40-Under-40 Honorees Demonstrate the Stories of Us

Originally titled 'The Stories of Us'

The recipients have been shaped by where they come from, and by what they have overcome.

Sifting through the dozens of nominations we received for the Products Finishing 40-Under-40 recognition program gave me not only the sense that the industry is going to be in great hands as the years move forward, but also that we sometimes truly have no idea what people have gone through to get to where they are today.

As you read through our 40-Under-40 package in this issue, and see the smiling faces of the young men and women we are recognizing this year, note that there is a story behind each of them that tells what they went through to achieve their successes. Some paths are more typical: college, internship, job somewhere else, and then finally landing on their feet and falling in love with the finishing industry.

There are also those who have come up through the family ranks, and, as I have said hundreds of times before, pay no heed to the cynics. Being born into a family business takes nothing away from who a person is; oftentimes, it can be even tougher working your way up in that business. I can testify that I would never have wanted to work with my parents or siblings. Not enough coin in the bank for that one.

Some of the stories we heard were triumphant, some exuded perseverance, and some toasted great luck and meeting the right people. Some of the young professionals deserve a tip of our caps: Nothing came easy, and hard work was borne into them.

Take for instance John Lopez Jr., the quality assurance manager at EME in Compton, California. He is one of the best managers in the business, the guy who gets things done at one of the top aerospace processing houses on the West Coast. Owner Wesley Turnbow hired him more than 11 years ago straight out of In-N-Out Burger; he went from a teenage cook to learning about Nadcap certifications. Turnbow knew of Lopez because his father, John Sr., also worked for EME. The father had been a hard-core gangbanger in Compton before escaping the life and taking the job at EME some 30 years ago. Because John’s mother was not in the picture during his childhood, his aunt raised him, and she raised him well. John the father has tattoos that cover most of his body and bullet fragments still live inside his body. John the son is soft-spoken, compassionate and articulate.

“The two Johns could not have been any more different,” Turnbow says. “One tough and intimidating, the other able to bring people together. What they shared was an eye for quality and strong intellect.”

John Jr. became a respected employee at EME that quickly rose in the ranks and soon become his father's supervisor. Potential conflicts? No way, says Turnbow. “I believe this made his father more proud than anything,” he says.

John Jr. also is respected in the quality field, working with the top prime contractors in the aerospace industry, and often attends Nadcap meetings to partake in ongoing quality discussions. Perhaps more importantly, John Jr. also is a well-respected person in the Compton community where he lives with wife of 11 years, Elizabeth, and their young son and daughter, while also mentoring local high school students at his local church.

Amy Barnard, Therma-Tron-X’s head of information technology, has another compelling story. She is the first female in three generations to step into the nearly 50-year-old family-owned business after getting her degree in biomedical engineering. She is immersed in TTX with her knowledge and expertise in IT, engineering, programming and technology development. Nothing moves at the company without Amy knowing about or programming it.

But her story goes deeper: Growing up, she struggled with nearsightedness and night blindness from myopic degeneration, but those around her saw her improvise, adapt and overcome in almost every situation thrown her way. However, hers is a progressive disease, one that will eventually take her sight altogether. She loses some every day, but it doesn’t deter her from working her job, homeschooling her three children, working in her garden or teaching Sunday school. Given a problem, she is wired to find a solution, and who better to have on your team than a problem-solver like Amy?

“She is a lifelong learner, and is always developing a ‘new normal’ with regards to her eyesight,” says Lizabeth Bjarnarson, TTX’s marketing manager who nominated Amy. “To her, it is a catalyst pushing her to think outside the box.”

Antonio Beniquez, an engineering manager from Mighty Hook, also caught our attention. A native of Puerto Rico, he has been designing hanging and masking solutions for OEM and job shop industrial coaters for a decade. When he isn’t on the CAD machine, though, Antonio is a gallery-represented street artist who has impressed people all over the Midwest art scene with his signature modern calligraphy aesthetic projects. His work is on the walls of many galleries throughout the region, and as a muralist, he also creates larger-scale projects, some measuring as long as 130 feet.

As you read through this year’s list of Products Finishing 40-Under-40 honorees, realize not just who they are now, but where they came from. That is the fascinating part of the process and one in which we are proud to be a part.