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Meet Joe Yerga of American Machine Works in Munster

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Yerga.

Joe, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My dad was a machinist and I saw him run a machine when I was 13 or 14 years old. I thought that was pretty cool and something I’d like to do someday. In fact, I keep two large black and white photos in the entryway of the building of him machining to remind me each day of how this all started. The summer after high school, I began working at my dad’s place of employment, Ardillo Corporation (in Hammond, IN) and then was accepted into their apprenticeship program. I received my Journeyman Machinist’s card in 1983. I continued working at Ardillo for 16 years. I then began working for Fisher International but always had aspirations of owning my own company. In 1999, we opened American Machine Works in Lansing, IL with one engine lathe, one Bridgeport mill and a saw. My wife, Pam and I were the only employees. My thought was that a man with this equipment (and a very reluctant but supportive wife) could make a living. Through growing sales and hard work, we grew to 9 employees and 16 pieces of equipment. We outgrew the space we were in. In October of 2012 we purchased the property in Munster, IN with the intention to build our own building. In October of 2014 we moved into our newly built facility, which is 16,200 square feet.

We are truly a family business now and have come a long way from just Pam and I exclusively maintaining the shop. At one point or another, both of our daughters, Kayte and Jackie, have worked for us. They’ve done everything from cleaning the shop and offices to marketing. Our daughter, Kayte, is currently employed as our Business Management and Account Specialist. Our grandsons and sons-in-law are also in and out of the building regularly because to all of us, this business, our shop, feels like home.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I don’t think opening your own business can ever be an entirely smooth road! One of our biggest challenges to date has been finding qualified machinists. Fortunately, our current staff of employees’ average 14 years with our company. College is the primary focus of education today, and while that’s great, this exclusive focus often leaves the trades searching for qualified individuals to fill open positions. Trying to grow the business has also been a challenge, in addition to building our current building.

Probably during the first ten years of business, I worked seven days a week, always concerned that it would fail. In all honesty that feeling never entirely goes away.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the American Machine Works story. Tell us more about the business.
We’re what’s considered a ‘job shop’ machine shop. We have fabricating and welding capabilities as well as an outstanding quality assurance program. We’re most proud of the quality of our product and maintaining our employees for a long time. What sets us apart from other machine shops is our personal relationships with our customers. We like to get to know our clients personally and truly enjoy interacting with them even when it isn’t about business.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck has played a large role in the success of our business. Although, I’d like to think that sometimes you make your own luck. For example, a customer of ours recommending us to another client because we have a good working relationship and they’re happy with our product or being available for a rush job at just the right time.

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  1. Pamela Armagast

    September 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    One of the nicest and most humble family you’ll meet. So happy for their success❤️

    • Pam Yerga

      September 29, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      So nice! Thank you, Pam!

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