American Machining, Inc. (AMI) was founded in Flint, MI nearly four decades ago. Now located in Fenton, AMI is one of the largest manufacturers of stainless steel containers (IBC totes) for handling liquid chemicals. They also produce mixing and agitation products for blending liquid solutions, as well as replacement parts for these products. George Stolzenfeld is also President and CEO of sister corporation, Cygnet, a provider of cleaning, restoration, and recertification for IBC containers. AMI manufacturers all of their products at its Fenton facility and ships them to customers all over the world.
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I was born and raised in Alpena, Michigan. I moved to the Flint area in 1976 to work for Flint Riggers & Erectors. My experiences in that job opened up opportunities for me to start my business, American Machining, Inc., in 1979 on Saginaw Street across from Fisher Body. In the early 1980s, I purchased property in Fenton and relocated my business to the building where it stands today. I’ve lived in the Fenton area for most of my life, and just a few years ago, my wife Tiffany and I moved into a home we built in Holly.
Where did you go to college?
I attended Ferris State College majoring in digital and computer controls. I was only able to complete two years of school – my mother was dying of cancer, so I returned home to be with my family. After that, I began working and making money, so it didn’t seem like I needed the education. In hindsight, it would have been nice to finish and have the degree, because I believe in the value of education. Fortunately, it never hindered my success.
What career goal are you focused on now?
I am working to diversify my business into other areas of the industry. In the past, our main focus and customer base has been coatings manufacturers. We have also built equipment for industries such as beverages, ink, adhesives, spirits, dairy and cosmetics. Our future goal would be to strengthen our customer base in this variety of industries, both domestically and internationally. This will ensure the continued success of our businesses, and allow us to provide opportunities for people to work and succeed in the Flint area.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
First and foremost, I am proud of being able to run a stable business for nearly 40 years and provide jobs for many people. Some of my employees have been with me for over 20 years. Secondly, I’ve had the opportunity to design paint-mixing equipment that is utilized in the majority of car manufacturing facilities all over North America, Canada and Mexico.
I enjoy problem-solving and finding solutions for my customers. Many come to me with problems, challenges, or a disaster, and solicit my creative expertise in designing and building a solution – that is the most exciting and rewarding aspect of my career. When I visit customer sites and see the complications they are facing, I often begin to design solutions in my head before I even get a chance to write them down. I have a unique gift for seeing how things should work and engineering the finished product in my mind. When I design a product for one customer, I frequently find that others need the same product. I’ve patented many products out of necessity, and they quickly become staples of our inventory.
How did living in Flint shape who you are today?
When I arrived in the Flint area in 1976, the city was thriving as a result of the auto industry and I wanted to be a part of that success. That is why I opened my first tool-and-die shop across from the Fisher Body Plant on South Saginaw Street.
Are there special people who influenced you?
My parents and grandparents had the most influence on me. I was raised around my German ancestors who were farmers and instilled in me a solid work ethic and a love for farming my property. When I was young, I remember my father always saying, “If you are working for someone and you don’t have anything to do … pick up a broom and sweep. It’s stealing to waste time while someone is paying you.” And I have imparted this same philosophy in my businesses today. The person who influenced me the most in business was Deforest Rinz, who inspired me to become an entrepreneur like him. I was also greatly influenced by many of the GM retirees I hired when I first started AMI, who worked alongside me to get my company up and running.
How do you spend your spare time?
When I’m not working at AMI, I enjoy spending time with my wife and four amazing children (Madison, 20; George, 17; Lillian 7; Ellianna 6). They keep me busy with family vacations and all of their activities. My second favorite passion is working on our property in Holly – I’ve been accumulating acreage there over the past 30 years. Several years ago, I built a home there on a large parcel of woods and farmland, and I enjoy working around the grounds, planting crops, landscaping and maintaining our gardens. I also enjoy hunting and fishing, both locally and around the world.
What do you hope for the future of Flint?
My hope is that it becomes a thriving city once again. I remember when I arrived in Flint, the factories and businesses were booming because people were living and working in the Downtown areas. There were so many industries supporting our community that people had the means to spend money and support retail stores and restaurants in Greater Flint. Of course, when the auto industries pulled out of Flint, the city was devastated; however, I’ve seen such a positive change moving toward a state of recovery over the last few years. I believe the city developers and independent organizations are really strengthening the infrastructure Downtown to support this comeback. My wife and I enjoy attending many of the cultural events throughout the year, and have frequented many new restaurants and establishments in Downtown Flint. It’s exciting to see so many improvements and development in the area.
Photography by Eric Dutro