A community manufacturing veteran is set to take the helm at the Regional Technical Education Center (RTEC).
Monte Gulick, who currently serves as the manufacturing manager at Kolberg-Pioneer in Yankton, will take over as RTEC’s general manager and chief operating officer May 3. Current General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Chauntel Wright, who took on the position in 2019, is leaving the position for other opportunities.
Gulick told the Press & Dakotan that he’s been in manufacturing since the 1980s and has experience working throughout the Midwest for companies such as Fleetguard, Graco and Parker Hannifin (Baldwin Filters). He lived in Yankton before moving to other Parker-Hannifin locations outside of South Dakota.
Gulick returned to Yankton in 2018 to take a position at Kolberg-Pioneer.
“I was looking for an opportunity to get back to Yankton, though neither my wife nor I are originally from Yankton,” he said. “Yankton always felt kind of like home for us. We raised our two youngest daughters here, so it felt kind of like moving home when I had the opportunity to come back to Yankton and take the opportunity at Kolberg-Pioneer.”
It was during this time that he took on the role of chairman of RTEC’s board of directors.
“I became real familiar with the work that RTEC was doing and some of the programs that are in place,” he said. “When Chauntel Wright let us know that she was going to be leaving town, I thought, ‘This could be an opportunity for me to retire from my career as a manufacturing manager and maybe go to work on a second career.’”
Gulick said there were two elements that made the position stand out to him.
“Number one, I was familiar with the work that RTEC is doing and am really excited about the things that are going on there,” he said. “Secondly, I get the opportunity to continue to work with the manufacturing acquaintances I’ve made at Kolberg-Pioneer and hopefully can get back and reconnect with those folks from Parker Hannifin. And then, while I was here in Yankton from 1999-2014, I made a lot of connections with other manufacturers in town. I look forward to reconnecting with those folks and figuring out what we can do out at RTEC to support the needs that manufacturers here have.”
He believes his past experiences will benefit him immensely in the GM position at RTEC.
“Having worked for multiple manufacturing companies throughout my career, I understand what are the needs that manufacturers have,” he said. “On top of that, I think I’m familiar with what RTEC does or what RTEC has done in the past. I’ve been able to see it from both sides and I think the connections I have in Yankton already will help.”
Though he may be thinking of retirement from one career, Gulick said that doesn’t mean he’s about to just kick back in his new position.
This includes applying one of the newest skill sets to take hold in the manufacturing world.
“Probably the biggest single thing I’ve seen changing in manufacturing is the focus on what today is called ‘lean manufacturing’ or ‘the lean enterprise,’ or today some call it ‘operational excellence’ — the focus on, ‘How do you take a look at the process that you’ve got in place today, identify the wastes that are in place and work to eliminate them?’” he said. “There are various lean tools that companies use to drive the waste out of the process. I know there is a need — I would venture a guess — within all of the manufacturers that are her in Yankton to do some operational excellence training. … I look forward to connecting with other manufacturers in town to find out, ‘Is that in fact a need that they have?’ and if it is, how do we go about helping them with that?”
Gulick also said he’s hoping he can help rebuild one piece of local manufacturing infrastructure that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For years there’s been a Skilled Trades Association,” he said. “It’s been an attempt to coordinate with Yankton manufacturers to find out what are those skilled trades needs that aren’t being met. At one point in time, that was a very strong program that had membership from most of the manufacturers in town. A lot of things started to head south when the COVID pandemic hit because it wasn’t easy to get together and meet anymore. There was some transition within RTEC at that time and we just haven’t gotten that group back together and organized. … I’m looking forward to re-energizing that.”
As for his message to students, it’s one that RTEC has been trying to bring home for years.
“Manufacturing in the 21st Century is a lucrative career,” he said. “There are opportunities there without pursuing a four-year college education and spending a lot of money on that before you can go to work. There are technical trades that are available for students to move into and you can make a pretty darn good career in lots of the manufacturing fields.”
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