Joe Garteski named 2015 Outstanding Alumni Awards winner for Southeast Technical's Winona Campus
Back when he was a student at Southeast Technical, Outstanding Alumni Awards recipient Joe Garteski already displayed signs of the work ethic that would propel him from a 2-year degree in machine tool and die to a career with Fastenal that has taken him all over the United States and Canada.
"I grew up out in the country near St. Charles, Minnesota, and I got a job during college milking cows for a big outfit. I worked the third shift - there were two of us milking 850 cows every night! After work, I would catch a nap, then go to school all day. After school, I would catch another nap, then head back out to take care of the cows," he recalls.
Having completed his first year of college as a PSEO high school student, Joe graduated in 1999 and already had a job in hand. "A friend of mine from school encouraged me to come here and apply; I started working at Fastenal in March of 1999 and have been with the company ever since."
He started out on the second shift as a CNC machinist, then rapidly progressed to the role of day shift team leader. When the opportunity to move to another plant arose, he packed up the truck and headed west to Fresno, CA.
He continued working on the operations side of the business for several years, but then had the opportunity to see Fastenal from the customer's point of view as a Manufacturing Sales Specialist. "I covered everything west of the Rocky Mountains and half of Canada," he says. "It was neat because I was actually able to meet our customers and see what they are doing in the real word. I was excited to see the end applications for the parts we make, and I liked working with customers to find ways to improve the parts they use."
Joe and his family returned to the Midwest in 2006, relocating to Indianapolis, IN, where his sales territory covered states from Illinois to Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Michigan. However, Fastenal wanted Joe to move back "inside," so he transitioned to an operations management role in Indianapolis for several years. When the company opened a new facility in Rockford, IL, in 2012, Joe became the Manufacturing Operations Manager of the plant, and was directly involved with the addition of Swiss machining to its portfolio of manufacturing capabilities.
The call to move closer to his Minnesota roots - and family - came in July 2013. Today Joe Garteski is Manufacturing Operations Manager at Fastenal's Winona precision machining plant, the company's largest manufacturing facility. He is responsible for a 100,000 square foot facility, 140-plus machinists and support employees, and approximately $80 million in product revenue.
"When I look back at my career, I realize how much Fastenal believes in promotion from within. Most of the people in the top levels of management started their careers here in an entry level role," he says.
As a Fastenal employee, Joe says he is happy to continue to work with Southeast Technical, as the company not only donates equipment to the college but also offers tuition assistance to students in the Precision Machining Technology program. He has also served on the program's advisory council.
"We help people get into the field, being able to work as much as possible while they get their training at Southeast Technical. Like me, when they graduate, they are in a good position to have a career with Fastenal," he concludes.
"We are thankful to Joe for his continued involvement with
Southeast Technical and proud of his success as one of our 2015 Outstanding
Alumni Award winners," said Southeast Technical Foundation Director Chris Schabow, as he presented the 2015 Outstanding Alumni Award to Joe at the 2015 Graduation Ceremony, held on May 12 in Winona. "His story is an inspiration to the Class of 2015."