Craig Kinzer retiring after over 45 years at Seaberg Industries
Craig Kinzer, Seaberg Industries president is retiring from full time involvement. He has been a part of the company for over 45 years. He assumed the presidency in 2006. Previously he was vice president and operation manager.
Craig joked throughout his career he’s working at Seaberg Industries temporarily until he finds a good carpentry job. He built a geodesic dome building addition to the company’s original location. He also built his former house.
Founder George Seaberg wrote about hiring Craig in the book Where Angels Fear to Tread: One Man’s Journey in Starting His Small Business. “I spotted a young man wearing a dirty white T-shirt and Levi’s with a scraggly beard. I told the Lord I would pick up the next hitchhiker, so without thinking, I pulled to the curb and asked him if I could give him a lift. There was something immediately charming about this polite and engaging twenty-something, so I invited him into our office and then decided to interview him for a job on the spot. This was my introduction to Craig Kinzer, eventually president of Seaberg Industries.” Craig was hired as a welder.
Craig is known for his kindness and willingness to listen. Quality Manager Dan Brasmer experienced these qualities shortly after being hired 30 or so years ago. Dan had worked for Seaberg for less than a year when his wife and new born daughter went to visit her family in Kingsport, Tennessee and got stranded there. Dan's in-laws were going to drive his wife and daughter back after a week’s visit, but her father’s car was involved in a minor accident that left their car unusable. As Dan told Craig about his family's unplanned extended stay in Tennessee, Craig told him to take the next day off, a Friday, and go get his family. Dan didn’t know what to say. Dan also had concerns that his car was acting up and wasn’t sure it would make the trip down and back. “Take the time off and take the company truck!” Craig replied. “Go get your family.” Dan was blown away by Craig’s kindness and generosity towards an employee that had work at the shop less than a year. Dan did drive his own car and it made the trip, but Craig also gave Dan the reassurance that if he had any problems just call him; he would come get them. This is just one example of Craig’s caring generosity and kindness.
“Craig has been my mentor since the day he hired me.” Ray Clark, Purchasing Manager remembers, “He set the bar high by his actions and abilities, but he always took the time to make sure I succeeded. I feel that I am a better person because of him. He can never be truly replaced or forgotten; because of his kindness he will always be a part of Seaberg Industries. True friend, great partner, pretty swell guy. God bless him: and Lord; if he gets lost walking the Appalachian Trail bring him home safe.”
Laser Team Leader Ken Gramling related another story: “My daughter lost her car keys along a country road one day. I had mentioned to Craig I would be spending my weekend looking for them. It would have been hundreds of dollars to replace a single key, because the car would need towed and all. He volunteered to walk the roadside with me and I had told him that I appreciate the offer, but I could not ask him to do that. He left it at that. Saturday morning, I was out walking the roadside at 6:00am and Craig calls my phone informing me he was on Interstate 80 and needed to know where to get off. I told him where I was and he was there within minutes, walking the roadside. Craig ended up finding the keys and saving the day!” Ken continues “Craig has made many other selfless offers and has helped me through some rough times in the last 20 yrs I have been at Seaberg including the nearly 12 months of cancer treatments for my daughter and writing to my son in prison to try and keep his spirits up and guide him towards God. I appreciate Craig and will always hold him close to my heart.”
Another long time employee, estimator Mark Bouwens, echoes the others: “’How are you doin’. I’ve grown accustomed to Craig’s greeting every time he has seen me for the past 32 years. I am going to miss him saying that. I owe it all to him, especially after my first 4 years. I had put my 2 week notice in and after that 2 weeks expired, so did my plan to move to Texas the following day. I called Craig and he listened to my sob story and I asked him if I could stay with Seaberg. He welcomed me back. Praise the Lord! My future was written and meant to be. I also want to thank Craig for being a soft spoken, selfless, good speaker and humble role model.” Mark remembers hiking with Craig on Seaberg Slogs – walks through state parks with a pot luck lunch. “The times my daughter and I went on the Seaberg Slogs with Craig and the rest of the crew, are cherished memories. He took time to get to know Ella and talk to her. She and I will never forget those times. He taught me to have love in my heart, and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I say 'Buen Camino' - which means ‘Good Path’ - to you Craig. It also has a deeper meaning – an acknowledgment that you see in a person who is searching for ‘perfection.’ Becoming your best self- what God intends is the goal. How are you 'doing' your life? I think that is what Craig is asking all of us. Me? I am doin’ good. Thanks for asking. Never forget us on your Way, wherever it be! God Bless You and your Family!”
Bruce Atkinson, Information Technology manager, made an unusual comparison – Craig is like the late musician Prince. “Prince often played all the instruments on a song, but brought in specialists when he ran out of time, didn’t play an instrument, or couldn’t play an instrument well enough. Craig can do a wide variety of tasks: He was a welder and fabricator; he wrote CNC programs; he shepherded parts through the shop as they were manufactured; he continues to write reports that consolidate data; he is the backup accountant; he is a salesman; and more. He doesn’t do all of that now, but we don’t have just 28 employees anymore: I have a feeling that if our employment would go down to that level, Craig would be back in the shop doing everything. I’m one of the specialists that have been brought in. Craig has provided an example for me to stretch what I can do for the company. I was hired to do IT work, but I’ve also deburred and drilled parts, printed part drawings and other clerical tasks – I was even the receptionist for a while. Craig is an original thinker. At meetings to discuss a problem or new requirement from a customer, Craig starts a discussion and then lays back while the rest of us start to sketch a solution. Then Craig would jump ahead of our concepts to paint a second-generation solution. I don’t think I’ll be that smart when I grow up.”
Chad Juras is another person who has had a variety of positions: team leader in both machining and quality, tooling and fixture builder, and now, estimator. He writes: “Craig Kinzer! What is there left to say about him? I read the stories from Seaberg employees before trying to put my thoughts down. Their stories are a real testament as to who and what Craig has been to this company all these year – always offering what he could to help his employees. Over 30 plus years he’s been there for me in times of celebration and some very dark times also. Always the first one to ask you how you are doing, and knowing he really meant it. And I’ll never forget his catch phrase ‘And that’s a good thing.’ He’s one of a kind and will be missed greatly. Good luck to you in your retirement my friend.”
Craig is a hands-on person and wants to explore new machines and technologies as they are introduced in the shop. He used a programmable scientific calculator to plot points for a numerically controlled machine program before PCs were readily available. Another example is when the Whitney 647C Panel Master numerically controlled plasma metal cutting machine arrived, Craig created a program to cut sheet metal pieces for ready-to-weld wood stoves. A few employees including Craig built wood stoves from these parts. He led the implementation of the Enterprise Resource Program, the software that runs the shop.
Not everything Craig does has a positive outcome. Craig was chopping wood to feed his wood stove with former Seaberg Industries Quality Manager Rhett Bicknell. They miscalculated the path of tree as it was being chopped down. The tree fell on the ancient company truck, crushing the passenger half of the cab, but leaving the driver’s side relatively intact. “It was drivable,” Craig recalled later, but the mishap hastened the purchase of a new truck.
Craig grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio before coming to Bettendorf, Iowa as a youth when his father was transferred to the area. Craig attended Pleasant Valley High School and Iowa State University. He lives in Bettendorf with his wife, Jane.
Craig attended the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Ray said “I don’t think Woodstock would have been ‘Woodstock’ without him.”