had done similar work for Johnson Controls, and jumped at the opportunity. Initially, there were four partners – but there are two remaining.
Most of MIG customers are Tier 1 suppliers to auto makers, Johnson Controls, Lear Corporation and Magna International.
He credits his mentor, Oliver Isaacs the founder of MIG, president and CEO of O&I Transportation and a part of a joint venture with Johnson Controls, as being one of his greatest inspirations. Isaacs provided Gist with the initial business opportunity.
“A lot of people don’t know who he is. He’s one of the first guys that got into the auto industry in the 1970s on the steel side. He’s done really well. I’ve learned a lot from him about the business,” Gist said. “I have a passion for the auto industry, but I’m realistic. Things are picking up now, but the auto industry is up and down. It’s not a high margin type of business as opposed to software, but I’ve always enjoyed it.”