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Vigor Industrial’s Foti: Keep it Simple

Vigor Industrial Pres and CEO Frank Foti praises the union workers in the company’s various facilities.
Vigor Industrial Pres and CEO Frank Foti praises the union workers in the company’s various facilities.

MTD Convention Coverage

As the head of Vigor Industrial sees it, workplace guidelines can be plenty effective without being complex.

Frank Foti, Vigor’s president and CEO, also told MTD Quadrennial Convention attendees in Los Angeles that there’s nothing wrong with bonding on the job, as long as it’s done respectfully.

“We’ve had a really simple, unifying code that is hard to argue with,” said Foti, whose company operates shipbuilding and repair facilities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. “This has served us really well and we’ve grown as a company. We used to have one location; we have seven now, and this code is understood in all of our locations.”

Foti, who addressed the convention on Sept. 6, commended Vigor’s union workforce – and also surprised the audience by announcing the company is adopting a new code, though it’s at least as basic as the old one. Its components: truth, responsibility, evolution, and love.

“They seem like simple concepts and they are,” Foti noted. “Actively speak the truth and actively seek it…. Openness and truth belong in a workplace, especially the hard truth.”

He said that such honesty can be uncomfortable, but one of its biggest potential benefits is safety. By fostering that type of workplace environment, Foti asserted, employees will be more likely to voice concerns and prevent mishaps.

Similarly, he said responsibility means “acting on what you know is right.”

For Vigor, evolution means constantly improving and adapting to the latest technologies.

Finally, he talked about love – not typically a common topic on job sites, but one for which Foti’s passion was obvious.

“If you love the people you work with and you love yourself, make sure that you’re doing no harm to yourself, the environment or others…. Love includes the community that you’re in. It includes applauding the work of Tom Crowley (head of Crowley Maritime, who spoke earlier that day) by making sure that there are family-wage jobs available to the workers in this industry. It’s what you do to fight for quality and benefits, and also to fight for equality of the person that’s part of your business. And it’s up to us as leaders to be servants, family, however you define it.”

Earlier, he explained the company’s name and basic operations: “The dictionary definition of ‘vigor’ is the capacity for natural growth and survival, strong feeling, enthusiasm or intensity in physical or mental strength, energy or force. We think that that exemplifies the kind of work that we do. Whether what we do is marine-based or non-marine based, we are Vigor….

“We break our business down into three parts,” he continued. “We build ships – we build barges, ferries, fish boats, specialty vessels for the government. We work on wave energy buoys, and we do various fabrication…. Most of the rest is repair.”

Vigor’s workforce is mobile, he added, which is both a credit to the employees and a refutation of old myths about inflexible union members.

“We have a lot of great partnerships with organized labor,” he said.

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