Upstart of the Year
When Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) announced in May 2006 that it would shut down its Maytag division in Newton, Iowa, it offered transfers to a select group of employees. Twenty-year veteran Jordan Bruntz, the manager of the 90-person division, turned down the offer. He wanted to stay in Newton.
An idea sprouted. Bruntz started attending classes on entrepreneurship, and last December he gathered his seven top managers and asked them to be co-owners in a company he was starting. It would be based in Newton, would be called Springboard Engineering, and would do just what their division had done before-- industrial design and engineering. The managers agreed, and the notion gained quick support from the other Maytag employees.
Bruntz is starting a company that can thrive in Newton: Corporations are outsourcing extra design and engineering work instead of adding to their head count, and an American company full of trained engineers should be attractive. Bruntz talked the town into offering him tax rebates, then got the state of Iowa to give him both grants and zero-interest loans. (He also financed Springboard with bank loans and cash from each new owner.) He bought a large amount of used equipment from his bosses at Whirlpool and spent $600,000 on a former Kmart for his new headquarters. Fifty onetime Maytag employees will have jobs at Springboard. The new company opens its doors January 7, two weeks after Maytag's Newton office closes for good, and Bruntz has already talked both John Deere and Whirlpool itself into becoming clients.